TUESDAY, 26 MAY – FLIGHT OVER WATER.

Our flight to Kupang was scheduled to depart at 11:30 but at 9:30 a staff member from Merpati rang and told us to get to the airport directly as the flight was leaving early due to incoming bad weather.

At the airport, we checked our pack through after arguing with the surly attendants (they had obviously also been hauled out to work early) over the excess weight charge they wanted to extort from us. We refused to pay and after hectoring us for a few minutes they gave up and moved on to harass some of the other passengers. As we waited in the run-down concourse, a massive thunderstorm began moving in from offshore beyond the truncated cone of Ganung Meja which stood like a sentinel at the end of the runway.

A siren heralded the arrival of the small, twin-engined aircraft that would take us across to Kupang and which touched down and pulled to a halt in less than 400 metres. The ground crew refuelled the aircraft directly from barrels on the apron, and then we boarded and found our seats at the front of the cabin where I had a good view into the cockpit. With the storm now darkening the end of the runway the aircraft took off smoothly and climbed to an altitude of 23,000 feet. Keli Mutu and the highlands of Flores were hidden from view beneath the storm as we crossed the coast and left the island behind. Fifty minutes later we thumped down on the tarmac at Kupang, bounced once then came to a swift halt outside the airport terminal.

Once we had retrieved our packs we walked out to the main road into town. The landscape was dry and rocky [Timor is composed of the remains of coral reefs thrust upwards by tectonic forces] and a hot wind blew up from the sea which lay about 10 kilometres away to the north. 

A colt van, festooned with sparkly decorations and with music blaring from gigantic speakers mounted on its roof took us into the centre of town where we spent the next two hours trying to find a place to stay and the Merpati office. When we finally located the airline’s office we confirmed our flights to Darwin and paid for one of them using my visa. We had enough Indonesian cash left over for the other flight. While we were in the office, an Australian bloke came in and offered us a place to stay so we ended up a the Kupang Kafe Backpackers which was quite upmarket (compared to the digs we’d been used to) and very bad value for money but we didn’t care as it was our last night in Indonesia.

We went back out to the airport to meet the flight from Maumere to see if Sean and Trish were on it but it had already arrived and all of the passengers had left the airport by the time I arrived.

Back in town, we walked down to the harbour at sunset and watched the sun sink into the ocean amid a cauldron of colour for the last time in Indonesia. After an evening meal, we retired to bed where constant noise from the street and marauding mosquitoes kept us awake for most of the night.

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