IN DILI, EAST TIMOR, THE MOST RECENT COUNTRY IN THE WORLD

East Timor or Timor Leste is a bizarre strange country that has just gained independence. I have to go there for visa reasons. I am told only bad things about this country still politically unstable and occupied by the UN forces. Only 4 tourists return by day. Come on, with me it will be 5! Here I am at the capital Dili.

WHAT IS EAST TIMOR?

East Timor or Timor Leste is the youngest country in the world. It is located on the “eastern” part of the island of Timor the other part is part of Indonesia.

It’s really different from Indonesia, you can not eat it the same way, people speak a lot of languages ​​but Tetoum is the official language. It looks like the Portuguese. And it is a Catholic country while Indonesia and majority Mulsulman.

Timor Leste was a Portuguese colony for 4 centuries and was then occupied by Indonesia for 25 years. He gained independence from Indonesia in 2002 alone.

But Indonesia has not easily accepted the situation and the withdrawal of Indonesian soldiers has been in a bloodbath. 25% of the population died there.

THERE ARE NOT MANY TOURISTS HERE

My hotel is run by an Australian. It’s quite like a youth hostel in Australia with the dormitory, the kitchen and the common room. There is even a small bar in a pretty outdoor courtyard with colorful lights.

Yes, there are very few tourists here but they are all in this hotel which is the only cheap hotel in the city and the atmosphere is nice.

Everyone here comes from far away and has some very interesting stories to tell. among them 3 travelers around the world are there, including 2 who travel by bike.

And then there are two others who have seized the opportunities of a country that is rebuilding itself to find a job. One as trainer to help a magazine to be created and the other was engaged by the UN to work on a website.

DILI OCCUPIED BY THE UN

The economy completely deregulated by the occupation of the UN

The number of foreigners working for the United Nations is staggering. 1 / 5th of the inhabitants at sight of nose. UN vehicles are ubiquitous on the streets.
In this very poor country, the economy revolves around them. There are supermarkets with all you can want. After Indonesia it’s a dream. The products are imported and the prices are higher than those of France sometimes even exaggerated (5 dollars pepper). UN guys are spending their huge salaries without counting. The locals assume that all the whites work for the UN which drives up the prices disproportionately for us poor tourists.

I can not help thinking that when the UN leaves, it will be a huge economic crisis for the country.

Toraja is a special place in Sulawesi and Indonesia

It’s still the season of funeral rites. The Torajas wait for the summer and have enough money to organize funerals. Before that, the dead are placed in the room reserved for them in the traditional house. Everything happens in 5 days and is very codified. Platforms have to be built around a central square to house the hundreds of guests but also for the day to follow the show.
I attend many of the ceremonies, families in traditional clothes welcome tourists and treat them as guests.

In the first days the families of guests are present and each one must bring pigs and buffaloes as an offering. Buffaloes are sacrificed in the central square. For the richest families it is sometimes a carnage of dozens of buffaloes. The smell of vicerals, blood, excrement and mud meles is not really good.
On the platforms have brought us, the, to eat and betel nuts for the older ones. These nuts make a juice that mark the teeth in red definitively, scary!

In addition to ceremonies, buffalo fights or roosters on which paris are organized.

On the last day, the dead man’s family sings and dances in a circle around the coffin. In the form of Toraja house. The strong men then carry him to the cemetery.
It’s a moment of joy. The spectators throw mud on the coffin and the carriers who shake the dead man with all their strength (he must be awakened). Everyone shouts, laughs and has fun, it’s the end.

I enjoy my last day to taste the local culinary specialty in my usual little restaurant. It’s meat, rice, coconut and funny black spices, all cooked over a wood fire in a bamboo tube. Its good!
A last goodbye to my scooter owner and his family who invited me several times to take the tea at home in the evening and I went away to the north. Direction Toggean Islands.

TORAJA COUNTRY AND ITS INCREDIBLE FUNERARY RITES

Another two days in Kupang waiting for my plane to Makassar, the capital of the very large island of Sulawesi is so strange. The wait goes well in the company of Sue, an Australian meeting in Dili with whom I visit around by scooter.

For me, Makassar is just a transit point. The city is huge and modern with shopping centers, Mc’Do and even Carrefour.
The very evening of my arrival I take a night bus which must take me to Ranteipao. It is very comfortable, in the European standards. It is surprising to see this type of bus in Indonesia, it’s even the first time I see one in fact.

At 6am I arrive at Ranteipao. A pete fart dances into the Homestay that indicates to him. The pete is a scooter taxi that is only found in Sulawesi with a small egg-shaped cabin at the front.
Ranteipao is a pretty rural town of 30000 inhabitants I think. But it is especially the capital of the country Tana Toraja. Here the Toraja maintains a very strong and lively culture.

At the bottom, I rent a scooter as usual. Everything is green and lush. I cross beautiful rice terraces where I observe the peasants wash and buffalo their buffaloes with love. Here buffaloes have a real cultural and symbolic value.
Many villages are more beautiful than the others, the countryside. They are essentially beautiful traditional Toraja houses in the form of boats still built today as they were centuries ago. The legend tells that the ancestors of the Torajas would have arrived in boats that they would have pulled in the grounds to make their houses.

It rains a lot here and when the sun breaks, the sounds and smells of nature, the lights, the little hill roads that overlook the rice fields and the incredible villages of another time … Everything combines to create an atmosphere relaxing of pure zenitude.

IN SULAWESI, LAKE PENDOLO AND THE SMALL PORT CITY OF AMPANA

In the direction of Togean Islands I stop at the edge of Lake Pendolo which makes me directly inside an Impressionist painting of Matisse. Another stop in the small port city of Ampana in the middle of Ramadan …

I take a good old Indonesian bus from Rantepao. I find a couple of French meeting in my little restaurant a few days earlier.

Julien and Doriane are institutes and the French system allows them to travel 6 months a year. With them I spend a few days traveling to the Toggean Islands north of Sulawesi. The road is long and we stop a day at the village of Pendolo. The evening is spent around a fire on the beach with Indonesians who eat their meal in the lake and sing like pans.
We get up very early to attend the sunrise. The sky is overcast and the landscape is worthy of an impressionist painting by Monnet.

Another bus day and a night in the city of Poso. The next morning at the reception of the hotel we exchange a few words with another Indonesian client. He offers us to take us to our next destination: Ampanna at 5am.
I spend a good part of the road to discuss in Indonesian and English with the businessman, dressed in jellaba and Muslim hat. We arrive without worries and thank our kind drivers. They send us a big smile: “Tida apa apa” (no problem).

Ampana is the small port city from which boats leave for the Toggean Islands. It’s Ramadan and it’s very hard to find food. Even non-Muslim restaurants close out of respect and no one smokes in the street.
In the city I meet some interesting personalities. I discuss with a policeman a weekend that shows me pictures of him posing with a gun like king of the trigger. I meet a group of shemales and finally in the hotel we spend part of the evening with a Indonesian decided to learn French with us.

The most hallucinating concentration of luminescent plankton

Couples are mostly here. Fortunately, I am very convincing and I can get everyone to party. Evening after night, the alcohol reserves are empty until exhaustion.
One evening not really sober around 2am, with the survivors of the evening, I go on the big pontoon and listen to Lami play the guitar.
The surface of the water sparkles with bright plankton. We jump on the spot. Our vibrations light up, a second, a large circle of bright light below us.
It’s incredible ! The concentration of plankton is huge! We repeat the experience a few times and finally we all throw ourselves in the water.
It’s millions of particles that light up with each of our movements. Like shooting stars we swim with a trail of light behind us and a halo around us. It is magic. I have never seen anything so beautiful to this day. The night after, the phenomenon is no longer there. It was unique!

 On this island, after more than a week together, I made good friends, the German Swiss, Christin and Mike, or Julien and Doriane, the couple of French teachers.I finally leave Kadidiri a little before the others, after a last party that includes everyone. These people and this place will miss me!