Getting out of Maliana was fine, our guesthouse was at the top of the hill so we headed downhill and arrived in Balibo not long after. Victor got out the car and asked what seemed to be Pakistani military staff where the Balibo 5 house was. Turns out the guy he spoke to was a Major (the officer commanding or OC) and the guy with him, the captain of the Pakistani deployment based just outside Maliana and they were having a day off sightseeing so invited us to morning tea. No sooner had we jumped at the chance than a full set of tables and chairs arrived in the background. Pakistani hospitality is all that it is made up to be!
We became a bit of a tourist attraction with lots of photos being requested by the soldiers with us looking somewhat bemused. We took it as karma for our voyerism and did what the locals do here – smiled broadly and took it all in.
We were seated, reminding ourselves of the appropriate etiquette, as drinks arrived- then the food which was a fantastic chicken pakora and chickpea salad accompanied by yoghurt. So much flavour drove our tastebuds wild! The food in East Timor is pretty average and this burst of flavour made us very happy!
After talking to the OC, Captain and someone from the Pakistani Department of Internal Affairs about their time here we discovered that the NZ military personnel are highly regarded. The NZ Colonel gets around a lot apparently. After morning tea we headed up to the top of the fort for views and photos, the tables and chairs disappearing as quickly as they arrived. We stood for some more photos and then met the cook to whom we were very grateful – of course posing for a photo.
We left, heading down to the ‘Australian Flag House’ and the house where the journalists were shot (although all known as being Australian – there were actually 2 Aussies, 2 Kiwis and a Brit). We met a kiwi from Tawa who is part of the Stablisation Force. He was optimistic that they would be heading home in July after the elections. A large Australian Stablisation Force contingent were visiting the area for a break out of Dili and a history lesson so we exchanged a few hellos as we looked around.
From here we headed back to the coast skimming the Indonesian border, stopping at the coastal town of Maubara for the night. Its not too far but the roads are slow. The respite from the potholes are the stunning views into the life of the people here, thatched roofed huts which are homes to extended families, pigs, chickens, goats and dogs littering the road, the streams of children (literally 100’s) lining the roads to and from school in uniforms saying ‘buen tarde’ as we ride past and the brave ones shouting ‘Good Morning Miss how are you?’ And the preschoolers screaming out ‘malai! malai!’ giggling and waving. The people here are remarkable.
There is a 17th century fort in Maubara on the seafront and under the shady trees inside a nice area to sit and rest and have a drink. We sat and wrote for a while meeting and talking to some UN election observers from South America who to date are very confident things will go well.
They run a proportional voting system here so they were quite excited about what this means and in great anticipation of the results – everyone wants the process to go well.
We arranged accommodation at the convent (cheap, clean and we were hoping this time, quiet). These are the places to stay in East Timor – they are usually on the hill meaning the views are to die for here – a stunning sunset over the sea and this one has fantastic gardens, beautiful white washed walls and deep maroon coloured shutters. The evening prayers and singing are beautiful.
- People, especially guys have very well groomed hair.
- There is no street food here and there are a limited variety of meals when you eat out, mainly based on rice, noodle and chicken
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