Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The balance between good and evil

It was a mixed experience completing the install in the town of Same.  The travel was brutal, but the destination was excellent.  Heading south from Dili, the road to Same traverses a set of high topographic ridges and emerges in the lush southern side of Timor Leste.  We set out midday on Sunday to be ready to work on Monday morning.  The road condition is beyond disrepair, yet busses, trucks, 4WD cars, and motorcycles use the thoroughfare like any other road.  The 100+ km stretch winds high up into the misty tops of the interior mountains, and there is rarely piece of road that allows for a vehicle to go above 3rd gear.  The total trip was over five hours, and played out more like a full-body workout than a road trip.  We had a full crew packed into the IPG Land Cruiser, with little room to spare.  If I didn't fully brace myself for each massive pothole or section of completely broken road, I would be thrown around the car like a rag doll.  My arms and shoulders are tired from clutching to the edge of the seat and window of the car.  Worst of all, the precious seismometer was being subject to all of this violence, and I worried that it would be damaged.  We arrived in Same around 6 pm after passing through a short-lived downpour.
The setting of the town is spectacular.  Steep topography rises along the northern margin - the same topography we descended to arrive in town.  The clouds sweep up the rise and gather along the high points of the surrounding mountains.  The slopes are covered in lush vegetation - trees suited to specific elevation ranges along with dense undergrowth.  Delicate pine-like trees provide shade for wild coffee plants.  Sunset time came along, and did not disappoint.  The interplay of the mountain horizon, massive thunderclouds, and rich hues of colored sky provided excellent reward for a hard-travelled day.
In the morning, we visited the local District Administrator and once again were given the go ahead to install on their grounds.  The road into town that passed in from of the Admin complex was recently repaved, providing a strong contrast to the aforementioned treachery.  The station went in smoothly, and it appears that the sensor survived the ride to its temporary home. 

The station in Same.  This photo just missed the formation of lenticular clouds in the mountains above.
The return trip home was a bit more comfortable because we had gained some space in the car.  We encountered a group trying to clear the road of a massive downed branch.  Marcel, Armando, and Eugenio jumped out to help cut the branch in half - with a machete.  Good ol' Timorese ingenuity.  The road was quickly cleared and we passed through, but not before I was able to snap a few photos, including some shots of coffee plants.  Along the way, the crew reaped the usual bounty of local produce.  
The crew picking up goods at produce stands.  Coffee plants are growing behind the stands, with large shade trees above.  Marcel is strutting through the road like a boss.
A close up of the coffee plant.

About an hour out from arriving in Dili, we found out there was a problem with our plan to get to Atauro Island.  It turns out we needed to deliver a letter to the Maritime Police three days in advance, which was not done.  Once we made it back to IPG, I managed to track down a charter boat company who will help us out...Compass Charter to the rescue!  The last install will feel somewhat ceremonial, I am really looking forward to it - both to arrive at our final goal and to be that much closer to going home.  Stay tuned for the last few posts of this journey, the next few days should be interesting!





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