After five days at the convent I was ready to face the world again – specifically, the supposedly awful road along the South Coast to Suai. What can I say? Pure happiness. It was a big day on the road, a couple of hundred kilometres of dirt roads in stifling heat; I worked up a proper, hard riding sweat and and it felt good. I’d been told that it would take 8 or 9 hours to go back to the coast from Venilale, through Viqueque and then across to Suai but the roads were just the right kind of rough for a 690 Enduro – wide and straight enough that you could get up a bit of speed and see ahead, but rough as guts to keep you smiling.


Beastie and I rounded up the trucks through the dusty straight coastal stretches, then dodged the potholes and landslips as the road detoured back into the hills.


About thirty kilometres out of Suai, I was riding through a village, sweating hard, visor up to catch the breeze, when I felt a thin line stretch across my eyes, tighten against the sides of my helmet, and snap.

Holy shit. I stopped, pulled over, blinking hard: can I see? Am I blind? What the hell just happened? I looked down there was thin, copper coloured fishing line tangled around my shoulder, around the number plate, around the tiny rear indicator. It was a kind of nylon line, and now it was in crazy curly tangles having been stretched hard before it snapped.

What. The. Hell.

Through some miraculous reflex, I had closed my eyes before the line had contacted my eyeballs. I don’t know how; there was no way I could see that thin line as I approached it, stretched across the road, at 30 or 40km/h. Perhaps I had just been blinking; a lucky coincidence? Either way, I had felt the line tighten and stretch across my eyelids; the sides of my helmet came forward far enough to take some of the tension before the line had snapped. I was lucky; my eyes were fine, my eyelids not even cut.

But again: what the hell?

I looked around me, at all the people in the village: men, women, children. No-one looked particularly guilty, no-one seemed to realise why I’d stopped. The line was so thin, they couldn’t see it either.

Who had put it there? What were they trying to achieve? The height of the line was such that pretty much everyone in Timor on a motorbike would pass safely under it – except for me, on my ridiculously tall KTM. Only I would ride straight into it. But there were trucks on this road, too, and any truck would have driven right through the line and snapped it. What would that achieve? I had no idea. Later, I would ask some locals what would they thought was going on, and show them the tangled line that I pulled off Beastie’s number plate, but they had no idea either. Their best guess, like mine, was ‘kids’.


I saddled up and rode the rest of the way into Suai. I’d made good time, about 4.5 hours of solid riding, and the daylight was still strong. I saw Suai in all its dusty glory… well, in all its dust. There’s oil nearby, so there are quite a few workers in town, and quite a few roadworks, but that’s about it. It feels a little bit like Karratha, if most of the buildings in Karratha were shacks and the pay was terrible.

I rode past some dusty wasteland and pulled into the courtyard of the grandly named Hotel Suai. They had just built some new airconditioned rooms out to one side, but I was thrilled to discover that the main building still had a few cupboard-like bunk rooms and a communal bathroom. The price was right.

I parked the bike and sweat started rolling off my body, down my face, into my eyes. Suai is unequivocally the hottest and most humid place I’ve encountered in Timor. It makes Dili seem like a temperate mountain retreat.

But hey, nothing wrong with a bit of warm weather. The wonky pedestal fan in my bunkroom worked alright, and the water in the communal bak mandi was cool and clear. I washed the dust from my hair and for ten minutes, just poured scoop after scoop of cool water over my body until my core temperature came down.

By the time I went out to find food, night had fallen and the electricity was out. Suai was dark wasteland with broken roads, stray dogs, random ditches. I had to walk for ten minutes before I found somewhere selling food; the people were lovely. They welcomed me in, asked me where I was from, apologised for the blackout. They lit a candle for me, and gave me vegetables and rice.

The electricity was still out when I’d finished eating. I was beginning to wish that I had ridden instead of walked to dinner; wandering around Suai in a blackout was probably not the best idea. But then again, there’s always two ways to look at a thing. I walked back to my hotel carefully, using the darkness as a cloak of safety and anonymity.

Tonight, I was just a shadow, like everyone else.

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