Tour de Timor 2012

Stage Two - The Race Enters Indonesia

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Peter Wall | September 11 2012 | 2 comments

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(Photo: Zoe Morley)

Today’s stage of the 2012 Tour de Timor began from the Timor Leste (East Timor) border town of Mota’ain and crossed into Indonesia for 70km, and then re-entered Timor Leste. This was the first time the race has left Timor Leste, and entering Indonesia is a big deal. From 1975 until 1999 Indonesia occupied Timor Leste, and only after a long and violent struggle, in which over 100 000 people were killed, did the country become independent. It’s been 10 years since the birth of the country of Timor Leste (there was a 3 year transition period), and relations between Indonesia, it’s largest trading partner and immediate neighbour, are now good. Good enough to have Indonesia agree to let the Tour travel on its roads to Oecussi, the small East Timorese enclave. Oecussi is special for Timor Leste because it’s where the Portugese first landed when they colonized the island of Timor, over 500 years ago. The enclave is cut off from the rest of Timor Leste, and entirely surrounded by Indonesia, and you must either drive through Indonesia to get there, or take a small plane. Today, we took the road through Indonesia.

Before the race began this morning I spoke with a rider called Flavio, a member of the National Police of East Timor. Flavio is a former guerrilla fighter for East Timorese independence. He told me that for 24 years he fought the Indonesian occupation, sometimes in open conflict, and sometimes in what he described as clandestine operations. He was shot three times, and still has the scars where the bullets entered his body – on his wrist, his side, and his back. He says the bullets are still inside him. In 1995 he was caught by the TNI, the Indonesian military, and tortured. He says they cut a large gash into his right arm, and he has a nasty 15cm scar to prove it. He also has a large scar on his head, where he says he was struck with the back of a gun. But he said he felt good about entering Indonesia, and was ready to move on. “Sometimes I think about the past, but mostly I’ve forgotten about it. You can’t think about the past too much, it’s better to look forward at the future.” And today he got on his bike and rode through the country he used to be fighting against. Pretty amazing.

As for the race and the ride…. it was a good one. For the first 5 km East Timorese and Indonesian riders rode at the front of the pack, in ceremonial fashion. Then the race director dropped his flag and the race was on. Attacks were fast and furious for the next 10km, and finally two, and then three riders broke away from the main group of elite riders. After 20km they were caught, and then suddenly Mohd Salleh from Malaysia took off again. No one countered his attack, and he powered on solo across for about 20 km through Indonesia, and then border back into Timor Leste. For the next 20km the roads turned dusty, bumpy and dry, but he was able to hang on and won the stage by 2 minutes. A great effort.

And finally, the Jungle Run team. Well, not much to say except we kept at it and gathered some more great footage. We’ve secured a small house in the town, and tonight’s campsite is about 30 metres from the beach. In fact, as I write this I can hear the waves lapping the shore. A few of the Jungle Run team went for a dip in the ocean (no crocodiles here), and, after day 2, everyone is feeling pretty good. Tomorrow is the first main hill day of the race, so we’ll see how we feel tomorrow night! Stay tuned…

(And here’s a shot of me riding backwards with Tour de Timor director Sean Borrell).

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(Photo: Zoe Marley)

2 comments

  • Widiastra says:

    Gud to have a story behind it, pak Peter. I wish i could participate

  • Crissantos says:

    Interesting article. I’m looking forward to reading the next one.
    I was there yesterday to watch the riders arriving in the finish line. This is the first time we have an international event and hopefully this event will bring this place to the world’s attention and attract more tourists o visit.
    I hope you enjoy your trip.

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