TUTUALA AND THE EASTERN TIP
The beaches here are as good they get. Tutuala lies about 6 miles/10km before the eastern tip of East Timor - you may never find yourself anywhere quite as remote again. The village itself is simple but lies within an area that is spectacularly beautiful and positively steeped in ancient history. Caves excavated by researchers from Australian National University at nearby Lene Hara are yielding archeological finds dated to 30,000 years ago. Neighbouring caves, such as O Hi and Ile Kere Kere, also contain 5000-year old paintings of animals, dancing figures and celestial or life symbols. Itís a long, hot trek up to the caves, which of course are not signposted, but once there you get a great sense of how life must have been for these people long ago. On the other hand, you can have a more first-hand experience along the same lines by joining a Tutuala fisherman for an evening under the stars in his dugout canoe - the best of them can reel in tuna by hand.
The holiest symbol of East Timor is the crocodile, stemming
from its creation legend: a boy saves a stranded crocodile from dying of thirst
by putting him back in the water; in return, and to repent his passing thought
of eating his small saviour, the croc turns himself into an island (Timor)
thereby becoming the ancestor of all Timorese. The woven textiles of Tutuala
often depict the crocodile, as do the sandalwood carvings typical to the area.
Another craft form in the area is turtleshell carving. This is unfortunate
as the turtles that inhabited them are severely endangered, but the locals
have lived off their meat for centuries and try as the wildlife protection
agencies may, itís a difficult habit to break. However, there is a carver
in Tutuala - the only one in Timor - who has a special sanction from UNESCO
that allows him to keep working.
A bumpy road leads from Tutuala to Walu Beach (also
spelled Vallou or Waloo), which faces Jaco (or To-Tina) Island
across a narrow strait. This is not just another perfect beach - itís a holy
place for Timorese, with totems marking the actual beaching point of the first
settlersí boats. Itís also a fantastic place to observe sea life without having
to go underwater, as the reefs are so close to shore that at low tide you
can walk out and look at the wriggling beasts stuck between the corals. If
you do snorkel, you have a good chance of seeing any one of five species
of sea turtles.
From Walu Beach itís a good
trek up to Lake Ila Lalaro, a salt water lake inhabited by crocodiles
and a gathering point for many of East Timorís 200 species of non-migratory
birds, 25 of which are endangered. Horses and herds of water buffalo graze
in the surrounding pastures. Along the way youíll pass through a beautiful
mesophyll vine forest, with orchids and ferns clinging to huge canopy trees.
Sadly very rare now is the russo Timorese deer which was once plentiful in
In the vicinity is Mehara, a tiny village made
up of Dong Son and other styles of houses traditional to the local Fataluku
people. In the 1980s this village provided a hideout for Xanana, long-time
Resistance leader and now President of East Timor.