Sunday, 18 Dec, 2016. Atsabe to Maliana. Day 4’s stats: 7 hours 35 minutes travel time. 48.3 kilometers. Average 6.37km/h. 768 meters up. 1669 meters down.
Another overcast day with spotty rain throughout. The roads are still in very poor condition. Occasionally, the surface changes from dirt and rubble to asphalt. It can be a dramatic change such as in the photo below, and each time I can’t help but feel a sudden urge of euphoria thinking that I’ve come to the end of the bumpy road, and that it’s smooth sailing or in my case, riding ahead but the euphoria is short lived and pretty soon the rubble returns.
I couldn’t even find pot noodles for lunch today. I had chips and coke and my last mango. No roadside fruit vendors to replenish the stock either. I was having to dig deep to keep going so I subbed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo audio book to tunes and sung along to my missLAandus playlist much to the amusement of passers by. Not even the sticker giving went well today. A bunch of children and adults gathered as usual but this lot were snatching and ripping, and hiding what I’d given behind their back to get a second. I gave up and packed them away for another group at another time.
Throughout this trip I’ve seen signs of the Timorese preparing for Christmas by making roadside nativity scenes. During my first couple of days only basic frames and stairs leading up to the manger had been prepared, but today I saw my first figurines.
The other photo I’ve included in this post is of the red betel spit on the road you frequently pass. It’s everywhere. It looks like blood. You feel like you are in some zombie wasteland looking down at the stains on the road and then looking up to smiling faces full of red.
There are better road conditions as you approach Maliana, and it’s a downhill stretch so it’s hard to resist going a bit faster. Total concentration still required as the road still not what would be considered a uniform surface. I’m having an off day and so naturally, I hit a biggish pothole. My ocky strap comes loose and somehow wraps itself behind the rear wheel cassette. I wasn’t going too fast and so was able to slow and stop quite quickly without having an accident but the strap was well and truly stuck. I didn’t have the tools I needed to get it unstuck but a man came out and helped. Those who listen to Late Night Live will know Phillip Adams gives ‘koala stamps’ to particularly worthy interviewees. My koala stamps this trip are two (made in China) tea towels with Australian designs. This man received the first.
I arrived in Maliana just as it was starting to really pour down. Internet research had suggested the Maliana Restaurant also has lodgings, but after a good feed I mimed sleeping on my hands only to have the man shake his head. He did direct me to my first losmen, which can be found a few hundred metres out of town towards the airport, for those of you busy planning your cycle trip to Timor. It was perhaps the grottiest place I had ever slept, certainly on this trip but I had a beggers/choosers situation and felt comfortable enough going to sleep that night in my silk sleeping bag, with pillow insert.
A rest. A bike clean, and then back to the restaurant for another meal and a couple of beers from the shop next door.