I jumped on my bike in the morning and headed out for a trip to the Eastern most point of Timor Leste (Jaco Island) via the northern coastal roads. I had quite enjoyed riding amongst the chaos of Dili traffic, however I was more than a little excited to take the bike out on its first overseas road trip. The road snaked its way uphill and out of Dili, it was like riding into a different country all together, what I was greeted by was a scenic, winding coastal road with pristine beaches to the left and lush forest to the right. Although not in the best condition the road to Baucau was a pleasure to ride, dodging the potholes and oncoming buses around blind corners just made it feel like more of an adventure and added to the enjoyment of the ride. Heading into the countryside also made it evident that tourism in Timor Leste is still in its infancy, a western tourist is still quite a novelty and one traveling the country on a fully loaded BMW 1200 is something that draws everybody’s attention. The people in the Villages were extremely friendly, to the point that my arm was getting sore from waving back to everybody I passed. Even a short stop to get food would result in a crowd forming to see the Beemer and any local that could speak English would generally wave you over for the opportunity of a chat. The road changes from coastal to mountain passes and back again, passing through many beautiful little villages on the way to Baucau, Timor Leste’s second largest city. Surrounded by forest and with a definite Portuguese influence Baucau was a really interesting place to visit. The bustling markets on the main street is the hub for locals, the ride down to the beach is a few km but well worth it and to my surprise there was a very nice public swimming pool. We stayed at Melita guesthouse and had dinner at Amelia restaurant with a visit to the very upmarket Pousada resort for crème brule for desert, something I didn’t think I would be doing in Timor Leste.
Upon leaving Baucau I headed further East along the coastal road until I reached the very pretty resort town of Com, the beaches I passed on the way were stunning although numerous recent crocodile sightings and advice from locals not to take a dip ensured I stayed well away from the water. There were plenty of very nice guest houses to choose from in Com, however the rain had set in so after sheltering in a restaurant for lunch and meeting a couple travelling on motorcycle to Tutuala Beach I decided to join them for the trip. The road from Com to Tutuala was covered in pot holes or didn’t exist at all, they were certainly the worst roads I had encountered in Timor Leste so far, on the other hand it was just the type of riding I was looking forward to so I enjoyed every km. We arrived at Tutuala and had to decide whether or not to do the 8km downhill stretch (described in the lonely planet guide as “A rough, rocky track strictly for 4wd’s and a test of your wits”), we decided to give it a go. I was only a few km down the track before I was having serious doubts as to whether I would make it down let alone back up again, trying to manhandle a bike the size of the Beemer that weighed around 300kg fully loaded was absolutely exhausting. Somehow we eventually made it to the bottom of that god awful track without dropping the bike once, I got off drenched in sweat to sit on the glorious, flat ground of Tutuala beach and give my aching muscles a rest.
The nightmare ride down the hill was worth it, we stayed at a locally run tourist village with views of the beach and across to Jaco island. I’d be lying if I said I was totally relaxed in this idyllic setting, lingering in the back of my mind was the thought of whether I’d make it back up the hill and if I didn’t make it what my options would be in this isolated pocket of Timor Leste. We spent the next morning enjoying the surroundings and in the early afternoon we attempted the hill, I approached it with trepidation, I lead the way, followed by my travel companions on a much smaller and lighter bike, ready to provide assistance if needed. In the end my concerns were unfounded, the Beemer lapped up the climb, even the steepest and most technical sections, although challenging we accomplished it with little incident. I was over the moon, not just for making it up the hill without breaking the bike or myself but more for the fact that this was the first real test of serious adventure riding that I had put the Beemer through and it passed with flying colours. We were soon back on the road heading to Baucau with the promise of a celebratory beer on arrival.
It was a short overnight stay in Baucau before heading south to the towns of Ossu and Loi Hunu, this was mountain country and was my first ride into the interior of Timor Leste. My first problem reared its head when I attempted to take money out at Baucau’s only ATM, it was out of cash and there was no other way to get money out in town, this is a common problem in Timor Leste with even the capital Dili often having no cash available in its ATM’s. I pushed on with the few dollars that I had left and had a thoroughly enjoyable ride to Loi Hunu, on the way I passed some Japanese caves from world war II that warranted some exploring. As I climbed into the mountains the higher altitude brought rain with it, as the heavens opened up streams of water flowed down the dirt roads, although I was soaked through and the roads were becoming a little treacherous, it didn’t dampen my spirits for the scenic, mountain ride. I had now seen much of the East so it was with a little disappointment that I headed back along the coastal road to Dili to prepare for a visit to the south of Timor Leste and a climb to the top of Mount Ramelau, the countries highest mountain.