Travel: The end of the road in Timor

Paul Ricciardo
Swellnet Dispatch

Back in the summer of 2000/2001, as a naïve and idealistic eighteen-year old, I left the dry summer heat of Western Australia, for the tropics of East Timor. I believed that after completing one year of medical studies I was well equipped to deal with the flailing health needs of a new nation recovering from years of war – nice belief!  

I also thought that my year spent in Brazil on exchange two years previously could redeem itself as not purely having taught me a fine appreciation of how to party, but perhaps also equipping me with some half-decent fluency in Portuguese which I could make use of in the old Portuguese colony of Timor. And so I ended up spending three months in Aileu, a small village up in the mountains from Dili, teaching in the local high school and working in the health clinic. The work was intense. It sure wasn’t your typical summer-break holiday.

The international peace-keeping force were still floating around in large numbers, enjoying their decaf soy lattes in the recently erected “western” cafes in Dili whilst sporting their glowing red faces, courtesy of the malaria prophylactic medication – more common than the common cold in these parts of the world. Most of the atrocities stemming from the 1999 vote for independence had settled down, but every so often word floated around of some wild things going on down near Timor's East/West border.

Christmas came around, and I had four days off school, and there stemmed my ulterior motive of heading to Timor. When I had first arrived in town, the mountain people of Aileu couldn’t understand what that six foot piece of fibreglass under my arm could possibly be used for. They couldn’t understand its use any easier a couple of months later, as they flocked around enchanted by the weird object whilst I stood in the middle of betel-nut spitting old lasses and old fellas running cockfights in the market square, waiting as patiently as a westerner can, for some kind of lift to the south coast. 

As a day of waiting was drawing to an end, and the men started to part with either money and a proud rooster in arms, or no money and a dead rooster for the evening meal, I heard a shout, “Mister, you are heading down to Suai hey? Jump on.” So I did and found myself in the back of a rear-end loader with half a tonne of building stones, my board, two Timorese men and their newly bought pet pig Roderigo. I was heading to the south coast, where I was certain there was a window for swell to enter between the north coast of Australia and Timor – I was going to find some surf.

The anticipation of waves was rampant. I could feel it in the cool mountain air as we wound our way around mountain and down valley, snuggling up to the warmth of Roderigo. I could feel it in my bones, yearning for a break from this two month drought of no surf. It's all I could think about as sleeping was near impossible on my Buddhist monk-like bed of rocks. Arriving at dawn in Suai, I couldn’t help but notice a change in vibe, where had all those happy smiles from the Timorese I was used to gone? Why was no-one happy to talk to me? Oh well, save those thoughts for the trip home I thought, take me to the coast, coat my body in salt water.

The next two days were painful. I spent most time on foot, occasionally getting a ride on the back of a Ute, trying to scope out as much of the coast as I could. At night I pitched up a mosquito net and lay my board bag underneath a door way in an abandoned burnt-down and graffiti-ridden Indonesian Barracks. I couldn’t complain about the location, prime real estate on the beach.  But for some reason I didn’t manage much sleep in between the stifling heat and my mind wandering to what may have gone on not that long ago where I was sleeping.  

After a couple solid days of exploring I was still unsure whether this stretch of coastline ever got quality surf. Whether decent swell never made it to the coastline, or whether there was just little swell running whilst I was there, I was undecided. Either way I knew the potential was insane. The northwest trade-winds were blowing a perfect all day offshore, and there was an abundance of set-ups – pointbreaks, rivermouths, beachies, and reefbreaks. All that was needed was swell. I had convinced myself before arrival that I was only getting into the “saltwater crocodile” infested waters if it was cranking. God damn those perfectly peeling knee high waves!

"The potential was insane" (Paul Ricciardo)

A little disappointed, but somewhat relieved to be leaving this strange environment, I made my way to the UN building in Suai where I had heard a bus was leaving at dawn the next morning. The local Timorese “security” at the door, like the mountain people of Aileu, had never seen a surf board before. Trying to explain the idea of catching waves to them was as foreign as trying to tell an ant about a horse in the other side of the paddock. Conversation grew mundane, until one of them briefly mentioned something which had previously crossed my mind, “these waves you talk about, I have seen some of them, bigger than those here, up near the border, not far from here, maybe two or three hours.”

It was logical – the further west the more open the coast was to swell. My mind started ticking: leave the board here at the UN building, head west towards the border, have a look, get out of there before sunset, and back in time for the bus. I wasn’t yet convinced there were no waves, it had to be done. So leaving with a couple American dollars for a lift in my back pocket I set out on the road, keen as mustard. A standard taxi-ute full of people picked me up, and out spluttered the crude petrol as we worked our way up the coast. The man took me as far as he went, some distance past the small village of Suai Loro. 

I wasn’t quite thinking about how I would get back and was completely unaware of the hostile looks I was receiving. I had exploration on the mind and floundered forward towards a battered path to the coast. I liked what I saw, there was definitely more swell, maybe head high sets, but no setup in eye sight. I was startled by a group of young kids who must have followed me to the beach, and now started asking me what I was doing. Foreseeing the futility of describing the concept of surfing, I said I was just going for a walk and wanted to keep heading up towards the border. 

I was stopped in my tracks by a lad barely out of his nappies with the face of a man who had lived one hundred years, “No mister! Very dangerous, they will kill you there.” My cloud of surf discovery happiness fell apart in a heavy downpour, what followed were horror stories of lives being lost as recently as three days previously, family members disappearing, gunshots being heard everywhere. From their mouths it seemed that constant battle was still ongoing between local pro-Indonesia militia and pro-independence Timorese. These were stories that barely even made their way to Dili, let alone to international media. I suddenly lost that urge to find surf. Being the only white person within miles and with the sun starting to make its way to the horizon, maybe it was a good idea to get back to Suai.

Walking back through the village, every bad sign was picked up by my hypersensitive mind. There was no noise, only what seemed an endless road ahead to Suai. The looks being paid to me were not the standard looks of curiosity at the white foreigner, but rather the looks you receive from a testosterone-driven minor in a small country pub. The day was quickly fading and the suns rays were now barely making their way through the palm fringes. Fear really began to take hold when I noticed the same man ride past me for the third time on his bike…

”Vem ca, vem ca, senhor!”

The silence shattered in my ears as I snapped back into reality, hearing the old man across the road call me over in Portuguese. I sighed in relief, knowing well that only the older pro-Independence Timorese speak Portuguese, and made my way across the road where I was quickly ushered inside. I found myself amongst a group of elderly Timorese men who noticed me pass on my way to the beach and needed to speak to me. There was no talk of surf, no talk of what I had found on the beach, or how I was enjoying Timor, this was business.

“Senhor, please, everyone has forgotten us here. People still get killed, but no-one knows, no-one cares. Go tell your people, tell your Prime Minister, we need help.” I felt their frustration and fear, and wanted to stay to hear their story, but my vision had caught the sight of the man on his bike through the bare-glassed window. He looked through my eyes and sent a chill down my spine, it was time to get the hell out of there. I told the men I would try my best, would give little Johnny my standard weekly call, and as I left couldn’t help but feel like a martyr-to-be, as these men I had just met farewelled me with loving embraces.

Dame ba ami nia rain, Domin ba ita hotu, Timor ida deit [Peace to our land, Love to us all, Only one Timor]

I picked up the pace outside. My eyes focused on the ground in front of my feet, minimal contact is what I was going for. I could feel tension in every muscle of my body. I was fighting to keep my double-plugger thongs firmly on my feet. It’s not an easy task when walking at pace with a massive lubricating body of sweat surrounding calloused feet. “Please God, not the best time to bust a plug, grant these humble thongs a few more steps!” I begged. I couldn’t help but think I should have just stayed at the UN building and been satisfied there was no surf along this coast. 

“Hey! What are you doing here?” The man on the bike was alongside me. “What do you want? You are a journalist aren’t you, what did those men tell you?” 

“Nothing. No I’m not a journalist. I am looking for surf….”

Fuck, how am I going to explain that? Where is my board when I need it! I tried to excuse myself, and kept walking.

“What are you looking for, tell me!”

My path was stopped by a group of men in front of me. I had no choice, so there began my nervous ramble trying to explain the concept of surfing to another group of “surfvirgins”, only this time they were angry. And only this time it had now become a dozen pro-Indonesia Timorese men. And only this time I was unsure whether the machetes in their hands were used for cutting their gardens – surely you don’t get knuckles that white from holding your garden tools.

Everything was happening so quickly. I could tell they thought my description of lumps in the water was a hoax. I couldn’t see any path out of my personal machete-armed circle.  

“Please can I speak to the Chief of the village?”

“That’s me,” says my old friend on the bicycle. Well that’s just fucking brilliant I thought as he brought me a plastic chair and forced me to sit down in the middle of the circle. “You are staying here tonight.”

The scene was set. The sun was now gone, leaving an afterglow of dim light. There was a white man sitting on a chair in the middle of the road, and there were a group of angry machete-wielding men keeping him company. Headlines the next day were flashing through my mind. And then they stopped flashing, as I soon realised there would be no headlines. No-one knew were I was, and I am pretty sure my friendly chief on the bike wasn’t going to tell them.

Voices rose, fists were flared, emotions were rampant. In a moment of insanity my mind denounced surfing as the devil’s sin….. then all of a sudden heads turned away from me and looked down the street.  What was going on? Was there another pseudo-journalist looking for surf? I craned my head within a slither of vision, and just as the crunch of heavy tyres on the gravel drew to a standstill, I saw an army truck spill forth a dozen of my now favourite New Zealand troops!  My mind was in slow mode but action was at full speed. Six of the best kept their trusty AK-47s on target, as one walked over and escorted me back to the truck. As quickly as the truck arrived, it did a U-turn and was gone. But thank fuck, for I had joined the party for the trip back. 

“Are you all right, mate?”  

Oh how that New Zealand accent rung church bells in my ears.

“Yeah, I think so, I didn’t have time to think, not quite sure what was going on.”  

The boys reckon they knew what was going on, they don’t point those AK-47s at every Tom, Dick and Roderigo. Turns out they were on their way to do the last border check for the evening. They told me there wouldn’t have been anyone coming past till morning, let alone five minutes later. It was the finest piece of best timing I’ve ever seen, couldn’t have scripted it better. They decided the border check could wait till the next day, and started driving back to Suai. A big Maori fella smiled, paused for a moment, and then bluntly asked what the fuck I was doing out that way.  

“I was looking for surf.”

It was the only thing said. But I tell you what, the laughter didn’t stop the whole way back to Suai. Definitely the best one-liner I’ve ever come up with.

// PAUL RICCIARDO

Comments

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 11:03am

Epic tale. Scary as hell.

Cheers.

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 11:03am

Faaark, great tale thanks for sharing.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 11:23am

Wow! Something to tell the grandkids.

A pig named Roderigo- there's gotta be a joke in there somewhere.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

Westofthelake's picture
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Westofthelake commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 11:58am

Great story - thanks for sharing.

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 12:10pm

Far out mate. That was wild.

Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 12:16pm

Woah... ah.. hmm..
Desperation results in bad decisions.
Good warning.

bill-poster's picture
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bill-poster commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 12:23pm

I'll bet that brings on the midnight chills when you think back on it?

One slight change, a wrong word, a rush of blood, and you're AWOL forever.

the-spleen_2's picture
the-spleen_2's picture
the-spleen_2 commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 12:35pm

Late night drive from La Libertad to San Salvador we were persuaded to hand over all our money and all it took was a few gestures with a semi automatic . I know how sweet the relief feels later on, but at least we scored good waves for our troubles.

Pete Matthews's picture
Pete Matthews's picture
Pete Matthews commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 12:49pm

sad well written story - are things really any better now in Timor....

dandandan's picture
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dandandan commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 1:32pm

I occasionally visit remote parts of West Timor side of the border for one of my gigs, and though there's not much talk of trouble there's still plenty of both brave and hushed talk about "Timor Merdeka" amongst the older fellas. Some of these villages have their ancestral land in both countries and its's always funny to rock up and ask where Mama Rosa is and have someone say "She went to Timor Leste to find her chickens" and another chime in with "Oh I hope she took her passport with her this time!"

tubeshooter's picture
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tubeshooter commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 1:00pm

Great read ,
Except the bloody kiwis are a bit of an anti climax. I was waiting for Antonio Banderas to stroll out of a dust storm carrying a board bag loaded with weapons and mowing down everyone around you.

amb's picture
amb's picture
amb commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 1:04pm

great story, but I don't think NZ troops ever used AK47s , but epic read felt like I was there.

snakeman's picture
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snakeman commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 1:05pm

So, did you ever find any surf while you were there.
Great read BTW

mcbain's picture
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mcbain commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 2:24pm

Great read. Did the NZ military use AK47s?

Bungan33's picture
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Bungan33 commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 3:42pm

Love it!

dinnerdish's picture
dinnerdish's picture
dinnerdish commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 6:29pm

and you thought you were looking for surf...what an adventure into the unknown.....great read

arohabro

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 9:12pm

Phew. You just know many people over the years get into pickles like that but no-one saves them. They dissapear...

I have some great old travel books full of hairy situations. Great reads safe on the couch.

One that came to mind was a guy in South Africa in the bush by himself who was attacked by a lion. The thing picked him up by his head and as he was carried along towards the pride it started to purr in pleased anticipation of a good dinner! He escaped during a brief re-adjustment of its grip on his skull.

Frogg

shoredump's picture
shoredump's picture
shoredump commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 7:19pm

Bloody hell. That puts the little old lady trying to steal my parking spot from me last week at Coles in perspective

Captainsurf's picture
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Captainsurf commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 9:50pm

Yeah wow that was....gnarly. Low odds of seeing the sunrise, I'd say, doesn't really sound like they wanted to make a friend or have a chat. That's the best rescue possible. Geez. Probably low odds on swell making it that way too!

spiggy topes's picture
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spiggy topes commented Monday, 11 May 2020 at 10:24pm

From ignorance comes anger sparking fear. A taut retelling amigo.

Terminal's picture
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Terminal commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 1:56am

Heavy story, Paul. So does your experience coincide timewise with the events described here involving little Johnny and Downer?

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xqegTsi6SiE

Paul Ricciardo's picture
Paul Ricciardo's picture
Paul Ricciardo commented Tuesday, 19 May 2020 at 11:50am

Great synopsis there in that clip Terminal. Only thing it doesn't mention in the timeline is the Timorese support for Australian/allied troops during WWII....... which makes the actions of the Australian Government in the clip even harder to swallow

Spuddups's picture
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Spuddups commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 7:19am

I studied Indonesian at University and also spent four years in the army reserves. I got out just before the Timor deployment. I reckon they probably would have asked me if I’d go there if I’d still been serving. I often think about the different turn my life could have taken had I ended up there. By the way, the NZ army at the time was equipped with Austrian Styer rifles. I think the Australians had the same.

djizzah's picture
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djizzah commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 9:59am

new zealanders with ak 47's? i call bullshit

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 10:10am

Who cares if it wasn't an AK47?
Not everyone's a gun expert.
They still would have been threatening looking weapons.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 10:27am

People calling bullshit over a gun ID?

I couldn't tell the difference between an AK47 and a WD40 but I know a big fucking gun when I see one.

Paul Ricciardo's picture
Paul Ricciardo's picture
Paul Ricciardo commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 11:05am

Thank you all for the time reading my story, I really appreciate the feedback.

I wrote it a short while after returning home in 2001, unknowingly at the time, but no doubt as some sort of self therapy! And then just sat on it all these years.

Something triggered the memory this last week, and I managed to find it in an old stash of hard drives hidden away in a storage lug.

It felt like the right time to share it. Including sharing it with my family for the first time - poor mum, odd Mother’s Day present for her this year!

To answer a few queries: I definitely do not know one assault rifle from another, and am very happy to be corrected; and I didn’t find any surf as that is where my search ended (though I still wonder).

Hoodie's picture
Hoodie's picture
Hoodie commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 1:30pm

Did you finish the medical degree?

Great read. Thanks

Paul Ricciardo's picture
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Paul Ricciardo commented Wednesday, 13 May 2020 at 11:40am

Thank you Hoodie.
Yes, finished up 2007 (had some travel time off along the way). Always hoped to get back to Timor in a medical capacity, but hasn't quite happened yet, hopefully in the future.

Angus McCrory's picture
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Angus McCrory commented Thursday, 14 May 2020 at 5:13pm

Spent some time with Maluk Timor in Dili 18 months ago. Didn't surf but a weekend trip to Atauro was a welcome relief.

surfstarved's picture
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surfstarved commented Friday, 15 May 2020 at 11:00am

Great story Paul and we're all glad you made it out and were able to share it, albeit belatedly. I've got a seven-year statute of limitations on telling my mum about some of the stupid shit I've done, although I still haven't told her about that time I got kidnapped by gangsters in Morocco back around the same time you were looking for waves in Timor. Perhaps now is the time...?

Don't let the bastards grind you down

Paul Ricciardo's picture
Paul Ricciardo's picture
Paul Ricciardo commented Tuesday, 19 May 2020 at 11:38am

Might just be, you will know when the time is right!

goofyfoot's picture
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goofyfoot commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 11:16am

Amazing how people can get fixated on one thing. Who gives a fuck if he didn’t i.d the gun correctly.
Great story Paul. Must of been terrifying

savanova's picture
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savanova commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 12:53pm

My girl and I were surfing through the Philippines late 90's, ended up in southern Mindanau. We were told we had to meet local Mayor for lunch. Over the light meal and conversation we were advised to enjoy ourselves but do not leave your hotel at night and lock the gate as he could not ensure our safety at night. Luckily the only probs we encountered was the troup of kids constantly following us and trying to touch my girls blonde hair.

p-funk's picture
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p-funk commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 4:43pm

News just in: Man reads thrilling story, but feels need to comment on specific detail in story that has fuck all to do with anything in a misguided attempt to validate his self worth.

radiationrules's picture
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radiationrules commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 4:55pm

what an amazing story, so well written and so scary; pear-shaped ending was probable, love a bit of lady luck and good fortune.

Paul > one of my subject matter interests is trauma and mapping trauma recovery. In context, its been clinically proven in recent times that recording and telling a trauma story too early in the recovery process can hinder recovery. One source of the research that I'm aware of is from the survivors of the Bali bombing in 2000 (?) The main reason is the reptilian part of our brain, that deals with trauma, has a very limited memory function. Such that it takes a while for the memories to re-enter the whole, via the mammalian brain, which has a very strong memory function. The point I'm trying to make is this story coming to the surface right now for you, is (possibly) because even though you had so accurately recorded the facts many years ago, there were reasons you didn't want to allow those facts to become a part of your external life. So bravo to you for sharing with family, friends and us strangers.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 5:46pm

What time frame are you referring to with the memory transferral ?

Weeks , months , years ?

radiationrules's picture
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radiationrules commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 7:08pm

it depends on the extent of the trauma and the individuals capacity to heal. The greater the data set, the greater conclusions that can be drawn. For example, The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses To Sexual Child Abuse, heard evidence from 6,875 victim/survivors over 5 years. The average time it took for a victim/survivor to call time on suppressing their experiences was 30 years. So complex trauma is very complex. (I'm not trying to be a smart arse, it is a very complex topic and I'm no expert)

Paul Ricciardo's picture
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Paul Ricciardo commented Thursday, 14 May 2020 at 11:59pm

Very interesting, and that makes a lot of sense to the timing, thank you for the insight

Ash's picture
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Ash commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 6:02pm

2007 and I did a trip to Singapore to meet a new agent for my guitars, with a mate in tow.
The Agent was a nice bloke with a penchant for adventure and when he found out I surfed he organized to borrow a board from his mate and a run up the Malaysian peninsular to Desaru to find me a wave. The difference between Singapore and Malaysia is stark, as soon as you leave the ordered and tidy city life and cross the bridge into Malaysia things look much more like Indonesia. I couldn't believe amount of abandoned housing and shopping center sites, just vacant building sites left to decay because of dodgy ventures that went wrong, and the rubbish everywhere. At any rate there is surf there but the water is brown and full of rubbish and the waves are fat and slow, I ended up swimming instead trying to dodge the rubbish. The place felt unfriendly too and it wasn't until later back in Singapore that Ross told us of the kidnappings and terrorist training camps in the area, which explained the dark looks we attracted. All I can say it was a good day trip away from the city and that nothing went wrong, and that Ross didn't bother with the facts until after we got back.

Patrick's picture
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Patrick commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 8:57pm

Amazing story Paul, thanks for posting it.

Roystein's picture
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Roystein commented Tuesday, 12 May 2020 at 9:10pm

Thanks Paul. Gnarly but I love the sense of wanderlust wave seeking adventure.

Papaya Mike's picture
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Papaya Mike commented Wednesday, 13 May 2020 at 8:47pm

Hey Paul, Great story and yes hectic times in Timor L'este.

In 2005 I helped out a friend of mine for a week or so who was an artist in residence working on community projects in Dili. And then after we took a road trip around the island for a week or so - I thought i might be able to help myself out with a rogue swell that might sneak up that far.
So we did a tour of the south coast with a board on the roof of the 4wd.
Stayed in Same in a dodgy house that had Indo militia history too. A heavy vibe there -offset by constant cheerful (and bemused) faces in the villages as they saw the car + board go past.
Did the crocodile-panic surf checks down there on the south coast and then ended up in Viqueque which still had a post-traumatic atmosphere about it - so I totally get where you were coming from.
I toyed with jumping over to W Timor but ended up swapping the board for a motorbike and surfing the muddy washout curling roads up to Maubissee.
All in all E Timor I found to be amazing and frightening and awesome all at once.
You paint the picture beautifully.

rbassoc's picture
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rbassoc commented Thursday, 14 May 2020 at 2:18pm

A great story! Australians are still working to support the people of Aileu - see https://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/community-health/advocacy-services/frien...

Patate's picture
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Patate commented Thursday, 14 May 2020 at 8:17pm

Great story Paul! Well written too, well done

Vegdan's picture
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Vegdan commented Friday, 15 May 2020 at 9:44am

Thank you for sharing that amazing story. Stories like this amaze me and makes me realise what a sheltered life I've led. Thank you so much for transporting me away from everyday life for the last 15 minutes, feel free to share more of these.

eastcoastbuoy's picture
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eastcoastbuoy commented Sunday, 17 May 2020 at 8:23pm

Good story Paul. You can always trust a Kiwi to give you a helping hand when needed most!
Terminal - spot on YouTube recap of a yet another corrupt Government,
In this case the one that “runs” the country we live in, taking advantage of a tiny struggling country and just shafting them for one goal and one goal only - money! Greedy shameless hypocrites!

eastcoastbuoy

Paddy O'Brien's picture
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Paddy O'Brien commented Sunday, 17 May 2020 at 7:17pm

Great story Paul thank you for sharing! Sounds like you were the witness the Timorese down there desperately needed but at the same time being that witness carried extreme danger. Have you been able to watch/read the stories of the Balibo 5? Some similarities with your stories.

Paul Ricciardo's picture
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Paul Ricciardo commented Tuesday, 19 May 2020 at 11:44am

Thank you Paddy. Yes, the Balibo 5 accounts really bring it home don't they

andoman's picture
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andoman commented Monday, 18 May 2020 at 2:46pm

I enjoyed that, a crackin' yarn.

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Bobbylutt commented Thursday, 21 May 2020 at 1:18am

Great story Paul. I married a girl from the Bunak tribe which is spread all over Western East Timor and from Suai in the south up to Maliana and Balibo along the border. Ended up working there for over 2 years from 2011-2013. My wife has lots of relatives in and around the Suai area and I've been there with her quite a few times. It is a different vibe down that way. I think it's mainly due to the isolation away from the major population centres. I've seen waves down that way a few times but nothing outstanding. Usually waist to head high stuff. But the crocodile danger is real and you'd have to be very keen to paddle out. Even more so since the Timorese gained independence as the croc numbers have now exploded. About one person a month is attacked by a croc in Timor now.
I was last there a year ago as we went down to check out my wife's family's house. If anything it's even more difficult to get there now especially from Aileu or Bobonaro as the roads haven't been repaired to any great degree. An absolute nightmare. Timor from a distance is stunningly beautiful but up close it's hard going. It's difficult to find a soft spot there.
One great road trip I did with a mate who came over was from Dili to Kupang and then on a ferry to Rote to catch a few. It was a ten hour drive and the scenery was stunning. It's difficult to do that now as the border has been encumbered with all the usual red tape but if you'd like to take the time and effort I can thoroughly recommend it.
You might have heard recently that Dr. Dan Murphy passed away? He was a legend in terms of delivering medical care to those in need in Timor for 20 or so years, for free. So if you're feeling charitable in any way shape or form they'd love to have you back.

Great yarn mate, Bobby.