skull Diving in Dili skull East Timor skull

Nudibranchs making sweet, sweet hemaphroditic love, good spot Marianne!

Sept 2

Neither one of us slept well last night but we were up and out the door on time. We had all our dive gear so grabbed a cab to the dive shop. Funny – I asked the driver to take us to Castaways (the bar at the dive shop) and he said $5. Anywhere in town is supposed to cost $1.50 so I told him so. He agreed and we climbed in. He then repeated what he thought I said, the Jesus statue (Cristo Rae). Oooopppps, but good to know it doesn’t take much to barter them down, the Jesus statue is a quite a hike.

At the dive shop I sat and had a tasty cinnamon roll and coffee while James tinkered with his camera. Eventually Katie, our guide, showed up and we all loaded in to the van and were on our way. We ended up at K57, not a very original dive site name – it was at the 57 km marker – but a place we recognized, we’d past it and stopped to take pictures the day before.

Alien life form?

It was a shore dive and Katie was smart enough to grab us booties which didn’t fit in my fins but in my pocket. I was happy to have them. The first part of our dive had poor visibility but for the last half it really cleared up. We did our surface interval and lunch under a big tree – a thorny tree it turned out to be. I walked off to have a pee behind a bush and stepped, full foot on a branch and had 10 bleeding holes in the bottom of my foot. One thorn got really stuck (and 5 days later is still there).

We headed back to towards Dili to do Lone Tree. The first half of the dive was great but the current really started to pick up and carry us forward. Katie signaled to turn back and just in time, we fought the current the whole way back. It was quite a work out, swim a bit, hang on, swim a bit, hang on… I was tempted to just let go and see where/how far down the coast I popped up. The unfortunate thing is that dive would be a great drift dive except that access to the sea is only in a few spots, so if we let go and popped up down the coast we might have a ways to go to get picked up. Normally the dive is easy, peasy – Katie read the tide tables wrong. Oh well, it was still a great day of diving. I had my first run in with Hydroid , a fern-like plant that if brushed on bare skin causes a nasty bumpy rash that lasts…..well it’s still itchy and stinging five days later.

With the traffic and road conditions we didn’t get back until almost 5 pm and were exhausted. We walked back to the hostel (oh how I wish we were staying at the dive shop), had a quick bite to eat and hid in our air conditioned room.

The leggy supermodel of the shrimp world lounging seductively

Sept 3 to 8

I had a rough night sleep again and James snuck out of the room early and let me sleep. So nice! But once up I was excited. We were moving to fancy digs and first we were grocery shopping. We’d have five wonderful days of eating in! We walked to the grocery store, with me whining about the thorn in my heel, and bought all kinds of yummy comfort food. Bread, soup, cereal and lots of veggies. We even walked back. We ended up at the Dive Shop about 2 pm and settled in nicely. James wanted to go pick up a few more things and I was supposed to blog. He left me sitting on the couch with the remote control in my hand, we had a big flat screen tv and a decent amount of English channels. A few hours later he found me in the exact same spot, well by then I was curled up on the couch, watching TLC. (James’ Note: while Susan was vegging on the couch I was literally chased by a junkyard dog on my way to the grocery store) We had dinner in, watched a lot more tv, enjoyed the internet, hot water and finally the duvet covered beds. We were obviously missing our creature comforts.

Sunday was a boat dive day to Atauro Island. There were about 10 divers and crew, including Mark, the owner from Darwin. Both dives, Frank’s Crack and Table Top, were great wall dives. Beautiful, thriving, vivid coral with more fish than Friday’s dives. A bonus for us was we got to pretty much dive on our own, at our own pace – or lack of pace. There was a group of beginners, Mark and his friends and us. So they told us about the site, dropped us in and we did our own dive. James says now that he is an instructor that will happen more often – YES! We find most divers go too fast or are after big fish and we really like to take our time and look in all the cracks and crevices. James hates to take his macro lens off, I think that’s the real reason why I am getting a camera casing – just in case we see something big swim by. We finished the day with bruschetta and a hot bowl of soup and tv on the couch. We had neighbours in the house who must have thought we were big boring couch potatoes.

Nudis (and flat worms) that aren't doing it

Not the best picture, but this little guy is only a few millimetres long and darts around so that with the naked eye we couldn't really make out what it was. It took spottings on about four dives until James could get a picture good enough to make sense of it.

Monday’s dives were even better. We were the only “guests” booked for diving today and the Mark thought it would be a great day to take all the dive staff for exploratory diving, and invited us. We staggered our entries so that half dove while the others watched the boat, something about a movie called Open Water 2. But it was fun, fun, fun! We were actually dropped on to two sites, Fish Tank & Joanna’s Giant Clam (I do enjoy the site names) and we puttered around with Marianne while the others took off looking for schools of jacks, sharks and mantas. We didn’t find any new sites or get to name one (we have our names picked out!) but it really was fun to be on sites that aren’t official yet. There are areas around East Timor that have yet to be explored and if I had endless amounts of money and time I would do just that – dive all day looking for and naming new spots. Back at the dive shop we had a great conservation with Mark. Like I’ve mentioned he came to East Timor right after Indonesia left, things were still burning he said. He started diving eventually and being an engineer he made sure his equipment was in good working order. Others wanted to join him and one thing led to another and he eventually opened a shop. He had shocking and funny tales of the time he’s spent living and working here. His girlfriend laughs and says there are still bullet holes in Castaways Bar and she remembers the night they were put there. We finished the night off the same as last night but had a new neighbour, a guy from Australia, who has done some amazing diving and had great advice. He was also a great sport about my choice in tv – which tended to lean towards food channels.

Adorable poisonous stonefish

Our budget only had 3 dive days in East Timor but we were really enjoying them and hadn’t done any of the sites near the shop that were supposed to be amazing. So we ended up diving Tuesday as well. Marianne joined which was a real treat. She’s been diving (and living and working) here for 5.5 years and really knows the sites. Our first was the Pier, a great muck dive, that can’t always be done because of boats on the pier and visibility. It was great, the only complaint – there was too much to look at, so much you barely had to look. A first for me was a stone fish walking around and opening and closing his mouth, so cute. We were supposed to do two muck dives but Maryanne suggested Dili Rock, it was a favorite of hers and a bit different. I can see why it was a favorite, again it was full of critters and fish and amazing coral. Right before the second dive we saw a Dugong swimming 50 feet from shore. We kitted up quick and tried to get in to see it close up but it was gone. Could you imagine?

Most of the diving we did in East Timor was wall or muck and it was beautiful with healthy, vibrant and diverse coral. We saw a lot of small critters, James’ was in nudi heaven, and small fish but we are told some spots have the big fish and large schools – some seasonal – but we specifically asked for what we got. Like East Timor in general, especially the tourism, there is so much potential and so much unexplored that in a few years it should be a diving hot spot. I’m glad we saw it now though, we were the only ones on the sites and the coral is garbage free and healthy. A huge shout out to Dive Timor Lorosae, they were professional but fun at the same time. They had great advice and gave us exactly what we asked for. After dinner we relaxed with a few drinks, we weren’t diving in the morning, in front of the tv (said with a giggle), I was feeling very much at home here.

I think I know what they mean when they say "Happy as a clam"

Wednesday was a wonderful, sleep in, blog, lie around, swim in the pool, watch tv on the couch day. We had a great visit with our neighbour and eventually cleaned up and went out for dinner. Other than organize our stuff. I had to empty the “live out of” bag because something peed on James fresh laundry in Ubud and we didn’t realize it until we were packing for our bike trip, the bag, although clean, had a faint smell that I couldn’t live with. I had spent part of Tuesday evening cleaning it, what is up with him and pee? I did nothing very productive or touristy. It was amazing, and a very comfortable place to be doing it.

Thursday we got up at a decent time because we had to pack and do a few things (why do we leave hotel bookings so late?). On the list was to clean out the fridge and eat the left overs. I had made Jello, with the last of our vodka, that we weren’t going to drink, the night before and had forgotten about it. We ended up having a huge bowl of orange jello shooters for lunch….which might be the reason why I have a headache now.

An on-line check yesterday said our Merpati (they suck by the way) flight would be late leaving, 6:15, so we asked for a late check out….getting to the airport about 4 pm only to find out there was another delay. We weren’t leaving until 7:15. UGH! At least it gives me time to finish up my Dili Diving blog while it’s fresh in my mind.

So…here I sit in another airport departure lounge thinking about what a wonderful time I’ve had. East Timor got under my skin and I’ve added it to my bucket list. I’d love to come back in about five years to see the changes and dive Jaco Island and Com. I plan to not only keep my eye on it in the next few years but once home I hope to find a way I can help. We met so many amazing, hardworking people who with a little help could do amazing things. I am now just hoping our flight (Merpati is famous for its cancelled flights) will leave today so James can make his dentist appointment in Bali tomorrow.

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