Ola! (Tetun for Hello)
Here we are again, another SE Asian country ticked off the 11 strong list. Only 3 more to go and I would have visited each country at least once! ;-)
Anyway, this time it was East Timor! Some of you may or may not have heard of this place. It's located at the end of Indonesia, just above Darwin, Australia. East Timor is a developing country that has only been independent from Indonesia for the past 10 years. Indonesia brought a whole lot of pain and suffering to the country but eventually were beaten and forced out. Timor suffered badly and 100's of thousands were killed. If you're interested in more….please see the below link
This particular trip was both business and pleasure. We have just landed a project there for the Ministry of Finance, working on their new 10 storey ultra-modern office block. You may think 10 isn't that high, but when you consider the highest building there at the moment is about 3 floors, you get my drift, it's a big deal, and to them, a sign of a country making positive steps. I was due to be there from tues-sat then tues-thurs the following week. I saw this as a great chance to take time off in between these trips and go explore the country and see what's on offer! The capital, Dili, is not the greatest looking place on earth. Due to the fact the country is re-building, you can imagine that it isn't exactly spectacular. However, take a 15 min taxi ride east and you are soon greeted with white sand beaches and a huge statue of Jesus Christ, sitting 360 steps away on top of a rock. The statue was erected as almost a middle finger up to Indonesia. Timor was Indonesia's 27th province at one point so the clever Timorese decided to erect this statue 27m high. Also, as you may know, the Muslin faith is rather big in Indonesia, whereas Timor is 80% Catholic….good one Timor!
Unfortunately, Dili does have an air of danger about it at the moment, and recently there were murders involving locals getting robbed by motorcyclists and then killed so as to avoid getting recognised. When a local taxi driver tells you that he stops work at 5pm and picks no one up unless they are white or woman, you listen. Luckily Dili does not exactly have a huge night life, so it wasnt like I was missing out on much. It did get a bit boring seeing my hotel walls so much but luckily, I had the weekend coming up and I planned to explore. The plan I had set was to take the water taxi over to an island 25km of the mainland. This particular place was called Atauro Island. Upon arriving you are greeted by a really lovely Eco Lodge called Barry's Place, owned by an Aussie who stumbled across the island 8 years ago…..and never left. He told….. "Mate, it started off with me, some land and a tree with 1 coconut on it….now I have a 30 person eco lodge that's always booked out…." Not bad! At $40 a night, including food, it really was a decent offer…and when you consider our hotel in Dili was $130 per night, it was a steal! Unfortunately…..we did not get to stay here……oh and when I say we, I mean my colleague and I…..another one keen to explore.
The place where we would be resting our heads was called Manukoko Rek, 6km away from Bazza's place. This was definitely a downgrade. $10 per night, shared "shack", shared bathroom, sorry not bathroom, tin box with a "shower" head, a barrel of water and a bucket. Let's just say the barrel and bucket washed you way better. Luckily for me I can withstand such a place and it did the job. The place itself was founded by an Italian priest some years back and he took it upon himself to train the staff how to cook authentic Italian food, and I have to say, it was beautiful. Every night you would see people coming from Barry's place to have dinner and have a change from the food over there, it was really nice to see. The menu only had 4 meals on it, 3 pasta 1 pizza, but everything was great, definitely no complaints there. Saturday came and it was time to conquer the islands highest peak, Mount Manukoko. This particular climb was only to 1000m and the guide reckoned around 5 hours should do it, great I thought, nice little day out…………I clearly forgot to factor in my Vietnamese colleague who does not like heights, was wearing the wrong footwear and who took an eternity to get over some obstacles…..boy, it was a long climb up and down….a 12 hour long day!!! The hike itself was surprisingly varied. One minute it was nice and open, the next it was a half metre wide rocky path covered in tree roots on the edge of a steep slope with nothing but a sheer drop on the other side….exciting stuff!! We eventually reached the top 5 hours after we set off (note, whole tip should have taken 5 hours….) and the views were spectacular. Unfortunately, no nice big sign saying "Manukoko Peak 1000m", all that was there was a concrete plinth that was put there during the Portuguese reign, still, has some history I guess. So, we made it to the top and now the climb down. To be fair to my colleague, she did pretty well considering her phobia but if I thought I'd seen it all that day, I hadn't, the climb down was very entertaining. Luckily we had 2 guides. An old dude chain smoking his way up and down while wearing flip flops and a young guy (his brother) who spoke decent English and loved to sing….for most of the trip….jeez! The old guy and I were in front, the others behind. Most of the time the old guy and I would power on in front but at certain points he would stop us so we could wait for my colleague and Barry Manilow to catch up. I have to say, you had to be there to believe it. You are surrounded by this beautiful scenery, the only sounds be that of nature….then….. "s*** s***, I'm going to fall, wait, ok ok slowly slowly……..look into my eyes, you will see, what you mean to me"……it was classic. The sounds of my colleague dicing with death mixed with the sounds of the wannabe popstar belting out Bryan Adams, its one sound I will never forget J
Eventually we did get home. Red skinned (my colleague black), gasping for water but happy we did it. Sunday came it was time to go see Barry's. We turned up at around 12 and never left until 9pm haha, honestly, we literally chilled out there all day and just enjoyed the hammock, beach and beer…..very nice to do nothing sometimes. We did however head out for a snorkel trip. The water there was so clear; you could see everything under the water without even going in. Of course, my colleague, apart from having a fear of heights, also cannot swim. Once in the water it's as you'd imagine, the coral and fish were stunning, I didn't want to stop. I did however persuade my colleague to get into the water and try it out. She managed to go as far as the side of the boat and just cling on for dear life….ah well, she tried! Monday arrived and it was time to return to the delights of Dili…..woohoooo……….NOT.
The rest of the week was rather boring so I won't type it out. It was just filled with interviewing all the staff from the Ministry, so as to compile a brief for the new office. I am due to return next week and the week after, plus another 5 trips after that up to the end of Jan, so, I will try to see more of the place before the job is complete. There is a 3000m high peak which would be nice to do, plus a lovely national park to the west, definitely checking these out!!
Hope all is well back home!