Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
Phase VIII

Dili, Dili District


Fieldwork as a team is not all about flogging yourself to death in dirty mangrove swamps, there is also a huge camaraderie element to expeditions, something to do with the shared experiences. And this camaraderie is especially in evidence when someone has a birthday, as Julia did during Phase VIII. When we returned from Metinaro swamp there was a birthday cake waiting for her.

Julia (in the middle) celebrates her birthday
with a Timorese birthday cake

After fieldwork around Dili we are due to take the Berlin Nakroma ferry to Ataúro Island.
We had to finish all the specimen photography, voucher preparation and kit organisation that evening.

We also needed our ferry tickets but despite Hinrich being at the ferry office before it opened at 07:00 and waiting there almost three hours for the ticket seller, nobody turned up to sell him tickets. Eventually he came back to the TLH leaving Laca to wait for the tickets. Naturally enough Laca came through and we were all set to go in the early morning.

We packed my Troopie with all the kit: supplies, field kit, personal bags et cetera, the idea being I would take one person with me and Hinrich would take everyone else. It is a short drive to the ferry terminal and an even shorter one on the other side to Barry's Place.

We loaded the Troopies the night before

We had our tickets for the Berlin Nakroma ferry to Ataúro Island, we had been told we had reservations on the car-deck for our two Troopies, we had our rooms booked at Barry's Place on Ataúro and we knew to arrive at the dock in Dili at 07:30 to board the vehicles and then the passengers. What could go wrong (apart from the fact it was raining very very heavily and had been for most of the night) ?

We arrived at the dock to find loading of the ferry in full swing. In fact, it was almost completed with passengers standing in the car deck as a pick-up reversed up the ramp. We waited for our turn to drive the two Troopies up the ramp, only to be informed there was no room left, our car reservations appeared to have been of the phantom kind, and clearly someone had arrived even earlier and taken our allocated places on the ferry. We could still travel as foot passengers but after several previous visits to Ataúro we had learned that bringing our own transport was essential for successful fieldwork.

There was nothing we could do, the ferry only runs to Ataúro on a Saturday and we had planned one week on the island. Clearly Ataúro was off the schedule for Phase VIII, whether we liked it or not. To add insult to injury, there is no mechanism to return the passenger tickets and get a refund!

The Berlin Nakroma loading in the rain,
but there is no room for us on this Ark
Back at the TLH
Modelling the lastest rainproof fashions for ladies
(l-r) Britta, Claudia & Julia

So it was back to the TLH to replan our fieldwork destination for the following week.

One interesting turn-up that evening was that Sven captured a juvenile Timor monitor lizard (Varanus timorensis) within the TLH compound.

Timor monitor lizard,
Varanus timoriensis