A youth, an old man
Separated by chance.

Outside the breeze,
The sharp cold.

By the light of the lantern
They conversed
The whole night.

The old man, young.
The young man, sad.

“Huato-Carbau,” Ruy Cinatti, 1947


Heading out of Dili, I wasn’t really sure whether we were going to Baguia, accessed from the north coast, through the town of Laga, just past Baucau, or whether we were going to Uatocarbau, one of the most remote subdistricts in Timor accessed by crossing the “Mundo Perdido” mountains and to Viqueque, through the rice paddies on the south coast, and up again into the interior.

I basically left everything in Pedro’s hands, as he was acting as my guide/fixer. My go-to man. Pedro was born in the shadow Baguia, but because of Portuguese colonial borders, he grew up with more contact with Uatocarbau posto. His plan was to drop in for lunch to his new Timor Village Hotel, a tasteful guesthouse below Ossu, near a waterfall and nice caves.

Then on to Viqueque where we would take some supplies to pengunsi (refugees, Indonesian). Pengunsi, I would find, are all over Viqueque district, and most are really longing for life in Dili. But I get ahead of myself.

Our last cold drink, a Tiger beer which I drank hidden in a plastic bag so as not to offend Timorese sensibilities, bought at the fabulous store before the Bebui River, where the Portuguese executed seven people in 1959. The light was beautiful in the late afternoon. Evidently it had not been raining, as the Bebui was virtually entirely dry.


We continued on, and Pedro pointed out the site of the Japanese center of operations in World War II, now a palm glade between a rocky hill and the wild taci mane. Pedro knows a lot about WWII cause he recently guided Japanese researchers on their search for information on “comfort women”.

Past Aliambata, the place where oil comes out of the earth. An Australian drilling company was prospecting there in 1959, and probably had a part in stirring up discontent.

Timorese still go and collect it to burn in lamps. I thought about how much this trip would cost me in gasoline, which is $1/liter here, the Timor Gap, and how the price of gasoline must increase the cost of living dramatically here.

We passed the “new” Uatocarbau, on the beach. Like many places in Timor, the Indonesians moved the posto down from the mountains, to the coast. The town is ugly and hot.


We head up from the coast towards Irabere, one of the most legendary places in Timor, for its crystalline blue fresh water oasis, a spring apparently guarded by miniature white crocodiles. IN the dark we felt the cool air come off of the Irabere river. We turned back West towards Matebian, and I could see the Milky way, it was a cloudless night. The shape of Boraboo Mountain was visible in the moon light.

Old Uatocarbau, now known as Afaloicai Uatocarbau, our destination, lies beneath Boraboo. There is no electricity up there. No phones, no communication with the outside world. One house has a radio. No NGOs work up there. The market is on Sunday, and then there is bread.


Nothing had changed since I was there three years ago. Except the school, nothing about life had changed since Ruy Cinatti wrote the epigraph in 1947.


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