Friday, March 21, 2014

Western sites are in after a trip through Indonesia

We continue to move along with the install.  The past few days brought us to Maliana and the enclave Oecussi.  Heading back to Eugenio's home town Maliana, he, Armindo and I set out for the Administrator's complex.  This was great because we had just returned from a three city install the days before, and the momentum was moving forward.  We had obtained the proper visas to go into Oecussi, including a double entry visa for the whole crew plus a vehicle permit.  Maliana is entirely within Timor Leste, so it was no problem to go there, put in the station, and stay for the night.  It had been raining fairly hard the previous two days, and the evidence for that was in the rivers that we crossed along the way.
River crossing in normal conditions.
The same vantage point on the back end of a heavy rainfall.  Josh West will analyse the sediment being carried down these rivers to decipher the uplift rates around the Banda region.
The install in Maliana was smooth, we arrived late but still put in all but the fence.  The next morning we finished up and gained some confidence in the equipment's configuration by visiting post-install.  It seems that the upgrades to the data recorders make for a more smoothly running system.  I downloaded the 12+ hours of data from the overnight recording, and will hopefully have recorded an earthquake that we can show off once we get back to the IPG office in Dili.

After leaving Maliana, we headed back to the coast to meet up with another IPG member and head towards Oecussi.  This traverse requires an entry into Indonesia, and then returning to Timor Leste. 
Side note: The history of this enclave within the Timor portion of Indonesia goes back to Portugese's original colonization of Timor Leste - when Portugal first took over the area, they based in the island of Alor and then made first contact with Timor at Oecussi.  The legacy of this first contact has remained, and Timor Leste now controls the small portion of western Timor that is entirely surrounded by Indonesian territory.

Leaving Indonesia, returning to Timor Leste.

The crossing of the border involved many steps that included customs, police, and immigration.  The paperwork for the vehicle wasn't exactly right, so we had a bit of a roundabout procedure to get through.  After about 90 minutes, we were on our way through Indonesia headed towards Oecussi.  The economic gap between the two countries was immediately apparent in the road quality - we had been chattering along rough roads to make it to the first border, then smoothly passed through Indonesia, then had a bone-rattling ride through the enclave until our final destination, the town of Pante Macassar.  Science doesn't know about the borders, but the vehicles certainly do!

Apparently, we were traveling in tandem with Timor Leste's military, which we discovered once we were in the queue to meet with the Oecussi Administrator.  We were waiting alone to establish a station location, then a troop of 12+ infantry entered the building to arrive at a meeting.  We patiently waited our turn and then met with the Admin.  Every office we have met with so far is fully on board with our project, and this was no exception.  We accepted a few suggestions on where to go to install, but ultimately settled on putting the station at Eugenio's older brother's house.  It was a brutally hot afternoon, so we cooled out in the shade for a few hours before we started - we were not going anywhere for the night because the border to re-enter Timor Leste via Indonesia closes at 4:00pm.  We cranked out the install like a well-oiled machine, and will return in the morning to have a look at how it is doing.

It was entirely dark at this point, and the stars were out.  I did my best to identify familiar constellations, but lacked many of those I am familiar with in the northern hemisphere.  We had some coconuts prepped on site, and savored the delicious juice and flesh of nature's perfect rehydrator.  DE-LI-CIOUS!

We wrapped up the station in the morning and travelled back to Dili.  It was an especially sunny day, and the ocean was a deep dark blue.  Alor Island was quite visible:
Alor Island, Indonesia, across the Wetar Straight.  We plan to put a few stations there once things are going with the Indonesian portion of the deployment.  The buildup of thunderclouds above the portions of exposed land is a common phenomenon here.

We stopped in a the same place for lunch that I posted earlier.  At this point, I have no fear about digging into the local cuisine.  I had a few different types of barbequed fish, and more coconut flavored rice balls.  So far, we have six stations operating as of Friday, 22 March.  The final two are slated to be installed on Monday and Tuesday in the town of Same and Atauro Island, respectively.  I leave Wednesday in the afternoon after I will deliver a farewell lecture to the IPG staff.

The food was delicious, don't be confused by the stupid look on my face. Eugenio and Alecio also approved.

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