|Vega discovers East Timor|
SEA Yachting's newest and friendliest sailing destination
The Dili harbor entrance is about as easy as they come. Just line up on the entrance and stay between the working red and green markers. Be sure to stay in the channel, as there are reefs on either side. There is a range of blinking red lights located on rather small towers one in front and the other on the roof of the white government buildings at the bottom of the harbor they will align at 132 degrees True keeping you in the deep water channel. They blink together at night, but are difficult to make out against the lights of the town if you do not know what to look for.
Once inside the harbour there is deep water right up to the sea wall. The best anchorage is in about 15 metres with fair holding on a muddy bottom. Watch out for the two yellow can markers they mark the limits of a reef that dries at low tide. Any strong winds come from the east so set your anchor accordingly. It's usually calm in the mornings and at night. If it is going to blow it usually starts about 11-12am and lasts until about 4-5pm. It is a good idea to make sure someone is on board in case it does blow, as the holding ground is not the best.
Do try to avoid anchoring too close to the "Esplanade" wall as the children are great
Easy in and easy out applies not only to the port itself, but also to the friendly officials. There are no cruising permits or other complicated formalities to enter East Timor. Checking in is easy. Fir st go by the water police located in the small white building at the foot of the long white metal ramp to say hello and that you have arrived. Then walk around to the port and ask for the immigration office, you will find them on the first floor of the building with the pointed roofs. The young man we met was very friendly and we spent more time talking football than papers. He issues visas and stamps the passports. The port captain's office is in the same building on the ground floor. The next building is Customs and that's it.
A one-month visa is available on arrival with no problems. The cost is US$30 and it can be extended for almost any valid reason. The people and officials of East Timor are happy to have friendly visitors in their country and try to make it easy for you to visit. Just remember to always treat officials, anywhere you go, with the same respect and consideration you would those in your home country. Being rude is never a good way to make friends or impress people whose good will you need.
There are taxis everywhere in Dili, but you will need to barter over prices. Most taxi drivers will try a higher price first, just to see if this is their lucky day, but quickly accept the "local" rate if you insist. Two dollars is the average rate to most places around the town.
Try "One More Bar" located be side the park along the seafront road going east. Look for the well-lit second floor terrace. The food is good and Aussie's will feel right at home, they even have "Roo" burgers - sometimes. Going the other way from the port there is the Castaways Bar & Restau rant just past the lighthouse. Located above the PADI dive centre with a cool sea breeze and good reasonably priced food this is a favorite watering hole for the local expat community. If you enjoy diving ask for Compass Charters then ask for Craig Dunkan.
One delightful discovery is the variety of products from the world over available in Dili's super markets. Although not cheap this is one of the last stops for over a thousand miles where you can stock your favorite wines, cheeses, and salami's, Aussie XXXX beer, real French mustard, Dutch cheeses, Canadian maple syrup, German pickles and sausages. We found more "goodies" in Dili than in Singapore. There is also a wide assortment of fresh vegetables avail able in the local markets. East Timor is famous for coffee so be sure to stock up on that vital staple before heading north.
You really should visit the Statue of Jesus on the mountain overlooking the harbor. It not only makes an enjoyable afternoon off the boat, but also takes you by all the mouthwatering restraints along the beach perfect for a sundowner on your return and then a long leisurely dinner under the stars.
The local currency is the US dollar. Aussie Dollars and Euro are also accepted at the banks and most banks have ATM machines to access money from your credit card. It is not a good idea to make change on the streets as the banks give you an honest rate. We did find that the rate for Singapore dollars was not very good so if you are coming from there be sure to bring US dollars with you.
Fuel was US$1.30 a liter this past summer and must be carried in jerry cans from the beach. The dinghy landing, just behind Casa Europa, leaves a bit to be desired, but there are several moorings where you can put a running line to haul the little one in and out as needed. We usually leave our dinghy at the marine police post, by the white broken down pier. They are very friendly and have a good ramp that makes for easier access.
If you need any mechanical or electrical repairs go along to A1 Services on the next street in from the waterfront going east. If they can't fix what you need I doubt anyone else can. Ask for Lee, a rather mad Aussie (show me one that isn't) who is a whiz on engines and great company to enjoy a Sundowner with. Their machinist Zaki is a real artist who took one look at our generator water pump headache – we have been trying to get that fixed for over two years now - and half an hour later had it fixed to last a life time.
Security in the town is no different or better than any other place we have been. I would almost be willing to bet you are just as safe in Dili as New York, Paris, or Darwin. That said it is always wise to play it safe and avoid wondering off the main streets after dark.
As interesting as Dili is the real beauty of East Timor starts when you leave Dili. The scenery inland is nothing short of spectacular. We always found the rural people to be open and very friendly. There are several lovely, and inexpensive, inland tours you can take as well as visits to the more isolated mountain communities. Just remember it does get cold up in the mountains at night so take a jumper and long pants. One of our favorite places is the Bakhita center in Ermera district. The rural villages can be poor beyond belief. Villages build schools with local materials and staff them with local volunteers, but have almost no basic educational materials. Taking a selection of pencils, pens, erasers, and
The real beauty of East Timor starts when you leave Dili for the mountains.exercise books along with any other basic educational materials for these schools will be a great help to the community and a wonderful way to make new friends who will take great pride in introducing you to their community.
The scenery inland is nothing short of spectacular
Educational materials are smaller for stowing on board and valued much more than old clothes by these communities. Always make sure you deliver your donation directly to the village teacher rather than 3rd parties who might forget to pass them on.
If you are planning a trip to East Timor, or the small islands of eastern Indonesia, and would like to combine it with your own mission of mercy contact Vega through our website at www.sailvega.com. We have years of experience delivering educational and medical supplies to these isolated communities and will be more than happy to advise you on what to take and even who to deliver it to. We can also recommend some wonderful out of the way islands to stop over at, advise on the anchorages, and even suggest people to meet.