Part of the fun of cruising is doing stuff you never dreamt you would do when you lived on land, and part of that fun is the unknown… which is exactly what happened to us today. We were told that we were going to visit a hillside village to see how the farmers lived. After our obligatory coffee we all piled into three utes, together with our police guard (not for safety reason but because of the low crime rate here, it gave them something to do) and an ambulance (!) and headed off up to the village. The journey took about 2 hours, in some horrendous road conditions. When we got to the top – the highest point of Oecusse – we were all blown away at what awaited us. We were then told, that apart from some volunteers from overseas, these villagers had never seen tourists. The kids had not even seen white faces before. It seemed that everyone from around had turned up, all wearing either their traditional costumes or their best outfits. The school kids had all been taken out of school for the day, and that the outer villagers had trekked up the day before, spent the night at the top and would not trek down again until we had left. They all bought their wares for us and they sang and danced for hours. With only 8 of us we were completely dwarfed by the sheer numbers of them, but we were so honoured to be a part of their welcoming ceremony it brought tears to my eyes.
You can see people all over the hillside, an incredible welcome
There were speeches from all the elders, who each have specific roles. We were all asked to introduce ourselves and talk a little about what we did and where we came from and this was translated into Tetun for them.
We walked up the top of the hill, and this was why we now realised we had an ambulance in our convey. It was steep and had one of us fallen, we would have been in real trouble. this East Timorese are truly some of the kindest and most generous people we have met, they looked after us like kings.
I went up to one little boy who started screaming – I don’t think he had ever seen blond hair before!