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The Delights of Atauro Island

April 9, 2015 0 Comments

Thursday April 9

Greetings from Atauro Island, East Timor.

But before we go into the delights of the island, a bit more about Dili.  The government is working hard on developing a cultural shift in respect to rubbish (what we westerners call rubbish). In the mornings many government workers sweep the streets and parks. There are rubbish bins around, and education billboards about recycling and different bin selections.

We bumped into a member of the Australian Defence Force, one who is a long way up the food chain. He was very helpful in answering our questions about East Timor. One area of interest was about the freedom fighters holed out in the east.

In one of our eastern drives we passed a roadblock, where Timor Army staff were searching the trucks and buses, many of which were bringing villagers in for the Bishop’s funeral the following day. When we arrived at their roadblock, they saw our four little, old round pink faces, and just smiled and waved us through. It makes me wonder how the freedom fighters can remain hidden for so long in such a small area, when the people who are looking to kill them have been fighting in these areas for years.

On another note, we wondered why Timor doesn’t have a chicken industry. It turns out that Newcastle flu keeps killing them.

The Boat for our Dili to Atauro Island Trip

The Boat for our Dili to Atauro Island Trip

Now to Atauro Island: It’s about 30 km north of Dili, similar socio economic environment, with a rugged coast and a small population. The trip across the strait is usually $45 US per head each way in the water taxi, any day, or $5 on the car ferry, but only Saturdays. But today the water taxi had too few customers, so he took a private charter.

Our friend Caesar rustled up a fishing boat, so we came over on that for $10 each, and he will pick us up. The trip was an adventure of its own, and the guests at the guest house/bungalows where we are staying were impressed. Have a look at the photos. The craft is maybe 30 ft long, narrow and with a low freeboard, with bamboo outriggers. The outriggers are steel spiked and plastic-strapped to each other.

The weather we hit in the middle of the strait was close to its limit and at one stage we were only making one knot or so, because of the current. On board were four of us and four crew – the owner, two crewmates from his fishing operation and another local passenger. There was also cargo, including a new motorcycle tyre!

Having fun on the Boat Trip from Dili to Atauro Island

Having fun on the Boat Trip from Dili to Atauro Island

The two crewmates shared the baling and the stronger the sea, the more baling they had to do. Check the photo The owner and one crewman were skillfull, but the young one was a bit of a rev head and nearly nose-dived us once going too hard! It was a great trip…

It’s awesome here, with a nice grass hut for Lynn and I on the beach, with crystal water, coral, snorkeling and no people. Low key, low impact. This is a VERY good place to wait for your boat to come in! The water is about 25 degrees and visibility about 30 m. So nice…

After lunch I snorkelled out to the “drop off” and it turned out to be a one km return swim. On the way back the sea/channel was running out, so I had 30 to 40m of hard work to get back over the coral ledge. But we found another spot about 100 m down the beach, on the other side of a makeshift wharf, where the drop off and ledge are very close. Lynn and I’ll go there tomorrow.

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