Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
Dili to Baucau, Baucau District
Monday morning and the first port of call for Hinrich was the Indonesian Embassy to drop off our paperwork for the transit visas that would allow us to travel through West Timor to the Oecusse exclave. His second port of call was the office of Manuel Mendes, Director of National Parks in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, to organise our collection permits. In the meantime the rest of us busied ourselves finishing off organising and packing of equipment and personal kit for the field.
Hinrich was a very long time, and when he returned we learned the reasons for the delay, some good news and some bad news. He had managed to find Manuel Mendes, and our permits would be ready the following day, but the cost of the Indonesian transit visas had nearly tripled since our last visit two years ago. After some discussion we ruled out driving to Oecusse due to this massive increase. We could have still gone on the Berlin Nakroma ferry, which would have negated the need for the transit visas, but we were then reliant on the ferry schedules, and the limited amount of space available for vehicles, so we decided to shelve Oecusse for this phase and shift our attention to the mountains south and southeast of Baucau, which we had yet to visit, and possibly also the south coast around Nancuro which we had only visited once in 2010 and found to be a productive area.
We reorganised to leave early the following day after Hinrich had picked up the permits, and collected Paulo on his way back to TLH. While he was away I picked up the second Troopie from Rentló and we started to load equipment onto the roof-rack or into the spacious interior. Two 11-seater Troopies for six people might seem excessive, but the roads in the "Districts" are notoriously bad. Breaking down with only one vehicle on some of the remote roads we planned to drive could be disasterous, but with two vehicles you should at least be able to get everyone out again even if you had to abandon a vehicle. This had already happend to us once when my Troopie died on the sparsely populated limestone karst plateau high above Com in Lautém District, on Phase V, and we were relieved then to still have the means to return to our accommodation and communications base at Com, leaving sorting out recovery of the abandoned vehicle until the next day. As it turned out this was a very wise decision on Phase VII also.
The team with the Troopies about to leave TLH for Baucau.
(l-r) Andrew, Sven, Mark, Hinrich, Caitlin, Paulo
When Hinrich arrived back we set up a group photograph and then set off east for Baucau, Hinrich, Caitlin and Paulo in the lead vehicle, Andrew, Sven and myself in the second Troopie. Baucau is a fairly easy drive along the scenic north coast along a winding, often narrow and pot-holed, high cliff-top road above blue-green coral-reefs and fringing mangrove swamps.
The scenic north coast road
It is a drive we know well having driven it on numerous occasions. It takes about three hours. The only herp seen was a fast moving Timor monitor lizard (Varanus timorensis) which sprinted across the road in front of the vehicles, a common enough occurrence on the north coast road.
The road to Baucau is not without interesting places to stop and take photographs.
We always stop at this stop for a break and drinks
Warning ! Crocodiles live here, the sign besides a small lagoon and a culvert under the road
One of the river bridges enroute Baucau
Rice farming is the primary industry in the lowlands
The drier north coast road
We took four rooms at the Albergaria Planalto, the Baucau hotel we have used in the past.