HEY Guys — I just thought I’d drop you a line or two and give you and update on what’s happening in East Timor.
This time last year my Harley-Davidson Fat Boy was sitting in Perth while I was working in East Timor under contract to the boys of the International Stabalisation Force (ADF and NZDF) helping maintain law and order. The contract is still rolling along and I got sick of wishing I could get out for a ride, so as things got a bit more stable, I figured it was time to do something about it.
I started by getting the Fat Boy packed up and roaded up to Darwin; that was pretty easy and only minor footboard damage was sustained. I then got the old girl put on the barge and shipped over to Dili; that wasn’t all that hard either, one tiny dent in the tank which, considering all the other road rash the bike has amassed over the last 11 years, wasn’t a biggy.
So, two weeks after starting the process, the Fat Boy was landed on Dili wharf at which time I was feeling pretty clever and telling everyone I know here that she was coming. That’s when the problems started.
First off, Timor Customs wouldn’t release the bike without all of the original bills of sale and registration paperwork. Okay, quick call to my brother in Perth who hunted through all my stored stuff, found the necessary paperwork and dispatched up to me by airmail. The company, who shall remain nameless, must have been using a Wright Brothers model aircraft as this took three and half weeks to get here. Found out later that from Perth the paperwork went to Sydney, then to Singapore, then to Jakarta then to Bali and finally to Dili. Pretty impressive, I thought, I can get a Harley-Davidson from Perth to Dili in two weeks but and envelope takes almost a month.
Anyway, during this time, I’d built up a pretty good relationship with the customs guys at the Dili port who love VB and Jack Daniel’s (this was to make sure my bike remained intact while it was stuck on the wharf). The VB/JD boys managed to get the paperwork hurried through and the old girl took her first look at her new home on the back of a truck from the port to my place.
Next on the agenda was getting it registered for the road (very loose term) in East Timor. Down to the Department of Transport with my wife (She is Timorese) to translate. This was surprisingly easy, and armed with the necessary 10 forms, we went home to fill them out.
Next morning, everything in order with the forms, copies of my passport, original bill of sale, WA rego papers and colour photos of the bike from four different angles, we fronted up at the Department of Transport again. Waited in line for two hours and got to the counter where I proudly presented all of the documents to a nice little Timorese man who told me that they also needed a copy of my birth certificate and our wedding certificate! I was about to ask the obvious question as to why they want these for a motorbike registration when my dear wife produced the necessary inducement (a crisp US$20 bill) which miraculously made this extra requirement go away.
The nice Timorese man told us that it would take a couple of days to process and get my number plates so to come back. By this stage I was dreaming about getting back on the bike again and was even looking longingly at the multitude of mopeds that inhabit this country thinking I would grab one just for practice. I did of course wake up to myself and decided to wait a little longer.
Two days later we went back to Department of Transport and sat in line. No taking numbers here, you stand in line and wait, whilst all the time beating off all the people who try to jump the queue. Anyway, we got to the front and presented the receipt to a different nice Timorese man who looked at the receipt and went out the back into another office.
After 15 minutes the curtains on the window of this office started to move and various faces started to peer out at my wife and I. Now I’m pretty used to this as we do get a few stares around the place, me being a Malae (foreigner) with a Timorese wife so this didn’t really worry me.
After about another 20 minutes another nice Timorese man came out and began to talk to my wife in Timorese and I could tell by the look on her face that it wasn’t good news. We were informed that we couldn’t register the bike as it was too big!
Okay, please explain, I asked maintaining my happy smiling face.
The nice Timorese man proceeded to tell us that they could not register the bike because it was five times bigger that the largest Timor Police motorbike and if I did something wrong on the road and the Timor Police chased me they would not be able to catch me.
No, guys, I am not kidding.
Numerous requests to speak with someone in authority were declined as it turned out that all the nice Timorese people in the office were petrified of this big Malay with lots of tattoos.
There was nothing for it but to return home and look at my bike whilst contemplating what to do over a few JD’s. Riding an unregistered bike over here, especially if you are a Malae, results in jail and confiscation of the bike and I wasn’t risking that because if any one tried to confiscate my bike then the ADF and NZDF would be needed to settle the resulting altercation. While I was trying to suss out what to do, I changed the oil a couple of times, tightened up things that didn’t need tightening, and cleaned and polished the old girl a few times ready for when she was unleashed on the unsuspecting nice Timorese population.
A week later I was relating my story in the bar to a few mates when another nice Timorese man came up and said he could help. Turned out he was a lawyer. Yes, I know, any lawyer, let alone a foreign one, shouldn’t be trusted but I threw caution to the wind and put myself in his hands. He got all the details from me and said he would come to my place in a few days.
True to his word, a few days later he turned up with a couple of official documents written in Portuguese, the official Government language of Timor, and asked me to sign them. Even my wife can’t really understand Portuguese so I asked him what it meant as I wasn’t signing anything I couldn’t understand.
This is what the letter said:
I Philip Raymond Parkes, Australian Citizen residing in Timor Leste, do hereby solemnly promise the following:
1. I will be the only person to ride the 1996 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, Timor Registration Number B8608, while it is in Timor.
2. If I break the road rules while in Timor and the Timor Police chase me, I faithfully promise to stop and let them catch me.
The letter was to be signed by me, the nice Timorese lawyer and the Director of the Department of Transport. I kid you not.
I thought the nice Timorese lawyer was having a lend of me and playing a sick joke on the Malae so I started laughing only to be kicked under the table by my wife. I took the hint and put on my serious face and promptly signed the letter.
Two days later the nice Timorese lawyer turned up at my place with my nice shiny new Timorese number plates, some official looking papers that I didn’t understand, a copy of the signed letter, and a bill for $US150.
Now I have absolutely no rear guard tendencies but I could have hugged and kissed this bloke and couldn’t wait to get the plates on and get me and the bike out on the road (again I use this term loosely) but had to wait a little while and give the nice Timorese lawyer the proper respect and have a drink and chat.
He finally got the hint and after a few Tiger beers I was off and running on the first and only fully licensed Harley-Davidson motorcycle ever in Timor Leste.
Anyway, I’ve rabbited on a bit and I know this a bit long but I thought a few of the boys back home would get a much needed chuckle out of my Timor experience given the crap you guys are going through with various State idiots and their new laws.
I’ve also attached a couple of photos, one of my wife, who delivered me a beautiful baby girl two months ago, with the Fat Boy; and one of Ian Moss and me with bike when he came up to do a few great shows for the ISF. He definitely hasn’t lost it and is still one of Australia’s great musicians.
Hope it’s not too long to put in print and maybe I’ll send a few more updates of life riding the only H-D around Timor as I’m sure there is going to be a few and it looks like we’ll be here for while.
Keep up the great work with the mag, reading it keeps me sane and in touch with reality.