Eric and I set a rendez-vous point for the eastern end of Timor island between 10 -12 October. Eric would be on ALK with Hans, having departed Ambon a week before. I would arrive by some sort of transport at the remote eastern end of the island. Honestly, I was skeptical about the plan.
But, after a 4 days spent getting acquainted with Dili and an array of backpackers, conservationists and locals I managed to piece together the rudiments of the route to the hamlet of Com. The journey took the better part of two days, 2 over-packed busses and a 3 hour ride in the back of a flat bed truck. The buses both had seats for 19 passengers but managed to pack in more than 30 with people on the roof and hanging out the doors. On the second bus, I had the pleasure of standing on a 1 square food spot near the rear door surrounded by chain smokers and a family with a neon-green, life-size inflatable goat with truly demonic eyes.
But, overall the passengers were friendly and helpful with lots of offers of cigarettes and information about the towns we passed through. The road was not as bad as people had warned me, but it was awful. The 90 km from Dili to Baucau took nearly 5 hours. From Baucau the same distance took nearly 5 hours as well. The roads were often just a single lane of sealed road with dusty potholes in between.
I had to overnight in Baucau and found a really nice guesthouse close to the old Portuguese centre of town with some nice old buildings still remaining. It was hard to tell if the buildings were pockmarked from age, neglect or war. I guess it was a combination of all of the above.
The next morning, I set out for Com. According to the guesthouse I had to walk up to the roundabout and wait for the bus to Los Palos. It should cost USD3. The roundabout had a beautiful old banyan tree with a wall under it and seemed to be the main bus stop. The young students waiting on the wall were friendly and we chatted for a while. And the bus didn’t come. And it didn’t come. And then it came. But it was totally packed full – so I waited for the next one. When that one came, it was also full but I squeezed out my 1 square foot and off we went. My plan was to disembark in the town of Lautem where the coastal road veers south to the interior capital of Los Palos. Lautem came before I was expecting and I was so happy to get away from the bus and the chain smokers and the demonic goat.
I was then told to wait in the near-deserted fish market for the next vehicle to Com. The few people there were friendly and wanted to know all about where I was coming from and where I was going. They also told me that there were no more vehicles going to Com. I did not believe them until the two locals who got off the bus decided to walk there – 30km – and the local police woman came and said the same thing. So, I walked back to the roundabout where the bus dropped me and started to hitchhike. Within 5 minutes, an angguna passed, going to Com and I hopped in!
On arrival in Com, I found the rendezvous point with ease – its not a big place – and immediately spotted ALK anchored off the beach. What a joy it was to see the boat and the little dinghy coming across the water with Eric at the helm. It was time for a beer!