Monthly Archives: June 2011


My Father, The Headhunter

Nome Timor Children and Ikat

Kores holds his father’s weapons proudly in his hands. A short, broad machete, wrapped up in ikat cloth and string, and two crude wooden spears. His sight’s fading now – one eye shut, almost gone the way of his teeth, and there’s a goitre on the back of his skull bigger than either of his […]


And… It's a Wrap

virgin mary timor leste

“Mr Z! Mr Z! Where’s Mr Z?!” I gesture, vaguely, towards Customs, where my son is crouched atop our bike. It’s been two weeks since we last crossed this border, but his fan club seems to have grown. It’s a dusty wasteland, twixt East Timor and Indonesia. There’s an optimistic archway and one of those […]


Scenes from a Forgotten Conflict

Balide Prison Dili Timor Leste

An adult woman weeps as she recalls a childhood spent in prison. The time the soldiers forced her to torture her mother. And the times the soldiers tortured her to hurt her mother more. A man who was ten years old when his big sister was taken recalls how she never recovered from her rape. […]


Seven Travel Lessons Learnt From Bitter Experience


1: There is a Time and a Place for Hallucinogens That time and place is not a Moroccan beach patrolled by men in hooded cloaks with large rifles. Nor is it a Malian brothel (I’m sorry, I mean, of course, “a cheap hotel”) at peak time on a Saturday night. Should the time and place […]


The Sunday Six: Ways To Offend The Locals in Asia

pointing feet

1: Point Your Feet At Someone In Thailand, Laos, and much of mainland South-East Asia, feet are considered “low” and dirty. So you need to remove your shoes to enter a house (and put them on again when you leave, rather than dirtying the next house you visit with your grubby feet). And never, ever […]


Yes, You Can Lock Your Keys In A Motorbike

broken motorbike

When I was in my (very) early teens, my mother ran out of petrol while taking me home from school. She set off, on foot, for the petrol station. I watched her trudge round the corner. Then, once she was out of range, I stepped out of the car for a sneaky cigarette and a […]


A Very Young Country: Timor Leste

Dili Harbour

Timor smells different from Flores. It has that red dust scent with hints of gum, a dryness in the air, a scent more Australian than Asian. It looks different, too. Low huts, vast rivers reduced to swathes of pebbles, hills warped by geology into ludicrous curves, bent like the landscapes we saw in Arkaroola, South […]


How to Cross from Indonesia to Timor Leste Overland

Jumbo Jesus Timor Leste

There’s not a lot of information on how to cross from Indonesia to Timor Leste overland. So here’s how to cross the Indonesia – East Timor land border. That way, irregular readers, you won’t do what we did. And, regular readers, you are spared another whiny blog post. 1: Get Visa Permission. Don’t Do It […]


The Sunday Six: Things You Might Not Know About Bali

Gunung Kawi Temple Bali

1: Everyone Has The Same Names If there’s one thing you’ll notice on Bali holidays, it’s that everyone seems to have the same names: Nyoman, Wayan, Komang… Why? Well, in a system of beautiful simplicity, every child, male or female, is called by the order of their appearance in the family. So the first-born is […]


First Impressions…


It’s a big bike. A very big bike. A tall, chunky trail bike, so high my feet would barely touch the ground, its heavy-duty engine and muscular innards exposed, parked outside our hotel in the highlands of Flores. “Oh my god,” says Z. “What?” I say. “It’s got EU plates!” It has, indeed. Here we […]