The coastal road west to the Indonesian border was a picturesque ride, it wound its way through beachside villages and at times climbed to offer stunning ocean views. Road works for over a 100 km to the town of Liquicia made the going slow and very dusty, I was extremely happy to check into the Blackrock resort, which offered waterfront tents, great food and most importantly the first shower with hot, running water that I’d seen in days. The road improved from Liquicia to the border town of Batugade, there were still plenty of potholes but at least the huge stretch of dusty road works were at an end. From Batugarde I turned inland and headed to the town of Marobo, a weekend getaway for the local people with natural hot springs. On the way I passed through the town of Balibo, 5 journalists working for Australian T.V networks were massacred here during the Indonesian invasion on 16 October 1975. They painted an Australian flag on the wall of the house where they were staying in the hope that they would be spared by Indonesion forces, the house, with a copy of the painted flag on its wall has been restored by the Australian government and tells the story of the Balibo 5.
As I left Balibo I was confronted by the bests roads I had seen throughout Timor Leste, they had obviously recently been repaved and there wasn’t a pothole in sight all the way to Mariana. The new roads were short lived though, it seems that as soon as you venture into the inland hills of Timor Leste the roads degrade severely, the ride from Mariana to the towns of Marobo and Bobonaro were no exception, steep, cobbled and full of potholes. As I ventured further into the hills the local people spoke less English, communication reverted back to sign language which I think was amusing to everybody involved but got me to my destination. Once again the tough ride was worth it, the towns and the scenery getting there were spectacular, as much as I was enjoying the offroad adventure I must admit I was looking forward to getting on the smooth roads back to Balibo. On arrival I was advised by a local volunteer worker that the local Nunnery, although a little pricey was a good place to stay, I headed over and on arrival chatted to a few more volunteers and the local parish priest who offered to let me stay in the churches accommodation. He was a little apologetic about the basic accommodation and meals but I thought it was great, it was as good as any guesthouse I had stayed in throughout Timor Leste and I got the chance to meet plenty of locals, it was definitely a different experience. Amazingly when I left and offered to pay he strongly refused saying that he was happy to of had the opportunity to practice his English, It was a great reminder of the generosity of the people I had met in Timor Leste, I headed to the Indonesian border in great spirits, I was a little sad to be leaving but excited to tackle my first border crossing and a new country