Dili

Untouched coral reefs
Dili, East Timor


Annoyingly I woke at 3am and couldn’t sleep anymore.

I got up at 5.30am and got ready to leave at 6am. I was rather surprised when the reception guy knocked at 5.45am to say he had made breakfast for me! How cute! He had made pisang goreng (fried banana) and fruit.

The taxi man was early (!) and we left at 6am to the airport. Life starts early here (and Asia in general). It’s light, so everyone is up and going about their daily chores, shopping at the busy markets and heading to school.

It only took an hour to reach the airport, which was fairly quick. But then it took me over 20 minutes to locate the left luggage.

I’m going to Australia in a few days and carrying some bits and pieces I can’t take in with me. So leaving them here!

I’m flying to Dili, East Timor. The only Southeast Asian country I have not yet been to. So of course, I had to fit it in!

After convincing the immigration man that I hadn’t been here since April last year (the last time I was in Indonesia as he didn’t believe the stamp I had in my passport from last week..!), I had an hour wait until my plane.

The flight left on time at 9.30am and I was surprised by the large numbers of non-locals on the flight. I didn’t think it was going to be a particularly popular route.

So Bali has changed a lot since I last visited (3 years ago..). It’s completely jam packed full of expensive western-style vegan cafes. The food has been amazing. But not very Indonesian (and I love Indonesian food). Maybe I won’t be saying that in a couple of weeks when I’m more remote and maybe just living off plain rice and mangos…

East Timor is an hour ahead of Indonesia. So it was 12.30pm by the time we landed. A visa on arrival cost $30. It was all pretty painless and bags were already waiting when we got through.

Timor-Leste, or East Timor is one of the world’s newest countries. Timor-Leste became a new souvenir state on 20 May 2002 when it achieved independence from Indonesia.

I had been chatting to a Canadian guy who works in East Timor and his friends dropped me off at the dive centre I am staying at – was nice of them. And time to go diving straight away! So after pulling my dive kit out and throwing my stuff in my room, we were off!

All the diving here is shore diving. Which is really unusual. But so cool. You throw your kit on. Then just walk from the beach into the water. Awesome. And surrounded by small children playing in the water. This was a sand dive. Muck diving. Which I love!

And it was great. Sea moths. Robust ghost pipefish. Cuttlefish. Soft coral crabs. So many shrimps. Some really cool Nudibranch which I’ve not seen before (and neither had they!). Devil scorpionfish. Fingered dragonet. Thorny sea horses. And we could hear a dugong. So many cool things. It was just me and the dive guide. So we stayed for ages. 96 minutes! It was awesome.

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The dive site was only a short drive from the dive centre. Through village areas, the roads lined with tiny wooden sheds, which are shops. It feels very remote and undeveloped.

The Canadian boys picked me up for dinner. We drove through the city. The sun was starting to set. So many people (mostly locals!) were out for a run along the edge of the beach. The city is pretty small. And is more like a small town! Spread out along the coastline, mostly small buildings and one larger, fancy government building. The fruit market was cute – small piles of fruit and vegetables arranged into small pyramids. We stopped off at a bar by the beach (everything is by the beach). This beach had nice white sand. And by now the sky was a bright pink. So pretty.

The menu was mostly western food. But I had mee goreng – it was really good. But rather sadly the restaurant had a pet monkey, kept in a cage. And apparently it is never allowed out.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Off for a day of diving! We left at 9am – 3 of us – and drove east. Out of Dili ‘city’ and into the countryside. The road wound around some hills, always alongside the bright blue clear ocean. Palm trees. Mangroves. Cows bathing in mud baths. Small wooden hut villages. Women selling fish on sticks. Small colourful buses covered in luggage and people sat on the roof.

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After just over an hour, we stopped off at a rocky beach. So beautiful. In the distance, there were dolphins jumping. And also something else. We tried to take photos, but it was the limit of my zoom. The photos look like orcas. 5 of them. But not sure.

We got ready to go diving. The entry here was across large pebbles and they were so slippery. The water was so warm (30 degrees), so blue and so clear. The visibility was crazy. And the coral. Like woah. The best coral reef I have ever seen. So many soft and hard corals. In perfect condition. So many colours. The visibility helped of course, making everything look so bright and blue. Towards the end of the dive was a huge anemone garden. Full of clownfish. I’ve never seen so many all together. There was nothing large. Felt like there should have been a white tip cruising by. In fact, no large fish at all. They’ve all been fished out. Of course…

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What else is surprising, is the lack of smaller life within the reef. No crocodile fish. Scorpionfish. Etc etc. But despite that, so good. We hopped back in the van and drove about 10 minutes back towards Dili, before stopping off at another beach. Sitting in the shade were several cows and goats! It was hot today – 35 degrees.

We had lunch here. They had packed lunch for us. And vegan was no issue! We had rice, tempeh, cabbage and a green bac choy like vegetable, with kecap manis – of course! And red bananas – which are so delicious. Bananas are always so much better straight off the tree, such a different texture. After a while hanging around, we were off diving again.

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This site is – K41. The entry was much less slippery this time! And again, incredible corals. There was a nice pink leaf scorpionfish this time! The diving here is amazing. Some of the best I have ever done. I have never seen coral like this. Shame I am not staying longer.

The drive back was just as pretty. And we got back at 4pm. For dinner, I went to the restaurant above the dive centre, Castaway. They had a massive choice. But I chose tempeh and vegetables (green beans, carrots and peppers) with rice. So simple. But so good. And an early night!

Wednesday 9 November 2016

As always, I was up early. The mosque nearby was going off around 5am. I went off for a walk around the nearby village. It’s a very Malay-style Muslim village. Houses are wooden sheds, with some bits of corrugated metal. Women sitting on porches with children. Small street sellers, with wooden stalls piled high with pisang goreng, donuts and other fried goods. A man walking through with a mobile vegetable stand, with his goods already packed into small plastic bags. And a tall green mosque as the backdrop.

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As usual, I got a lot of attention. Being white, with orange hair I presume. The women all shouted hello and waved at me. Gangs of boys shouted at me and said they wanted to kiss me. Lovely. All pretty harmless, but all the attention is quite annoying.

So I headed back to the beach. Today the water was like glass. And a light mist hung above the water, partially hiding the mountains to the eastern side of the city. It was so pretty. I got some takeaway toast from the cafe near to where I was staying (£2 most expensive toast ever!) for later.

And at 9.30am I left for the short drive back to the airport. Everything is pretty expensive here. $10 just to go about 10 minutes through the village back to the airport. The airport is very old and tiny. This is quite standard for domestic airports in this part of the world. But not usually for an international airport. No queue at check in (a dingy desk in the corner of a small room). An annoying $10 departure tax.

And no one at the immigration stand. They opened immigration barely an hour before the flight left. No need to work more than you need to! The waiting room was rather annoying. No water. No shops (not that I was expecting a shop, but a stand selling water would have been nice). And not even any running water in the bathrooms…! It’s been such a short stay, should have been longer really, I like it here. But onto the next adventure….

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