The big backlog

Apart from being a bit behind in my random ramblings, I can’t help but notice the “backlog” of ships sitting in the waters off Dili.  There are 2 commercial vessels docked at the port, two being the port’s limit.  But there are 8 vessels anchored offshore.  Seven of these look like your typical commercial freight vessels and one looks like a dredger or something like that.

This backlog seems to have been here ever since the MV Doulos commandeered the port a couple of weeks back.  It just seems to be growing.  In “normal” times, one might see 1 or 2 vessels anchored offshore but they usually have moved on within 24 hours.  ???

There has another little flurry of road repairs lately, with the roads around the Palacio getting a new surface.  I am still swerving around imaginary potholes indelibly imprinted in my memory, even though they are not there anymore.  The road on the east side of the Palacio up past the Stadium has also received the treatment right up to Taibesse.  I almost miss that pothole nightmare at the stadium corner going into Audian.

It would be nice if they had a go at that section just outside Hotel Vila Verde.

For the past couple of weeks, there has been construction activity across from Lita supermarket.  Yes, these are to become permanent structures for fruit and veg sellers.  Am crossing fingers that they will not end up being shiny tin roofs.

And the construction across the road from the new EU embassy (on the eastern side of the Palacio) is landscape works funded by the EU.  Could define the likely future of landscape works from the Palacio to “Pig Bridge”.

The intention to convert all taxis to canary yellow is proceeding to the point where it is now more common to see yellow taxis than the more traditional alternative.  Given the deterioration of my bicycle in the local maritime environment, I will be interested to see how long the yellow taxis remain yellow.

The standard of UN Police driving yet again comes under the magnifying glass after a week or so of particularly shabby form in the accident department.  To be honest, it is becoming a joke.  It may just be bar talk, but tell me why UN Police are the most feared drivers in town.  Seems like many of them got their licences in a “super mi” packet (instant noodles – the local equivalent of the cornflakes packet).

How did I miss World Toilet Day ?

What was I doing last week to miss “World Toilet Day” ?  The 19th November is now in my electronic diary forever.

It reminded me of some of my Asian toilet experiences :

  • Like the toilet that was concreted off-center onto the outlet pipe thus ensuring minimal passage of articles through the opening.  Now when you are on the 10th floor and and the eventual blockage resulting from your poorly placed “can” causes the higher 5 floors to backfill your toilet (and half of your apartment) with nightsoil water, I can tell you that you have got a problem.
  • Or the one where the new modern western public toilet block is constructed, training in use carried out BUT there was no door to lock off the toilet block BEFORE the outlet pipes were connected.  When discovered, it was a nightmare scene.
  • Or the very 1st time I had even seen an Asian “throttle pit” (ie squat toilet) was at an airport where I had foolishly had a blindingly hot curry the night before and had to hastily leave Customs with luggage in tatters while I made an emergency sprint to the toilets.  I had thought that the best way to transport the suit was to wear it – in retrospect, not on this occasion.

Alas, none of the above tales occured here in TL and I can not even think of any serious incident (actually involving a toilet where it was at fault and not me).

Is 19 November in your diaries yet ?

Bicycle tales

The old bicycle is showing signs of wear and tear, mostly rust from the salty humid air, I suspect.  The bell (yes, bell) is now rusted solid.  Now that I am on the OZ-sourced inner tubes, I do not have to pump the tyres up every 2 days and I have gone more than 2 weeks without an inner tube failure.

A couple of months ago, one of the pedals snapped and I have now moved onto the $5 all metal locally-sourced version.  The bearings seem to have a problem already and these will not last long.

Early on, I bought the cheap locally-sourced lock and chain.  Within 2 months, the lock had rusted up and was unusable.  So I bring back into the country a flash, expensive, guaranteed-for-life lock and chain.  Last week, the chain snapped right next to the built-in lock.  So I am back to the cheap, locally sourced variety.

My bike seat started deteriorating rapidly a couple of weeks ago and accelerated until bits of foam underneath started poking out.  It is now held together by black linen tape ($2 at Oceano).

But I can’t say I am not getting my money’s worth.

Roadside fruit and veg – going, going …

In a couple of days, the roadside fruit and veg market near the Pertamina Wharf will be gone.  Its underway right now.  That quaint dream of brunch at Thai Pavilion prior to fruit and veg shopping (including delicatessen items) is no more.  Even the Thai Pavilion has made way for the Aru Cafe.

The Aru Cafe actually looks like a cafe by day with an outdoor servery on the balcony.  Menu is “Asian fusion”, juices are excellent.  Who knows what the view across the road will be like soon.

And on views across the road, the Aribu Resort Hotel down near Ocean View Hotel is ever so slowly taking shape.  There will be a huge 1st floor balcony bar/restaurant (I think) overlooking the sea.  Maybe next year.

Nautilus seafood restaurant is still under final fit-out.  Can’t be much longer now.

From the Asian pollution cloud

The UNEP (UN Environment Program) have released a report on the ever-increasing pollution cloud in Asia (see here).  I remember holidaying in Asia during the severe Sumatran forest fires and experiencing horrendous air pollution problems in KL.  But this time, there is no single source.

I can report that Dili has no such pollution clouds.  During the dry season, the prevailing wind is from the north-east.  And there is no heavy industry to be seen for a bulls roar (ie a long distance).

However, on a per-capita basis, it really seems that Dili is not doing too well.  It seems that the vehicle traffic has tripled since I arrived in 2005 and while cycling, I have nearly keeled over a number of times from a face full of diesel fumes from vehicles sadly in need of maintenance or putting down.

And Dili is serviced electrically by diesel generators that have a bad habit of clapping out regularly.  As a result, every man and his dog seems to have a private generator to overcome these problems.  So at any time, there must be total generating capacity far exceeding total demand.  I will call this inefficient.

But if Dili has a problem its the stripping of all vegetation off the hills for either fuel for cooking or because of some old tradition of burning off the hills during the dry season.  And that confounded habit of sweeping the dirt around domestic dwellings (ie no grass) in the mornings … could cause more pollution than anything else.  But at this stage, its all small beer (ie not too much of an issue).

In any case fellow Asians, if you are getting too much of a lungful of the pollution cloud, why not come over to Dili and test out the pristine air.  And you only have to drive for 10 minutes to get out of the metropolis … eat in grass huts by the sea, cold beer, swimming, snorkelling ….  (Jakarta residents take note.)

Random comestibles

On the weekend, I whipped out to the Doulos to check out the floating bookshop – the huge ship docked at Dili Wharf and attracting hordes of schoolchildren.  To be honest, the whole thing was over in 30 minutes.  About 1/3 of the books were religious tomes or advice on how to rear children and husbands.  The second 1/3 was children’s books and the rest, a mixture of classics, nature books and cookbooks.  What I did notice was that sales were next to nothing.  That is, most of the books were in English and very few students would have even the most simple knowledge and possibly no money anyway.  (And there is no public bar on-board.)

One could not have noticed the 2 or 3 commercial freight vessels hanging around offshore for the week.  This is unusual but explained by the Doulos occupying prime dock space.

I paid for scoffing at this costly arrangement by going to the bank today and spending 36 minutes in the queue to attend to my 3 minute over the counter transaction.

I hope I do not pay again courtesy of yet another “Indian” restaurant opened up.  The “Flavors of India” has opened about 100 metres on the sea-side of Vasco da Gamas restaurant.  The proprietor is Nepalese and tells me he is still in the setup phase but expects to be fully kitted up in about 2 weeks.  He assures me he does not use oil and that this is healthy Indian food.  In the interests of random-ness, give it a try.  It is open, quiet and airy and suggests lunchtime is a good time to start.  (Tiger beer is $2 and cold.)

The fruit and veg markets on Comorro road have now finally completely moved – mostly to the old Comorro market area which extends from Comorro Road towards the sea for about 200 metres.  Pumpkins finished, papaya hard to find (except out near Liquica), plenty of bananas, mangos, potatos, limes, tomatoes and greens.  Beans OK, as are snow peas.

Tourism drive

I note that the President is urging Australians to come here as tourists.  And I see that a new 5-star hotel resort is on the cards :

The resort will be built between two ridges in Taci Tolu * on the coast of western Dili and will have a five-star hotel with about 350 rooms, a 27-hole golf course set amid lakes, and a business park.

This puts it just west of the existing Timorese defence HQ (and the race course) and just beneath the outstretched hands of the recently erected Pope Paul statue.  It is also just across the road from Dili Rock – a popular diving spot.  And 10 minutes from the airport.

Not that I am a hotel ratings genius, but my current best guess is that Hotel Timor may be a 4-star.  Discovery Inn looks ordinary from the outside but at least it does have a more hotel-ish restaurant and bar.  And the Com Resort is more 3-star-ish with its non-24-by-7 power.

On the more rustic tourism front, I recently did the Mt. Matebian walk.  For more details on how to do it, I would try this site which seems pretty up-to-date to me.  The contacts given in the web page seem to be current.  We did the Uaiboro start option which is gettable by 4-wheel drive in the dry – allow about 7 hours from Dili.  I did the Uaiboro-summit in 4 hours and return in about 2 hours 40 minutes.  I was knackered and drank about 3 litres of fluid during the recovery time at the end.  It was fine but cold at the top, requiring additional clothing.  It was fine but hot at the bottom, requiring as little as possible.

My only failure was my boots.  The sole almost came off one on the ascent and had to be taped back on – this worked.  The left sole came off 30 minutes from the end (no tape left) and I staggered in looking and feeling like a wreck.  My t-shirt looked like a salt pan.

Note that TL does not have a camping/hiking store that can supply typical western supplies so you have to bring what you need.  We used a guide which I think is preferable.  The guy wore cheap running shoes but took them off half-way up and went the rest of the way barefoot.  While I was chugging down the water on numerous occasions, he seemed quite happy to do without.  Near the end, the local kids were laughing at me with my sole-flapping boots as they raced past and around me barefoot on the loose stones and gravel.  Doesn’t it cheese you off !?

* Note that “Taci Tolu” literally means 3 lakes.  They currently exist but after the wet season, 2 of the 3 lakes usually merge to make 2 lakes.