Timor Leste & Indonesia – July 2011
There are times when you are travelling without much of a plan and everything falls into place. Then there are times when you are travelling without much of a plan and everything falls to pieces. Everything almost fell to pieces when we were travelling between Timor Leste and Indonesia in July of 2011. But a series of lucky coincidences came to the rescue.
We left Dili, the capital of Timor Leste, on an overnight ferry to Oecussi, a Timorese enclave inside Indonesia’s West Timor territory. We had only realised that day, however, that all accommodation in Oecussi was booked out entirely. We had nowhere to stay. We had even started to contemplate the possibility of spending a night on the streets. But luck was on our side.
Lucky Coincidence #1: Luckily, that day we had met a woman who works in Dili and knew of an Australian expat who lived in Oecussi. His name was Justin and he just happened to be travelling on the same ferry we were that night. We had his phone number and, once we were settled in on the ferry, we gave him a call. He was pretty surprised to receive a random call from a bunch of homeless Aussies on the same ferry he was on, but we were lucky – he was a nice guy and was kind enough to offer us his place to crash for the night.
Lucky Coincidence # 2: Once we arrived in Oecussi we met another Australian expat, Mark, who had lived in Timor Leste for years and was currently setting up a hotel and restaurant with his wife. The hotel was still under construction, but they were able to open the restaurant for us. Dinner and breakfast was sorted.
Lucky Coincidence #3: Justin’s place was pretty small and it was a bit of a squeeze for all nine of us. Luckily, Mark knew the people who lived across the road and they just happened to be away that night. A few of us still stayed at Justin’s place, but the rest stayed across the road where there was much more room. A night that could have potentially been spent out on the streets was instead spent in comfortable warm beds inside not only one but two houses.
The next morning we were set to leave Oecussi and cross over the border into Indonesian territory. We had it all worked out – someone was even picking us up from the border and taking us to our accommodation in Kefa.
On most days this would be a pretty easy task, we’d hail a microlet (a small bus) and be on our way. Except this was not most days. The Timor Leste Ministry of Transport had decided that morning to have a massive crack down on all vehicle registrations and, being Timor, no one had their cars registered. There was virtually no cars on the road. There were no microlet’s available to come pick us up and take us to the border.
Lucky Coincidence #4: Our new mate Mark was able to help us out – he and some of the guys went to track down a somewhat reliable vehicle for what would hopefully be a cheap price. After a while they returned with our new mode of transport – a big truck.
The truck was an adventure in itself. Sitting up on wooden slats suspended above the floor of the truck, we laughed and reminisced about the crazy 48 hours we had just had. Finally, feeling a little bit like we were being smuggled over the border, we had made it and said our last goodbyes to Timor Leste.
However, now across the border, we realised that our ride from the border to Kefa in Indonesia had made a mistake. We were at the Oecussi-Indonesia border, but they were waiting for us at the Timor Leste-Indonesia border. Oops. We had a bit of a wait there, but that just gave us some time to play frisbee and soccer with some the local kids.
It was a pretty unusual 48 hours. We were so lucky to meet the people that we did and all the random circumstances had led us to have some of the most incredible experiences – we had stayed in random houses, travelled in the back of a truck, played games with local children. It all worked out in the end. We had made it to where we needed to be and had spent our final days in Timor Leste in true Timorese style.
Note: Photos by Navin Ramrakha