Returning to Dili & final thoughts on East Timor

After the usual breakfast we jumped into the car for Dili via Dare. The fog shrouded the mountains on our way out and the drizzle and cool air meant that we left Maubisse in jumpers. The drizzle was soon behind us though as we lost altitude and by 10:30 the sun was blaring hot and we swapped the thermals for sunscreen.

IMG_0520The memorial/museum/cafeat Dare was not as impressive as we had hoped though mainly we were disappointed about the lack of coffee (ie none). The coffee grown here is strong and black and smooth and we haven’t yet had a good cup of it – saving it for Dare. But the museum did have a great exhibition about WWII and copies of the flyers dropped from planes by the Australians as they left saying ‘your friends do not forget you’.

We continued the winding road downhill which is in much better condition than many of the roads we have been on. Arriving in Dili we checked in to the same hotel we stayed in before, did the obligatory supermarket run and then Emma and Victor took the Prado back ready for a debate and for doing a runner but Victor’s apologies were met with ‘it happens all the time’ and ‘we’re just glad nobody was hurt’. The afternoon was very low key doing drafts for the blog as internet is very rare anywhere outside Dili. The heat today has been accompanied by some relative humidity (and mosquitoes) so relaxing and preparing for the next destination was pretty much all we did that afternoon. That night we had our final dinner with Victor as he was heading off to Atauro Island just off the coast in front of Dili.

Our last day in Dili was spent visiting the Santa Cruz Cemetary – a harrowing place once you have seen the video footage of the massacre which took place not that long ago. Followed by the Resistance Museum, a fantastic new museum, which gave us a greater sense of not only how recent the atrocities here have occurred by the perseverance of the people and the scars that must be in the minds of many people we meet.

Closing thoughts on East Timor

East Timor has surpassed all of our expectations. We wanted to experience the country while it was still developing and before it has tourist infrastructure. What we found is that it offers everything a traveller should want (except decent internet). Sure, the roads are a bit rough and its a slow bumpy ride to get anywhere but it is a developing country. The scenery is stunning and the people are the friendliest you would ever want to meet. Everyone will go out of their way to make sure you are able to do or see whatever it is you are hoping to. They smile with the biggest smiles you have ever seen, kids wave to you and shout as you drive by. Adults wave too with cries of ‘buen tarde’. They haven’t interacted with foreigners that much and they are genuinely curious.

During the procession at Baucau as it went dark we bumped into the final part of the procession so sat on a small low wall and waited as it went past. People were walking on the footpath directly in front of us and Marie was at perfect ‘child’ height. In the dark a few of the children as they passed, sneakily but gently touched her arm – curiosity getting the better of them.

In Maubisse an old woman in traditional dress was brave enough to walk up to us and shake our hands. Marie was the last in line to have this encounter but instead of letting go the old lady just held on and kept shaking and shaking it until she was ready to let go – again with a big smile and eye contact – she was just curious.

Possibly most importantly, tourists are genuinely wanted here and people are genuinely happy to see you. The country needs tourists to help it develop but those that do blaze the trail need to do so with care as they will shape people’s attitudes towards tourists in the future. We would love to keep it as our secret and we don’t want it to change and selfishly have enjoyed seeing less tourists than we have fingers but the need for tourism here is greater so we have to end by saying everyone should come.

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