The best place to be during the Olympics

Although I will probably watch the opening ceremony to see how the Chinese put that together and I will probably watch a few sporting events that I would otherwise never watch (think synchronised swimming), I am glad I will be in Dili during the Olympics – as far away as possible from the hooplah.  No shops with Olympics specials, no endless ads on TV about Olympics this and Olympics that.  In fact, I think it quite possible to skip the whole thing and never know it existed.  That probably makes Dili a good candidate for those wishing to drop out … but of course, you just end up dropping in to something else.

I watched a piece on TV last night about the effects of the global downturn.  Higher prices, reduced family incomes leading to mortgage pressures, banks hauling in bad loans etc. and felt mighty glad these issues just don’t hit the radar here.  I am just not enticed to take out a bank loan here or whip down and buy the latest electronics gadgetry or domestic labour-saving device.  Am I concerned that I am not wearing the latest in t-shirt, shorts and sandals ?

Will the Beijing air be breathable during the Games, will there be any Olympic terrorism (apart from the Chinese security services themselves), will it be the greatest Olympics ever ?

Will there be yogurt at the supermarket today, or cheese or bacon ?  Will there be a power cut today ?  Will I have to plunge the toilet this morning ?

Mt. Ramelau – we knocked the bugger off

It took over 2 years but finally the Mt. Ramelau ascent has been achieved with no oxygen or indeed any sophisticated climbing equipment.  That’s because you don’t need it unless you are not a finely tuned athlete like myself.  The biggest post-ascent health problem was sunburnt lips – worse than oxyxgen deprivation, I imagine.

I pooh-pooh the convention (insisted in guide books) to head off post-dawn in order to reach the top as the sun rises.  I am more in the reach the top for morning tea category – much more civilised.  Its a bit of a trek from Dili to get to the start at Hato Builico.  Although Ramelau is 70kms south of Dili, it is around 105kms by road to the open grassy field a few kms above Hato Builico.  An overnight stop at Maubisse is probably best if you want to be refreshed for the 2.5 hour climb/walk.  But it is still 2.5 hours drive from Dili to Maubisse then a further 1.5 hours to the grassy field.

We did not use a guide but I would think one is mandatory if you want to do a pre-dawn climb.  They are available at Hato Builico but the starting price is ridiculous.  In brief :

  • the 4 hour non-stop drive home after reaching the top was as knackering as the walk itself – my hands were sore from the constant steering work (105 kms divided by 4 hours equals very slow but as fast as I could do it without passengers screaming)
  • a 4WD is recommended but absolutely essential if wet conditions prevail
  • there are no road signs – brief yourself on the exact route as the turn-off to Hato Builico is a hidden trap as is the road up from Hato Builico to the grassy field
  • wear good non-slip footwear – the climb up is similar to the gravelly conditions of the hills around Dili
  • expect to see no-one on Mt. Ramelau
  • bring food, drink etc. from Dili
  • enjoy the views of the sea on both sides of the island including clear views of the town of Ainaro on the southern side

Take 2 days and don’t rush it.

Coffee economics

We all know prices for foods seem to be going up everywhere.  Here’s my latest figures on local Timorese coffee economics (in USD) :

The local bit

  • Timorese coffee farmer receives about 30 cents per kg of raw beans
  • After skinning, washing, drying & removing poor quality beans, we end up with 1/6 of the raw bean weight in processed, dry beans in export condition
  • This means the farmer receives about $1-80 per kg of processed beans
  • Processing costs, overheads etc. are (say) around double that

The overseas retail end of the chain

  • A single espresso shot is about 30 grams of roasted beans
  • It takes around 37 grams of processed green beans to make 30 grams of roasted beans, making around 27 shots per kg
  • Therefore the farmer receives around 6.7 cents per shot in your local coffee shop
  • The processing company may get around 5 to 10 cents
  • So if, the raw coffee bean price doubles, all else remaining equal, your espresso price goes up another 6.7 cents

In any case, using this Timorese example, about 10 to 15 cents of your cup goes to the producer and processor located here in TL.  I am assuming export grade stuff in my example.  The cheaper stuff earns a fair bit less.  Similarly, the backyard processing operations.

Enjoy your 13 cents of finest Timorese coffee.

Note : Feel free to shoot holes in my analysis – this being a casual brain dump done under the influence of too much caffeine.

The big kahuna

From time to time, you get big ships visiting here but few bigger than the hospital ship USNS Mercy.  It is parked off Dili for 2 weeks providing specialist medical services.  I believe it is concentrating on cleft palate operations on this its 3rd trip to Dili.  Hard to believe there is more medical grunt on that ship than the whole country put together.

On Wednesday at lunchtime, a supply ship provided entertainment by airlifting supplies by chopper to the Mercy.

It is also noticable that there seem to be more oil exploration ships passing through.  Maybe its just because I know what one looks like now.

Someone said to me recently, “there’s gotta be a market for dry cleaners here”.  Funny how you only start noticing signs advertising laundry services – at the Sands Motel and the new Sealion Laundry next to the new “Pinoy Grill” restaurant.  This may be a new incarnation of the Pinoy that existed in the old Fat Boys premises.  Its on Comorro Road between the heliport and the OZ Embassy.  And there is a new Vietnamese restaurant across the road.

Flying here – update

Fairly soon, AustAsia Airlines will be commencing flights from Singapore to Dili – 1 August, I believe*.  They have been offering opening specials at USD200 (+ taxes) each way for the 1st and 5th August flights, returning by 19 August.  This brings the number of incoming airlines to 3, flying from Darwin, Denpasar (Bali) and Singapore.

One can never really quote a fare as they seem to change all the time but I needed an update as I am fanging for a trip out real soon to recharge the shopping and eating batteries.

Airline Flight Days Departure/Arrival Times
(all in local times)
Approximate Price
Darwin – Dili
Flight Time 1:45
Distance 703 km
Daily AM flights
PM flights on Sat, Mon, Tue, Thu
AM Flights
DRW-DIL 07:00 / 08:15
DIL-DRW 09:00 / 11:15
PM Flights
DRW-DIL 12:00 / 13:15
DIL-DRW 16:45 / 19:00
AUD415 (book ahead) or up to AUD860 with no planning
Denpasar – Dili
Flight Time 1:50
Distance 1139 km
Daily DPS-DIL 10:05 / 12:55
DIL-DPS 13:35 / 14:30

Singapore – Dili
Flight Time 3:50
Distance 2661 km
Starting 1 August.

Aug : two per week (Tue & Fri)
Nov : three per week (Tue, Thu & Sat)

SIN–DIL 09:20 / 14:15
DIL–SIN 15:25 / 18:10
USD820 to 850

* FOS corrected my dates.

Dili renovations

Some may have noticed renovations to the “Tais Market” in Colmera.  New roofing and walls plus a sign.  There are a few of those banners strung across the road at a few places promoting the new improved market – courtesy of USAid.

The future Presidential palace building next to the heliport is moving along, as is the new Chinese Embassy building on the seafront.  Perhaps something of more interest is the new 1st floor deck being built at Casa Minha thus providing another venue with views across the road to the sea.

The Aribu Beach Resort (near OceanView Hotel) remains in permanent building mode – one wonders when it will end.

Mid-year budget update background info

We all seem to know that there is an extra mid-year budget update process going on which at this stage represents a 122% increase in the budget allocation.  As always it is best to know your facts and Lao Hamutuk have kindly made some official documents plus some responses available on their web site.

Some days you just shouldn’t get out of bed.  I got sunburnt on Sunday and felt like a cooked prawn yesterday.  I had 3 bicycle flat tyres – (1) the original hole, (2) the faulty replacement inner tube and (3) my 1st repair to the original hole failed.  I am down to less than 10 minutes to do a tyre change now – something I have always aspired to !!!???

For some, little gems

If you follow that small lane on the left of Dili Beach Hotel and head towards Comorro Road, there is a little warung on your right a couple of hundred metres before Comorro Road.  Almost completely out of malae-land, looks quaint & promising.

On a similar quaint note, the little ice-cream shop across from Carla Mansions in Motael/Palopaso/whatever is no more.  Sad really.  I hope it is because he has moved somewhere else.

Had a nice lunch at Bangkok Spice 2 recently – not bad.  Similarly, the new Tuk Tuk (aka old Thai Jasmine) is doing fine down at Metiaut.  Me thinks the Thais have cracked the code here.

Also went to the photo exhibition across from the OZ Embassy.  Made me think that I have seen a lot of these things as well – just didn’t take the pictures !

Cheese – the new luxury food

According to the IMF, inflation here in TL is predicted to be 9.0% for 2008 which is climbing even higher than the 6.7% for 2006 and 7.6% for 2007.   Cheese inflation feels like 100% over the last year or so.  In price, the humble cheese sandwich must be rivalling a few canapes with pate now.

Good for the arteries.