Woke at 7 and had breakfast on my porch – tea, bread, butter, jam. It was a blazing hot day in Kupang, and it was only 9am.
Charlie came around, and we thrashed out our plans for the next few days. We intended to go to Soe today, then Niki-niki, Note, and Boti the day after, sleeping in the King of Boti’s royal village compound. The day after, we planned to go to Kefa, and the day after that, to Temkesi, and back to Soe, before flying back to Bali on the afternoon of the next day. Sorted. We went to buy a flight ticket – Kupang to Bali with Batavia Air for only 540,000Rp.
Outside the travel shop, Kupang was spluttering with life. Bemos everywhere, multi-coloured, silhouettes of girls or famous bands plastered all over them, toodling their trumpet horns with a kid of about 14 hanging out of the side beckoning passengers, all to the sounds of bass-heavy hip-hop, dance and rnb. It was mildly chaotic, so I headed to a small stall selling Cendol, a delicious drink made from coconut milk, something green, and slivers of coconut milk. I enjoyed the drink with two policemen for company, who had also stopped to quench their thirst, and it was refreshing and delicious.
After this, Charlie and I headed back to the hotel. I left my big backpack here, stuffed with Charlie’s stuff too, and we jumped on the number 10 bemo to take us to the ‘terminal’ or bus station, for 2,000Rp. At the station, the bus to Soe was stood waiting for passengers. Me and Charlie were the only ones. The bus wasn’t going anywhere for a very long time. They wait until they fill up here before heading off. Annoying. We ducked into a Padang stall for a while to escape the blazing heat. A girl in there, Melly, used to be a maid in Singapore, so we had a chat about the place. From a maid in Singapore working for an American employee, to joint-owner of a padang shop in a dusty bus station in Kupang. Some change of life. I’m not sure what’s better.
After an hour, it was 2:30pm, and it was pretty clear we weren’t going anywhere. I decided we needed a private taxi to take us to Soe. I felt we could get one for 300,000Rp. Charlie wanted no more than 200,000. I don’t like to overpay, but I don’t need to be unreasonably stubborn either, and for me, an extra 50,000 each to get a ride to Soe wasn’t the end of the world, but for Charlie it was a bid deal. Tired, and realizing our chances of getting to Soe before dark were pretty slim, I said I’d pay 200,000, he could pay 100,000. He agreed. It wasn’t a problem for me. We were soon in a nice air-con space wagon, heading up the mountainous road to Soe.
When we arrived in Soe, I paid my 200,000Rp. Charlie paid his 100,000Rp. He then gave me 50,000Rp to even the cost of the ride, saying he couldn’t live with himself. I didn’t mind – before I met him, I was travelling alone, and would have spent it all myself anyway, but I was still happy to receive it. We were at Hotel Bagu Mutiara II, a nice place set in expensive grounds, with a little outdoor warung and seating area. We split a room for 190,000Rp, which pleased Charlie no end – money saved! I understood though – I’ve been travelling on similar shoestring budgets before. It was nice to have company, and I was enjoying the banter, the negotiation, and the feeling of teamwork. We still had no guide for our trip however, so frantically tried phoning a few options from the Lonely Planet, to no avail, unsurprisingly. It got so desperate that, at the padang place we’d got to for dinner in the dining room that night, we’d asked around there, and were assisted by Alfred. Alfred spoke poor English, but was of Boti heritage and claimed he could guide us for 400,000Rp a day. Neither of us were convinced, but agreed to be in touch later and try to thrash out a deal. He didn’t get back to us for ages, and when he finally did, it was a message that read: ‘Sorry, but I can’t come.” Alfred. Typically Indonesian. They hate to say no directly. It was 10:30pm and we still had no guide. A man recommended by the LP, Pap Nope, eventually got back to me, saying he’d sorted out a guide for us, a driver and all the works, for 1million a day! I said no, we’d find our own way there, so he sent a text message back saying we could have a guide for 250,000 a day. That sounded more like it! I arranged for the guide to meet us at 8am in the hotel. At last! I didn’t fancy going it alone to all those villages. We needed someone who could speak the local dialects, and explain a bit of the culture. Satisfied, I went to bed.