After our interview with the President, we landed in Dili airport. Our flight was the only there, amongst a couple of military helicopter which are the fastest means of transport to mountainous villages and are to be used for emergency medical support.
We were welcomed by one of the race organizers and a number of traditional dressed Timorese. I realized only then how racers were on board the same flight: we were escorted by a UN vehicle to Timor Lodge to register. Before we headed off to the Hotel California (our accommodation sponsors), the country is quite expensive because they use USD, although local coins are used for smaller denominations under a dollar.
Dili is worlds apart from cosmopolitan super ultra-modern Singapore and different from the sameness of Asia. As we drove along the main road, we caught glimpse of all the local fisherman selling fish along the coast and the stunning crystal clear blue oceans. Along the coast were locals lazing, eating fruits and watching a big volleyball match.
Shortly after we arrived at our hotel, we met up with Rosalia, CEO and Beth both from Timor Aid the NGO that Gone Cyclin’ is supporting. We got to hear more about the NGO and the impact of their operations: it was great finally realizing that all the months of working behind a computer screen actually was coming to life and that we were here in Timor.
We were meant to head off to the night market but decided to avoid the traffic and ended up catching a bus and heading to a lovely seaside seafood dinner instead at a lovely restaurant called Victoria. The local kalian is fabulous. The next morning after unpacking our bikes, we headed to the Tais market to see the fabrics that the local Timorese women we were supporting were producing. It was massive fun playing with the kids, who would just laugh when we looked at them.
It was then off to pick up our bags and attend the race brief at Timor Lodge. Pris and I quickly snuck away in search of local cuisine and to check out the local fruit market. We were able to get lovely lunch for USD 1.25 and find some red bananas which were super sweet.
During the briefing, one of the guys said that he hopes to see us all here on Friday and that we should be careful. He mentioned the limited medical support and that anything serious was to happen, we would have to be helicopter out and without travel insurance it would cost around 30,000 USD. I knew my mother wouldn’t approve but since I was there, since I was there for a reason it seemed to be okay.