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Its all part of the adventure

Timor Leste with Whitey.

TIMOR-LESTE | Saturday, 14 April 2012 | Views [1760] | Comments [1]

Whitey waves farewell to Dili.

Whitey waves farewell to Dili.

Why is Timor Leste not yet trampled on by a million Australian tourists who have a love for all things adventure?

It’s closer than Bali. It’s as warm as Bali. It’s not as crowded with tourists as Bali.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Bali and try to find a yearly excuse to make the 6 hour trip. And nothing will change that. Ever. Bali is in my heart.

But.... Timor Leste is just as beautiful!

On arriving into the quaint little airport in Dilli, my travel partner (Whitey) and I headed to our beachside hotel. We had the option of staying closer to the main street, but decided on the Hotel Esplanade across from the beach so we could enjoy the palm tree sunsets with our cocktails. Neither of us had been to Timor Leste before, this was a work assignment and we were extremely excited.

The weather was humid which called for a quick dip in our hotel pool before heading out on “work” visits. I may travel to the tropics a lot, but somehow always forget how horrible working in a suit in the tropics can be. Jacket-less, we went on our rounds.

Thankfully we were provided with an air conditioned car and a lovely driver - a young man who spoke 8 languages despite his lack of formal education. His English was perfect and he welcomed our barrage of questions. Nothing was a bother for him. Nothing was out of bounds including the recent independence and riots.

He drove us to the most Northern end of the beach to visit the large statue of Jesus and I was amazed at how clean and well maintained the beach and streets were. Little shade houses dotted the beachside along paved walkways with pop-up restaurants where you could sit and watch the sunset while downing beers. We didn’t trek the small mountain to touch the toes of Jesus, the heat was too much and we were in work clothes (a decent excuse), but we did get out of the car and take a million photos of the large presence that is the Holy Man on the Hill.

Timor Leste is predominantly Catholic after the Portuguese invasion and the commitment to this religion is omnipresent. Churches line some of the streets, and the jewellery of choice for most people is a cross around the neck.

The people of East Timor are some of the most gracious people I have ever met. Humble, friendly and forever smiling. Every person we came across was eager to talk with us and share their love of their country. Like most islands, there was laid back casual approach to life. Children smiled and giggled at us as we walked past them, some cheekily touching our arms. Women were shy at first but laughed along with us as we tested our Spanish on them.

We’d heard the rumours from some of the locals of the crocodiles that sometimes walk up the beach near our hotel. We didn’t see any bones on the beach, or the swishing tails of a happy croc, but we decided to swim in our hotel pool just in case the rumours were true. Dili National Hospital is very basic, it was doubtful they could manage a croc bite if one should enter the crowded emergency department.

The wildlife was minimal in Dili. We came across some freaky cats and a few suspect rabid dogs. Farms outside Dili provide the restaurants with delicious tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh seafood is caught daily in the Dili harbour by local fishermen and most of the red meat is imported from Australia.

The food. Oh, the food. We found some cute little Portuguese style bakeries and beachside cafes - and then we found our favourites. Castaways was our breakfast and lunch spot and for a special dinner, we dined at Nautilus. We ate in a private wooden pavilion with comfy cushions and tea-light candles, dining on the nicest angus steak and creme brulee I have ever tasted. We indulged in expensive Australian red wine.

The Australian and New Zealand defence forces along with the UN have a strong presence in Dili still, however I didn’t find this either a comfort or unnerving. They were just there as part of the landscape.

My time in Dili was very special. I got to explore a new country, meet new people and laugh a lot with my dear friend Whitey. Since my return from Timor Leste, I have volunteered for a charity - Hospital of Hope who are building a new healthcare facility for the locals.

Dedicated to Dr Michael White who sadly passed away in September 2011.





Hi Lisa,

I was shocked last week to learn of Whitey's death. He and I were best friends in high school, although we drifted apart in the last couple of years and lost track of each other. I had been thinking about him and decided to try tracking him down, only to discover he had passed away... feeling quite shaken and regretful I had not done this five years ago. I'm tossing up whether to go and visit his Dad - seems he is still alive and living in the same family home from the '80s, but not sure whether he would welcome the reminder. You have been the only tangible link on the web I have been able to find with a means to make contact.

Would you be so kind as to fill me in with what you know about his last years and how he passed? I'm happy to provide you with a phone number if you want to satisfy yourself that I'm not some weirdo stalker!

Thank you,

  Andrew Warren Mar 4, 2016 11:52 AM

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