Well, I made it this time. The bike I collected from the Tiger garage was a “proper” motorcycle with gears and a clutch and everything. I’ve never ridden one of these before. After a little fun trying to get the thing moving from a standstill, I got the hang of it and rode off east.
It took me a while to figure out that I should be using the clutch to change gears (it was very forgiving – as long as I wasn’t applying any throttle I could shift up or down), but other than that it wasn’t bad. Far comfier than the scooter from the other day, although numb-bum did set in before I reached Baucau.
The road, as detailed two days ago, is gorgeous. After the point where I had my blow-out on Tuesday it turns further inland and you don’t see the coastline again until you reach Baucau itself. The terrain changes frequently from dusty plains to lush vegetation which often canopies overhead.Â There are a lot of twists and turns so good use should be made of the horn to ensure nobody’s taking up the entire road round the next blind corner.
Overall the road surface is good. Certainly there are B-roads back in the UK which have as many dips and potholes in them. As a hint. watch traffic ahead of you and if it seems to be slowing down then be prepared to do the same.
I’d also recommend long sleeves or good sunblock. Neither of which I had. Yes, I’m red again. I’d not mind if it was all of me, but I’m now so patchy I could pass for a giraffe in poor light.
As I got around 30km from Baucau, I passed through a series of villages. Lots of children were walking along the road, I assume on lunch break from school. The looks I got were hilarious. A glance – it’s a man on a bike. Then a double-take – it’s a white man on a bike!
A common game was to stick their hands out and wait for me to slap them as I rode past. This is pretty painful at 50km/h, just so you know. Especially when they swing at you at the same time. Also note that it works best if they’re on your left as you need your right hand for the throttle. It gets to be a challenge when you’ve lost so much velocity slapping hands that you have to drop three gears and throttle up with one hand.
Baucau itself isn’t much to write home about, though it does have some lovely views of the ocean. I admit, I didn’t explore for long just driving round the one-way system for a while then settling down for lunch at a place which did Portuguese food. I opted for a “green soup” and barbecued chicken with rice with a banana juice. It came to $8 which is the dearest meal I’ve had here, but after driving for three hours to get there I felt it was worth it.
After an hour to gather myself, I set off on the return trip. I felt a lot more comfortable on the bike by now and was hitting 80 km/h on the straights. The other traffic is generally rather forgiving (except some numpties in UN 4x4s) and I was still raising smiles by being a bit of a curiosity.
Amazingly it started to rain when I was about 30km away from Dili, but thankfully only a little. At 80km/h the raindrops sting a little when they hit bare skin! In all, I made good time on the return trip and got back shortly after 5pm. And half an hour before the rain really began to came down. Apparently it’s dry season – someone ought to tell the rain gods.
Definitely a drive I was happy to make and one I’d recommend. The roads are lovely, the scenery fantastic, the other traffic quite light, the people friendly and the food at the other end worth it. Plus it was a good learning curve for me with the clutch and all. 15o miles for my first motorcycle “lesson”. A shame, as I mentioned yesterday, that I’m not here longer to jump in the ute with the other group. Five days travelling these roads would be a great adventure.