As I sit and type this blog I am in our room looking out at Bec and kids having a great time in the pool in our hotel in Timor. As always it was no easy feat getting here although we made it relatively unscathed. The night before leaving Melbourne little Gus had a very rough night teething we think, and kept Bec and I up half the night. As we were preparing to leave Maggie was playing outside. She was, as always dressed in all her spleandour looking like a real rock chick! As she was running around the back yard she stepped in one of Hugo's landmines. For those of you who do not Know Hugo, he is our beautiful 40 kilo black labrador who leaves a pretty formidable mess behind him that Maggie unfortunately stepped in. Now usually this wouldn't be a massive issue, but Maggie had on her Converse shoes which she hasn't taken off since she received them on Christmas Day. Well we scrubbed and washed and in then end got out an old toothbrush and 45 minutes later they were cleaned. Ofcourse there was a fair share of drama in the process. For those of you who know my wife Bec you will probably be able to see the following picture, there we were packing the car running around getting ready. Bec, in her wisdom decided now was a great time to vacuum the kitchen floor! Not quite sure why, it looked fine to me, and of all the times to vacuum the floor I am not sure about now, anyway, she obviously felt better for it and finished with a smile on her face! So off to the airport flying Jetstar for the first time. All was going pretty well as we stepped on to what looked like a new plane, plush leather seats and two rows of three seats between the 5 of us. As we were heading to take off it sounded like someone was sawing wood under the plane to which Gus in his usual assertive manner starts yelling out "shh shh". We got up into the air and Gus was looking pretty good, fell asleep as usual on the take off and all was looking good. Next thing a very cheery and very loud first officer decided to have a long chat to us about our flight which inevitably woke the little master up, and he is never happy being awoken mid nap. We started to look very much like that family you really do not want on your plane with the screaming 2 year old who had decided the only thing that was going to make him happy was running up and down the plane, which ofcourse he could not do. After about a 30 minute wrestle he decided to head back to sleep and all was pretty well until just before landing when the little master awoke again and this time his mood had deteriorated markedly. As I struggled to contain him I look over to Bec she is diving into her backpack and pulled out a packet of lollies! You can imagine my dismay at the thinking here, a very tired and angry man being offered a packet of lollies. Gus decided at this time that his short powernap was all he needed to recharge and turned his attention to once again finding the best escape out. At this time Bec really came into her own producing a new packet of dinosaurs which pretty much kept Gus happy until we landed. As we landed the whole plane shook like it was about to fall apart and we all hung on and hoped. Even little Gus looked a little concerned as the plane struggled to hold together in one piece. Landing in Darwin was very hot and humid with thunderstorms imminent. Nanna and Popsy waiting with the Tarago and off we went having a look around Darwin. The accomodation in Darwin was very average but at the end of the day we were all too exhausted to worry too much about much of anything. The rooms were very hot and when you have a tired 7 year old sleeping on top of you and rolling around the bed it is always harder to get some sleep. Gus awoke once again in the middle of the night and needed Dadda ofcourse, as he already had mama and this clearly was just not enough for the little man. A quick cuddle and a bot bot and he was once again off to sleep as were the rest of us, at least until the wake up call at 3.30am. Despite Gus being in a dead sleep as soon as Bec whispered his name he sat bolt upright and was ready to go. Our big girls Indy and Maggie were absolute champions as they somewhat reluctantly got out of bed and dressed for our trip to the airport.
We were a little worried about the plane to Timor as Pospy had done some research into the planes and determined they were built by a Brazilian company which he suggested were famous for their mardi gras floats and had then ventured into plane building! Despite Popsys concerns the plane was a very new mid size jet that we all enjoyed our flight on. The girls played their DS and Gus slept the whole way again returning to his A grade performances we are used to. Flying into Timor is a beautiful experience with some incredible mountains stretching out to the amazing ocean. Clear flying conditions produced some incredible views as we came into land. As the plane turned making its approach we saw a tiny little runway perched on the edge of the coast. It looked far too small for us and we were all a little surprised as we saw the plane head for this runway. As we came down over the sea at one end we all held out breath as we waited for some harder ground, then as we did and touched down we all held our breath again as the plane reversed the engines and strained to pull up before the other end of the runway. We of course made it and despite my best attempts to build the anticipation there really was no issue. As we pointed out the airport I think Bec looking straight at it said 'where?' not quite believing the little building was indeed the airport. The usual official welcoming party of guards waiting guns at the ready but wearing smiles bigger than their weapons. The little master strutted onto the tarmac as though he was a prince returning home and Maggie with her sunglasses and outfit was looking to avoid the paparazzi! Indy as always looked her pensive self sussing out her environment. Good thing we had Popsy with us and his stack of cash as we had not managed to get to the Bank to get our US dollars and despite Popsy's angst at handing over the loot we all managed to pay our $30USD visa payment and became official guests of the Timor people.
We made it through customs and saw our driver from the hotel. We had our usual look of surprise as we told the driver their was 7 of us, he was expecting only one, this depsite my email three days ago confirming our transfer to the hotel. We were very fortunate that the three italian men in their suits encouraged us to go firt and they would wait for the driver to return to get them, so off we went.
First impressions of Timor were very similar to our time in Cambodia with the obvious poverty very easy to see and very few examples of wealth. Every third vehicle was a UN, red cross or some other NGO vehicle displaying the clear need for help and support. The roads were very rough and a mix of bitumen and dirt and the housing was very average mostly slum like conditions evident.
The drive along the esplanade was interesting (Indy just said crazy!) with the inevitable fishing people and neverending stalls of hanging fish ready for sale. We arrived at our hotel and despite the galvanised iron frontage walked through to an virtual oasis with a nice pool for the kids surrounded by single bedroom rooms. We have 3 rooms next to each other and in comparison to the surrounding accomodation around the hotel we are living in absolute luxury. We settled in with the kids hitting the pool to freshen up and a few of us heading to the local supermarket. As always seems to be the case these days I am amazed at the choice of products available in these countries, pretty much anything you would like. We stocked up with food for the kids, fresh water, and a range of other treats to keep everyone happy. Back to the hotel to catch up on some sleep with the little master sleeping with Indy and I for four hours and Bec and Maggie getting a much needed rest, although Maggie spent most of this time in the pool. Toward the end of the day Maggie stepped out of the pool with her eyes looking like she had gone 5 rounds with Mike Tyson! We all enjoyed a refreshing swim and Gussy demonstrated no fear as he must have jumped into the pool over a hundred times. He has this thing at the moment where he refers to certain things as 'bad dudes' which he gets from watching his movies. There were three UN policeman sitting together in the pool when Gussy went up to them and pointed saying 'Bad Dudes!'
Dinner at the hotel is always an interesting experience first time around. Between all of us we had lasagne and chips, grilled chicken and portugese potatoes, calamari, and beef curry,a veritable United Nations Feast. The food was not bad, not great, but not bad. We retired early and slept well!
As we greet the morning Nanna and Popsy remind us of what life would be like travelling without kids. Popsy has been up for a lovely walk along the beach, exploring Timor, Nanna is showered and dressed and ready for breakfast. We have been spending the past several hours since 5am trying to get Gus to sleep for a little longer, deal with the girls sniffles and moans and get ourselves upright and into the day. The days of absolutely relaxing travel are well behind us now but we ofcourse wouldn't change a thing. We are so lucky to be able to have our kids with us and experience all of this together. And ofcourse to have nanna and pospy here is a godsend and they provid invaluable support to manage the multiple demands of our 3 kids!
Today we decided to hire a car and driver and have a look around. We started with a trip to the ANZ bank to withdraw some funds from the ATM and put popsy at ease as we were able to pay him back. When you hand Popsy money you always see a bit of colour return to his cheeks, those of you who know Popsy will know what I mean. We drove around the esplanade around to the famous statue of Jesus. It was a very long walk up to the top and we had lost 30% of our body weight in sweat but the views from the top were breathtaking! Driving through the local streets always brings you down to earth as you see the absolute poverty that surrounds you. We know from our friends that our trips to places like Timor are seen as at best adventourous and at worst downright crazy! But our view is that we want our kids, as well as ourselves to experience what life is like for many people on this planet. We inevitably have talks with Indy and Mags about how 90% of the earths resources get consumed by just 10% of the population and talk about how this happens and why. We strongly believe this is important for all of us to experience, especially our kids. We hope that as we return to our lives of relative luxury that we can all take back just a small piece of our experiences and that this will help us make the right choices in life. There are always times when we travel when we question is it worth it and the answer inevitably returns to Absolutely! Despite the many challenges we face travelling with kids and it is a daily if not hourly challenge it provides such a wonderful opportunity for conversations with our kids that are only possible through experience. What this will all mean as they grow up we will have to wait and see but we hope will provide a well rounded experience of all that life is about.
When I spend time in places like Timor it always puts me in a very reflective place and gives me more questions than answers ofcourse. Why are we so lucky, why do we have what we have, what have these people done to deserve lives like this. It is not so much the material possessions but more the life of relative safety and wealth. I remember the terrible images on Australian TV of young men dying at the hands of a machete wielding men while they were trying to escape. I remember at the time this haunted me for many days and now as we drive down the streets of Timor it brings back those memories and you just cant help but wonder why. These are obviously questions beyond my ability to answer but I believe I am better off for considering the question.
So here we are in Timor...... Look forward to keeping you posted on our trip.