Sunday, February 17, 2013

Saturday rains and flooding - Telkomcel starts selling – Railaaku, frogs and mud - On the road x2 in one day + 2nd time with yellow paint – Waitangi day – BBQ – Fruit prices drop – Tour de Timor – ATMs update

Blog ending Monday 18th Feb 2012

Saturday 16th was extra-special wet. I was at work in Motael and I heard the rain on the roof, mid-afternoon. Nothing special, so back inside again. Then it got heavy, so... outside for a look – impressive; back to work again. Then it got REALLY heavy, torrential I think. This went on for maybe 45 minutes. I left about 3:50pm and got a clue to the conditions when I went outside the gates. The road was a river and came up my shins. I managed to cycle through it to Comoro road and there were twin rivers flowing west-east down either side, past Tiger fuel. The bridge by the bike shop/President’s Palace was closed and there was a crowd nearby watching the raging stream. I had to go up the eastern side of the stream/torrent to get to Banana road. My side had a higher bank than the other, so the flood was all over the western road (leading to Bairo Pite clinic) and into the Palace grounds. Getting into my shared courtyard from the road was a little challenge, as there was a good stream flowing through it. My ground floor apartment is fortunately up on good foundations, so no water problem. A quick change, then off to the Dili Hash ‘Red Dress Run’ at Saigon where we raised about $2,760 for the local Red Cross. During the run we, surprisingly, ran down roads covered with water. Knowing that rain water had mixed with the drains, I advised the surrounding runners not to get any in their mouths, Two minutes later, one of the new runners started splashing his buddy and…some of it went in my mouth. I spat it out but thought ‘Too late, we’ll see what happens’.   That was about 5:30pm on Saturday. 03:00 this morning my insides were wildly rumbling and the throne needed to be mounted. The king held court until 06:00, before leaving and then going to the doctors for an appointment and antibiotics. No nausea, but this beats my 2001 experience in India.

The aftermath of the flooding is that the bridge is still closed (throttling Comoro road) as the water gouged out large 8m diameter circles from the banks on the immediate downside of the bridge.
This morning the traffic has been diverted down side roads to the beach road, where they try to meld in with the overloaded vehicles and motorcycles there. Chaos and people caught for hours, I’m sure. On the bright side, my bicycle never stopped; I just went around and between everything else. Now I’m home again with the first pills (Nizole and ‘Cipro’) beginning their work. A Dave Brubeck selection is playing; maybe that will help a bit. 

Telkomcel has their office, only one I know of, but you have to start somewhere, at Timor Plaza, very high profile as it is the only multi-level shopping mall in the country. The first couple of weeks the staff told of big things happening soon, they just couldn’t say what. There was nothing to actually buy, so that might have been an intentional advertising ‘teaser, but probably just a gap in a complex project of introducing a telecoms provider into a country. To lighten the scene, free wireless was introduced a week or two ago. You just have to be within about 20m of the office to use it. Late on the 11th I saw Telkomcel SIMs being sold outside the Timor Telecom office in Colmera.  Retailing for $3, but the hawkers were not shy about suggesting $5. The ‘pulsa’ or recharge cards are now freely available. A couple of hiccups: $10 per 100mb for internet and no calling between the TT and TKcell networks. The latter’s internet is pretty good. They say that a fibre-optic cable is being laid from Kupang, other end of the island, the Indonesian end and this will provide megabit speeds. Unless TT can improve from their satellite dish then the writing is in the wall. Plus a local business told me that new prices were about 30% cheaper than TT, so most people he knew would be switching. Spot the trend.

Yesterday (Sunday), three of use (Helen, Eddie and I) cycled up to the top of Railaaku Ridge. It is on the road to Emera, about a 4 hour there-and-back ride from Dili, via Tibar,. Lots of trees and a few areas that might even count as avenues. The local road kill appears to be frogs. I counted 16 unlucky ones in a 10 km climb. On arrival back in town, the mud by the flood-damaged bridge (President’s Palace one) was very gooey and stuck all over the bike. It made me think of mostly melted chocolate. I cleaned the bike by putting it in the shower.

Last Sunday there was 20 rider cycle over to Hera and then the loop back. The other side of Becora hill is easier to navigate now on two wheels, but the slips/landslides are so bad and the repair so slow, I think we won’t see four wheeled beasties up there before Christmas. After that ride I headed home for a two hour rest before cycling to Liquica to meet four others who were getting there by motorcycle. I had a tin of paint this time and painted some better ‘X’ shapes 20m further out from the bump. This is, apparently, still too close, so I’ve found a better marking paint in a 5litre pail that should do the trick at 50m out. But on some other weekend. All that riding had me pretty tired with 22km + 55km = 77km on a hot day.  
February 6th is New Zealand’s Waitangi (national day). Like many other Kiwis, I received a formal invitation, so I broke out the NZ version of a Hawaiian shirt and gave the place some contrast. I was outdone by a work colleague who wore a light short, covered by a large, hand-painted tie with something by Miro on it. He was impressed that I immediately picked the artist (three years of art history is worthwhile kids) It was such a bold thing that I’m sure nearly everyone there recalled the tie, but little about the person wearing, unless they spoke with him. We Kiwis were invited to attend early so we could meet the Timorese President, but he didn’t show up until later. The sound system kind of let things down as many of us couldn’t hear the translation of the President’s speech nor the speech by our ambassador. The food was delicious!. Many Australians were there as well.

On the Saturday following, we volunteers were invited to a BBQ at a house up the Ramos Horta road. Beautiful place and very nice hosts, Steve and Rose. They put it all on as a ‘thank you’ for the work that the eight of us are doing here.

Coconuts (to drink) only cost $1 now and I can get a banana bunch or six passionfruit for the same cost. Coconuts are really good to drink after a run out to Christo Rei (Jesus Statue). I was listening to a novelty song last week and noticed that repeated: “You put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up”, so Pia and I tried it on Thursday. OK and obviously different. Maybe it needs something else added as well?

My conversations with other riders do not provide good news on a Tour happening this year. Apparently (I will write a correction if I am wrong here) about US$200,000 was owed to the people who ran and promoted the event in 2012. The old Government sports ministry didn’t get around to paying them and the new one says it isn’t their job. Anyway, that $200k is either still in a Govt. bank account, waiting to be paid out or it is somewhere else…

A story I heard from the last tour, when it stopped for the night in Gleno. Someone stole a bike during the night. It was a spare, but still quite a loss, as they’re expensive. The tour lined up next morning and took off. Then someone noticed that a local had joined the riders and that person was riding…yup, the missing bike! The Timorese police accompanying the tour apparently stopped the rider, had a private chat (no charges laid) and the bike was returned.

The ATMs at Timor Plaza are waiting on parts from China and the ATMs in Lita and Leader will not be replaced. The one at Tiger fuel will probably be placed in its own room, for security. I got this from a good source, the ANZ bank manager!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hash 400 runs x 2 – Diving into Piccadilly Circus – No right turn – Chilly bin + Yoga mats – Some optimism - ATMS again - Telkomcel

Blog ending Saturday 2nd Feb 2013

Updated: Feb 3rd

Three weeks ago the Dili Hash visited Cameo Beach at Liquica for Tail light’s 400th and last run in Timor. With runs only on once a week, this is an impressive number, spread over about 10 years. I cycled out there in about 90 minutes. Nice ride and good to be able to buy fresh bananas for $2 a bunch from roadside stalls to replace the energy stores. We started the run early and did some exploring up in the hills just out of town. Tough work to run uphill, but worth the views. Some of the seafront, not protected by gabions, had been washed away in recent high tides and the awning over the porch couch had to be temporarily taken down due to the seasonal north westerly winds, but the facilities at the beach ('Black Rock') are excellent and we 'beered', swam, wined and dined. After the run about 20 of us took a beer each into the sea to cool off; a pleasant ritual in such clean water. Next day was the cycle home, in about the same time. Kind of surprised me as I thought I’d have been faster with the back wind.
The next (last Sunday actually, Australia Day dominated Saturday) week was the GM’s (Daisy) 400th run at the Beach Side Hotel. Another auspicious occasion with a giant banner with some great photos from the past few years. Daryl has and continues to do many great things for Dili and Timor under his Rotary role. One of the most high profile events is the 1st Lady Run in November. Actually the first, ‘1st Lady’ Kirsty Sword Gusmao. Very popular and the T-shirts are everywhere.

Last Sunday I went for my first scuba dive since 2006, also here. It was just a shore dive near Dili Rock and the water was fairly murky from the strong seasonal tides – OK, not the best time of the year. Eddy, Helen and I parked next to a Dive Timor van, their divers were already out. I’d bought a dive aide-memoire the previous day and discovered that no one uses the manual dive tables anymore – kind of like asking about the tape deck / CD player on a stereo system. A giant computer watch manages all the info about air and safety so we can just go and enjoy ourselves. I still feel uncomfortable about it all as I reckon it’s like school kids relying totally on calculators and not knowing their ‘times tables’ up to 12 x 12. Anyway, we wandered down the reef to about 28m and slowly cruised along and then back up. On the way back Eddie showed me the busy fish place known as ‘Piccadilly Circus’. Lots of wee fry and tentacle waving plants. There was one large groper-type fish, about  50-60cm long that didn’t hang around. Many lengths of old cord lying over the area from earlier fishing and a lot of damaged coral, possibly from Indonesian times when dynamite fishing was apparently popular. Visibility was about 4-5m. We stayed down about 45minutes and walked out onto the beach where Helen was reading her book after doing some snorkelling. She had some delicious Christmas cake and handed out about some bananas to eight local boys (aged 8-11) swimming nearby. They pounced on the food, so maybe they were very hungry.

The local intersection from hell (bridge by the President’s Palace and the bike shop) has undergone a big change. The police have changed the road rules by prohibiting any right turns, either entering or exiting the area. Since we drive on the left here, it is actually working quite well. I was dumb enough to fire off an email to the initial announcement by saying “This is warped and the locals will ignore it”. Happily I am quite wrong and it IS working. People haven’t learnt the trick of simply turning left to actually get into the traffic and then pull a U-turn within about 100m and go back in the direction they really want to go. 

A couple of UN people did a big house sale in Area Branca last week, so I cycled over to see what they had and I could actually remove with my bicycle. The loot consisted of: chilly bin (‘esky’ for Aussies) + 20 cooling pads. Item #2 was a large bag of interlocking mats used for a yoga room. Obviously succumbing to ‘buying stuff’ I now realise I haven’t done any yoga for about 18months and don’t actually have any floor space on which to place the mats. They are currently with a friend who might just have a use for them. Never the less, they were a bargain at only $20, OK?

Last night I took a break from building some laptop computers to do some grocery shopping at Lita + Kamanek then eat some nice Turkish at Tony’s. There I met Kim. She has been here about 13years and organises the annual sailing race to Dili from Darwin. She tells me that local Timorese have been repeatedly involved in the organising in recent years and several of them will be taking a higher management profile this year. The cruiser yachts have previously bought donated medical supplies for Bairo Pite clinic (about 500m from where I live), so that is great news – good karma. After dealing with my work challenges and wondering how to deal with how common theft is in the work environment, this ongoing success was a joy to hear. Apparently the yacht race was a revival. It was kicked off again after someone discovered the previous racing trophies, from Portuguese times, in the Darwin Archives(?).

This afternoon I will take my can of yellow spray paint & cycle part of the way to Liquica to mark that nasty dip in the road. It goes right across, like a subtle ditch that has apparently claimed a few car suspension systems over the past few years. Obviously someone should simply repair the road, but there is a long queue for that sort of thing and there is still the problem of ‘repairs’ failing within 12 months via washout or simply breaking up. Still, if major manufacturers can use ‘planned obsolescence’ with fridges, toasters, TVs etc, then the road repair companies here are successfully using their version

The two ATMs at the bank have now been working for the past two weeks. they will only dispense a maximum of $600 each.

Telkomcel have finally opened their office at Timor Plaza. No actual numbers being sold yet, just distribution of information. Since Telkomcel is the dominant telecomms company in Indonesia, most people think this is the beginning of the end for Timor Telecom (TT). No sympathy there, as the latter have made the most of their ten year monopoly. Recently, a friend bought back a Telkomcel phone from Bali and it works here in Dili! Slight problem with it requiring an international call to actually receive/send to TT and landline numbers here + no way to boost the credit. But it does show that the new cellphone network is actually functioning.