Our second night in a nunnery was all the peace and tranquility you would expect. The nunnery was on a hill side looking out to sea and we could hear the waves lapping the shoreline. Nuns don’t do it tough, the convent was really nice and it even had 3 thatched huts with tables and chairs looking out to sea.
We hit the road and followed the coast road back towards Dili until we hit a village called Tibar. There we turned inland and wound our way up the mountains. Some parts of the road were rough from wash outs. A couple of hours later we arrived at a large town called Glenco. Large it may be, but in the guidebook it is not. We bought a couple of bits from the market, but our main purpose for dropping in was so that Victor could score a SIM card, he got one for $3, in Dili people were asking for $50.
We doubled a short way back to a junction to cut across a hill top road in order to get to our destination of Maubisse. The road started off being the best we have driven on, the seal was barely damaged, we figured that was from a lack of use. We passed picturesque thatched huts that had coffee beans out drying on the tarmac.
The road followed a ridge line and we had fantastic views both sides that neither words nor photos could ever capture properly. Suddenly the road ended and it turned into a 4WD track, so we spent the next good while bouncing along. Eventually we came to a fork but had no idea which to take. Marie had spotted some huts and some guys working down the left fork. We took it and asked, so course we needed the right fork. One of the guys took the opportunity to ask if his mate could grab a lift and we readily agreed. The lad was 15 and lived in Aileu, he spoke a little English. His family looked a bit surprised when we dropped him off.
Maubisse is in the mountains and as we wound higher the temperature dropped, bliss! Again stunning scenery. We arrived and the 1st guesthouse we tried was full, but the guy took Emma to a couple more – people here usually make sure you are sorted out, and we soon scored beds in yet another nunnery. It was mid-afternoon so we dropped our kit and headed out to find food. Lower down the hill in the main town square we stumbled on a campaign rally for the Party Democratico. East Timor has recently had its presidential election (even with a change of president the election went very smoothly) and on 7th July there are the national parliamentary elections.
After getting a bit lost we eventually found the right road to the restaurant we were looking for, up a hill via a rough cobbled type road.
We cheekily flagged a lift up the hill to the restaurant and soon realised that it was part of the Party Democratica convoy who were heading up there for lunch. We were invited to eat with the group and of course accepted the offer. We also wanted to know more about the elections, the party, political priorities of the day etc. We ate with the President of the Party, who is currently the Speaker of the House and, we think, the Minister for Agriculture. Also there was the Minister for Finance. We sat next to the woman who is the Vice- President of the party. Maria’s English is excellent thanks to her working at the American Embassy for a number of years. We really loved talking to her about the country and it’s development. She described the need for a government that is focused on dealing with the basics – i.e clean water and good health facilities followed closely by access to employment and education – good governance (including justice and anti-corruption) being the last of an extensive list. She is an intelligent woman and described some of the difficulties the country has faced including the emergence and crackdown on youth gangs and how a 12 month crackdown was imposed, ending only 7 months ago –something that is now being carefully monitored. With a lack of things to do outside school creating boredom Party Democratica are wanting to create a better sense of belonging within communities with the development of sports clubs and activities for young people to participate in.
We enjoyed the energetic air of party campaigning. The company was fantastic and they loved hearing from us what we had done and how we had experienced the country. They were excited about how much we loved East Timor and had a clear message that tourism is wanted and needed here. During the end of the meal the party president stood up and draped a traditiona tais (scarf) he over Emma’s shoulders – the one HE had been wearing – and gave it to her with a big smile saying ‘Welcome’. The hospitality was fantastic and we felt privileged to have met these people at such an exciting time in the history of the country.
You just can’t predict the things that an happen here. Taking photos on the way down we met an elderly Australian couple also travelling, one of whom was an intelligence officer during Balibo 5. His version of events is very interesting and he is looking to write a book on the inquest.
We had put jumpers on when we arrived as we were very cold – it really is mountain air. By the time we had finished chatting and headed back up the hill to our accommodation we were cold enough to spend the evening in thermal trouser, jumpers, hats and coats (making all the big pack carrying worthwhile already). We were genuinely very cold. Under three blankets we slept to the noise of rain, no fan, no aircon, no music. It was heaven.
- People here shake our hands when they say hello and as we part. Its a hangover from the colonial Portugese days, but is very nice and makes you feel very welcome
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