Since the beginning of our trip we were determined to go to Rote, a small island in West Timor, known for its surf, beach and snorkelling.
Rote is surrounded by beautiful blue sea with amazing waves (and crocodiles sometimes), endless white sand beaches with no one to be seen.
According to legend, the island got its name accidentally when a lost Portuguese sailor arrived and asked a farmer where he was. The surprised farmer, who could not speak Portuguese, introduced himself, “Rote”. Again, the great Portuguese leave their mark in South East Asia.
We had the luck of having some friends living in Rote who provided us with the best time. Thanks to Carla and Maxi, we stayed at Bo’a Vida Rote, which we highly recommend, not just for the amazing hospitality but also for the beautiful villas on top of Bo’a Beach.
Because of its low tourism, everyone knows each other and the vibe is very warm and friendly. The meeting point was Indika café, a super nice café, owned by Maxi, where we would chat for hours and eat great organic homemade food.
Indika café – Maxi’s place
Something we immediately noticed in Rote was the amount of pigs, goats, cows, and chickens opposed to the number of people living there. We always had to drive very carefully so we wouldn’t bump into an animal.
Most of our days were spent exploring the island, driving along the seaside, stopping every 5 minutes to walk around and talk to locals.
We were usually the only ones around…
We drove to Mangrove Beach where we could walk around crossing the sea to the sand banks surrounded by massive mangrove swamps.
Look out for the crocs!!
We found a beautiful bay where we relaxed under mangrove trees surrounded only by coconut trees, cows and the sound of nature.
Taking the cows for a walk
oh no, storm ahead!
Rita and Carlos enjoying the shade.
When the tide is low you can see the pigs digging their noses in the sand looking for crustaceans
Houses in Rote with the relatives buried in the porch
Jumping off the Cliff!
The sunsets in Rote were one of the best so far… we would grab some beers and rush to the nearest viewpoint to watch the warm colours fill the sky.
We couldn’t leave without surfing the famous Bo’a waves so we got some surfboards and jumped into the water.
Leaving our bungalow
Beautiful path to Bo’a Vida
One of the nights, Carla and the staff at Bo’a prepared a romantic dinner at the beach, illuminated by candles, under some little trees right by the sea. It was so dark we could see all the stars in the sky and the only thing we could hear were the waves.
What a wonderful night!
After Rote, we took the boat back to Kupang from where we took a bus (so we thought) all the way to Dili. When the supposed bus stopped at 5am to pick us up at the hotel we thought twice about taking it. It was a 12 seat 90’s van packed with Indonesians, no opening windows, no a/c and a very loud music.
After realizing we had no other option, we got on board and 15 hours later, under boiling temperatures and veeeeery bumpy roads, we finally got to East Timor.
East Timor, known as Portuguese Timor until 1975, is the youngest country in the World. It is still very new to tourism and quite undeveloped when compared to its neighbouring country, Indonesia. Tetum (a mix of Indonesian and Portuguese) and Portuguese are the official languages, despite the latter being spoken just by a small group.
Finding a bit of Portugal lost in the middle of South East Asia was fascinating. We felt so proud seeing everything in Portuguese and being able to talk our own language on the other side of the world.
Our first meal was, of course, Portuguese. A good caldo verde, a bitoque and some pataniscas de bacalhau, yummm! It felt like home!
Our dear Benfica represented in Dili.
Mikrolet, the public transport in East Timor
In Dili we did a bit of a cultural tour passing through the major historical buildings and getting to know the tough Timorese’s past.
Museu da Resistência, a museum that commemorates Timor-Leste’s 24-year struggle against the Indonesian occupation.
Xanana Gusmão’s Cultural Centre where a leadership speech was being held.
Xanana Gusmão – East Timor’s Independence hero and it’s first President.
Wall at Xanana Gusmão’s Cultural Centre
Fish stalls where we stopped for lunch. Pick your seafood…
Enjoy it by the sea!
Walking around town
Chega! Exhibition – in the buildings and cells of a Portuguese-era prison where resistance figures were interned by the Indonesian military.
Climbing the iconic Cristo Rei with views to the stunning turquoise bays and mountains.
We had a great time at Arte Moris, a peculiar art space with odd outdoors sculptures and modern works made by art students. We got to meet one of the professors who guided us around and even showed us some of his work!
East Timor is known for one of the best dives in the World, part of the Coral Triangle. We heard that last year, the International Conservation announced Ataúro, an island 25km from Dili, as the most biodiverse waters in the world.
We knew we couldn’t miss out on this so we took the ferry and stayed for a night on the only dive centre in the island.
Leaving Dili – view from the harbour
Arriving at Ataúro Island
Dried fish stalls on the weekly open market
Relaxing at sunset
Getting ready for the dive
Here we go!
Coming from Komodo, which is very hard to beat, our expectations for this dive wasn’t very high but, it ended up being very cool and a whole new experience as we did our first ever cave diving!!
East Timor was more expensive than we thought, the currency used is the American Dollar and, because the tourism is still limited, prices are still extremely high. Also, it’s very hard to get around as road accesses are still very poor taking more than 5 hours to travel 100km. Because of this, we left earlier than expected.