It might just be in Dili.
This is a post for friends coming to visit Timor-Leste, and for newly-arrived foreigners being urged to see the country. Our starting point may well be closer than we think.
Last weekend, I accidentally had something of a holiday in and around Dili, and it ended up being one of the most relaxing and pleasurable weekends I’ve had in a long time. Here’s how it went.
Some friends and I drove out of Dili at around 5:30pm on Friday evening, heading west towards a town called Liquica, which sits about an hour’s easy drive away from Dili along the coast. We repeated a trip we’ve done before, arriving at the beachside Blackrock Restaurant as the sun was setting, with time for an ocean swim and sunset wine before dark. We’d usually sleep in the $10 tents, but they’ve since been pulled down, so we crammed five in a villa and enjoyed an unexpected luxe hotel stay. Included breakfast made the $25 price tag fine for our budgets, and it’s still the cheapest option in the area.
We couldn’t be closer the the sea without actually being on the sand
We woke up to the sound of crashing waves and the heat of the mid-morning sun, and spend a few luxurious hours alternating eating, swimming, reading and resting.
Around lunchtime a group of us returned to Dili — noting on the way that it felt like we still had the whole weekend before us — and I had time to shower and unpack and take a lazy walk up to my favourite Dili cafe, Letefoho Speciality Coffee. I’ve recently taken on a role coordinating the tutors for the English classes I tutor at, so I spent a lovely couple of hours up at the high bench alternating practising my Tetun with the ever-patient baristas and doing data entry for new tutor recruitment.
A bike trip back down the beach road and continuing straight to Ariea Branca, the white-sand beach at the base of the Cristo Rei statue, where some friends were waiting with their feet in the sand for pizza and beer and the most blisteringly beautiful sunset I’ve seen in Timor-Leste yet. We returned to their house to watch Boy, a brilliant, quirky Taika Waititi film, and returned home for a short-ish sleep, because I’d made a fairly stupid plan to wake up early and walk the Horta Loop.
I took this off the back of Felix’s scooter as we buzzed down the beach road, late for our dinner but still in time for the end of the main event.
A 6:30am alarm, some mental fist-shaking at my past self and a good slathering of sunscreen had me out the door and waiting in the weak morning sun outside Beachside restaurant at seven on the dot. Solange and Geoff arrives shortly after, and the three of us set off on our morning Horta Loop hike — so named because its first leg takes you right past the house of former Timor-Leste president, Jose Ramos-Horta. We didn’t see him on our walk, but caught gorgeous views out over the ocean from the eucalyptus-fringed hilltops, and passed water buffalo, goats and pigs on the walk past a local fishing village as we looped back along the coastline.
Hot, tired and happy, we settled in the shade at Beachside, one of the restaurants that puts chairs out in the sand, and had as much brunch, coffee, juice and cold water as we could handle.
Then, on my friends’ recommendation, off for a massage — a freely available but decadent service I feel guilty for indulging in, but post-resort trip and with aching calves it felt like a neat way to continue my weekend of luxury, and finish it off pain-free.
Pre-walk sunscreen and post-walk coffee (both necessary in Dili’s sapping heat); off to OB; and goats on a hill snapped on our hike.
The massage was sublime and I drifted out in a haze, returning home briefly before braving this stinking wet-season pre-rain heat again to go OB shopping, secondhand shopping, with a couple of friends before yoga. Bags full of goodies, new words in our Tetun vocabularies and yoga shorts purchased, we went to Dili Wellness for a beautiful yin-ish vinyasa-ish class taught by my lovely walking friend Solange.
Last weekend I did this class and then went to Castaway Bar for beers and burgers and reggae, but after the fullness of this weekend I just drifted home, cooked some friend rice, called Dad and went to bed early.
Atauro Island, from Dili’s beach road as I walked up to Letefoho
I hadn’t planned the weekend to be quite so luxurious, and I know I’m very lucky to be able to have weekends like this one. An unexpected holiday at home.