I won’t do this one in timeline format, otherwise you’ll be here for SIX AND A HALF HOURS LIKE I WAS.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t literally the longest road trip ever. I’ve been on longer ones in Australia, and people go on crazy long ones around the world. But this was the longest in terms of trying my patience.
And, I was really happy to get to go home. We weren’t meant to go home until Tuesday, and just as I was thinking on Monday around lunchtime ‘geez I could just go back home right now’, Armando piped up and said ‘We are thinking this car will go back to Dili tonight.’ I was allll for it.
But now, just for a moment, let’s cast our minds back to that first drive, shall we? Remember how I said, Tino drove like a bat out of hell, and the roads were crazy, and yet we made it in 4 and a half hours?
How did we manage to add two hours to our trip on the way back?
Why, look here! I have a text message saved in my phone, sent to the lovely Kristy at sunset (6pm) when we’d hit the town of Aileu, which will explain.
‘I am on the slowest road trip ever. In 3 hrs, which would normally be 2 hrs drive, we have stopped for: petrol, boys to pee, to climb to a mountain shrine to take photos, for garlic, for vegies, for guavas, and FINALLY for the girls to pee [we have higher standards for toilet stops]... And now that’s done, the boys have disappeared to buy a new goddamn SIM card. And we are still 2.5 hrs from home!!! Wahhh I want to get home before midnight.’
After I texted that to Kristy, the boys reappeared a few moments later and did another one of those classic moves where they very politely offer me something I really don’t want. ‘Mana Kate! We have stopped, we get coffee. If you like, you can take a drink, take rest, eat dinner...’
I’m afraid I lost all patience at that point and got a tad cranky. ‘No. I don’t want dinner. I don’t want a rest. I want... to go... to Dili. I thought we were going to Dili tonight!’.
I think they realised I’d had it with the pit stops then, because we didn’t have any more stops after Aileu. I felt bad about snapping (and I didn’t even get that cranky, by Australian standards – Timorese are so polite, you feel you can’t do normal levels of cranky), but I hadn’t said anything up to that point, just bit my tongue and tried to be patient. In any case, there were no more stops. Until...
9 k’s out of Dili, when we had to stop on the mountain, because there had been an accident an hour or two before. (Australian army dude put his vehicle into the ditch. No serious injuries, happily, but man, I wasn’t impressed with my countryman.) I was so far beyond fed up at this point that I didn’t really react: didn’t cry, didn’t get annoyed, just thought ‘Well, I guess we’ll be here all night then’.
Amazingly, I was wrong (I think we can credit the Australian army with this: it seems they cleared up the area and made it safe within a couple of hours – no mean feat on a narrow, winding hill road) – we were only there half an hour.
As I dragged myself into the house at 9.32pm, I tried to tell myself that hey, maybe it was a good thing we took such a long time: we could’ve been in that accident if we’d been earlier, or, we could’ve just had a longer wait on the hill into Dili. Could’ve been worse. Could’ve, some how, some way, been worse.