Travelling In Timor – Part I

A good book was written in 1990 by Paul Ryan of Darwin, called “A Traveller’s Guide to Timor”. It gives details of the state of play at the time. Since then not a lot has changed in slow moving Timor.

Kupang and how to get there

West Timor may be entered via Denpasar in Bali. You can choose overland, fast ferry, slow ferry, or a short flight to the capital Kupang. But check departure details. Kupang itself is pleasant enough ­ it has a few fresh water springs, which are all well utilised by the locals, for both body and clothes washing. There are a few shops selling textiles, antiques and statues, masks and betel nut containers (if you wish to see weaving you might be persuaded to go to Baun if yourtime is limited as well as the usual Indonesian goods.

There are also monkey caves and views of the bay and distant mountains. For a look at some European history there are a few Portuguese and Dutch forts or ruins dotted about.


Getting around and accommodation

Kupang is also a launching point for the surfing “Mecca” of Nembrella on the neighbouring island of Roti. This can be reached from the port of Kupang by ferry (two hours) followed by a bus (five hours). Or you can go to the lovely islands of Alor by a fast ferry (six hours) also from Kupang. Be aware that there are very few English speaking Timorese outside of Kupang apart from a few students and guides.

Another great trip is to make your way to the bus terminal in Walikota and head for the hills ­ literally. It takes three hours to cover 100 kilometres of winding mountainous roads, running alongside rivers, and up gorges and through valleys, stopping for the chickens and passengers. Take a motion sickness tablet if you are prone and carry a little plastic bag in case your neighbour turns green. When you leave the heat and hustle of Kupang and decide to head to the relative cool of the mountains do be aware that Timor does not cater to tourists. You will pass through tropical Camplong and its spring, and then on to SoE, which is one of the most polite places in the whole of Indonesia. Keep your sense of humour and a dictionary nearby and the possibilities are endless.

Street Talk

Money can be exchanged in the larger towns of SoE, Kefa and Atambua. Various levels of accommodation are available in these towns (don’t expect the Hilton). Buses start at 5am and run into the night, with an 11pm finish. Bear in mind the midday slow down siesta time when planning your forays.

There is a traditional rest time in the middle of the day and most Timorese adhere to it. Most are up with the sun and have put in half a days work before I rub my eyeballs at 6am.