Decided to investigate one of the apparently more remote regions in Timor over the weekend, the Turascai district. The level of concern from some of the other volunteers was endearing but a little surprising. It seems one assumption I had about the development crowd was that they were all mostly adventurous too, but it turns out that is not strictly true.
Left earlyish Saturday morning and had a beautiful ride through the mountains in Aileu district. Not Far from Aileu a brave Timorese flagged me down. Brave because most of them are toos cared to ride the bike in Dili, but this kid wanted a ride and who was I not to oblige. Besides, he would be able to point out my turn-off for me.
Road was fine with some big holes and one particularly bad stretch of roadworks but nothing like what was to come. Not long after I took the turn off for Turascai the road deteriorated into gravel, large rocks (about the size of Charlottes head I reckon, if she has the traditional Fuller boof-head anyway!) and clay but the bike handled it no problems. About at this point my camera also ran out of battery. Don’t give me that look, I charged it the night before! I think the connection must have been poor or the power went out and came back on again when I was asleep! Then I went around the bend and hit Turascais own mini-meterological system – rain and cold wind for the next 24 hrs until I passed the same point on my way out. I should point out that the mountains that pass through the middle of Timor from East to West are substantially, having a couple of peaks around the 3000 mark and one just in excess of 3000 meters high. Thats about the same as Australia’s largest mountain! All in a country smaller than Victoria and only about 100km wide!
The road became very slippery in the rain & I was hungry so I stopped and got some locals to cook me some lunch. As seems the culture, the women did all the work and then sat and watched while the men ate. This process was to repeat itself for the next two meals in Turascai. The plan back-fired as it was raining heavier when I left, but I was buoyed by reports that it wasn’t far and also at seeing two locals go past on the one bike! If they could do it on a 150cc glorified scooter with a pillion passenger I should be fine. And I was. I put the bike down in the mud and rocks twice but in very slow motion.
After an extended tour arounded Turascai sub-district checking out the road quality and existing renewable enrgy technology in place for work I asking for a place to stay in the small village of Beremana abd a few locals politely told me they had no beds available here and that if I didn;t want to freeze I should return to Meremana (the sub-district capital village). The local school teacher there had me introduced to the Suco chief in no time and I was promptly passed along to Salvador, the son of the a building constructor and put up in his nice house with a better bed and dinner than I get in Dili (Although Edy’s cooking is very good!).
I brushed up on my tetutm, he brushed up on his english and we both brushed up on our Indonesian. I found communiciating with these guys easier than communicating with a lot of people in Dili. It might be resentment in Dili, I hope not.
The return trip was interesting. It rained pretty much the whokle time I was in Turascai and the road was very slippery, I burnt a lot of rubber but also learnt a lot about riding through that kind of terrain. On the way home I took a detour off the main road in Aileu and passed down some much steeper roads in a similar condition but because they were dry there was no issue at all with them.
The views all along were breathtaking and the photo’s don’t do the steepness of the mountains or the depth of colour any justice.