Dili (Part Two)
After arriving back from Atauro Island, my mission was to hike up to Cristo Rei, the second highest Christ statue in the world (after the Christ the Redeemer in Brazil). I took a microlet halfway there and walked the last 3 km along the coast. It was during this microlet journey that I worked out how to let the driver know your want to get out. All you have to do is tap a coin against the metal handrail above your head and the driver will immediately stop. Easy.
Walking along the coastline, it was clear that the beaches got better the further they were from the centre. The sand was whiter, cleaner and a lot more inviting. Someone in the town planning office seemed to be an animal-lover, as concrete statues of a variety of creatures adorned each entrance to the beach.
It was almost 600 steps up to Cristo Rei, where I met only other person, a fit local man who was doing crunches against the base. Unfortunately, the sun was behind Christ, so I couldn't get a great photo of him. There were also no views out over the water due to the tall trees in the way. The whole experience disappointing, to say the least.
Descending via a different set of stairs, I found myself on another pristine beach known simply as Back Beach, or Jesus Backside Beach. I hardly passed anyone as my feet sunk into the soft, white sand - it was the best beach I had seen in Dili. Once the sand finished, I continued along a dirt track that hugged the sea, veering inland at times but then popping out at yet another beach or bay. Every now and then a wooden shack or small boat would indicate signs of civilisation, but generally I had the place to myself.
The eventually path met up with a main road, which gave me a chance to turn around and see the coast from a higher vantage point. (When I say main road, I mean an occasionally-paved road where one motorbike or 4WD passed me every five minutes. And this is the main thoroughfare for any vehicle heading east of Dili.) It was hilly, dusty and blisteringly hot in the blazing sun. Annoyingly, the trees lining the road were tall enough to block the views but not tall enough to provide any shade. It definitely wasn’t the scenic route.
Coming down the hill towards Dili, I was granted a view over the crystal clear sea, where the reef below the surface was distinctly visible even hundreds of metres out from shore. It was the only highlight of this road section.
In Dili, I made my way to a well-known restaurant for a late lunch, only to find it was closed on Mondays. So instead I walked around the corner and sat upstairs in an open-air bar overlooking the sea, with a strong breeze to cool me down. Afterwards, I walked back towards my apartment along the water’s edge. The beaches were filled with dark sand, rocks and rubbish, and there was limited access to the coast. It's wasn't surprising that no one was there.