Today 3rd July I took a rest day in Lampe, just 108km from the end of this island. Happy 4th July to my American friends I will be thinking of you.
It would be nice to finish the island in 2 days but as its so hot and humid that my progress is very slow. Sorry for lack of updates lately as I have not only been busy but not many decent internet connections along the way.
I am now on the island of Sumbawa, my 3rd island. After Sumbawa I got two small islands Lombok 80km, say two days and Bali three or four. In Kuta Bali I plan to hook up with Mel and family who are friends and a contact given to me from pastor Stephen Littleton from Panama City. Mel has kindly taken delivery of my 37th pair of shoes of the run courtesy of John Buckley Sports in Co. Cork. Thanks John and Mel
Then its huge Java, home to 120 million, half of Indonesia’s population and the most populous island in the world… You can guess I am not looking forward to that all 1,000 per sq kilometre and am sure there will be more ‘ Hello Misters ‘ shouted there than anywhere else in the world! Java will take about 4 weeks to run as will my 7th and final island Samartra.
Running into Halilulik a small village I was stopped by Anton the local English language teacher. He brought me over to his place where he lived with his parents. His father was originally from Timor-Leste before moving over the border to Indonesia 25 years ago, in fact he was in the military and even fought in the war against Indonesia. That war was a bad experience to Timor-Leste even though they didn’t offer much resistance they still got a hiding from the Indonesians who even forced their language on the Timorese, which is why so many speak the language there.Never once have I experienced any animosity on either side of the border, much the reverse as many people have said to me that they are all brothers and sisters both belonging to the island of Timor.
It was very noticeable that the whole family of about eight were non smokers, a rarity here. They also talked fondly and showed me photos of an Irish priest called father Patrick Lonnergon who worked in this area for 50 years before returning to Ireland a couple of years ago to retire.
I slept well that night, once again on a floor mat. In the morning Antons brother gave me a haircut, an appalling one as you can see from the photos, said he was a barber! Anton helped me get an Indonesian sim for my mobile phone before I ran on.
That day was another tough day as it also rained a lot, so I finished very early with a miserable 24km to show for my efforts, need to step on it.
Sometimes I worry I may not keep my schedule for the finish with the Dublin City Marathon in October next year, It seems I still got so much running to do. I felt a lot better when I took out the calculator and calculated that in 504 road days, all I need is 37km a day, every day, including any rest days etc, 37km, that’s all!! 37km, I remember that number well as about three years ago when I had a lot of downtime in work I ran hard for 5 days back to back averaging 37km. I also ran the Celtic Plate 100km in Galway for a 9.35 hr training run ‘ , I know a terrible performance but it was a strict hard training run, a day I would be delighted with now!!
That savage training, nothing to an ultra runner in competition of course wrecked my season, I was shagged for weeks later and I never got back to the level I was at before. All the masochist training had finally caught up with me and then I set out to do this run, well that’s typical of the confidence or is it arrogance or even stupidity of the ultra runner!!
I stopped early as I said when a man called Primus offered me tea, bananas and shelter from the rain.
Unfortunately he was going out that evening but told me that the ‘ Kepala Desa ‘ or village chief would take care of me. Every village has a village chief who I have been told help out poor stranded souls like myself when in need.
So I did, I stopped by Alexander’s house just a kilometre up the road. The whole of Timor island has been like one big connected up village as the furthest so far between villages has been about four or five kilometres, more often than not only two or three with a splattering of houses in between, many people standing in doorways shouting their greetings as I run by.
Alexander has a political career also which I didn’t understand, as now here on Timor the language barrier has been a huge hindrance for the first time on the run. We played a lot of music that night, ate and I went to bed early.
I can’t understand why everyone walks here with the traffic to their backs and think it’s safer. This is the only country I have seen this in. However I insist on running towards the traffic. The only thing is that Indonesian drivers tend to drive very wide on the roads, towards the middle of these narrow roads. That day I ran a welcome 40km.
My map had a turn off before Kefamenanu for Soe but the signpost was a bit unclear, so I ran straight on for a couple of minutes before I realized my mistake. Had I not made this mistake I wouldn’t have stopped at a kiosk for a drink. The lady there called out her son Canio who spoke some English and when he said it was too bad that I was running on towards Kupang that day as he and his brother Jose would like to practice their English on me. Like a shot I said that at 40km I was happy enough for the night and pretty cheekily asked if he meant it was a pity I was not staying in their family home!
So that’s what happened that night, another night on stage, doing my performance for another family that night.
Jose spoke the better English telling me how he used to live in Bali, so worked with a lot of tourists.
Indonesia has a population of some 240 million, 220 million Muslims making it the most populated Islamic state in the world. Though in this area it’s mostly Christian they seem to co-exist very well together. Due to the huge population the government has tried various ways of encouraging birth control and if I understood Jose properly he said the government cuts off the rice subsidy to families that have more than two children.
He seemed to be pretty down saying ‘ It’s not fair as I can go to his country and it would take years for him to save up the airfare to even Singapore. $100 a month I am told is the average wage in the services industry, so my usual small donation was welcomed by this family also.
Another great day, all 45km of it. Around lunchtime I stopped to buy a packet of sweets, the package was similar to the ones I had been buying so far, a small sachet, about a saucer size. This time I thought it would be nice to try find some real tasty gummy sweets. So I grabbed a packet of ‘ lemon flavor ‘ Gave it a good squeeze, yes that’s feels like gummy lemon sweets. Delighted by my discovery I paid for it and then realized it was a sachet of washing powder, lemon flavor! So you can imagine the laugh the ten assembled people got that were giving me the usual ‘ stare out ‘
The nice owner gave me a packet of noodles which he then cooked and served me them in a bowl.
I learn my essential words by writing down how the word sounds phonetically. My favorite Indonesian word which I always say with great gusto is
‘ Terry Mc Kasi! ‘
Which sounds like an Irish Italian footballer to me, It means thank you.
‘ Sad App ‘ as it sounds means ‘ delicious. ‘
‘ Air Eh! ‘ is water, and so on I also ask English speakers to write down things like ‘ no sugar in my tea please ‘ As tea and coffee come mostly pre mixed with a huge amount of sugar which really kills the enjoyment of the drink, as in much of Latin America. This has been a bit of a pain trying to make myself understood for this particular expression, so I will work on my list.
Another 50,000 rupiahs or around 5 dollars had me staying with another nice family in Oenino. Anton and his wife Risma gave me coffee and popcorn while 17 of the neighborhoods children came in to watch television, squatting on the floor watching cartoons. We then had dinner of rice, noodles cabbage and vegetables.
In situations like this my list is repeated and repeated, however the Indonesians don’t seem to do charades very well, or perhaps I have lost my touch.
Then at last a great day, 56km, lots and lots of small villages one growing out of another as I ran. I saw my very first bicycle rider here on Timor Island in almost two weeks this morning as I ran through the busy town of Niki Niki. It seems people don’t want to ride bicycles anymore despite the poverty I am told. Almost everyone rides small 125 cc scooters or motor bikes many people riding without a helmet which I am told is against the law, yet so many , at least 60% are helmet less. The record of five on a bike has been equaled as last week I spotted a family of five including two babies tearing down the highway, I guess 6 passengers must be illegal!!
It was dark when I finished and that early evening I was stopped by a young woman called Yesti who spoke decent English. She and her friends, about six of them had a shop/restaurant. They happened to be standing outside their party hut as it seemed to be for they were drinking beer, smoking, playing music and cards. I got invited to stay the night, no donation in this sort of situation! However they talked, played the music, cards and drank till almost 3am, so I was pretty shattered the next day but still managed a 45.
Children continue to run after me, it’s starting to get a bit scary as I can rarely out run their young fast fresh legs. I worry about an accident for they run on both sides of the road and often in the middle in busy traffic. I also got to keep my own concentration.
I saw about six dead snakes on the road today. Also a man called Ferdinand stopped. He worked with the United Nations till he lost his job last December as the UN started downsizing their projects. His job was taking care of the boat people who tried to make their way to Australia for hopefully refugee status. Ferdinand worked with the ones that were caught and being repatriated. Tonight another home share, but I didn’t like that family as the lady just took the money and showed me my room without even making an effort at communicating. The place was a filthy dump, I can understand poverty, but not filth especially when people are sitting around watching television. Yes it was not their fault there were no windows or even a hall door, but glass, filth and stones all over the floor. They never even showed me the toilet, thank God!
Then the run into Kupang, Timor island has been run! I felt very, very strong that day, running faster even with my two kilo satchel that I had at any stage even during my supported run through Australia. I don’t know where the speed suddenly came from, long may it stay, though I don’t believe journey runs should be time trials and against the stopwatch, it’s still nice to have a shorter day!
I eventually made my way to the coast, Timor has been run. I stopped at a police station and called Ferdinand. It turned out the police station I stopped was the special forces unit, they allowed me to pose with them, nice lads.
I had dinner with Ferdinand in the market place, him telling me more about life in the UN and in Indonesia.
At the Lavalon hostel I met an incredible man from St. John’s, Newfoundland where I started out on the first foreign days of the run, and still my favorite region of the run (the USA being my favorite country)
Newfie as he likes to be called has been traveling since 4th July… 1977! An incredible story teller he had a few of us up till the wee hours of the morning listening to his countless stories about his life on the road in almost every country in the world except for a handful. The situations he got into and out of were stuff of James Bond movies.
How he was taken off a bus in a desert in a certain country and held at gunpoint while four police officers searched and discovered 1,500 dollars in his possession. He had the brass neck to talk them out of killing him and eventually the cops settled on taking a hundred dollars each. That was typical of the adventures that has followed him around the world for 36 years now.
Enough said for much of it was told in confidence as we sat there mesmerized till 3am listening to him relate one yarn after another.
He is a man of almost no possessions for he has never owned anything, even a bicycle,camera, radio or mobile phone and is one of the happiest people I have ever met.
He has been home a few times, talking about his brothers and sisters bitching about their cars, laptops not working and being up to their eyes in debt and in the rat race.
He laughed when he said his mother told him she finally understood him when she spoke to the other family members saying
‘ You know Newfie has absolutely nothing but I think he is so happy, happier than you guys! ‘
Get this he has never even bought as much as a spoon or a dish cloth for that’s the way he wants it, to be free of possessions. Nor been in a supermarket till recently when he decided he needed to eat more fruit and veg.
Not motivated by money, just taking up the odd gardening and painting jobs, but never for more than 5 months. His most popular job was working on ships and yachts. He parties hard but is also a hard and much sought after worker when he works.
We asked him about a book, he said he has had numerous offers but wouldn’t want to waste a year of his happy life in order to write it and get rich, money also means little to him for he has never had trouble getting work. He would rather write it himself than have someone else write it but he really doesn’t care.
We also spoke about how lucky we are to be born in the western world, on the rich side of the fence in comparison to much of these poor countries. There go I but for the roll of a dice as I usually say we are so lucky.
I couldn’t help wondering about our world which is far from equal. How would a penniless Indonesian fare should he want to do what Newfie has been doing? And there are as many as 50% of the population that survive on less than $2 a day. Had Newfie been Indonesian and turned up at French houses to paint or for work on the boats of the wealthy down in the Caribbean he would have been seen as cheap labor rather than a hard worker and an equal drinking buddy.
He mentioned that as he has never paid a cent in tax in Canada (57 years old) that people like him would not have that parachute had he ever had a need for it.
An amazing man, a true inspiration. You know I almost went that way when I set out on my world cycle in 1978. I actually thought of just doing the same, one long trip, working where ever, but I was young and too homesick, I didn’t have Newfie’s courage.
I had a lovely lunch in Ferdinand’s house before going to the airport for my flight to Ende, Flores island, for there have been no ferries this last few days due to high winds.