Sunday, 29 July 2012

4WD Tour to Maubisse

Hi everyone,
Yesterday (Saturday) we had a great day driving from Dili to Maubisse in the central highlands and return.  We departed at 0800 and were back at our hotel at 1730.  Our 4WD driver Afonso spoke English quite well and it was very interesting talking to him during the day.  He is from eastern East Timor, near Jaco Island, and survived being shot by Indonesian soldiers during their occupation.

Driving out of Dili and up into the hills was interesting.  We passed one of the major market areas which was teeming with people.  As we headed up into the hills we got above the Dili smog and the temperature dropped rapidly.  Luckily there was no cloud over Dili or the southern hills so we had great views.

View from the hills back to Dili
View down a large river valley
The houses gradually thin out as one climbs the hills above Dili.  The road gradually worsens until there are large patches of unsealed road and large undulations and potholes in the tarmac.  There is obviously work going on to improve the roads, with large cuttings let into many hillsides to "smooth out" the worst hairpin corners (of which there are many).  The average speed for our trip was 20km/hr, which shows the roads are a little rough.

Very noticeable alongside the road once clear of Dili were the electricity poles carrying power inland.  Afonso explained that electricity was last year's project and that this year the government is focussing on roadworks.  It's great to see such clear improvements happening.  The power extended all the way to Maubisse and apparently provides the first ever reliable power to some of the towns along the way.

At Dare (pronounce Dah Ray) in the hills immediately above Dili there is a memorial to the cooperation between the East Timorese people and the Australian Army "Sparrow Force" which waged a guerrilla war against the Japanese during WW2.  The memorial is well worth a visit.  It has a great view of Dili, interesting information, a small cafe and is well kept.

Traditional village buildings

Memorial for 1942 massacre
Rice paddies in a river valley
From Dare we continued inland where we passed many coffee plantations.  Some surrounded small lakes formed near hilltops where no natural drainage occurs.  Most plantations have groves of tall Samtuku trees (very like Jacaranda) which provide shade for the smaller coffee trees.

The country changes dramatically between Dili and Maubisse.  Areas of coffee cultivation are mixed with river valleys filled with rice paddies and market gardens, and with areas where the hills are quite barren.  The latter reminded us of parts of Australia.

Lunch venue in Maubisse

Another memorial
All in all it was a great day.  Sometimes misfortunes have a silver lining and our being delayed in Dili has allowed us to see a lot more of East Timor.  It also allowed us to watch the Opening Ceremony at the London Olympics which we didn't expect!

Today (Sunday) we checked-out of the hotel and managed to get a ride out to Zen Again on a small powerboat which was escorting divers in Dili harbour.  It's blowing quite hard from the east here and the boat is jumping around uncomfortably.  Nonetheless it's good to be back aboard.  We've started listening in to the Sail Indonesia HF skeds.  As the fleet moves further north we should be able to play our part as radio backup for the fleet, despite not being where we expected to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment