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Enjoy some pictures, taken in Timor-Leste - Part 2: Mainland

Part 1: Exclave of Oecussi

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  • the colored numbers of the pictures are corresponding with the map of the above mentioned link in the same color
40   Poster for the second presidential
elections of May 9th, 2007 – the second
ballot between José Ramos-Horta and Francisco
Guterres, alias Lu Olo, of the Fretilin-Party
Celebration of the 5th Independence Day and the simultaneous Inauguration of the newly
elected President José Ramos-Horta on May 20th, 2007 at the Government Palace in Dili
41   The Guard of Honor is ready .....
42   ..... President José Ramos-Horta
greets the Guard of Honor
Timor-Leste – "the Eastern Frontier of Asia""Mainland with Dili" (Part 2)
Music from the ship’s loudspeaker awakes us ungently from our restless sleep. Outside it is still pitch-black night. Only the brilliantly lit port of the capital Dili gleams from the distance. One hour later – it slowly starts to dawn – we are berthing. From one minute to the other, it becomes hectic: The passengers squeeze all at the same time towards the exit, fully loaded with their bulky luggage. Emil sits already in front of his steering wheel and waits patiently for the orders of the ships crew to disembark. Abruptly they arrive from all sides with a lot of confusion and shouting “go!, go!, go!”, as if there would be suddenly a great rush. Carefully, we drive to the ramp and realize that due to the high tide the angle to the quay is very steep. More cautiously, we maneuver across some ropes and mats, but the car chokes – we speed up and hear, still a bit drowsy, a terrible bang. Both of us rush out of the car. What we see is alarming: Our low-lying 60 gallon gasoline tank was violently hit on its left back corner by a protruding hook of the ramp and is leaking: a thin but steadily flow of gasoline! We shouldn’t have let us rush by all this yelling, but should rather have waited in the hull for the tide to recede to have the ramp’s angle declined! We panic and take the first item that we find trying to seal it temporarily: Our earplugs made of wax, what of course doesn’t help at all. Desperately, Emil gets the hammer and tries to seal the hole by bending the metal. And he really succeeds to stop the leaking almost. Now it is only dripping slightly. We cannot and don’t want to remain in the port. Thus we leave it by the gate and approach the first early morning jogger in sight to ask for directions to the Backpackers hostel. It seems to be close and easy to get there, besides that we have to pass the refugee camp of the IDP’s (“internally dislocated people”) who are responsible once in a while for the violence and troubles in the city. Luckily, in this early morning hours, it is still completely peaceful.


43   Hoisting the flag at the Independence
and Inauguration Celebrations of
May 20th, 2007 in Dili
44   All are training for the parade
on the eve of the celebrations
45   The Military is parading in front
of the newly elected President José
Ramos-Horta, who was awarded
the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996
Behind the protecting high walls of the Backpackers, we feel safe and relaxed. Rita, the lady-boss, is still asleep and has to be woken up by her staff. She appears with a dozy face and shows us the only available room. It has air-condition, an attached bathroom with hot shower and toilet, even a small kitchen with a gas stove and refrigerator. Compared with Indonesia, the price is a shocking US$25 a night, but still seems to be the cheapest in Dili. Even one bed in her dormitory costs US$10. We have been warned that Timor-Leste with the US-Dollar being the official currency is an expensive place. But still we think the prices in the Backpackers are exaggerated, considering that we have to sleep with the nightly noise of the bar and its music blaring with full power until sometimes in the early morning hours. Well, we inevitably survived. After we have settled down, Emil continues with the difficult task of sealing the gasoline tank properly. He looks through our “goodies box” for the two-component epoxy, only to realize that the paste has dried out. The unbelievable good luck is that Henry, Rita’s Australian partner, stores two big cans of a gasoline resistant epoxy in his small workshop, which we may use and what seems to work. Day by day, we continuously put a layer to the broken part until the trickle ends completely. What remains and what we have to live with is some moisture. In the beginning, we are a bit worried whether this actually improvised sealing will withstand the coming heavily potholed and corrugated roads. As time passes by, we seemingly can relax – the patch up lasts!


46   The Government Palace in Dili is
beautifully flagged for the Independence
and Inauguration Celebrations
47   Dili’s Farol light tower
adorns the long city promenade
48   In front of the “Cathedral of
the Immaculate Conception”, children
of the refugee camps (called IDP’s /=
internally displaced people) are playing
In the afternoon, we are already moving around busy Dili, firstly to the Internet that costs a hefty $6 per hour, then to Timor-Telecom, where we buy a $20 SIM-card for our cell phone. Afterwards, we enjoy exploring the well stocked shelves of the three main supermarkets. The major assortment comes from Australia – even Foster beer is not missing. But everything is expensive. As already seen before in Africa and other third world development countries, it seems to be a fact that expatriates don’t like to loose their living standard from back home. Though in “Landmark” we discover also inexpensive stuff: 2 pounds frozen pork filet for $4, a whole frozen chicken for $3.70, ½ pint of full cream for 80 Cents and one pound of pasta for $1.20 – instantly, tomorrow’s menu is born! In “our” kitchen in the Backpackers we prepare pork filet on a creamy mushroom sauce, pasta and salad – a real treat for a very special day: The celebration of the Independence Day of Timor-Leste.


49   The IDP’s have also found shelter in
tents on the compound of the “Cathedral
of the Immaculate Conception” in Dili
50   The Jesus crib at the Motael
Church in Dili attracts its attention.
This church houses also an IDP camp
51   A village chief in his traditional
outfit is posing for a picture
The lines of spectators who gather for the ceremony of the 5th Independence Day and the simultaneously inauguration of the newly elected President on May 20th, are already dense, when we arrive at the festively flagged Government Palace. But they gladly squeeze together to allow us foreigners also a good view in the front row, at the end of the already positioned guard of honors. We are not one minute too early. Shortly after our arrival, earlier President Xanana Gusmão and his family arrive in a black car. Then, the festivities start and José Ramos-Horta, who received the 1996 Nobel Price for Peace, is saluting the guard of honor in the scorching heat of the midday sun. For a short moment, we are merely ten feet away from him and are astonished how little precautions for his security have been taken, at least visible ones. Besides the omnipresent, indistinguishable UN vehicles that are moving around and are parked all over the place, everything seems to look normally. We have heard that there are UN-observers, respectively – advisors and troops from 46 different nations trying to help to pave Timor’s rocky road to democracy. We are also amazed and also a bit saddened to see how emotionless and how reserved the people behave. Even when José Ramos Horta holds his doubtlessly promising inaugural speech, there is hardly anybody applauding. In less than an hour, the show is over. No incidences have occurred so far, everything was quiet. Later, however, we hear that at one of the hot spots, violence has taken place between two rivaling gangs with the disturbing result of one dead and seven burnt houses.


52 53 54
In the capital, the presence of UN vehicles is everywhere. Apparently, there are observers and troops from 46 different nations here.
Apart from all kinds of UN vehicles, scores of NGO cars can also be seen circulating (Non Government Organizations)
Next morning, we head first of all to the Indonesian Consulate to apply for a new two-month visa, because we know from different sources that it can take up to seven days to be issued. Therefore, we are more than pleased to read on the information board in the waiting room that it will be now ready within three days, although a little more pricey than before. And we are even more pleased to hear from the friendly lady at the counter that we can collect it already after tomorrow. During the waiting time, we visit the Arte Moris Gallery, managed by our compatriot Luca Gansser and his German wife Gaby. Luca is on the brink to leave for Switzerland for an interview with the Ticino television about his work. Nevertheless, he takes time for us. He tells us that he founded this “Free Art School” five years ago, as he got stuck here during his travels. Today, he shelters 30 talented young people who work together with him and whom he educates. But after the bloody unrests in May 2006, there were 500 “internally displaced people” who sought refuge in his compound. Today, still 200 are living here despite that it would be safe for them to return to their villages. He also shows us two thatched houses on the flat roof – built in the traditional style – that serve as workshops for the artists, their library, living room and – being self-sustaining – their vegetable gardens too. We end up in the exhibition hall admiring the many inspiring artworks. We cannot stop to esteem people who – with a lot of initiative and determination – invest all their efforts and energy into a remote, not very promising country, in order to help less privileged people. Luca and Gaby certainly are a fine example.


55   The Areia Branca beach near
the statue of Christo Rei in Dili is
the Sunday gathering place of the
UN’s and NGO’s
56   The statue of Christo Rei at Cape
Fatucama – a replica of the one in Rio
de Janeiro. It has been erected during
the Indonesian occupation, is 27 meters
(89ft) high and symbolizes the
27 provinces of Indonesia (back then
including East Timor)
57   Children as well as adults
enjoy the sunset at the beach
of Areia Branca
But we also keep admiring those optimists who invest their “good money” into unsettled nations like Timor-Leste, providing work for the local people and hold out even when others get cold feet and fly out. Ann and Wayne belong definitively to this kind of people. We meet them coincidentally in the Backpackers Bar, after we didn’t find them in their dive shop called “The Freeflow Diving Center”, where we wanted to thank them for their valuable emailed information and tips about the security situation. They contributed essentially to our decision to take the risk and visit this beautiful country. Also today, they are once more of a great support: Spontaneously, Wayne adds our hand phone number to his UN warn net system. Luckily, Telekomsel Indonesia has sponsored us recently this cell phone, and already one hour later we receive an SMS detailing, which parts of town should be avoided. Although the outbreaks of violence and troubles occur usually in the late afternoon or evening hours while we aren’t anymore on the streets, we feel good to get informed. In our three weeks’ stay in Timor-Leste, we enjoy many more hours and beers in Ann and Wayne’s company. Their great knowledge and enthusiastic pictures they paint of this land of which we knew very little before, reinforce our desire to explore as much as possible of it. And when they show and lend us out the beautiful picture book „Timor-Leste, Land of Discovery“ from Daniel J. Groshong, we can hardly wait to take off.


58   The Arte Moris Gallery is the work
of Swiss citizen Luca Gansser and his
German wife Gaby. At the time being,
it shelters 30 free artists, many coming
from the IDP community
59   One of the many impressive
works in the exhibition room .....
60   ..... Artists working on new images
Finally, with our gasoline tank full of Indonesian fuel, – which is b.t.w. available at $ 3.33 a gallon in comparison to $4.05 for the Australian stuff – our beer and food supplies stocked up and our emails checked, we set out under a blue sky with much anticipation to discover new land on the same day we received our new Indonesian visa. From the very moment we branch inland from the “Areia Branca”-Beach – 2½ miles East of town – we enjoy magnificent views at every turn. For a short time, a truck convoy with supplies for the hinterland, escorted by UN police, is driving in front of us, but then, we lose sight of it. The narrow road meanders through an undeveloped, beautiful and unspoiled landscape, passing untouched beaches, mangrove swamps and rolling hills covered with yellow, high grass. Again and again we stop to take pictures. Therefore, we reach the “Bob’s Rock” Dive Site at km 45 – one of the sites in Timor-Leste where the underwater world is said to be still mostly intact (unfortunately we are not diving, but have seen magnificent pictures of it!) – where Wayne is leading a group of divers early afternoon. The timing is just right for the picnic. Quickly, we put out table and chairs under a shady tree and enjoy a lovely time in good company. Strengthened with a big piece of birthday cake that Ann has been baking at home for one of the divers, we all hit the road hours later: The divers back to Dili and we in opposite direction towards the unknown.


61   The lovely bay with the Areia Branca
beach near Dili is deserted during the week
62   We left Dili and are driving
eastwards, where a beautifully
and diverse coast is uncovering
63   UN vehicles are escorting
an IMO convoy to the East
The further we continue east, the less traffic there is. We discover many sandy tracks leading through the bushes towards the sea. The sun is already low on the horizon, when between Manatuto and Laleia we decide to follow one of these vague tracks hoping to find a place to set up our camp. We end up at an open space under a huge tree directly on the sandy beach. On three sides, rolling hills, covered with yellow and reddish high grass, scattered thorny acacias and green eucalyptus trees surround us. In the warm rays of the evening sun, they gloom like pure gold. Up in the skies, white bizarre clouds looking like huge mushrooms keep forming, the setting sun casting magnificent colors on them – from pink to yellow, from yellow to orange and then changing into flaming red. And far out in the ocean, a thunderstorm forms a pitch-black wall. It is just magnificent. Sitting on our camping chairs, we enjoy the tropical night until late, and when we finally are ready to sleep, it is still hot in our car. As so far no mosquitoes have bothered us, we optimistically leave the rear door open, for which we have no net because it’s normally closed. But very soon we regret it deeply. With the decreasing of the evening breeze, these beasts arrive, not single, but in crowds and spoil us the second part of our so romantically started first camping night in Timor-Leste. We should also have paid more attention to the loud splashing of the waves, being so close to the shore. That sound starts slowly to get on our nerves too. But as it usually goes: We were so overwhelmed by this lovely spot that we simply switched off all our normal senses!


64   A goat herdsman is watching
his roaming animals
65   Two mandarin vendors gossip in
Dili. 8 mandarins cost one US$
66   People carrying heavy loads on their
head is not an unusual sight in Timor-Leste
„Gecko, gecko, gecko ..... “ We are very excited to hear at dawn the call of a gecko – a rather plain looking lizard of approximately 4 inches long – from a bent tree right across our camp. But unfortunately, we cannot make it out in the dense bush. Since our relaxed time in the “Villa Bruno” in Sanur on the island of Bali, where one of them lived in the timber-work of “our” house, we have become very fond of its undistinguishable call, today nine times in a row, what seems to be a good sign. There is a saying that the frequency determines the luck (in Bali it once succeeded eleven times). But our fortune stays within the limits – at least regarding the weather pattern – as we continue to move eastwards. Already in the next village, in Laleia with its twin-towered Portuguese church in pastel pink colors on a hill overlooking the river, the skies darken dramatically. Now and then still a ray of sun is peaking through, as we follow the river valley with carpets of rice fields stretching out on both sides of the road. In Vemasse however, a settlement of some modest huts, a Portuguese ruin and a deteriorating church, it starts to rain.


67   Herds of goats seizing the
entire road is also an everyday
sight in the country side
68   An exotic flower reveals its beauty
69   The track ends, but the spot
is not recommendable for camping
as it is visible from the road
From there, the road climbs up and winds its way to Baucau, the second largest city in Timor-Leste, passing some simple thatched houses, sometimes surrounded with beautiful multicolored bougainvilleas. Plenty bundles of wood are for sale along the road – as if there wasn’t already enough logging done. But everybody tries to earn some money to survive somehow. When we reach Baucau, lying on an altitude of 1’000 ft., it is pouring. The market place that serves also as bus station looks chaotic with all its scattered garbage and dirty puddles. However the lower lying old quarter, lined with Portuguese colonial buildings, spreads a peaceful atmosphere. The absolute masterpiece is the abandoned “Mercado Municipal”, which is badly in need of a restoration. But even in its decaying condition, it looks still very charming. Shortly afterwards we are back in the plains with the rice paddies. We cross villages with names like Laga and Lautem, where we do not feel really comfortable as youngsters yell after us in a rather aggressive tone – the more East we drive, the more we are entering the stronghold of Fretilin. Therefore, we are glad when there are less people towards Com – the end of the Eastern road. Two miles before the “end of the island of Timor”, we discover a meadow along the seashore with dilapidated pavilions, a beach with white sand, acacia trees providing shade and not one person. Spontaneously we decide to pitch up our second night camp here, hidden from the road. We count three more cars driving by; afterwards, there is absolute silence.


Deserted beaches at no end:
70   The "Dollar Beach" .....
71   ..... the Black Rock Beach .....
72   ..... and other pristine beaches
Com seems rather uninteresting to us. It exists only of a row of corrugated iron huts, the expensive “Com Beach Resort” with some air-conditioned rooms in containers and two simple bungalows, all facing the road. But the drive was still worth due to the scenic landscape. Additionally, we see our first traditional sacred house in Fataluku style, with the floor raised up on stilts and a high tapered roof, decorated with a big nautilus- and strings of small cowry-shells. Despite all the warnings that the road is supposed to be extremely bad, Emil wants to try the shortcut over the mountains to Los Palos in the Southern hinterland. The start is surprisingly good until we reach a long stretched village of straw huts where it deteriorates drastically and where the children are not very friendly. Soon we reach a lovely plateau with green grass, volcanic stones and yellow-reddish conical flowers. It is a beautiful spot, which we have all for ourselves, enjoying the silence and solitude. Shortly after, the “sealed”, but heavily potholed road changes abruptly into a stony, badly rutted and sloping track. What’s now? There are only nine miles left to Los Palos – but they could become very long. Shall we take the risk? After a careful inspection, our decision is negative. The risk of tipping over with our heavy roof load is far too big, despite of the fact that this strain could be too much for our old-timer. On our way back, we stop at the village and – to the big amazement of the watching villagers – refill our jerry can with water from the public tap for our next shower, before we return to the coast. Being only a stone’s throw from our last night’s camp, why not spend our lunch break there? However, it doesn’t work out the relaxed way as we would have liked it: Several heavy downpours make the cooking pretty difficult, and also checking the brakes – what Emil insists he has to do now – gets many wet interruptions. Being still early in the afternoon, we decide to continue until Los Palos, but this time on the smooth main road that branches off at Lantem, the village we do not really like.


73   Two water buffaloes take
their young in the middle
74   Between the scattered volcanic
stones on the plateau towards Los Palos,
we discover this unique flower
75   A baby goat is nibbling at a bare
stalk, despite that the greenery is every-
where after the end of the rainy season
Like Baucau, Los Palos is welcoming us with heavy rain too. The revolutionary wall paintings, the T-shirts with Che Guevara motifs of the youngsters, and the Fretilin flags, which blow in the strong wind and slightly differ from the official Timor-Leste flag, prove that we are in a stronghold of the oppositional Fretilin party, which has its powerful base in the East. Our plan to drive from here to Tutuala in the extreme East disappears pretty fast as we see the appalling road conditions. This isn’t fun anymore! As there is no more new land to explore in the East, our return to Dili is imminent. Because there is only one practicable road along the North coast, the way back is the same as we came – the Southern track is impossible and impassable with a car due to broken bridges and frequent landslides. At least, at our turning point, we are able to enjoy traditional twin Fataluku houses on the roadside, where small children from the neighborhood are quickly present to pose for a picture in front of them– of course with a lot of fuss, but nevertheless a nice souvenir.


76   At this lonely beach between
Manatuto and Laleia we find
a beautiful and lonely spot to camp
77   We enjoy our surroundings in
the warm light of the evening sun .....
78   ..... and the ever changing
magnificent clouds
Meanwhile, it is mid-afternoon. Confident to find easily another nice campsite on a beach, we push on. But this time, it does not work out and we have to consider sleeping in Baucau, what means driving into the darkness – not necessarily what we are looking forward to. Because the later the evening, the more critical it gets to cross the villages, when big crowds of youngsters gather on the street, sometimes just looking for troubles. On a narrow bridge right outside of Laga it happens: We run into angry fighting between two groups where we have to go through, there is no alternative. Afraid, that they might throw rocks at us (rock-throwing is a specialty in Timor-Leste), we press all the way through as fast as possible and are more than relieved when we reach the other end unharmed. Usually, the trouble-makers are not after tourists, but if one is coincidentally caught in between, they might not care much. When we climb up the steep hill towards Baucau, it is already night. We are really lucky that two days ago we spotted the sign of the guesthouse “Casa Coures” on a small side road and that Emil, thanks to his excellent sense for orientation, finds it also in the darkness. The only town hotel, the expensive “Pousada de Baucau”, is out of reach for our budget. Our guesthouse is very basic though: A tiny room with two bunk beds, a wall that doesn’t go right up to the ceiling, a shared washroom where there is not enough water ..... Nevertheless, we are happy to have a roof over our heads and that our LandCruiser is safely parked in the compound.


81   ..... and the sunrise
is not less beautiful
Today’s glow of the sunset is especially dramatic .....
Early morning, we are definitely on our way back to Dili, being only 76 miles from Baucau. Again, we marvel at the magnificent scenery, Timor-Leste has to offer, even if it’s the second time. About halfway, we reach Manatuto, a coastal village looking deserted in the scorching tropical midday heat. High up on a hill, we notice a pavilion. Being time for our lunch break, we ascend it straightforward on the narrow and steep path, and arriving on the top we cannot believe our eyes how beautiful the panorama is: In the West the rugged coastline, in the East the lush rice paddies and in the South the scattered hills – and we have it completely to ourselves! In the shade of the pavilion that shelters a statue of a Saint, we enjoy our picnic and a cold beer out of our 12-volt refrigerator. The goats whose piles of little droppings are omnipresent – the most to be found on the cool steps leading to the statue – are nowhere to see. Dili is now less than two hours drive away. But we have absolutely no desire to spend already the coming night in the noisy and expensive Backpackers hostel. Therefore, we keep our eyes open all along the coast for a nice spot to set up camp. At the “Black Rock” Beach, 23 miles before the notorious capital, we like it. But as fishermen keep coming along, we move on – just as a precaution. Only 7½ miles short of Dili, we feel safe and are not visible from the road. We pitch up the camp under acacia trees right on a sandy beach with plenty of cowry shells. It is low tide. Some women still look for crabs and other edible sea creatures along the exposed reef, but with the setting sun, they also disappear.


82   The colonial street front in the old
part of the town of Baucau, the second
largest town in Timor-Leste, is still a
heritage of the Portuguese reign
83   In the new part of the town of
Baucau, the market takes place
between puddles of rain
84   The „Mercado Municipal“ in
Baucau is not in use anymore and is
decaying. Despite of this, it looks still
very attractive in his fading charm
The following day, we are back in Dili. Right after our arrival, we drive to the “Freeflow Diving Center” to visit Ann and Wayne and tell them about the various experiences of our four days journey exploring the East of the island. Ann, who works also as a volunteer adviser for the Ministry of Tourism is especially interested to hear our stories. “I have already talked with the director about you at a meeting this morning”, she says. “He would like to meet you. When do you have time?” She takes up the phone to make an appointment. “Is 4pm today OK?”, she asks. We agree because tomorrow we want to leave Dili again, this time South to the mountains. Senhor Miguel Lobato and his assistant, who speaks English well, give us a friendly welcome. Two journalists have also been mobilized. Attentively, they listen to our stories. They want to know what we think of their young nation and raise their eyebrows when we mention the street fighting in Laga – it shouldn’t actually happen anymore! But mainly, they are very pleased to hear how beautiful we find their country. “What is it that makes Timor-Leste so special for you?” Mr. Lobato asks. The answer is easy and comes with full conviction: It is the genuine nature of the Timorese people. It is the unspoiled, undeveloped and still mostly intact nature. It is the magnificent scenery and the deserted beaches, where it’s still possible to camp on your own. Before leaving, everybody is eager to pose for a picture together with our LandCruiser in front of the Ministry of Tourism. And as we say good-bye – to our great surprise – we are presented with the pictured book „Timor-Leste, Land of Discovery“ from Daniel J. Groshong. What a beautiful gift of a beautiful country!


85   Only two miles before Com –
at the Eastern end of the road – we
set up camp again on this lonely beach
86   This lovely replica of a traditional
house in Fataluku style, with its thatched
roof adorned with Nautilus shells, stands
lonesome on the side of the road on
the doorsteps to Com
87   Los Palos is a stronghold of
the Fretelin-Party. Therefore,
revolutionary paintings of walls
are not unusual. Che Guevara seems
to be the idol in many places anyway
Before we hit the road to the mountains the next day, we visit at 8am the “Quality School International”, where we readily agreed to talk to the children about our travels. The school is surprisingly small. They have merely 18 children from all ages and from all around the world: From the United States, Australia, Denmark, Cambodia, Nigeria, Austria, the Philippines and Timor-Leste. Cindy, the nice American teacher and Jürgen, the Austrian we met at “Bob’s Rock”-dive site, welcome us. The children are all happy as we enter their school class. They already had the chance to roam on our website and are now all exited to meet us personally. We introduce ourselves and tell them about the countries we visited and the experiences we made. And then, we are ready to answer their questions. It always astonishes how interesting, how diverse they are. The planned hour is quickly over, we even add a little extra time. Then the children line up for an autograph. They were allowed to print out the first page of our website for this purpose. How glad we are now that this school class is so small. Imagine being in India, where it’s common to teach hundreds of children at the same time! Before we leave, everybody poses for a picture in front of our LandCruiser. Then it is time to say good-bye.


88   At the junction from Lautem to
Los Palos and Tutuala, we spot near
Raça two houses built in the Fataluku
style, where happy children are eager
to pose for a picture
89   At the outskirt of Los
Palos, we are surprised to
see this lovely waterfall in
its tropical surroundings
90   There are many modest
churches built in the Portuguese
colonial style, like here between
Baucau and Vemasse
It is already after 10am, when we leave for the mountains – to the village of Maubisse, situated on 4’500 ft. altitude 44 miles South of Dili. In many bends, the road climbs slowly up the hills, revealing at the beginning an impressive panorama down to the city, the coast with the “Christo Rei”-statue and the island of Ataúro. Circular thatched houses with conical roofs pop up. They are typical of the Mambai people and remind us to the African bush. We pass many coffee plantations, protected by a canopy of giant trees, which provide them vital shade. The higher we get, the more “homelike” it becomes. Hills covered with pine trees, mountain peaks hiding in the mist, drizzle and moist and cold weather that make us looking for our sweaters. Maubisse itself welcomes us with rain and fog. What a big disappointment! Who wants to camp under these circumstances? We drive to the old Portuguese guesthouse “Pousada Maubisse”, situated on the hill directly above the town, and ask for a room. Luckily, we do not have to worry long about the high price [Friday to Sunday it costs $50 (and today is a Friday!) but during the other days of the week only $16] as it is anyway full with UN’s and NGO’s escaping the capital’s heat. But at the foot of the hill in Pension “Bensa An Ama” we get a room for $10. The room is bright, and there is even a kind of a tiny lounge – a real comfort in this unfriendly climate. We do not mind that the electricity is working only for a couple of hours and that the bed cover is too thin to keep us warm during the night. Our own blankets are always readily available. The following morning, as we draw the curtains, the only thing we see is fog, mist and fog again. Therefore, there is no need to hurry. Just at that moment, when we start to make our own breakfast, it’s knocking on the door and breakfast is served: Freshly baked bread, cheese, butter, marmalade and coffee. Unfortunately, the coffee has such an awful taste that we prefer to brew new one, with our own water. Then, we enjoy it.


91   Simple hamlets of thatched houses
dominate in the interior of Timor-Leste,
like here between Baucau and Vemasse
92   The lovely church with its
two towers in Laleia is situated
on a hill overlooking the river
93   These skulls in Laleia are
supporting the relief of Timor-Leste.
The monument gives evidence of the
bloody struggle for independence
After breakfast, we are wandering to the market. During the whole stretch we are greeted by everybody – young or old – with a friendly “Bom Dia” (Portuguese “Good Day”). Not much does take place there. A couple of elderly women, wrapped in warm shawls, are sitting in the humidity and penetrating coldness on the floor, chewing betel nut, which helps them go through the day more easily. In front of them lie the goods they want to sell: Some oranges, bananas, carrots, salad and sweet potatoes. Two horses – still an important mean of transport in these mountains with its hard life, where the hardship is written on the people’s faces – are tied up to a pole, patiently waiting for their owners to return. Three small children with red cheeks and dirty, shabby clothes walk barefoot beside their young mother, who carries another child in her arms and is pregnant again. What life can they expect? Life expectancy is 54 years for women and 52 years for men. Suddenly, the fog is lifting and the sun is blinking through the clouds – an immediate reason to change the plans and extend our stay for one more day in this peaceful region. Actually, we are really tempted to penetrate more into the South, despite of yesterday’s swearing the contrary when we didn’t know how to balance through the many disastrous parts of the road with enormous deep potholes and sharp edges of broken tarmac.


From the pavilion with the statue of the Virgin Mary in Manatuto, we enjoy en extraordinary view in all directions:
94   To the rice fields in the East .....
95   ..... to the Coast in the West .....
96   ..... into the hills in the South
But as it has happened already before, our longing for the unknown prevails and towards noon, we hit the road again. Soon after we leave the town, we are already confronted with the first very bad passage, soon after the second considerably longer one, and then the third even worse. Exactly that moment when we pull out to discuss whether to continue or to turn back, a pickup from the GTZ – a German aid organization – comes from the other direction. This is how we meet Anette and her colleague Georg, both from Germany and both working in different places in the South for the same organization. When asked about the road condition further to the South, they both confirm that it’s not getting any better but much worse. “Even we had to push our car to the limits, and it is empty”, they add. Therefore, when they spontaneously invite us for lunch back in Maubisse, we do not have to think twice: We return. While enjoying a simple meal of noodles and chicken in the restaurant Lena, it’s nice to exchange personal experiences in various countries with these highly motivated, far traveled people. They are in Timor-Leste only since a couple of months. Anette’s number of visited countries already reaches a proud 71, spending her last eight years in the Philippines. And George was stationed in Cambodia before he was transferred to this difficult place. The time flies and is too short for all the stories we would like to share. Therefore we already fix our next appointment: On Sunday at the “Areia Branca”-Beach near Dili for a “Sundowner”. In the early afternoon, we make another attempt to see some of the mountain scenery and drive to the nearby viewpoint, only to find out that the landscape remains hidden in the mist. When drizzle starts additionally, we have enough for today and seek refuge in our pension.


97   In the middle of a rice field, this
group of trees and palms offer
welcome shade to the thatched house
98   The old street along the rugged
coast East of the statue of Christo Rei
was still very adventurous, until it
was washed away by the sea
99   Timor-Leste’s small island of
Ataúro is situated on the Northern
coast just outside of the capital Dili
Nothing has changed the next morning – just another day with fog and rain and rain and fog again. The young couple from Norway that checked in late last night with the intention to climb today Mt. Ramelau, with 9’720 ft. the highest mountain on the island of Timor, resigns and returns to Dili. They hardly have left when the sky clears up. We hurry up the steep hill to the Pousada, where the scenery is the most spectacular and enjoy a sweeping view over the rugged mountains with patches of fog roaming around. Below us lies the village of Maubisse with its lovely white church on a green hill, reminding us to the Black Forest in Germany. That’s just the time when Dominik arrives. He is working in Timor-Leste for the “Robert Bosch Foundation”, but soon will be transferred to Nepal. He is so overwhelmed to see a car with Swiss license plates in this forgotten place, that he misses the opportunity to take some pictures during the short moment when the sun adds bright colors to the beautiful landscape. But, as he tells us, it’s more important for him to have a nice chat with us. Then, we definitely turn our back to this wet and cold place, eager to return to the warmth and the sun of the coast.


100   On our way to Maubisse in the
mountains, we catch a glimpse of
widespread Dili and the island of Ataúro
101   The circular houses with
conical roofs are typical of the
Mambai people. They are found
around Maubisse and all the way
from the mountains to the South Coast
102   Patches of fog roam through
the rugged mountains around Maubisse
– a climate like often in Switzerland!
We are looking South – behind the
clouds lies the Timor Sea
Once more we retreat to the safe walls of the Backpackers, but not for a long time. The sunny skies are tempting to be outside. Mid-afternoon, we drive the 2½ miles along the bay to Cape Fatucama, where at the Eastern end the statue of “Christo Rei” – a copy of the one in Rio de Janeiro – is on top of a hill. It has been built at the time of the Indonesian occupation, is 88 ft. (27 m) tall and symbolizes the 27 provinces of Indonesia (by then including East Timor). It was unveiled by Indonesia’s President Soeharto in 1988, and 1989 it was blessed by Pope John Paul II. But our destination is the nearby “Areia Branca” beach, which today Sunday is packed with expatriates and local families, picnicking, grilling, bathing and having a good time together. Our new GTZ friends didn’t yet arrive, but we don’t remain alone for long. “Is the blue LandCruiser yours?” a Norwegian guy asks us, who comes along with two cans of beer. Confirming, a spontaneous invitation follows to join their beach party. But right at this moment, Anette and Georg arrive. It has been already the third time today that our good old LandCruiser in its adventurous look opens us doors for new friendships. For sure, we would not have met Anette and Georg either. In the setting sun, which casts more silvery strips over the sea than flaming red, we sit on the water’s edge and talk about our adventures in foreign places. With more than one “Sundowner”, this lovely evening ends. It is a distinctive evening for us, being our last one of our three weeks journey in Timor-Leste. Tomorrow, we will head back to Indonesia. It is already 9.30pm, when we say good-bye, and regardless of all our good intentions never to drive at night, we have to return through the empty and scarcely lit streets of the town to the Backpackers. (The Norwegians apparently are working now to improve the streetlights). A car overtakes us, horning and waving like crazy. We wave back, but aren’t in the mood to stop, remembering that we are still in troubled Dili.


103   Does the impressive church of
Maubisse not have a kind of
Black Forest (Germany) character?
104   View from the Hotel “Pousada
de Maubisse” to the center of the
village and the church of Maubisse
105   Descending towards Dili,
the fog is rising higher and higher,
swallowing up all surroundings
We have never been good at bidding farewell. There is always somebody or something that is not easy to leave behind. Here in Timor-Leste it is especially Ann and Wayne. We spent many interesting and relaxed hours in their company. They have also been THOSE helpful people, every traveler dreams to meet in a foreign land. At the Backpackers, it is the funny parrot we got so fond of. Every time we walked by or fed it with bananas, papaya or cheese, it called at us excitedly and fluttered around in its small cage; but also “Bonchi”, the affectionate dog, that every morning was so happy to see us. It is already mid-morning, when under a blue sky we finally leave westerly towards the Indonesian border. With full awareness, we take in all the beauties of the untouched coasts and beaches once more, well knowing that soon we will have to adapt to the opposite again: Overbuilt and overpopulated Indonesia. Although both of us are positive that we will make it through the border with the seven months old car paper, issued exactly at the other end of the archipelago in Kuching/Malaysia, we are a little bit worried. But after 76 miles and 2½ hours of straight driving, we can relax: Exclusive Timor-Leste releases us friendly, uncomplicated and fast, and well-known West Timor in Indonesia welcomes us without any problems!


106   Do all find still a place?
Bus journeys are always
adventurous in Timor-Leste.
Overloading and breakdowns
happen daily
107   We visit the “Quality School
International” in Dili. The children
of different nations were enthusiastic
in asking questions. We all had a
great time!
108   Courtesy visit at the Directorate
of Tourism in Dili. The Director of
Tourism, Senhor Miguel Lobato
(besides Emil) gives us a warm welcome
and presents us as a farewell gift the
beautiful picture book „Timor-Leste –
Land of Discovery“ from D. J. Groshong
Articles in newspapers about us in Timor-Leste:
Article: "Naran Hoaktividade", Suara Timor Lorosae - May 31, 2007
Article: "Prejensa Turista Suica iha TL",   Timor-Post - May 31, 2007
Internet Blog: "Mad Swiss - Part 2", Xanana Republic Gazette - May 31, 2007