East Timor | Dili - Com - Baucau - Dili - Batugade | 1st April '15 to 9th April '15 | 6330km
You'd be mistaken for thinking we had new t-shirts, but in fact they are regularly just a sweat induced darker shade! After helping us get our Indonesian Visa applications in, the couple kindly hosting us in Dili gave us a brief history lesson: The Democratic Republic of Timor Leste is Asia's youngest country, gaining independence in 1999. A Portuguese colony until 1974 when it was invaded by Indonesia, marking the beginning of a long and often violent occupancy. The country is now rebuilding having received a lot of support from the UN who only left in 2005.
Flo sent this email home just after we arrived:
We're in East Timor! Ended up catching a flight on a plane only 3 seats wide from Darwin. Currently staying with some warmshowers hosts in Dili, the capital. They're an Australian couple who work for an Aid Agency. He's a pilot and flies to remote islands with medical supplies or to rescue people. Both very nice.
It's hot here! But very beautiful, went snorkelling over coral reef yesterday - amazing. Not huge like Aus but very remote and no tourists. Saw a guy spearfishing there and then they sell fish on a stick by the side of the road, which unsurprisingly is exactly as it sounds! The people are all very friendly and smiley although we get stared at a lot. It's just started absolutely pouring, the tin roof sounds like it might collapse! There were kids playing outside a second ago. In the streets there are loads of goats, pigs, chickens...oh and the national sport is cock fighting, so you see lots of guys walking around carrying their prize cockerels.
We're going to hopefully get a bus to the far East of the island tomorrow and cycle back to Dili over a few days as we have to wait for Indonesian visas to be processed. I say hopefully because no-one is quite sure where the bus goes from and when it leaves. A local lady is going help us, but she said it spends the first few hours driving around peoples homes within the city before setting off!
We did catch the bus. Flo spotted it first and after a swift u-turn we gave chase. Bikes where strapped to the top in no time and price negotiated. Prices are in USD and, if you weren't careful, often inflated as a hangover from the UN and aid worker presence. This was frustrating as we’d pinned a lot of the journey on Asia being much cheaper than New Zealand and Australia. In an attempt to break the ice with the chap to Luke's right, he made the mistake of acknowledging the song he was playing from his old Nokia. The guy was delighted and proceeded to play the rest of Maroon 5’s greatest hits, holding the phone to Luke's ear, for the next hour or so. After picking up a fridge freezer and many sacks of something or other, we were off. Several stops and many hours later we were dropped off with 20k to ride to Com, which Timor is pushing as a tourist destination. The 'guesthouse' was lovely, if a little put on, but we learnt the hard way that anything you're offered, you will be charged for if you accept it. We rode back to Dili over the next 3 days, along Timor's often stunning North coast road.
Almost everyone carries a machete. Anything you buy goes into a plastic bag as it's frowned upon to be seen to show off what you've purchased. There was plenty of litter. Jenni had given us some basic Tetum phrases to practice and warned us that we would be mostly referred to as Malae - foreigner. This was regularly screamed at us, with great enthusiasm. If it wasn't from a young boy waving so hard it looked like his arms might come off, it would be from weathered looking adult chewing Betel nut, a mild narcotic that gives them rather wide eyes and very red mouths, like bad lipstick. We had the impression they genuinely had very few white visitors out there, and even fewer on bicycles.
East Timor has a cool flag and the national football team recently beat Mongolia in World cup qualifying, home and away! The Tour de Timor is a super tough annual mountain bike race with a growing reputation.
After picking up our Visas back in Dili we said our goodbyes and rode West to the border. That afternoon a lady gave us our first fresh coconut, macheteing the top off with eye watering accuracy. We'd like to try an cold one. Found a weird room close to border and watched the episode of Ross Kemp on Gangs - East Timor we’d been purposely not watching.