Uphill and down deapths

Beloi Travel Blog

 › entry 83 of 86 › view all entries
Vila monument

It was a clear morning when I arose and completed my ablutions in the eco bathroom.  I kept my eyes peeled for mossies hiding in the shower water but they were few and far between.  I managed to get back to my hut and smother myself in repellent before being bitten then went to the common room where the ladies had cooked eggs for my breakfast.


I contacted the Fillies about our plans for the day.  My idea was to wander down to Vila and try to climb a hill.  I told them I’d swing by the station about 10 to discuss options.  Once again I had set myself up for a very hot adventure.  Why do I do that?!!


Vila is the main village on Atauro.

Vila below. Indonesian island in distance
  It’s still a village in size but it’s actually the most intact settlement I have visited in the whole of RDTL.  The Portuguese used the island as a prison and the Indonesians obviously didn’t come through here with flaming torches.  I saw just one Portuguese style building in disrepair but not a single burnt out shell.  Refreshing!


Children were playing outside their classrooms as I entered the village.  

  My 20min walked from Tua Koin lodge had me exchanging pleasantries with dozens of locals walking the opposite direction.  Everyone in Vila was delightful and the kids were excited to spot a new “malae”.  Some followed me up side roads as I went to explore a church ground or a monument, curious about my camera and interested to see what I was interested in.

  One of the most common questions asked by the locals after an exchange of pleasantries is, “Where are you going?”

  It’s not really that they understand English well enough to grasp my answers but perhaps they have been taught that this question follows naturally on from a cheery “bom dia”.

Struggling to cross this little clearing, but still able to stop for a picture


I missed the police station.  I had my suspicions as I walked past the building with the RDTL flag flying but there were no PNTL or UNPOL vehicles to convince me it was the place.  As a result I got to explore the 5 streets that made up the village before I finally decided I needed someone to point me in the right direction.


After discussing a plan for our snorkel trip in the afternoon I followed the Fillies directions and started on my way up the road which skirted the hill behind the village. 

  After 10 minutes I stopped in some shade for a few gulps of water and to allow myself to cool.  It was approaching 11am, the sun was high and hot.  The road, made of sharp rocks, was already reflecting much of that heat back at me and shade up the face of the hill was painfully infrequent.

  By the time I rounded the first bend I was gasping.

My road. Valley. Forbidden road :(
 I’d been on the road for about an hour and a half and the uphill climb was only just begun.


Occasionally I met locals wandering down the hill.  I felt embarrassed that I should be struggling to something these people have probably done every day for their whole lives.  The road was newly constructed but recent rains had already washed two parts of it out causing it to be closed to four wheeled vehicles.  


At one point I heard a motorcycle approaching behind me.  I longed for the thing to stop and let me collapse onto the pillion seat but as it crept past I saw the rider and his 25kg bag of rice were probably as much as the small machine could handle carrying up the rugged road.  As the bike disappeared around the corner I was aware the sound didn’t seem to be fading and realised the road must turn back on itself just out of view.  This equalled lots of walking with little progress.


My eyes kept drifting right to the cloud covered peaks of the mountains.

Clouds promised cool respite but I was on the wrong side of the valley
  I knew it would be cool there and longed to be there now.  Perhaps I would meet gentle gorillas sitting beneath giant trees; I knew they liked misty places.  I toyed with these thoughts in my mind as I trudged on.  


I reached a flat clearing of about 100m2 and felt like I had a desert to cross.  On the other side I could see the road curving to the right and in the distance the scar of the road cut into the upper reaches of the mountain.  My determination was renewed and I pressed on.  Sadly as I rounded the bend I saw my road curve off to the left as the right side dropped away to a deep valley between my hill and the road cut into the mountain on the opposite side.  There was no way I could get to that mountain, I had been sent up the wrong side of the valley.  I looked up to where I was heading but couldn’t see over the rise.  I walked up to the next pocket of shade and sat down for lunch.


I had seen many small brown mushrooms on my walk up the hill.

Hilltop fungi
  In the soft parts of the road there must have been sufficient moisture to support the fungi.  I suspected they were magic and chuckled at my daydream of mountain gorillas in this country, perhaps if I chewed a couple of these mushrooms a gorilla might appear from with in local monkey but the heat was playing enough tricks on my mind without the need of hallucinogens making me think I could fly across the valley to that “forbidden” road.


Oddly enough my road levelled out just around the corner from where I’d stopped for lunch.  Then it started to wind down toward the next village far below.  The highest peak of my hill was visible up to my right and although it was no mountain I knew I had to bush-bash to the top of it if I were to regain any of my self esteem. 

  Just to rub salt into my wounds, I could hear several children playing among the eucalypt trees covering the hilltop.  They were acutely aware of my approach and vanished before I reached them.  The only person I saw was an elderly woman gathering firewood near the top, but then I was there.

Huge clam shell on top of the hill


Standing on the highest point, the view was unremarkable.  I could see across to the cloudy mountain peak.  I could see down to Vila, lost in the green canopy shading the town and I could see out to the Straits of Wettar back toward Dili.  I estimated I was about 300-350m above sea level.  A small victory but a victory none the less.  It was 12.20pm and I was now that much closer to the sun.


Under my feet were shells and other debris from the sea.  I wondered how such things could be shifted to such heights over time.  The earth is certainly a fascinating place.  I was amazed to find the edge of a giant clam shell protruding from the soil.  I don’t know much about these things but I was sure if I were to see the whole thing it must measure a metre across at least.

Motorcycle torment
 As I headed back down I stopped to capture some shots of a few of the tiny mushrooms poking out from beneath dried leaves.


Then I made my way down, slipping across the tops of the sharp rocks from which the road was made.  I passed an old woman creeping her way up the road.  I was in my boots and pants, she in her wraparound skirt and bare feet.  I wondered if she had ever had anything on her feet in the 70 odd years she had marched up and down this hill to Vila below.


Another motorbike approached and the rider parked it up to talk to me.  His English was good and we discussed New Zealand’s contribution to Atauro back in 2004.  He told me the misty peak was that of Manucoco and how I could get to the road across the valley if that was my wish.

  I asked him about the Indonesian history here and how it was there was no destruction.

Vila ferry
 When we had talked our talked I continued on my way down as he started his bike and rode off up behind me.


Back in the village I met another old timer.  He had lost his right eye at some time and our communication was difficult due to our different languages but I understood he had been a Captain in the army and I wondered about the story of the loss of his eye.


After a cool cola at the local café I returned to the station and the fillies took me north in the car.


We went to a fishing village where a hot spring bubbles through the sand at low tide but the tide was too high to enjoy that. 

  We returned to the Aussie eco lodge where they wanted to get some snorkel gear from Barry the owner.

That's where I got to following the road climbing to the left. Third hilltop on RHS
 The place was filled with Australian soldiers enjoying some time off.  I had heard the helicopters coming in last night and this morning and thought it must have been some sort of medical emergency, but they were ferrying the 40 odd troops in for a break.


We then drove to the port village of Beloi.  I was surprised when the Fillies said the snorkelling was good just off the wharf.  I expected nothing but dead coral from the constant boat traffic into the wharf and off the beach.

  Once in the warm water it was clear the ferry had little impact and the fishing boats were light enough to get close to the shore before the fishermen had to leap out and push the vessels through the small surf to the beach.


The corals were great.  Brightly coloured fish were everywhere and the place was teeming with life. 

  Just a few metres out past the long wharf the ocean floor plummeted to obscurity.  When I first drifted out over the edge I was surprised and felt the dangers of falling into the unknown.  It was an odd sensation to see the floor and then nothing but deep blue and I had to convince myself I was quite safe floating on the top of the water.

  I thought about the cliffs of Mt Manucoco behind me and wondered what these underwater cliffs would look like if they were visible.


We spent about an hour floating in the water off the beach at Beloi.  When we tried to climb out onto the wharf we were thwarted by the slippery concrete surface and the sharp barnacles.  I came away with my hands and feet cut to ribbons and a decent gash across my shin.

  The Fillies were concerned for me but I laughed it off saying if this was the worst injury I received as a peacekeeper I was doing alright.  

  By the time they dropped me back at Tua Koin most of the bleeding had stopped.


It was good to be back.  After another dinner in the dark I was in bed by 7.45 and slept much better than the previous night.

goezi says:
Thanks Richard, yep this time next week I'll be enjoying life at the Darwin YHA.
Posted on: Jun 03, 2010
gimpel says:
Nice story, you do some nice trips before going home.
Almost time isn't it??
Posted on: Jun 02, 2010
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Vila monument
Vila monument
All the way up were crosses left a…
All the way up were crosses left …
Vila below.  Indonesian island in …
Vila below. Indonesian island in…
Struggling to cross this little cl…
Struggling to cross this little c…
My road.  Valley.  Forbidden road …
My road. Valley. Forbidden road…
Clouds promised cool respite but I…
Clouds promised cool respite but …
Hilltop fungi
Hilltop fungi
Huge clam shell on top of the hill
Huge clam shell on top of the hill
Motorcycle torment
Motorcycle torment
Vila ferry
Vila ferry
Thats where I got to following th…
That's where I got to following t…
photo by: goezi