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Timor – the divided island

de gb-gray
September/October 2014

It’s time for me to say goodbye to Indonesia. And soon to Asia.
Kupang is the major city and an important trade center in this part of Indonesia. I spend a while there, organize my visa for Timor-Leste and a few other things.


For tourists, there is not much to see in Kupang what might be because just not many tourists come here. I often had the experience that “tourist attractions” are just labeled to be one and are often not so special.

I ask a couple of students who have asked for a photo, what there is to see. They just know the nearby beach, which is pretty trashy and often full of people.

However, I have heard of a cave with an underground pond, called goa crystal. The girls have heard that before and after a few phone calls they know where the place is. We make an appointment for the next day. Finally after some searching and asking around we find the place. There is only a small entrance and at a certain time of the day the sunlight illuminates the crystal clear water inside.

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Riding to Timor-Leste

From Kupang it is 300 km to the eastern part of the island, which forms the state Timor-Leste. In three days I pedal the route which is quite mountainous. I often have to push as the roads are so steep. The landscape is dry and barren, the air significantly hotter and drier than on the other islands of Indonesia. It is more an Australian climate and temperatures are a good preparation for my next continent.


But first I want to see Timor-Leste, whose recent history is quite bloody. Immediately after independence from Portugal in 1975 the Indonesian army invaded and established a brutal system of oppression. Some estimates suggest nearly 200,000 deaths during the 25 years long reign of the mighty neigbour, leaving a population of just 800,000 people at 1999. The annexation by Indonesia was publicly condemned by the world, but behind the scenes, particularly endorsed by the American and the Australian Government for different interests. An interesting (and terrifying) documentation about the backgrounds and the genocide can be found here:

The Indonesian Geozide in East Timor

2002 Timor-Leste finally became an independent state.

Free are the people today, but every family mourns deaths and no one can forget the past. The country is the second poorest in Asia.
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The main road to Dili is mostly a dusty track. Few sections are paved, for years there are plans to improve the road. The villages consist of simple wooden constructs, it is not obvious from what the people actually live here. The children wear dirty and torn clothes, in the village shops the choices are very limited. jUS dollar is the official currency. However, there are state-owned coins, called centavos.

In the evening I try to sleep next to one of the churches, many people here are Christians. But a few curious boys insisted so long until they have finally persuaded me to stay with them. It is not a family home where they lead me to, but a school of the SOLS 24/7 initiative. SOLS stands for Science of Life studies and this NGO provides free education and accommodation for people who would otherwise have no access to education.


It’s a group of about 20 children and adolescents. The only teacher is a volunteer from Cambodia. He teaches the children not only in English but also character building, cooking and budgeting are on the agenda.



In general it is about promoting the potential of every human being and to teach him skills with which he can cope with life better.

I’m doing my part and show a short presentation for the children, to encourage them to dream and to show them everything is possible if you believe in yourself.

It is the first time that I hear about SOLS 24/7. At their website are more informations, I consider this program well worth supporting.




Dili, the capital, is, as expected, more modern than the rest of the country. The city is the economic center and most NGOs operate from here. White people in SUVs are therefore not an uncommon sight and tourists are encountered in the restaurants and cafes on the beach promenade. There are a few larger supermarkets. ATMs where you can withdraw money with a foreign card, however, can be counted on one hand. Between the main roads it looks more like a village, people live in modest circumstances.


I find accommodation in a diving school and can stay in a room for instructors. This is much cheaper than a hotel room, which are relatively expensive in Dili. Volker, the German owner,takes me snorkeling and lend me another day even his underwater camera. Just five minutes away is a great reef, even a rare dugong lives here.



The dive sites in Timor Leste are a secret spot for some divers, I hear they are among the best in the world.


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Even otherwise, the country has some tourism potential. White beaches with turquoise waters stretch along the coast. The inland is very mountainous and ideal for trekking.


I spend a week in Dili, too lazy to get again on my bike to explore the country. I leave the city only for na fishing trip with new friends. Eryk and Szymon are two motorcyclists from Poland on their way to Australia. I met them just outside the city for the first time on their packed motorcycles.



After a few minutes of conversation it was clear that we have mutual friends. Almost two years ago I met Max and Chris with their motorcycles. I have good memories of the days in Isfahan in Iran with the two guys and didn´t forget the joy of unexpected reunion in Pakistan’s Quetta was great. We had spent a few days together in a hotel, while the two had to wait for their approval for a police escort. Quetta wasn´t so safe at that time and we left the hotel only to get some food arond the corner. The short time together has made us friends, a reunion was planned though unclear when or where. Chris and Max were on a ride around the world, that was their dream and they had almost made it. But in Ecuador Max then had an accident, he died at the accident site and the tour was finished. Chris had to return to Poland alone.

But back to fishing:

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I´m searching for a sailingboat which can take me and my bike to Australia. I talked to someone who knows well about the boats in the harbor, but chances are not very high this time of the year. Most boats are coming from Australia and another cyclist hasn´t been able to find a boat a few weeks ago.

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So I have no choice but to book a flight to Darwin, the nearest city in Australia, it is only 700 km. It is the second flight on this journey which is unavoidable. 15 months ago I had to fly from Nepal to Thailand because the borders with Myanmar were closed at the time. On October 8, 2014 I´m cycling early in the morning to the Presidente Nicolau Lobato airport. A new stage of my journey is about to begin.

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