With my motorbike packed into a shipping container in Darwin I decided to fly into Timor Leste and explore the capital city Dili before the bikes arrival. The beauty of the Country was evident as the plane descended into the airport, Dili is a city bordered by ocean on one side and rugged, green mountain ranges on the other. The city is absolutely chaotic, I was greeted a constant stream of beeping traffic along the main road that seemingly pays no attention to any form of known road rules. The effect of the war is still evident in Dili, as with other towns and villages throughout Timor Leste, so too is the large divide between the wealthy and those living in poverty. Without my bike my main form of transport was by foot, this gave me the opportunity to explore some of the less visited and less well off areas of the city. Even in these areas the people were quite friendly, westerners walking through their neighbourhood was obviously still quite a novelty, it was a sobering sight to see the local people go about their everyday lives in the most basic of conditions and do it with a positive attitude.
I set about seeing the tourist sights of Dili, the Christ statue that sits atop its hill overlooking the city was a great walk, passing the local waterfront fruit markets, harbor and some idyllic beaches on the way. I’d heard the diving surrounding the island was some of the world’s best, so a few dives were definitely on the agenda, because of tides and a broken boat we dived off Dili rock which was interesting but certainly didn’t live up to the areas reputation. The snorkeling on the other hand was absolutely spectacular, the Christ statue back beach and Atauro Island both provided some of the best snorkeling I have ever experienced. I was lucky enough to bump into a few really nice ex pats who gave me a little local info over a few beers, thanks to these guys I discovered he food stalls along a lesser known beach that served flame grilled fish, skewered on a bamboo stick, with rice and chillie sauce, dubbed “fish on a stick”, this was a nightly tradition for myself and some other travelers that I was staying with. I also found out where the local cock fights were held, having never been to one it was quite the experience. The arena where the cocks fought was surrounded by punters all shouting to make bets or cheer their rooster on, it was an amazing atmosphere. I met a local that spoke quite good English who explained how it all worked, I even managed to put in a few bets and walk away with an extra 10 bucks. A few unintentional, classic quotes were spawned when explaining to other travelers how we found the place, the best goes to Shirley with “We just saw this guy walking down the street with his cock in his hand and decided to follow him”.
My bike was delayed by a week and the resulting 8 Days straight in Dilli was probably 4 days too many. To escape from Dili a group of us decided to take the $5 ferry to Atauro Island for 2 days, it was an exceptional few days on what can genuinely be described as an island paradise. The main resort, called “Barry’s” was booked out due to the long weekend so we stayed in some very modest huts that sat right on the beach. The attitude of the people here just seemed much friendlier than those living in the city of Dili, the pace of life was much slower and the locals seemed much happier. The Saturday markets were a must see, the stalls are sprawled along the beach and it was definitely worth soaking up the atmosphere sipping on a coconut juice. We walked to most places that we visited, the village of Villa was a really nice place to explore, with fishing boats lined up along its beach. We hired an outrigger canoe for $1.50 a day and attempted to catch fish for dinner, much to the amusement of the others we made it about 20 meters before flipping and then having to franticly swim after our possession as they almost floated away. Needless to say, we went to Barry’s restaurant for meals after that, this ended up being a highlight, not only was the food good and the beer cold but Barry was a really interesting guy to talk too, a genuine person that seemed to have the best interests of the local people in mind. After mastering the outrigger and managing to stay balanced we were able to use it to get us to some remarkable snorkeling locations, I think the others were a little disappointed that they were no longer able to have a laugh at our expense because of our poor canoeing skills. The Ferry only sails on a Saturday so we paid $10 to catch a ride back on a smallish fishing boat, these leave at 4am in the morning and take 2 ½ hours to get to Dili, it was a great experience as was watching the sunrise from the water. The only regret I have about Atauro was that I couldn’t stay longer and explore the mountains on the island, having said that my bike was due to arrive the next day and I was very keen to start exploring Timor Leste on Motorbike.
The next 2 days were spent travelling between the Toll office and the Customs office on the wharf, frustratingly on opposite sides of the city, to get my paperwork sorted before I could pick the bike up. When I was finally told I could take possession of the bike on the afternoon of the second day I was more than a little nervous, I had chosen to ship the bike without a crate and I was more than a little concerned that it may have been damaged in transit. In the end my fears were unwarranted, the guys at “”””” in Darwin did a great job tying the bike done and it arrived in perfect condition. After a 5 minute inspection from customs I reconnected the battery, Even though it was a simple task I seemed to have every worker within the Toll yard overseeing the process and providing advice. With the bike started I rode out of the Toll Yard and into the streets of Dili for the start of my international motorcycle adventure.