Confident about the border crossing between East and West Timor? How could anyone be, there’s hardly any information online and no one at immigration responds to emails… Ah welcome to East Timor. For particulars, including that you should use a black biro on your visa form, read this excellent post.Otherwise, read on for the one thing, other than a visa, that WILL help you get over the border.This is what I packed for our trip to Indonesia:

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I should have just filled my bags with Sagiko.
What is Sagiko?
Sagiko is a canned fruit drink, it’s thick like a juice with real chunks of fruit floating about. It comes in a variety of flavours e.g. mixed fruit (my favourite), peach float, mango, pink guava, pineapple, tamarind etc…It’s surprisingly delicious.

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But before I continue, I must introduce you to my team. Almerio (below left) the negotiator/interviewer and Albere (below right) our driver. We headed to West Timor to interview former East Timorese citizens living there for a theatre and doco project.
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Almerio and Albere in Kupang
The Sagiko Lessons
The day before we left Almerio came to me with this question:
Almerio: Can we take some Sagiko with us on our trip?“Of course”, I said, but in my head I was really thinking, “take whatever you like, just turn up”.

And turn up he did with a whole case of Sagiko, a gift for his family members in Kupang. Before leaving Dili, we also had to go to the office to pick up two more cases of Sagiko and a bag of tuna cans to deliver to a friend’s niece in West Timor.

Sitting in the back of our Pajero I learned two new things:

  1. Timorese must really love Sagiko
  2. You cannot buy Sagiko in Indonesia but you can buy it in East Timor because it’s imported from Singapore

Border Crossing- heading into Indonesia
Four burly military men perch underneath the entrance sign to West Timor, two of them approach the car and we unwind the windows so they can check our passports with our faces. They open the boot of the car. There’s a problem, Almerio and Albere get out of the car.

The Sagiko is the problem.

Apparently you aren’t allowed to take Sagiko into Indonesia. They explain that Indonesia has Sprite, Coke and Fanta, but not Sagiko, so we can’t take it. Almerio tells them that they are gifts but they’re not interested. We offer to take the slabs back to the East Timorese border and that seems to be an acceptable solution, but no one moves, we continue standing around the back of the car in silence. Then Almerio offers the men one of the cases and BINGO not only can we go through we can also take the remaining two cases with us.

Which brings us to the third Sagiko lesson:

3.    Indonesians must love Sagiko too

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The remains of the meal- rice and chicken
We eat lunch with some warm Sagiko (Almerio bought some individual cans with him in the front of the car) and then we leave to meet some of Albere’s family to interview. While Albere is organising an interview with his wife’s father, an East Timorese who fled during the Indonesian retreat of 1999, Almerio and I are invited into the house of another East Timorese man who is working for the police force in Atambua. He and his wife are eager to hear about what’s happening in East Timor- how have the buildings changed, how many people own cars now, what’s the lifestyle like etc… but it isn’t long before talk turns to Sagiko!“Oh yes and you have Sagiko in East Timor… We looooovveee Sagiko”, the lady said.Almerio tells her that he stills has a few free cans and if she’d like them. After some time, and multiple refusals, they accept the cans. Almerio hands them over in a plastic bag, probably to avoid a riot.

The final 2 cases

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Handing over the last of the Sagiko
We delivered the final two cases of Sagiko on our last night in Kupang.  The highlight was a nun (who one of the cases was for) explaining to Almerio how to smuggle Sagiko into Indonesia in the future:
Nun: Put all the Sagiko under the seats, they don’t check there.Lesson 4: Even a Nun would lie for Sagiko!

So friends, lessons learned, Sagiko is currency in West Timor. You’d be foolish not to take a case or ten with you. Safe travels…