skull Ten Days in Second Gear skull East Timor skull

Mountain village, rice paddies

Aug 23 - 1st Flat tire!

We were up and out early this morning trying to beat the crowd at the Indonesian Consulate. We had to drop off our passports and apply for a 60 day VISA (30 day VOA’s can be obtained at some major airports and some land crossings, but for 60 days you need to get a 30 day in advance and once in Indonesia find a consulate that will give you an extension or find a Indonesian consulate that issues 60 day VISA’s in advance). We got there at 7:55 am, it opens at 9 am, and were 32 & 33 in the magic book. It’s supposed to be a line up book, you sign in as you show up, but people add their name between the lines and often are doing 2,3, or 50 VISA’s at a time you really don’t know where you are on the list. (James’ Note: After six months of frustration at the queuing in S.E.Asia, I was relieved to see the sign in book, and then amazed at how it still turned out. The first few seemed to be okay, but then people started just adding their names between lines at the top, so there were three #2, a couple of each #3 and #4. Somewhere around #30, someone decided to restart the numbering at #22 in hopes of moving themselves up which threw everything afterwards out of whack. Then there were the people who just waved off the book and tried to push themselves to the front of the line.) After we were signed in James took off to rent our motor cycle and was back in no time to keep me company. As usual it was all very confusing and took forever. About 8:30 a man in the lobby, in a box, started reading names from the book. When you name was called you went into his box and he checked your paper work. He would read a few names, check paper work and then read a few more. Every few names he’d go back and start at the top, I guess people would just write their name and leave. Once into his box and your papers in order you were given a number, we were 17, and you went on to the waiting room. Where you wait, and wait and wait. Well unless you think you are too busy/important to wait, then you just walk up to the window….very Asian. We sat for about 2 hours. When our name was finally called we walked up to the window, handed in our papers and told them we wanted a 60 day. They explained they don’t do 60 day VISA’s. UGH! Everything we read said they do so we very politely said so. They took the papers and said they’d try. Hmmmmm. We then sat back down while someone checked our paper work again. A few minutes later we got called back up to pay. Then we left, with fingers crossed, hoping we got the 60 day VISA we needed.

You know the roads are good when they use dump trucks for public transportation

After I gave the bike an admiring once over we climbed on and made our first stop – the garage. We had our first flat tire. Not a good sign. James took the bike back and I went on to the hostel to get the last few things sorted.

Finally, about noon, we were packed and on the bike again….to stop number 2. The ATM, which thanks to the dodgy machines, took about 45 minutes. (James’ Note: Another instance of queuing at its best. After waiting for about 15 minutes and being about third in a line of six, a local tried to walk right to the front. Her response to my polite explanation of the line was a friendly “No Problem”, at which point she restarted her efforts to bud. After a little more insistence, she shifted her efforts to cut into line to the position behind us, which meant it was no longer our problem. Still, she wasn’t nearly aggressive as the nun at the Timor Telecom office that felt a representative of god shouldn’t have to wait in line…we politely set her straight)

After getting some cash we were finally on the road! We headed out of town and up into the mountains, zigzagging back and forth for a few hours with the beautiful Dili Bay, filled with boats, over our shoulders. We stopped to adjust after about an hour. The backpack was a bit heavy and the upward climb meant I was in a constant squatting position, clinging to James and my groin muscles were shaking with the exertion. OUCH!

A few more hours and we were well into the mountain and alternating between circling them and driving along the ridges with steep drops looking down into the valleys between. The higher we got the air became fresh and crisp and the kids and dogs got cleaner and looked more healthy. Everyone also started to go crazy when they saw us. They would hear the bike and turn, see it was foreigners and scream and start running from houses, fields and hills to try to reach the road for a wave and a high five (which they usually could do, we weren’t going very fast…sorry James). I have to admit I am very impressed with James. He hadn’t driven a motor cycle in about 15 years and East Timor’s drive on the left hand side. So, with a passenger and a fairly heavy backpack, he’s relearning how to drive a motor cycle – going up a mountain.

The scenery was amazing. We started in dusty, hot Dili, and went through dense, green jungle, past spring green colored rice paddies and eventually through thick forests of pine trees. The sides of mountain, when we were against one, was filled with wild creeping violet forget-me-nots and poinsettia bushes.

Mountain market

About 3 hours in we make a turn off and the road get really bad. It has been a bit bumpy and huge bits are broken up or just not there, but this last 18 km is nothing but huge rocks and dirt. The scenery also completely changed. We were high up in the mountains and the clouds were rolling in over rugged land dotted with pinnacle like jagged peaks that were sticking up out of the bright green rolling hills, it honestly looked like Ireland. James said if anywhere in the world was haunted it was here. I thought it was like driving into a Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale. After a good hour on this “really bad” road we came to a deep dip and we made it down the one side but not quite up the other. We stalled and when James hit the brakes we just slid backwards in the loose dirt. He yelled “feet down” but it was too late. We tumbled over backwards (James’ Note-we slowly tipped sideways. In my defense we came around a blind hairpin corner where the road for some reason suddenly drops about eight feet at a ridiculous angle. I barely had time to grab the clutch and slow down before launching off it. Since the road was surfaced with loose fist sized rocks it took all my concentration to navigate the decent. One we had reached the bottom, I had just enough time to realize that our speed and gear were not compatible with the equally ridiculous incline we were about to hit.). I landed on my back, on the backpack, and James landed on my arm. Thankfully that was the most painful injury, a squished arm (James’ Note: The most painful injury was actually to my pride. By the time we had dusted ourselves off, picked up the bike, and collected the various pieces of the mirror, there were about twenty locals gathered on the hill above laughing and enjoying the show.) . We were dirty and a little shaken up but nothing was bleeding or broken. I hadn’t been too worried about spills, we weren’t -and with the condition of the roads couldn’t - moving very fast and a fall would really only mean bumps and bruises. We had a quick discussion as to whether we should go on to Hatubilico. It was only 18 km but we had a ways to go, it was getting late and we’d have to do it again – to get home. Hmmmm. As shaky as I was I still wanted to continue but James was driving and it was really his call. He decided we’d keep going. Forty minutes later we pulled into Hatubilico. We were both relieved and freezing. We’d been told it was cold in the mountains, but we’ve been told that before and I guess as Canadians our definition of cold is different, but this was cold, even for Canadians. We spotted two foreigners right away and waved. They walked over and we had a quick chat, me with chattering teeth. They turned out to be a nurse and an engineer from Australia who were here for a two year volunteer program. They filled us in on the area and we had a laugh at a few of their tales.

View of Dili from the mountains

We found our guesthouse, one of two in the village, and I crawled into the fleece blanket up to my eye balls. I was shivering and my teeth wouldn’t stop chattering. James went off in search of hot tea and dinner. It was a few hours before we got either, well dinner – the tea ended up being a pot of water boiled over a fire and tasted like smoke. There were two more foreigners who had dinner at the same time who were in town to film some council meetings. The village was setting up a weekly truck to get farm produce and handicrafts to Dili to be sold. They had been in East Timor a few years and we had a great meal discussing the country. Well the conversation was great, the meal was very basic. Not complaining, just a heads up for anyone traveling outside Dili, food, water (running & hot) and electricity are scarce.

After dinner we piled all the fleece blankets in the room on one bed and crawled into the nest. At midnight the electricity went out and the place was dark and soundless. It was one of the best sleeps I’d had in weeks. Side Note: The power actually goes out at 11:45. The girl from dinner said the night before she woke up at about 11:40 and had to pee so got up quickly, thinking the power would go out at midnight and she didn’t take a flashlight. Just as she finished, 11:45, the power – and lights – went out. She then had to feel her way in a darker than dark hall way, flight of stairs and to her room. I’d have freaked!

Second flat

Aug 24 - 2nd Flat Tire

James had booked a 7:30 am hike forgetting I wanted to see the morning market. So when the guide showed up 1 hour early he got up and left and I stayed snuggled in our nest. I wanted to see the local market more than I wanted to do a cold hike up a mountain. A few hours after he left I finally crawled out, layered on everything I’d brought and went in search of the market. Everyone seemed to be walking up the hill so I figured they were much earlier than me and were likely walking back form it. You can almost count on me always going the wrong way; a few minutes into my walk Damian, the nurse, passed me on his bike and smiled and pointed me in the right direction. Everyone was out it seemed, all walking to and from the market, and they all had big smiles and greetings for me. A few minutes later Damian passed me on his bike, quickly explaining he had an emergency up the mountain, I complimented him on his “ambulance”.

I found the market at the top of the hill. It was different from other local markets I’d seen. There were no tables or buildings. People were just sitting along the side of the road selling there baked bread and produce. I was supposed to be buying the fresh bread but it was .10 cents each and all James left me was $10’s & $20’s. I didn’t want to pull out big bills and look like a douche bag flashing my money. The video couple from our guesthouse were there and doing an interview with a young girl from the committee responsible for helping get goods to Dili. I was thankful; I could blend in as one of them and also found the interview interesting. I hung around for a bit and enjoyed the community. I love markets!

I walked back to our guesthouse and found a balcony overlooking a field with pigs rooting and a stunning view of the mountains and surrounding valley. I grabbed my Kindle and enjoyed watching the pigs and locals going to and from the market. The lady who owns the guesthouse found me and brought me the yummy buns I wanted to buy and a pot of dark, strong coffee. It was here, sitting in the sun, where James found me. He ended up doing the hike in about 4 hours, not the estimated 5 or 6, he laughed and told me the 13 year old guide was quick, and James figures he held him back a bit.

We had seen what we came to see, and although tempted to stay longer, decided to get on the road. We were warned the roads made travel slow so we figured we could make up some time if we only spent one night. James had a few buns and jam and we loaded up.

The 18 km really bad road wasn’t so bad the second time. I think we were more prepared for it. We did it a bit quicker too, about 2.5 hour to get in and only about 1.75 hours to get out. Nice! At the split we turned south again and headed for Same (pronounced Sar-may). It was advertised around Dili as a lush, green coffee growing area. We thought it would be nice to spend a few days hanging out and maybe do a few hikes.

The scenery again surprised us. Even the 18 km bit was completely different in the early afternoon as opposed to the evening. The road was a little rough but James was getting much better and I settled back and really relaxed.

I was daydreaming when a funny noise pulled me from it…and James wiggling around. We had another flat tire. On a dirt road, who knows where in the mountains. Interesting. In less than a minute a guy on a bike pulled over and was pulling tools and patches and whatever out of cracks and crevices in his bike. He was so prepared for anything he reminded me instantly of my dad, a long lost brother maybe? A young guy walked out of the bush, stopped to help and quickly took over as the guy’s assistant – he spoke the same language and could actually do as he was asked. He tried to pump the tire but it had a hole so he pulled it off (the back tire, which meant the brake cable had to come off, as well as the chain and chain tensioners) and, using a puddle, found the hole and set about patching. Honestly – on the side of the road! I pulled my Kindle out and was sitting in the long grass, sunning and reading. Eventually an older guy showed up, I didn’t see what path he popped out of, and also started to offer help. It doesn’t matter where you are; it takes 4 or 5 guys to change a tire. Just as things were wrapping up a young guy, who spoke excellent English stopped to join the party. He then translated as we thanked the men and tried to pay him. We gave the young kid $2 USD and tried to give the man $10. He wouldn’t take it. His reasoning was that if he started to take money for stopping to help then other people would too. Eventually people would expect the money and only stop for it, not to be helpful. And that, he explained, is not the way he wants his country to be. The young kid kept the money, and I’m glad. Tourism is just beginning and I hope he sees that being helpful or providing a service is the way to earn money, not begging – not to mention the example the other guy made. Everyone scattered and we slowly made our way onto Same.

Same spooky church

We pulled into Same in the late afternoon and after a few turns around the town found our guesthouse. Like I mentioned, it was advertised all over Dili and we were excited to spend a few days “In lush, green Same at a guesthouse with beautiful views of the surrounding coffee fields and mountains”. The advert boasted gardens, traditional food and organized hikes. The guesthouse was smaller than we expected and locked up. Thankfully we had a phone so called the number on the sign. The lady said she be down in 5-10 minutes. As it turned out it was only two rooms, no running water and any meals we wanted we’d have to call her and she’d bring it down the road from her house. It was surrounded on two sides by dirt (soon to be planted?) the road (about 4 feet from the building) and a sheer cliff that was littered with garbage. And she had raised he prices; the bunk bed room would cost us $30 /night. Ouch! We had a quick talk and decided to take a peek at another hotel or two. James left on the bike to take a look at the one just down the road. I tried to explain to the lady that the price was a bit high and we were looking at others. Her reply was “So when your husband comes back you’ll be leaving”…..hhhhmmmm so she knows she’s too expensive and others maybe have done this before? We ended up in the Same Hotel where we got an onsite restaurant, running water, a shower head, and a clean room with a double bed for $35. We were also told we should have electricity every second night from 6:30 pm until 7 am every day.

Once checked in we went for a quick walk to the local market. We had to find a new inner tube for our bike, the guy at the local garage said we buy the tube and they put it in. No problem. After our quick walk we ordered dinner relaxed. It was nice to be off the bike. Dinner took a few hours, but in hindsight I think it’s because they wait and do all meals at the same time – fuel is expensive and hard to get. By the time dinner was served we felt like we were having a romantic meal, it was by candle light. I guess tonight wasn’t an electricity night. The hotel was a bit busy with a bunch of UN workers.

Giant palm

After dinner we took our candles back to our room and had icy cold showers. It was funny when later the UN guy in the next room had his icy shower. The walls were very thin and you could hear him oohhhh’ing and ahhhh’ing and sucking his breath in. We also heard more from him later when he somehow got locked in his room. Poor guy.

Aug 25 - Malai! Malai!

We were going to sleep in a bit but were woken when the owner moved the resident rooster right under our window. If you haven’t traveled in a country where there are roosters crowing at all hours, and all day, I can’t even begin to explain how it drives me insane. But – James question at breakfast comes close. He asked me how much I thought a rooster would cost to buy? Dunno, why? To beat it to death!

After breakfast I lingered over coffee and James took the bike to the shop. Eventually we took off for a walk around the village. Our original plan was to do a coffee plantation hike but I think it means a walk through the coffee plantation, not a tour of the how and where it is made/roasted. We’d drove through the coffee fields for hours so didn’t think we needed to walk through them. My tourist imagination was going a mile a minute – there is so much potential in East Timor to set tours up.

The walk was fun! We loped around and up and down a few roads away from the main village past schools, and houses, and fields of veggies and animals and even chained up monkeys. Everywhere we went the kids would yell “Malai! Malai!” (foreigner! foreigner!) and come running. It was one thing on a bike speeding past, but quite another to do it walking. Once at the road with us kids would get shy, giggle and pose for pictures. The adults were just as fun, smiling and grinning at us. We spent a few hours enjoying the country side.

Friendly Timorese children, ponies are the popular form of transportaion in the mountains

Back at the hotel we relaxed and read while waiting for dinner. We ended up ordering the same thing again, it was so yummy. We didn’t seem to have any running water and luckily when we asked about it there was a guy from Australia who spoke Tetum and could act as interpreter. I guess when the power is on the water tank fills and if the hotel uses too much water and the tank empties you have to wait for the power again for it to fill up. So no water until it refills. Oh well, we had a bucket of water in our room.

Adorable pig purse and not so adorable cow for sale

Aug 26

We were up bright and early (thanks to our rooster friend) and checked for water, none yet but hopefully later. We were off to the beach today. We wanted to see the other side of East Timor and it was only a short drive. Before leaving we stopped at the market for mouthwash, James has a nasty toothache, and were treated to a gruesome sight of a cow nearly done being slaughtered. It was spread over the ground, stone wall and the head, tongue hanging out, was sitting proudly by itself. Gross! Gross! Gross!

The ride was much nicer. As we came down out of the mountains it was like a Canadian autumn, with the trees shedding brown leaves. It was remarkable – we’d been through all four seasons in the past few days, in one tiny country. The road ended literally at the beach. We crossed the cross road, parked at the beach (Betano Beach) and had a short walk around. It was a beautiful stretch of white sand and it was clean, clean, clean. I found a spot in the sun and James found a spot in the shade and we relaxed and read for a few hours. Other than cows and pigs there were only a few other people on the beach. I couldn’t help but think it would be a great place for a resort, sad, but true. Well, other than the pigs, that were really big and kept coming too close for comfort. James was supposed to keep an eye out and scare them away but I think he was too engrossed in his book, I’m lucky they didn’t eat me.

Betano and street fight

We enjoyed a pb sandwich picnic before reluctantly getting back on the bike and heading home. A few minutes into our ride we saw a huge crowd. A couple of guys were fighting and a crowd had formed. We stopped and tried to decide what to do, there was only one road. A few locals saw us and waved us through, the crowed parted and, weird, quite a few took a look at us and smiled and waved. We didn’t linger and found out later that there is actually a problem with young guys fighting. The rule of thumb is if you see a crowd, turn and go the other way – quickly.

Once back at the hotel we checked for water. It had been a long time since we had hot water (Ubud) and I really needed to wash my hair…. and undies. There still wasn’t any water so I, with the help of James, washed my long mess in a bucket of icy cold water and then showered, or panned. I feel we might be actually roughing it. No running water and no electricity.

Cleanish, we went to dinner and read with the remaining light. Just after dark James decided to go to the market and get something sweet for a treat. The market was closed and about 50 – 100 people were all sleeping under the awnings. We aren’t sure if they were people who had walked from far to the market and had to spend the night, maybe market workers or just homeless but it was heartbreaking. I’m glad I didn’t go with him, slightly selfish, but I was already feeling a soft spot for East Timor and racking my brain for what I can do once home to help. Up in the mountains, where I was wrapped in everything I had and using my sarong as a scarf the common outfit for anyone under 6 years of age was a t-shirt, no pants no shoes. How did they not all freeze to death?

After dinner the power came on and the water… we got excited… and flushed! We took advantage of the power to read in bed.

Frequent sign along the coast. Makes the beaches extra welcoming.

Aug 27 Chalk Hottub

Today was going to be a long, long, long day on the bike. We had originally planned to do a loop but the back side, along the south west coast, is impossible to do in rainy season and next to impossible during dry. So we decided to backtrack through Dili, which also meant we could stop for a few supplies.

Thanks to our rooster we were up, dressed, had breakfast and were ready to go – before our alarm. Silly thing. Driving was pretty good and James has become a pro. There were just a few rough spots. About an hour in we hit an upward rough spot where we slowed a bit and I dismounted, as James called it. With a confused looked he asked what I was doing. I explained that when we lean to one side my brain says to put my foot down and if my foot touches the ground (it’s usually about 2 feet from the ground) my brain then says get off you stupid fool before you fall off (strangely said in my mother’s voice). So we leaned, I put my foot down and stepped off. Easy peasy..and a bit embarrassing. I climbed back on and, with James shaking his head, we continued on our way.

Barren landscape, and local vogueing for the camera.

In Dili we picked up a few things and had a cold drink, something that’s hard to get with no power. And headed off down, what we thought was the road following the coast. It looked that way on the map but in fact swerved inland and back out like a long winding snake. The landscape here was drier and more desert like, almost like the prairies in some spots, and then lush green areas with the biggest palm trees I’ve ever seen. It was also hotter and we both got a bit of a burn. We could have gone faster but James was enjoying the scenery as well.

We stopped for a butt break where we pulled up next to the beach. James started snapping pictures and a group of cheeky young boys ran over to get in the pictures. Normally this isn’t a problem and he takes a bunch weather he wants them or not but these boys were about 12-14 and naked. A bit too old for James to be taking naked pictures of, or so James thought, so he just pretended until they asked to see the photos. So he snapped a few, showed them and as he walked away was quickly deleting them. Can you imagine explaining that coming through customs in Bali? Meanwhile I had walked down the street in the other direction and snapped a few pictures. This town had more buildings not standing than standing and the poverty was much more evident. Actually the ride from Dili along this main road showed the sad state of the country and the poverty levels more so than our ride up into the mountains. The houses were rougher, less to them and not nearly as neat and tidy. I wonder if it’s because in the mountains and valleys they have more water and can farm more effectively therefore being more prosperous. One of the things that surprised me was the houses we’d seen on our travels so far. In a country where they had next to nothing, almost no power, running water….the houses were neat, tidy and decorated with plants, even hanging plants, and the gardens were beautiful, straight rows that would make my dad proud. I was so impressed I started taking pictures of my favorites, or ones I could take without calling too much attention, and have added a bonus link. I call it the House & Home East Timor Edition. (on main page)

After a graceful dismount

We found our turn and were happy to get off the main highway (less big dump trucks) and the road got rough again. A few minutes on this road and I made my second, and less than graceful, dismount. We were in one of the many white, chalk, sand areas that have huge dried ruts to navigate when we leaned; I put my foot off and stepped off. I stepped on to the top of a big rut and fell over backwards, landing in a giant hot tub size hole, and in an effort to get myself up ended up rolling around in the chalk. I finally got standing and turned to find a very amused James with a WTF look on his face. I was a mess! I tried to brush the nasty chalk off but it was sticky. I was a mess! OOOPPSSS!

We finally arrived in Baucau, after almost 10 hours, and while looking for our budget guesthouse stopped at a pink, pink, hotel. I needed a butt break and James wanted to take a peek at a map so I went in a priced the pink palace. It was out of our price range and full but so cute! We found our guesthouse a few minutes later and checked in. It was a bit grungy, but had electricity and running water so it would do. We were starving so dropped our bags and went in search of food. As we were leaving James took a hard look at me and asked if I was going like that? I looked down. I was still covered in chalk. I explained that after four days with almost no running water and no laundry facilities this was the best he’d get.

We were going to eat at the pink palace but it was crazy expensive ($12 for spaghetti) so we left, not hopeful of finding anything else. James walked down one street while I waited on the street corner. A group of guys came out of the pink palace and headed up hill….I whispered for James to come back. They were cleanly dressed and smelled clean (how dirty was I that I am noticing when people smell like soap?!?), likely going for dinner. Let’s follow! We did, and they were…and we ended up at a busy place that, despite the wait, had tasty food at a great price. We ate on the patio and enjoyed the cool air just being off the bike.

Traditional house

Aug 28 The really bad road

I woke up to the smell of pancakes, too bad they weren’t for us. Breakfast wasn’t included and you couldn’t buy it but I guess if you were a group and pre-booked you could get it. Ahh well. The group ended up being the group of Australian ladies, who lived and worked in Dili, and had mapped the hike in Hatubilico. We chatted a bit about tourism in East Timor and they picked our brains. They had been given a small grant to help get tourism going in Hatubilico. So far we hadn’t seen any tourists outside Dili and where usually when you meet people traveling they ask “So, where are you from?” in East Timor it was “So, what are you here for?”. Our first suggestion was to make getting to/from the areas easier and more economical.

We did a few loops of the city (the map sucked) and then headed out of town. We made good time and until we hit the last turn off, had a relaxing pleasant ride. We stopped on a long flat, and paved, stretch for a butt break and James said it should only be about another hour. So I hear a jinx? A few minutes after our break it started to rain. For real? It’s it dry season. It didn’t rain hard enough to make us stop, but enough that we were both wondering what we’d do if it picked up. Luckily it didn’t last long and it was good and dry by the time we came to our last turn. From this point we only had 8 km. EIGHT KMS of the worse road we’d seen, let alone had to drive on! This is really the worse road in East Timor! The road wound up and down and around and I lost count of the times I got off and walked. A jeep passed at one point and I should have asked for a ride. I think James would have done much better without me. We came to a steep part that just happen to have a local bathing/laundry site beside it and as we sputtered our way up and came to a standstill the 30 or so bathers got a great big laugh out of it. Glad we are at least entertaining.

Jaco Island

The 8 km took almost an hour and we breathed a sigh of relief. We had arrived at Tutuala Beach, across from the famous Jaco island. A little piece of secluded paradise in East Timor. Or so the books say. There were two places to stay, a really rough one and an eco one. The eco – the one with running water and electricity – was full so we took the last room in the rough one. We were suspicious as to why our secluded paradise was full. It was a long weekend and apparently everyone in Dili came to Jaco! “sigh” Our room ended up being a basic room with a bed in a long house that had three other rooms. It was tucked behind the restaurant and the oh so cute little thatched roof bungalows we thought we were getting. The other thing that had us worried was the lack of fresh water. They had no running water (we carry water purification tablets just in case) and were out of bottled. The eco lodge had water, but with this many people we were worried they would run out too. We decided to take a break and relax on the beach and figure out what we wanted to do, we planned to spend three nights but that seemed along time without fresh water.

We spent the afternoon on the beach. The sand was some of the softest, fluffiest, whitest I’ve ever seen and clean, no garbage at all. James was off searching for shells and rocks and I had a nap in the shade. I sat up at one point and caught sight of my legs. The mosquitoes are beasts in East Timor and they fly in clouds like black flies back home. There is also some bug or spider that when it bites leaves a tiny bloody scab. My legs were covered with a combination of both – red bumps and bloody scars – and bruises from my falls and dismounts off the bike and, with lack of water, covered with 6 day shadow (not quite a shadow anymore). They looked like Survivor legs, from the first few seasons. I had a giggle, the lack of water, food, and electricity made me feel a little like I was in some crazy amazing survivor race.

By the time supper was served (ramen noodles and veggies) it was obvious this place was busy. Not only were the lodges full but people had brought tents and were camping right on the beach and some were just going to sleep in the restaurant. Also, everyone seemed to be prepared and had jugs of water, pop, beer, wine and bags of food. Some started campfires and bought fish off the fishermen. It really was a great place; I wish I was better prepared for it. We were exhausted and went to bed fairly early. Unfortunately it was to the sound of people drinking, and not the romantic waves of the ocean we had read about.

James and his tormentors

Aug 29 Bruised ego

We were looking forward to sleeping in, thanks to the lack of roosters, only to be woken at 7:45 to someone chopping wood and sweeping our front dirt step with a local stick broom. This quiet, secluded and romantic beachside trip was shaping up to be anything but. I think our timing was a bit off. We had our breakfast (fried bananas and coffee, sorry James) and talked about leaving. We were supposed to spend three nights but this wasn’t exactly what we hoped for, it was a bit busy, had no fresh water and most of the people were in groups…so it felt like being at a party and not being part of the clique that was holding it – I felt like I was back in high school. Oh and we only had 2 squares of toilet paper left. I was trying to stall, hoping that I’d see someone leaving and could hitch a ride, despite what it did to James ego. I was not looking forward to the ride back to the split. I asked one group and they had space but were leaving the next day. Hmmmm, tempting. Just as were climbing onto the bike a couple walked to their car with bags. YEAH! I jumped off the bike and asked if they had room. They did and five seconds later I was waving goodbye to James! I was giddy with relief. I ended up catching a ride with a great Portuguese family. Two of the girls were teaching in Balibo and their sister and her husband were visiting, our second tourists since leaving Dili. James was waiting at the split, I was thankful he safely made it, and surrounded by a group of girls – who he says spent the 30 minutes he had to wait mocking him…we were back in high school!

From the split we had a short, easy ride to Los Palos, we’d decided we had a few extra days so to see a little more of the country instead of staying at the “secluded” beach. Los Palos’ logo is Los Palos Beautiful and the book said the local market is worth a visit and it is home to the sacred Fataluku houses. Sounds interesting. As we pulled in we got a different vibe, but then all the cities in East Timor seemed very different. The buildings, although still falling apart and crumbling, had a distinct European feel and you could see the European looks in the locals and a lot of graffiti (Dili has a lot, but once out of the city it wasn’t as noticeable). As it turned out, the girls from Los Palos had the highest dowries, up to 70 buffalo or approximately $21, 000 USD. They were considered the prettiest with the European features and lighter skin. Side Note: Most can’t afford to pay dowries so they have sex before marriage, get pregnant and the dowry price comes down to a more manageable level – a little surprising in a country that is 90% Catholic.

Relaxing on the beach, view from our room

We took a quick look around as we tried to find a guesthouse. Los Palos was very small, the local market consisted of 2 ladies selling tomatoes and the sacred Fataluku houses was one, a replica of one. Hmmmm. We looked at a few guesthouses and were not impressed. $30 - $40 for a dingy room, dirty bathroom and no running water. A quick discussion had us back on the bike and heading to our next city. I am happy we did the detour but didn’t feel we had to spend the night.

So it was back on the bike. Up and over the mountain, and back down the other side….all the way to Com. We were driving down a flat dusty road beside the sea when all of a sudden we see a sign for Com Resort, East Timor’s only real resort. We figured it was expensive but James wanted to price it. He’d seen the sign advertising not only hot water but air condition. The cheapest double room was only $50, not much more than we were going to pay in Los Palos, so we took it for one night. Ahhhhhh, one night with hot water! We hadn’t had hot water since arriving in East Timor! As we were checking in we bumped into the Portuguese family that gave me earlier, they were doing a one night stop before heading to Dili – it really is a small country.

After checking in we took a walk thru Com looking for a cheaper place to spend a second night. Com has a handful of small stores selling water and pop, a few guesthouses, three gift shops and one restaurant (the expensive one at our resort). That’s it, that’s all. It took about 4 minutes to walk, it reminded me of Chalk River – blink and you miss it. After our walk we had pb sandwiches and fruit for dinner (we couldn’t afford the restaurant), had long hot showers and crawled into a clean bed with books.

Wildlife of Com

Beach piglet

Aug 30 This little piggy went to the beach

After 15 hours in bed I crawled out in search of a coffee and the beach Com is famous for. I found both and enjoyed them with a book. Eventually we changed hotels and our new room was steps from the beach. We spent most of the day reading: me reading in the sun and James in the shade. We shared the beach with a few dozen pigs, a handful of goats, a few chickens and happy smiling kids. It was a wonderful day.

We walked down the beach to the Com Resort for dinner and just before it got dark walked back the same way. The tide was low and the pigs and kids were out looking for crabs. We showered (ohhh how I missed the hot water from the night before) and crawled into bed. The sea was so close it was almost too loud and sometimes it sounded like it was going to wash into our room.

I was woken in the wee hours by James cursing. He had left his shoes outside our door and they were now missing. We packed light and only had one pair each. Can you drive a motor cycle in you barefoot, I mean if you are not a local and used to it? If we had of been in a normal hotel it wouldn’t have been such a big deal but we were right on the beach where everyone walked by. In Same they locked up our bike at night so I can’t imagine a pair of shoes would last long. I was of course optimistic (which may have drove James even more crazy) and thought maybe the owner picked them up when he was walking around earlier – I saw his flashlight. James went outside to look for them and found a women picking vegetables in the garden (at 4 am) who managed to track the shoes down in an empty room two doors down from ours. Whew! We were both relieved, we’d both figured we’d never make it home without James’ shoes.

Com beach, collecting crabs at low tide

Aug 31 The sound of waves woke me

We slept in today and enjoyed a bit more of the beautiful Com beach. I could happily have stayed a few more days but we wanted to take a peek at Baucau and we’d booked a few things in Dili and rearranged our diving so we could have a few down days at the Dive Timor Lorosae (pool, air con, hot water!). James said it reminded him of cottaging, a great place to relax, read, swim and eat – if we had more food.

We made great time and pulled into Baucau just after 1 pm. We were starving so headed to the restaurant we ate in on our last stop here. It has good portions and even better prices. We saw a group here that was here the last time we were and at the same table, one of the girls was in the hostel the day we were leaving – seriously this is a small country.

Big empty pool

Way too full, we set off for a walk of the tiny city. Baucau used to be the honey moon capital of East Timor and has a big, fancy, pink hotel that has a “Country Club” type place that has a huge pool, tennis court, bar….but is closed. The pink hotel is open (a bit expensive for us) but was used as a prison for years – strange and gave me the creeps a bit. The walk didn’t have any big attractions, just another interesting, friendly city.

We’d picked the hotel across the street from the one we stayed last time. It was cleaner and had a living area with couches, table & chairs and hot water for tea and coffee and noodles. We were the only quests and we watched a few people check in across the road – we wanted to tell them to switch, this one is better. If you are in Bacau and need a place to stay try the Arbecristo Motel.

Coastal road.


We got up crazy early and waited a bit for the free breakfast. We tried to explain to the guy we’d like it at 6:30 am….but knew he had no idea what we were saying. So no breakfast for us! We knew the ride back was going to be fairly flat and smooth, just that one chalk/baby powder bit I did my dismount into, and I climbed on for the last leg of our adventure relaxed and singing the “On the Road Again” theme song. James said it might be more correct if I knew the Littlest Hobo theme song. I was thinking (lots of time to think on the back of a bike for 9 days) as we dodged pigs and chickens and kids…that we were pretty lucky we didn’t hit anything. Yesterday it was dumb goat day and I swear six walked right at us, almost getting hit. Before we left I was reading what happens if you hit an animal. Back home you might just keep on going, not think much of it, but here it’s more serious seeing as animals are worth so much more to the impoverished folks of East Timor. The recommendation is to stop, find the owner and do a bit of bartering. Apparently the owner will be absolutely beside himself, explaining that the chicken/pig/goat was a gift from his dead aunt…..this of course plays on your guilty conscious but the article had what the accident should cost you. A chicken about $20 USD, a dog $10-$20 (this surprises me with the number of strays roaming free and scaring me half to death), a piglet $20 USD, a mature pig $100 and a goat a whopping $200 USD. They didn’t have a kid price, maybe they’d take mine in trade.

We stopped at one particularly unique spot where the trees, that looked hundreds of years old, were growing around and through the rock landscape. Houses had been built in and around the trees and rocks. It was a spot that James could take the pictures without us getting off the bike, thank god!, because a pack of dogs from up the mountain came tearing down, all barking their silly heads off and scaring the crap out of me. I started to yell “GO GO GO JUST GO GO GO!” And James, thank god!, listened and we took off, me clinging, legs practically wrapped around his waist to keep my feet from being bit. The closest they got was about 4 or 5 feet, but that was way too close for me. James heard the barking, but didn’t see them running – he heard the panic, get the F%ck moving NOW in my voice. I giggle now, knowing I am safe.

A long walk for water

We were constantly passing people carrying jugs and baskets and pushing carts and often it would be in a deserted section of road miles from anything, miles to anything. I assume it was to collect water and market items, but was shocked at the distances people had to go every day for something as simple as water. We are so used to turning on a tap and getting not only clean water but hot as well as cold. Again, I was appreciating home.

We made good time and after a quick stop at the grocery store, dropped our motor bike off. I was a bit sad, being a passenger was very nice, but James was relieved, driving was a tad stressful he tells me. We checked back into the dirty hostel for two more nights, but thankfully had a double room – they are bigger and seemed cleaner than the dorm room.

Giant Jesus

After more Ramen noodles we decided we could use some exercise, well James did, so we grabbed a map and headed to the 9th biggest Jesus in the World. It’s on the must see list in Dili so we thought we should go see it. The walk, a hot, hot, hot 2.5 hours was along the sea and we walked past small areas people lived, restaurants, beaches and a few hotels. I actually enjoyed it. At the Jesus statue we walked up the 100 or so stairs and were rewarded with a stunning view of both the beaches and coastlines behind and in front of Jesus, he sure has a nice view. James had agreed to take a Mikrolet (like a local bus) back but to be honest it was a beautiful day, I knew he wanted to walk back and he had done ALL the crazy driving so I figured I could suck it up and walk. We stopped at the Little Pattaya, a Thai-Lebanese restaurant. I guess what you get when a Lebanese guy meets a Thai girl. Any guesses on where they met? Or how? BBBhhhhhhaaaaaaaaa!

Back in downtown Dili we bumped onto our Portuguese friends again. Too funny. They were shocked we’d walked all the way to the Jesus and back, so was I – so were my feet! Eventually we ended up back at the hostel where we had an early night. Tomorrow we are diving! James wanted to be early so he could play with his camera but I didn’t care – I was just excited to be getting back underwater.

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