Off to Maliana

ritatrip_008.jpgTo Maliana with Rita

Rita of the Backpackers Guesthouse needed someone to drive her rent-a-car to her home town of Maliana so I volunteered for the job.

We picked up the car from Rentlo in Formento in the Comoro area of Dili. It is near the Dili Club across from Leaders Supermarket.

The fancy 4x4s are expensive to rent but the beater that we got was 30 US a day plus mileage. (670 7235089) info @

I sprung for the insurance because you never know what can happen.

ritatrip_005.jpgWhen they filled out the damage report prior to renting it was interesting to note that all panels except for the right front had damage.

Many cars in Dili have smashed windscreens or windshields because some of the local teen gangs had taken up the sport of stoning cars that pass by.

This one was still intact.

It is annoying that these kids can’t find anything better to do but a lot of them live in refugee camps near the airport and in town and have a lot of time on their hands to create mischief. There are also political groups that use them to create havoc on their rivals.

rita_016.jpgIn general Dili is a reasonably safe place for foreigners but locals that stray into the wrong area will run into problems.

There is some kind of turf thing going on that I am not even going to try to get into because I think you have to be Timorese to understand it.

The road along the north coast is scenic and very steep in places.

It is real important to sound the horn when going around blind corners because that is often where you will meet other vehicles and one does go over the edge occasionally. It is always a good idea to drive slowly and stick to your side of the road.

ritatrip_048.jpgThere are a few places where the road has just washed away so it is important to pay attention.

The trip to Maliana takes 4 to 5 hours depending on road conditions and what you are driving. There is a line of restaurants around the halfway point where you can take a break and get something to eat for a dollar to one fifty.

We were forever stopping to buy bags of coffee, sugar, vegetables, wood, pillows, bananas and one of Rita’s relatives threw a rooster in the back seat. It was a trip for sure.

In Maliana there is a big market where we got some beef.

ritatrip_010.jpgAcross the street are a few wholesale places, one owned by a relative of Rita’s of course. We stopped in and chatted while sitting on bags of rice. They brought out 4 cups of coffee and I waited politely for someone to take one.

No one came forward so finally I took one and Rita did as well. Turns out that all 4 were for us. That was kind of weird.

We stopped at another relatives to take a shower and then back to Rita’s place. They were distraught that I opted to sleep in the car but I insisted. There were no mosquitoes and it was nice and cool.

Someone came out every 20 minutes to wake me up and beg me to go inside but I didn’t want any part of that hot box surrounded by crying babies and people farting and coughing all night.

ritatrip_019.jpg I had a great nights sleep but they couldn’t get any sleep because it was too hot in there.

In the morning we went up in the hills towards Bobonaro to visit the ancestors graves in the mountains and put flowers and candles and all that.

Timorese have great respect for their ancestors and they are a big part of their lives. The elders are held in respect unlike in the western culture where old people are parked in old peoples homes and pretty much forgotten.

It was a beautiful setting way up there in the mountain pass and had a neat name like the gateway to heaven or something like that. It was an interesting day. They have a community house that everyone has access to for ceremonial purposes and funerals.

story_005.jpgSomeone went out to get the key so we could use it for the day. The others spread strips of beef on the tin roof to dry in the hot sun. A couple of hours later they were done.

There is one of these ceremonial houses near the place where the Australian and New Zealand journalists were killed near Maubissee too ( I think in 1999 – correct me by email if I am wrong – dutchpickle @ hotmail. com – or use the forum ) I am told that their families come to East Timor to remember them as well.

When we decided to head back to Dili it seemed like we couldn’t get going. People kept piling into the back.

rita_003.jpgI was the driver and just took off when the word was given. We made a few stops along the way but it was uneventful.

The unfortunate thing was that today when a few of the kids and others were heading back to Maliana by bus the driver went off the cliff and one woman was killed and most of the others were injured.

Ritas’ kid was ok but the other little one had a damaged arm. Hard to know how bad because of translation difficulties.

rita_053.jpg One of the following buses loaded up the injured ones and I believe the dead woman and took them the rest of the way to the Maliana hospital.

The driver was uninjured and ran away in fear for his life that he would be lynched by the injured peoples families. The police are still looking for him.

It made me remember that on the way over my passengers had me stop and all got out of the car and walked while I drove over the pass. They didn’t trust my driving.

Maliana – East Timor

Nov 8, 2006

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