28 hours of bus ride all for one small island
Every time I tell someone, even a Timorese, that I traveled from west to east of Timor-Leste in one day on a public bus, they would surely exclaim that it was a crazy idea. Who would not with 7-8 hours of traveling on a non-AC bus, cramped up with anything that could fit in, with men unapologetically smoking, and loud music that could easily instigate migraine and nausea? But I can also sense a hint of envy and admiration from them. I haven’t met yet a Timorese in Dili who had been to Jaco Island. The beach across the island must have been a potentially profiting and unsurprisingly busy resort when UN was still in Timor-Leste but now that most international staff have left, it is a quiet escape not only from the city but from the rest of the world. Without a 4WD, the 8-km path from Tutuala town to Valu Beach and Jaco Island can only be reached on foot.
Anyone who plans to go there requires time, endurance, patience, and most importantly, money if you don’t want to walk like us. The walk is not as difficult as it seems and it gives a rare opportunity to be part of the untouched surrounding of Tutuala, a natural conservation reserve. As for me, I can walk as long as I need just to see this mystical island, sacred to the Timorese, where no one lives except for the spirits of nature, and only the “crazy” few would dare to go.
Some of the Timorese I talked to also expressed their dislike for local buses. In a country where senses are more important than time, buses don’t follow a timetable and can leave and stop anytime necessary. Here, time does not control lives rather people dictate the direction and speed of time. The roads are also a challenge to drive on. Only the real masters of the road can drive on the uneven, swerving, dark highways and safely pass the other masters of the road–the buffaloes, cows, horses, goats, pigs, and chickens. In Timor-Leste, a land emerged from the body of a crocodile, everything in nature is connected and equal.
Reaching the edge of the world
I can repeat the dizzying bus rides and the challenging 2.5-hour walk just to see again this paradise I owned even for a while. (I just hope the roads and transportation would improve in the next years). Burying my feet with powdery white sand and studying my reflection on the clear waters, I feel like I am stranded on an island far from everywhere and everyone. If there is an edge to the world, it is here in Jaco Island.