The owner of our hotel was adamant: before leaving Suai, we must see the coastal area, try to spot crocodiles, and see Suai Loro, the traditional village right on the coast. Even though we still have a long way to go that day, we decide to follow his advice and head out. We drive until the road ends at a broken bridge, park, and wait until a row of women have crossed the bridge with loads on their heads. A big warning sign just before has informed us that the area is hunting ground for crocodiles, and it seems amazing that the bridge crossing the lagoon in which the animals are lurking, is in such a bad state. We cautiously walk to the other side, until we reach the beach. There, we find wooden boats with floaters on both sides, with fading paint. They have a wooden stool at one end of the boat. A group of fishermen are sitting on one of them, chatting to each other, and we have a short chat with them, too.
We walk to where the river empties into the sea; this is the same river in which, a little upstream, salt-water crocodiles live. Stories of people being killed by crocs are quite common here, but there is no croc around - or, so it seems. Beyond the beach, we see the mountain range, the backbone of the island, rising in the distance. Two fishing boats are speeding towards the beach as we walk back, and the men lift their boats and carry them to the highest part of the beach. Two of them immediately start to put the sardines onto a string. They will first hang in the sun to dry, before women will take them to the market in their baskets. For us, it is time to move on; we walk back to the bridge and scan the mangrove trees for signs of crocodiles, but in vain. When we reach the village of Suai Loro, we park the car under a huge tree, which will guarantee us shade and prevents the car from heating up too much. However, when we walk away, a girl approaches us, informing us that the tree is sacred, and that we need to park elsewhere. We find a small clinic, and I park the car as close as possible to the wall, to have at least a little shade.
When we enter the sandy spaces between the thatched roof houses typical of this region of East Timor, we are very much aware of our presence, and tread cautiously. But soon enough, one after the other villager makes us feel welcome in their settlement. They greet us, and we get such endearing and beautiful smiles, that our hesitation quickly melts away. The roof of one of the houses is swarming with men, who are busy thatching it. On the floor, several guys are busy making palm leaves into long strips, others are bundling those, and handing them one floor up. There, on the skeleton of the roof, guys are further processing the leaves into a cover for the roof that will protect against rain while providing a cool temperature inside. The guys give me thumbs-up, and more smiles, and I am invited to climb the rickety wooden ladder and join them on the top of the roof. I can now see what the guys are doing up here, have a great view of Suai Loro, and catch a welcome breeze. One of the men tells me that they started in the morning and that the roof will be finished before the end of the day. The rainy season is supposed to start soon, and the house will be properly protected. When I am back down, we further wander between the houses. Almost everything we see is man-made, using natural materials: huge fans, baskets, mats with different patterns and colours. Pigs roam around the clean spaces between the big houses, which are all erected platforms. More people start to ask for their picture to be taken, and thank us for doing it. A proud old lady, the abu, or grandmother, turns out to be very witty and still has a lively twinkle in her eyes. She points out all her descendants - and we conclude she has an extensive family. We buy a big bag full of mangoes from another lady under a huge tree, and head back to our car. Our visit has lasted longer than we anticipated, and we could have stayed much more time. Heeding the suggestion by the hotel owner turns out to be a very good decision.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Suai Loro (Timor-Leste). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Suai Loro.
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