“Viva Timor Leste”
The race begins and my volunteer position is THE LAST CAR, passenger not driver, phew!
The last of the last of the last, and this became more and more embedded in my mind as we slowly followed the bike riders 600km around the island.
Day 1. Dili to Laclubar.
Lost straight away, the position of last car seems like a simple job, until of course you lose sight of the car infront of you, and find yourself bamboozled in a city on a Sunday where you don’t know if the crowds are walking home from watching the race or going home from church. In our case they were going home from church, but somehow we managed to bump into the race after an hour, we just went the wrong way. Lucky. This 85km stretch was treacherous the roads are awesomely pot holed and splintered with pig, chicken, rooster, goat, buffalo, cow obstacles. FUN, I love piglets.
After this day, I seriously question the sanity of the organizers of this race and those competing in it, the landscape surrounding the race however makes it worthwhile.
A tour de torture set in an oasis.
Day 2. Laclubar to Beacu.
What a MASSIVE day. 12 hours in the car to cross 130km. impossible! Even after 12 hours or more of a passing parade there are still locals cheering us on in an overly excited manner as we pass through their villages. Yelling “Viva Timor Leste!” waving and yelling “malai” as if I was the white person they had ever seen. I come to the realisation today that this would be an extremely rare and unimaginable sight for the villagers, a convoy of 100 cars and 450 bicycled riders, id say it would have stretched for 40km or more through the mountains. It felt like we were the circus coming to town.. We were. My car comrades and new friends, Clint (Aus) Alvero and Bernardo (Portuguese) and I were greeted at camp with a bottle of champagne on the hush, and then discovered our abandoned, bullet hole decorated cement casa to sleep in for the night as all tent spots were taken.
Day 3.Beacu to Lliomar.
Hangover, 5am wakeup. Shorter car trip today 8 hours, and we arrived at the camp ground in sunlight WOOOO. The trip here and destination was truly beautiful. The villages compiled of raised bamboo housing and palm thatched roofs, swarming with uniquely charactered children and animals, is giving me a saw jaw, I don’t think I have ever smiled this much in my life.
Day 4.Lliomar to Com.
On camp site crew, a well deserved break from last car, helped out with merchandising, went for swims and wandered around Com, this place is truly special, im scared to see what it will be like in 5-10 years from now when tourism takes over.
Day 5.Com to Manatutu.
1st water station. Handing out water to the thirsty insane bike riders. You can smell the sweat on the wind before you even see them, it overpowers the smell of burning plastic (the waste disposal scheme imposed in Timor Leste) Today was a long coastal drive, that I got to actually drive some of, this was fun! 4WD action time, woooo.
Day 6.Manatutu to Dili.
Arrive in Dili, abort the last car position and came with the morning crew to help direct the bikers to the bike drop point at the finish line. The crowds were CRAZEH!!! Bells bells bells, screaming, pushing, high energy. Sweaty back. Sweaty everything, id forgotten how hot Dili is. All bikers arrived and the closing ceremony was to follow, at 4pm, presentations of awards, drinks and dinner. Me new mate Donna and I take advantage of this and drink a lot. I think the booze may have affected me as I vaguely remember dancing and singing into a microphone at a pub later on. Oh no.
Overall: This experience was an absolute adventure, an 800 people convoy travelling around a 3rd world new nation, mountain biking for peace. What an interesting concept. All in all, it achieves its goal of letting those villages we pass realise that we know they exist and we care for them and their country. However at the same time, it feels a little ambiguous, to travel so quickly, stay a night, leave a couple hundred tone of rubbish wherever we went, and a shy passing wave. I just don’t really understand the whole situation in Timor Leste yet to whole heartedly compile my own view on this. The people seem to be really craving a western lifestyle, and this scares me. There is still so much to learn about this place.