Three days after Christmas we set off on a big bike tour around Timor. From Dili we rode south to Same, along the south coast to Viqueque and back up to Baucau, covering approximately 450 kilometres over 3 days. Some roads were great and others more rough, but 450 kilometres was enough to leave us heavily sunburnt and sore, requiring 2 solid days of recovery upon return (before any attempt to remove ourselves from the couch).
Christmas day began with the sound of heavy rain and Joris muttering about worstenbroodjes. The rain stuck around for most of the day but the boy soon accepted that this was going to be a Christmas without worstenbroodjes.
There’s a ferry that runs between Dili and Atauro every Saturday. For $4 a head it’s less than a tenth the price of the water taxi, however in return you’ve got a cosier and longer ride.
Curious and keen on the savings, we thought it would be an interesting experience taking it back to Dili. The arrival and departure times are very flexible (as are most things on Timorese schedule) and we were told that our expected departure time could be 1pm, 3pm or 5pm that day. The advice was to listen out for the series of horns.
Barry’s Place is a popular eco-lodge on Atauro island. Directly across the road from the Empreza Di’ak business centre (Sentru Atauro Di’ak), we enjoyed our daily feeds there and made regular crossings to get to the beach. While I was grateful we had free accommodation with Empreza Di’ak for the week, I was quite envious of these cute little bungalows right on the beach.
Festivál Laloran was a youth-based arts festival which ran from November 25th to December 10th as part of the International 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign. For the past couple of months I’ve been working with local NGO Ba Futuru in collaboration with UN Women and a bunch of other organisations in preparation for the series of events.
So today is day 5 of this island life. That means it’s been four days without a proper shower, four days of heavy repellant layering (even in bed) and despite this, countless mosquito bites and constant itching. But, the beach has never been more accessible, sunrises more beautiful and life this simple and serene.
Last weekend we escaped the heat briefly and traded it for the cooler temperatures of the mountains. From Dili we rode along the coast to Liquiçá and then headed inland to Bazartete, a small village located on the mountain top.
Last Thursday was National Youth Day and to my luck, the second public holiday in the brief time I’ve been here. Besides being National Youth Day, November 12th also marks the anniversary of the 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre where over 250 Timorese pro-independence demonstrators (mostly youth) were shot during a peaceful protest.
Every weekend cockfights are held in the park across the road from us. It draws a large crowd and naturally my curiosity insisted we wander over and take a peek. Lucky for us, the last match had just finished up as we approached. We watched as a rooster leg was brought out from the arena and were quite relieved we didn’t see the brutality of it all.
I arrived in Dili two weeks ago dreading the heat, mosquitos, odd-smelling shower water, lack of food options and everything else Joris warned me about in my pre-departure briefing. (His words were – ‘you just need to be more chilled and ok with it’). All the same, I had been looking forward to a new adventure for a long while and was very excited about the new land, culture and cheap Nasi Goreng.