How I met Mr. President on Atauro Island

President of Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta

My adventure today starts early, but not earlier enough as I should recognize. 

I decided to do short trip over the weekend to Atauro Island, without any plan and booking and  so I went to the harbor, shortly in front of 9am. This is the regular departure time for the "Berlin Nakorma", the ferry to Atauro Island, a 240 square kilometer huge island, 30 kilometers north of Dili.

Berlin Nakroma - a timorese ferry, financed by Germany, built in Indonesia.

I arrived at the pier and could only look how the ferry left the harbor. So, may be my watch doesn't work well, or the clocks are working different in Timor-Leste. 

Firstly, I was disappointed. Because I want still visit Atauro Island, I looked for another way to get there and asked a few fishermen to bring me there. I payed definitely too much, 15$ exactly, but anyway.

The first obstacle was to get into the boat, because my foot had an open wound and I didn't want to step into this dirty, oily and muddy water. So, I asked another close fisherman, who's boat was directly on the beach and the two boat owners agreed and so I get with dry feed into the boat.

The ride took nearly two hours. This boat was similar to a big longtail boat, but without tail ;) I mean with a fixed engine. 

We passed the big Christo Rei statue on the right side at Kap Fatu Camu. This statue looked similar to the one in Lissboa and Rio de Janeiro, but it was sponsored from the Indonesian government while the occupation periode in 1988. They tried to make themself more popular for the timorese citizen, because the majority is catholic here.

The pope Johannes Paul II. blessed the statue while his visit in 1989. The people of Timor-Leste are calling the statue "Jesus - What can I do?" because of the wide-open arms.

On my way further to Atauro striked one time the engine, but they fixed it by refilling petrol.

The water at the East-coast of Atauro is completely different to the water at Dili's North coast. It is transparent and turquoise colored and looked clean.

I stepped at the south-east coast my first foot on the land and so I had to look for a transportation to get close to the pier, where the accommodation is, which I looked out.

Here is a different kind of Tuk-Tuk on the track, but it is not more convenient, I would say more tight and crowded. ;) The trails are not well prepared and so it is a very bumpy ride. We passed the pier and I saw the ferry once again. :D

Near the pier is a local market where you can get plenty of different food.

After arriving at the Bungalow Resort I noticed that it could be difficult without a reservation, but the durch guy is so friendly and he offered me to sleep in one of the covered huts, close to the beach. He would put a tent under the roof and I could get it cheaper then usual. I denied in considering of the mosquitos around me and decided to leave this lush natural island with the ferry on the afternoon again. I forgott to buy new mosquito repellent.

Beautiful beach along the East-coast of Atauro Island.

However the owner apoligized a lot of times because no available room and offered me to take part at the big lunch buffet, what I thankful accepted. Now he told me the reason why there is no space available this weekend. Everything shall be different while the President José Ramus-Horta joined a ceremony on Atauro today and for this case the departure time of the ferry will be also different as usual and they will head back as soon as he get back to the ferry.

For this reason I ate lunch and enjoyed my short time on this lovely island and regretted not to stay longer.

The fishermen have their boats close to the pier.

Trekking shall be nice on Atauro Island too.

Another interesting experience await me at the ticket counter. I missed to make a picture, but the scenery was hair-raising. There were two ticket counters. One for 1st class and one for 2nd class. In front of both were a crowd of people trying desperately to get a ticket. There was no cue, but everybody stretched one arm with his identity card and money in the air.

I asked somebody why they not bought a return ticket in the morning and he told me there is no one available. Hmm, is this a provision of employment?

I can't see any rules how this worked and I was happy to get unexpected help from a local guy. I gave him my european driving license and some money. I had not my passport with me, because I didn't know that it is neccessary for buying a ferry ticket in Timor-Leste.

Fearless he lunged into the crowd and five minutes later he offered me my driving license, the ticket and the change, but he didn't apply for his ticket yet. Unbelieveable how friendly they are. Unfortunately, I didn't see him on the ferry again.

When I arrived on the ferry, I had still to wait for departure and nobody could tell me when we will start. The only answer I got, was: As soon as the President is back on board. Oic.....

The ferry operates on saturday 9am to Atauro Island and at the afternoon back to Dili.

In the meanwhile I took some pictures of the marine life around the ferry and had a good conversation with a lady who was able to speak a very good english. Her husband was less pleased about our busy conversation. :( That was the reason why I didn't ask her for another meet up in Dili to know the timorese people better.

plenty of seastars

A water snake. The locals told me she is poisonous.

This ferry was in a good condition, better then most of the indonesian ferries. Ok, I grant, this is not difficult. ;) But if Indonesia can build such a ferry with german financiation, why didn't they build more modern ones for themselfs?

A german-timorese cooperation on this ferry.

The freight was brought on board and sometimes it looked very adventures how they prepare the freight. For example the fixed chicken by a rope, or the just reaped sea-grass.

A chicken bondaged at the shipping space.

Which of these chickens is more happy? I guess they await all the same fate......same same, but different.....

Every gap will used for freight every colour.

At the time when the President arrived, I was obviously impressed. No bodyguards, although he was badly injured while the assassination in 2008. There he was, President José Ramos-Horta, a natioanl hero, who is accepted from all sides and who did so much for the sovereignity of Timor-Leste. He walked always on the  diplomatic way and the history shows us this way was correct.

President José Ramos-Horta arrives at the pier.

When I entered Timor-Leste by land, I heard a lot about Ramos-Horta. Everybody was talking about him and he stands for reliability and trustfull acting on the political stage.

President Ramos-Horta in talk with citicens of Timor-Leste while his visit of Atauro Island.

But when I see him in the middle of the  crowd talking to citizens, I understood what they all talking about and why he is so popular. He has a big charisma and it is difficult not to be fascinated.

Sympathic, he was only sheltered by one armed guy, while he is walking on Atauro Island, although he was badly injured from the assassins in 2008. The lady was his companion. Unfortunately, I don't know who she is.

He was in company of a lady, so I didn't want to disturb their talk and so we only greeted. 

Ramos-Horta is entering the "Berlin Nakroma" ferry and we said "Hello" to each other.

Shortly after his arriving on board the ferry departured indeed.

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