There are no direct flights from Kupang to Dili, even though they are the capitals and largest islands on the two halves of Timor Island, West Timor (Indonesia) and Timor Leste (formerly “East Timor”). Possibly the best way to go from Kupang to Dili is to take the Kupang to Dili Bus, or shuttle bus by Timor Tour and Travel for 225,000 IDK. I made tentative plans to do so on Friday.
A Day in Kupang
After my three-day tour of West Timor, I had to return to Kupang to pick up my Letter of Invitation from the Timor Leste Consulate, of which I had applied 3 business days earlier. I just needed to give my name and I got a piece of paper that would allow me to cross into Timor Leste within the next 30 days.
Crystal Cave, Kupang
With the free time left in the day, a few of us from Lavalon Hostel visited the Crystal Cave, an amazing cave with swimming in some clear blue salt water and later my last sunset in Kupang was amazing. I was a little late for sunset the previous two nights spent in Kupang.
Sunset and Night Market
I was tired of rice and fish, so for dinner I had corn on the cob along the waterfront (they serve it with topping of sugar and hot sauce) and then had a delicious Soursop fruit juice at the night fish market.
In the course of the day, I decided to tag along with Donna, a chef from Perth, Australia for 3 more days in West Timor. Several of the sites we would see would be things I’d see in the previous 3 days, but there were several advantages:
- I would get to see Temkessi, which I missed on my first 3-day trip
- I get someone to hang out with for 3 days and a bus-mate to cross the border with which is always great because you can watch out for each other and our stuff.
- It breaks up the 12 hour shuttle from Kupang to Dili that starts at 5am. Instead, my trip would start at 11am and be only 7 hours
- I’d get to ride around for more adventure in “Susuki” and hang out with the humorous guide Aka.
Temkessi (or Tamkesi) is one of the most remote villages in West Timor. We crossed a high plain with spectacular views and cows and horses, then up one more rough road to find this village at the top of a limestone mountain. It was a slippery walk up coral rocks to the top where a few villagers welcomed us. Our guide Aka told us to report if we fall or drop something because this will give you many years of bad luck unless you pay a small fine to the villagers so I was extra careful on the rocks. Two limestone cliffs overlook the village and one is restricted for religious ceremonies only. For some ceremonies, a youngster has to carry a red goat to the top of the cliff and sacrifice and eat it. They are not allowed to bring any of the meat back to the village.
Gua Sta. Maria Bitauni Grotto Cave
On the way out to Temkessi, Aka mentioned there was a grotto cave we didn’t need to visit, but we were really glad we did. There were several chambers with lots of candles and religious statues, and a huge outdoor chapel beneath… room for hundreds of worshipers.
At the end of our 3-day tour, our guide Aka asked if we would like to join him and his wife to attend a baptism party for a 12 year old boy. We had time to go to the shop to buy a small gift and freshen up before the party. There was lots of food at the party and after eating we had a chance to talk to a couple college girls that spoke good English. After the brief visit, we hopped back into “Suzuki” and Aka said “We’re going to another party”, so we each pitched in a little money for a gift and headed off to a much more lively party for the baptism of a girl (apparently, multiple children are baptized on a single Sunday. What a party this was! After selecting our second dinner for the night, we were handled a small cup of Arak, the local whiskey made from palm juice and about 40% alcohol. We chatted with the locals, flirted with a few guys, danced the night away, and did more shots of Arak. The couple who were hosting the party were so happy we were there. Not only did they convince us to stay another hour (until after midnight), they gave a short speech about how great it was that we could attend, and arranged a ride back to our hotel.
Timor Tour and Travel Shuttle Bus – Kupang to Dili Bus
These buses were surprisingly comfortable. Nice big seats (limit of 3 people across), OK temperature, and no blaring music! The bus from Kupang to Dili stopped in Kefamenanu just after its scheduled 11:00 am departure and the bus made good time towards the border.
Border Crossing Indonesia to Timor Leste
We arrived at the border by 1:30 pm and the bus was swamped by locals trying to grab our bags to porter for a fee. We avoided the mob and then headed to get our Indonesian exit stamp. I discovered that I wasted $35 on a paid 30-day visa to Indonesia. A previous blog said you needed to have a paid, not free visa on arrival, to leave the country at this border. But my Australian travel companion had the free visa and she had no problem leaving. So, my $35 souvenir to Indonesia is a special sticker in my passport.
We walked over half a kilometer in the hot sun to the Timor Leste border to fill out a couple forms, turn in our special invitation from the consulate, and pay $30 for our 30-day visa on arrival.
I happened to have a bag of guava fruits purchased near Kefamenanu the previous day and I thought I should declare them to the guards so they could discard them if needed. The guavas were tied in a plastic bag on my backpack and when I showed to the customs official, he had a concerned look on his face that I should not have those. He took out a knife to cut the plastic off my bag but instead of discarding, he unzipped my bag and put them inside!
Lastly, the Timor Leste guards check our names to the Timor Tour and Travel manifest and we were allowed to board the bus again. The Timor Tour buses don’t cross the border so we got on a new bus there.
Timor Leste Coastal Drive
The views from the border to Dili are spectacular, even though the grey skies weren’t the best for photography. Rugged coastline and deserted beaches, and every once in awhile a “Danger Crocodile” sign. Man eating salt water crocodiles are known live in the ocean off many of the beaches.
Insider Tip: When boarding the bus at the border, make sure you grab a seat next to the left windows for the best views and a chance to take pictures from the open windows.
Arrival in Dili
We were super happy that we arrived in Dili in daylight, but then realized the drive would drop off everyone at their destinations first. He asked for the address of our hostel which we had, but then after dropping off every single local on the bus, he dropped us at the Timor Tour and Travel office and said “taxi” as it was nearly dark by now. Our hostel appeared to be less than 600 meters away on a map, even though the locals convinced us it was “over two kilometers” and we should take the local taxi.
So we started walking and I was following the basic map from the Lonely Planet but none of the street names were matching the street signs we saw. We asked multiple locals and none of them seemed to know the street we were looking for or the Dili Central Backpackers hostel. Finally, after walking for over 15 minutes, we thought let’s hop into a cab and pay 2 dollars just to get there. A yellow taxi stopped and asked for $10 dollars, but we said $2. So we put all of our stuff in the cab and literally drove 10 feet and I saw the Dili Central Backpackers sign. “Stop” I yelled as we grabbed our stuff and refused to pay the fare. We have been warned that the yellow taxis are a bit corrupt. I’m guessing if we hadn’t seen the sign, he would have drove us around a few blocks and dropped us to make the $2 fare.
Where to Stay
Kupang – the Lavalon Hostel is a great place to meet other people to share on a Timor tour. Edwin can book a trip. Private and dorm rooms available.
Dili – Central Dili Backpackers. Another great place to meet other tourists. Choice of rooms with fan or A/C. Book it here.