The secret plan of getting to Papua New Guinea without flying
Day 2,165 since October 10th 2013: 187 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross).
Nice tittle – hey?
It is 2019. So clickbait sells. There is no secret in how we are going to reach Papua New Guinea (PNG). I think I already revealed it a few entries ago. And now we have left Timor-Leste and are rapidly executing the next step which is getting to PNG. Not as easy as you might think given how close Timor-Leste is to PNG. On a map in any case.
Yeah, my darling fiancée flew back home via several connected flights on a 32hr journey. That is food for thought. 32hrs to reach Denmark from this part of the world if you fly. I figure I could do it in two weeks by land and sea. I believe I made it clear within last week’s entry that I do not enjoy seeing her leave. So I will not delve on that. However I will mention that the hotel room was mighty empty when I returned.
My fiancee wanted extra toilet paper. It was there in the room when I returned after seeing her off at the airport.
The RED CROSS!!! Same thing as the RED CRESCENT!!! Two names for the same movement. The names cover the world’s largest humanitarian organization. Woop woop! It’s neutral. It has no religious affiliation. It is simply in place to help the most vulnerable people across the face of our pale blue dot which spins silently in space. And the Danish Red Cross made me a Goodwill Ambassador before I left home in 2013. Mighty brave of them considering they had no idea what would come next. Within that capacity I have visited the movement in 183 countries around the world which is so absolutely a world record and one which nobody seems to care about. I don’t blame anyone as I don’t think it is a record I will pursue to get verified. However it was the Red Cross in Timor-Leste which kept me in Dili for a few more days. As soon as Monday arrived I suited up in my Red Cross attire and headed to their headquarter where I met the wonderful Nichola (Nicky) Hungerford who is the communications and organisation strengthening mentor at the Cruz Vermelha (Red Cross) de Timor-Leste (CVTL). Nicky is Australian and has that charming twang when she speaks. However she has spent years in Timor-Leste dealing with the humanitarian efforts.
Great and hospitable crowd. And quite selfie happy too ;)
CVTL has been a part of the family for decades. In fact the movement has been the difference between life and death for some of the staff throughout the birth of this young nation (2002). In many aspects you’ll find the RC at work when nobody else is there. While Timor-Leste’s capital Dili receives a lot of attention the more rural and remote villages depend on humanitarian assistance which CVTL provides. Timor-Leste is rich in mountains and as such in fresh water sources as well. However is the water getting to the people? Do people know how to treat water without contaminating it? Do people know about sanitation? Well some do and others do not. The RC steps up where needed and provides training. I found the CVTL to be very impressive in its reach and motivated to expand its humanitarian efforts. Did you know that as a part of the vocational training CVTL teaches English and computer skills to those in need? It’s not just all about blood donations, first aid and disaster response.
The first bus of many to come until we reach Surabaya.
While the road from Dili in Timor-Leste to Kupang in Indonesia (on Timor) is a mere 424 km (263 mi) it still takes twelve hours to cover by bus. I hear the flight is 45 minutes (sigh). Arwin (Dutch friend from last week’s entry) travelled by bus from Dili to Kupang a week or more ahead of me and was friendly enough to inform me that I should secure a ticket well in advance as the seats get sold out quickly. So I did. However when I showed up with my bags ready for departure on September 10th the lady at the counter could tell me that I was early as my ticket was for September 12th! Darn it!! Fortunately she had a seat available in the back of minibus number two and it all worked out. My fiancée was there with me when I purchased the ticket and we were afterwards sure we booked for Tuesday!? However we did not check the date and the 12th was last Thursday so I figure Tuesday/Thursday might have sounded alike. Always double check. Fortunately it worked out.
At the border. Waiting to speak with immigration.
It was harder for me to enter Indonesia from Timor-Leste than it was to exit Indonesia and enter Timor-Leste. Leaving Timor-Leste was no problem and I was soon heading to the Indonesian immigration. However the officer at the counter asked me to speak to his superior which took a little time. Most of the time was spent waiting and once it was my turn he wanted to know this and that and demanded that I had an exit ticket and a hotel booking. Technically I do not need neither and have been requested to provide no such thing the first to times we have entered Indonesia this year. This was not my first rodeo and I took it all with ease. Finally I just told him that Timor-Leste was country number 187 in an unbroken journey completely without flying. End of discussion. My passport was stamped and I entered Indonesia for the third time.
Street-food in Kupang. Lots of fresh fish!
By nightfall the bus reached Kupang where I had last been with my fiancée after she arrived in the airport some two weeks earlier. The route of the bus from the border to Kupang had been through Atambua, Kefamenanu and Soe which were all towns my fiancée and I had stayed at on our way to Timor-Leste. The route back was equally beautiful to what it was in the opposite direction. I found a hostel in Kupang and checked in. On arrival I met Napa from Indonesia and Stu from Australia. Napa is an elderly fellow with a large knowledge about Kupang’s ins and outs. He has been assisting sailors of all sorts for at least fifteen years when they come to dock in Kupang. He keeps a scrapbook which I got to write in. It was really interesting. The Danes will recognize this name: “Nordkaperen”. That fine ship was among the many which have found their way into Napa’s capable hands in Kupang. Napa was now helping me find out when the next ferry left in a direction which was useful for me. Stu was another interesting fellow. Stu was in the beginning of his epic motorcycle journey from Australia to the UK. He’s from the “Sunshine Coast” (Queensland) and drove his MC up to Darwin from where it was shipped to Dili. He then drove around a bit in Timor-Leste before making his way to Kupang. He’s a great guy and we got to spend some time together. Because I ended up getting two nights in Kupang before I could leave.
The glorious plan for reaching PNG is that I travel overland and sea to Surabaya (east Java), where I drop my bags before continuing to Jakarta. The distance from Dili to Surabaya is “just” 2,331 km (1,448 mi) and takes about three-four days. Then I continue up to Jakarta which is another 781 km (485 mi) and apply for a visa for PNG before returning the same way back to Surabaya. If all goes well then I will be boarding the good ship “Kota Nebula” from PIL’s (Pacific International Lines) large fleet. And that will be glorious as it is the first time I embark one of PIL’s vessels!! I was scheduled to embark one out of Manila (Philippines) but the backwards rules of their immigration laws did not permit for it. So I was sent on a detour. However Indonesia is a completely different country and I feel confident that we will not see any problems this time. The estimated time of departure from Surabaya is September 23rd and the scheduled arrival in Port Moresby (PNG) is October 1st. After a night in Kupang Napa took me for a ride on his scooter to buy a ferry ticket from Kupang. He had called his friend the port master and confirmed that it left that day at 4pm. It took about 30 minutes to reach the port and conclude that no ferries were leaving that day and that the ticket office was closed as well. Napa was clearly disappointed although it wasn’t his fault. We then headed the 30 minutes back to the hostel.
Riding with Napa :)
Upon further investigation three ferries would be leaving the next day to different ports on the island Flores of Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands. And that works for me as it gets us closer to Surabaya. Nothing could be done that day so Stu and I opted to visit Crystal Cave which my fiancée and I had already visited. That was where I got the cold which I have finally gotten rid of. Stu had dismantled the passenger foot pegs on his motorbike before leaving home so it wasn’t practical to carry a passenger. So we travelled to the cave in a bemo (minibus). I had told Stu about how serene the cave was and that we were less than a handful people there when I went the first time. To our surprise there were some twenty people there this time! Most did not enter the water and nearly everyone were tourists from Indonesia. Stu and I got in the crystal blue water which the cave is named after. After a while we were the only ones in the water while everyone was just on land taking photos. When Stu left the water to go and dry himself I was alone…I thought? But as I sat there all alone and disappeared into my own thoughts a MONSTER suddenly came out of the water right next to me and said: “hi, where are you from?” I was shocked!! But I quickly realized that monsters do not exists and that it was an Indonesian local who was free diving deep below us. Down to 20 meters (66 feet)! He was downs there for two minutes before he came up and startled me. Good guy though.
Hanging with Stu the Australian.
Stu and I left the cave and caught a cup of coffee and a sunset at the same spot where my fiancée, the two Dutchmen (Arwin and Laurent) and I had sat together not long ago. It is a nice place for a nice sunset. Stu has some amazing adventures ahead of him and something he can really look forward to. You can join him online and experience it with him at @worldmotoadventure on Facebook and Instagram.
Onboard the ferry I managed to cross all of these people without waking anybody up! #LikeANinja
The next day Napa and I headed back to the port. I was really tired as I had been working until 2am the night before but I got a lot of stuff done. The webshop is coming along nicely and it is now easier to pay than ever before. I hope you’ll take a look as any purchase will support the Saga while Bob in Uganda makes 10%. And there is some cool stuff for sale. The first orders have already gone out and have been delivered to some very satisfied (I imagine) customers :)
"Time Flies - I Don't" Access the OUAS-SHOP here or by clicking on the image :)
I boarded a ridiculously crowded ferry which would be my home for the night. It was still early afternoon. It was quite windy but the port master had given his blessings for a safe departure. I couldn’t find a free spot for me anywhere onboard the ferry. All seats and tables were taken. I kept going up until I couldn’t get higher and up there I spotted a group of Indonesian Policemen. One of them invited me to come and sit with him. Great guy. They all were. We had a bit of a chat but their English was limited and I was getting drowsy from the motion sickness pill I had popped as a precaution. After a while I rolled out my sleeping bag as a “mattress” on the iron floor and went to sleep. I woke up after dark and maneuvered my way to the on board kiosk for some “pop mie” (instant soup noodles). Then I went back to my police friends and fell asleep again. Sleeping is a generous word when it comes to laying on an iron floor in the open wind. I was pretty knackered when I left the ferry at 7am the following day. A driver heading to Labuhan Bajo offered me a fair price. I was in Aimere only 240 km (150 mi) away. We left shortly before 8am and it was all looking fine until I discovered the driver had a severe facebook addiction which slowed us down immensely!! Quite often he would drive super slow as he was reading a text. He was also quite busy shouting greetings to people all along the way for which he would also slow down. He seemed hyperactive but preoccupied with anything else than driving. I figured that if we reached Labuhan Bajo in six hours then we would be going at a slow but fair pace. It took more than eight hours!
"Captain Facebook" behind the wheel. Hopeless!!
And that is where we are at now. I found myself a nine dollar (USD) hostel, had a shower, a cup of coffee, saw the sunset, met some cool people from the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and USA – and then I had diner and went to work on this entry. The ferry leaves tomorrow (Saturday) around 8-9am. While we are not moving as fast as I hoped we are moving ahead and Mother Nature does not disappoint.
Thank you Mother Nature.
Let’s keep on keeping on.
If you think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. Thank you :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - in transit.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga