Day 07: Thursday, 04 Oct 12 – Dili to Maubisse

Today is the day that we go up the hill (Mountains). We are all very excited about our impending journey into the unknown. The sense of adventure among the team is energising. We are not sure what the road is like, what the journey is like or what Maubisse is like….. But we cannot wait to get started. The day started in my open air office. Okay, it is the covered open air restaurant at the Timor Lodge Hotel, however I do enjoy feeling the breeze on my face as I type up my diary, blogs and emails.

After breakfast, it is time to get organised for our trip to Maubisse. The team is well prepared and working like a well-oiled machine. Each team member getting in and completing their part of the preparation for the trip in order to get on the road. Some of the tasks include the picking up of the vehicles from Rentlo (located at the Timor Lodge Hotel), checking the vehicles over, buying rope and tarp for the ute, briefing the drivers, packing the vehicles, buying coffee and clothes pegs for the Rotarians and briefing the team on the emergency procedures for the trip. While out and about before we left for Maubisse, I popped into our favourite Café, Energia and picked up a cappuccino for Kim. I do love her.

On the way out of Dili, we stopped off at the Leader Supermarket (as you guessed by now our favourite Supermarket). This was an opportunity to buy some team supplies and for everyone to buy themselves some snacks. The team took advantage of this and we all ended up with junk food of some sort and some drinks. I purchased about five different favours of Ice Tea. I do like my Ice Tea. Of course I bought the ones that I could not read the labels (in foreign language) and did not know for sure what flavour they were. I also bought some local produce. I think it was chips of some sort, but I do not know for sure. It was yummy.

As we travelled up the hill the scenery was beautiful. The roads are fairly good, just not very wide and lots of sharp corners. A lot of people walk on the road and some of the traffic drives a little too fast to the conditions in my opinion (that says a lot). However the views of Dili are great and the people are friendly. Our drivers were very good and handled the roads very well. Working with drivers does make the travel I lot easier, it is highly recommended so you can relax and enjoy the views. Our drivers do not speak English, however we are getting along well.

We stopped at the Dare World War II Memorial. It was to commemorate the actions of Timorese, Portuguese and Australians against the Japanese during World War II. As a Portuguese Colony, Timor Leste was meant to be neutral during World War II. However the Japanese had an interest in the Timor Island (both West and East). As it turned out the Japanese invaded both East and West Timor simultaneously as part of their objective to develop a Great Asian Empire. The Australian, Dutch and Portuguese forces were unable to halt the Japanese Advance, however there operations tied up a Japanese Division on the Island. At the War Memorial there is quite a comprehensive write up of the history and also a lovely little café.

I get a real buzz out of travelling by road in foreign countries. There are a number of reasons for this. I enjoy seeing how people drive in difference countries. In Australia we tend to stick to the road rules (expect for the speed limit) and stay in our lanes etc. However in most countries I have been to drivers sneak through the traffic and create extra lanes, overtaking where there you’re not meant to. That said I have also noticed in these countries that there seems to be the disregard for the road rules there is more courtesy shown by drivers. Drivers let other drivers in and pull over to the side of the road to allow other drivers to pass. I often wonder if through our obedience to the rules we have forgotten about common courtesy?

An example of this common courtesy we observed on the thin roads we travelled was that a fully laden truck and an overfull bus were trying to pass each other. The each backed off the side of the road to allow the other to pass. This also caused a traffic jam as vehicles travelling each way started to build up. There was no road rage or impatience. And with Timorese music playing in the car, what more could you ask for?

The use of horns in Timor Leste is common. There seem to be a number of reasons to use the horn. These include the following:

  • When overtaking
  • When passing people on the roads
  • When going around sharp corners
  • To say Hello
  • Taxis and buses use horns to attract attention of potential customers

On our travels through the mountains we used CB radios between the two vehicles. This proved to be a very effective way to communicate between the vehicles. The teams could stay in touch and also sort out issues without stopping all the time. I was known on the radio as “Crazy One”, Nicola as “Team Leader” and Nathan as “Big Bird”.

About two hours along the road to Maubisse is a town called Aileu. In Aileu, we caught up with some Timorese Scouts. There is a Scout Group in Aileu which is quite strong. After driving all over town…. We had some trouble finding the Scout Hall. This may have partly due to communication difficulties. However we did get there in the end. On arrive we found out that none of the Scouts or Leaders present spoke English. After about ten minutes of everyone, both Australian and Timorese Scouts, trying to communicate, a Scout named Bonny turned up. She saved the day as she spoke English.

With Bonny translating we were communicating. I was very impressed with the way that our team demonstrated patience in communicating with the Timorese through Bonny (translator). After the formal welcome and speeches the Scouts settled down to play some games. The Australian’s taught the Timorese a game called Ninja and the Timorese taught the Australian’s a game with big sticks. The big sticks did scare the Australian Scouts initially, however it all worked out when they discovered the sticks were not for hitting people. The two groups also had a game of Tug a War. We had the advantage being bigger, though the crowd (mostly being Timorese) where on the side of the Aileu Group. Eventually size won out.

After finishing with the scouts we had a very late lunch in an open air Restaurant in town. I do like open air places. It took forever to get food. Though we ordered on arrive, the food took about 40 minutes to come out. The lunch was nice through. After Lunch we piled into the vehicles for the final hour of driving before we reach our destination of Maubisse. Along the way as we have travelled this road today we have been waving at the people that are walking. For the most part we have received smiles and waves back.

Maubisse is an amazing place. There is mountains all the way around and the road in is just awesome. The road comes in from over the mountain range and to the left is a beautiful view of the town of Maubisse. Maubisse seems to be nested in a valley with mountains nearly all the way around. Everywhere you look up there is a mountain. Though not a large town, Maubisse is a tourist destination. There are plenty of accommodation options, though none are luxurious. As you enter the town the Cathedral is on the left hand side. The Cathedral is a very impressive building from the outside.

Things are a little crazy on arrive in Maubisse today as the new President of Timor Leste is in town. He is doing a tour of the country. On our way to Maubisse we passed some of the convoys with police escorts. We cannot stay at the Coffee Plantation / Factory tonight as originally planned. Instead we booked into the Pousada de Maubisse, which was the former Governor’s residence when Timor Leste was under Portuguese rule. The Pousada de Maubisse is located on the top of a hill in the town. It seems like the only hill in the whole valley. With the Pousada located at the top of the hill, it has good views of both the town and the valley. I am guessing that is why the Governor selected this site for his residence. There are eight rooms at the Pousada (Two Doubles in the main building and Six Twins in the outer building). We booked out six of the eight rooms.

After our time in Dili, this was to be the team’s first experience of rural Timor and the facilities (or lack of that there is). Most of the toilets did not flush and had to be flushed by bucket. Ohhhh, this brings back great memories from my first trip to Solomon Islands in 2004. At the start the electricity keep tripping out at the Pousada, though this was fixed promptly by the staff at the Pousada. The Menu at the Pousada was very interesting. There was no milk for the coffee; however it was very nice Maubisse coffee. For dinner there was the choice of Fried Chicken with Rice or Fried Chicken with Fries.

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