Sun, Sand, Sea and Sweat in East Timor

Moire is in East Timor. My facebook profile flashes up as updated just ‘a moment ago’. I’m on the job again, this time in a far-flung formerly-turbulent island off the coast of Australia. No sooner than I’ve landed, I’m sniffing out my morning running route.

The capital Dili is a tiny city. It has the feel of a Mediterranean sea-side town, buildings all one-storey, max two. Granted however, with a country population of 1.5 million, your centre is bound to be small.

From the middle of town where I stay, I’ve run and reached the city limits in less than 18 minutes. But even those 18 minutes are trod on a peaceful path: none of this normal mayhem of developing country city streets.

My journey starts along broad tarmac boulevards lined with renovated buildings from the Portuguese period. After 10 minutes, I’ve already reached the sea, and decide to stick to its shore. I follow the coast road round, contouring below hills rising dramatically straight out from the sea. Just off the road and beside the beach, I pass a few hut-like straw-thatched restaurants: tonight these will serve up freshly grilled fish and frozen beers for foreigners as they enjoy the evening’s sea-breeze.

On a long run day, I go as far as the mini Rio statue of Jesus, another remnant of a Portuguese past. It stands perched on the last of these coastal hill mounds, arms cast wide to both welcome and ward off seafarers.

The blue waters below hold in turn promising fare, as fishermen and divers are all too aware. Over the weekend whales and dolphins and hammerhead sharks thrill the divers, whilst ½ metre red snappers are scooped up at night and lined out by dawn on the roadside fish stalls.

Running home, I race against the sun, its rays already breeching the hills’ shade. The traffic’s a little heavier now, with Pajero after Pajero marked UN on the side, doing their daily patrols.

East Timor is a true gem with gentle people and stunning scenery. With peace restored and tourism a priority, hopefully others too will soon discover the overwhelming beauty held by this brand new nation.

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