What do you get when 10 Canberrans go to Timor-Leste?Well, you get a whole damn BOOK!

And this week we are talking with Barry Brown from the Canberra Friends of Dili group about their new book which follows the adventures of, yep you guessed it, ten Canberrans in Timor-Leste!

Enter Barry.

How did the idea for ’10 Canberrans and the Sleeping Crocodile’ come about? Did you go to Timor with the intention of making the book or was it an idea that came about after the group returned to Australia?

The book was an idea that developed during our tour of Timor Leste.

Coastline looking eastward back towards Dili from Pope John Paul II monument

Where did you go to on the tour?

On the tour we went to 10 districts, missing Oecusse, Ermera and Manufahi, Same was on our itinerary, but there were washouts on the road from Suai which made it too difficult to get there.

Where was your favourite place on the tour and why?

Can’t speak for the group, but my favourite place was Jaco Island, so beautiful, crystal clear water and great fun getting there by boat.

Can you tell us a story from the road?

The visit to Soibada was a for me a highlight, time spent at Our Lady of Ai Tara, major problems fording a flooded river which resulted in significant vehicle damage, and the accommodation at the church was interesting, though one of our group was woken during the night by monkeys.

Did anything surprise you about Timor on your trip?

The friendliness of the people, the beauty of the scenery and the accommodation which was mostly better than I expected.

Dili Capoeira Group at play with berimbao (musical instruments)

Ten people are a lot to travel with… Did you organise much of the tour beforehand (e.g. guide, transportation, accommodation- if so, how) or did you organise it as you went (if so, how)?

The arrangements were all made in advance with Eco Discovery, who provided vehicles, drivers and looked after us every centimetre of the way.

Would you do anything differently?


Do you have any tips for people planning a tour of Timor?

The best way to proceed is to sign in with a good local tour organiser. Personally, I could not recommend any one except Eco Discovery who were superb, They dealt with vehicle breakdowns, tour disruptions with weather and washouts and every other problem that arose without missing a beat.

Dili students practice computing, Hadezta Project (old premises)

Did you visit any of the communities that your group, Canberra Friends of Dili supports?

Yes, we spent time with Hadezta in Dili and disability groups in Dili

Why did you join Canberra Friends of Dili? Why is Timor important to you?

I joined Canberra Friends of Dili when I returned from a 3 year assignment in Dili with the Australian Embassy in Dili as the Australian Consul. Timor has become important to me because of the debt Australia owes to Timor and because of the amazing friendships I have developed with many Timorese people. I finished my assignment in 2008 and have visited 2 or 3 times a year since.

Disabled Timorese veterans assemble for First Lady Cup charity fun run

Why do you think people should buy this book?

It is a good travel diary of travel in Timor Leste. It supports Canberra Friends of Dili work in Dili among unemployed youth and also with Arte Moris.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Viva Timor Leste!

You can buy the book 10 Canberrans and the Sleeping Crocodile by emailing altamr@bigpond.com (cost: $15 plus postage).The book was produced by the Canberra Friends of Dili group. Canberra Friends of Dili (CFD) has existed as an organisation since 2002 when people from various groups with an interest in East Timor came together to form an organisation to advocate for and then support a friendship city relationship between Canberra and Dili as cities and capitals of their countries. Prior to Canberra Friends of Dili there was a long history of support for East Timor in Canberra including Parliamentarians for East Timor and among members of the Greens, Church organisations and Community Aid Abroad.

CFD is a voluntary organisation and has no paid staff. CFD is managed by a Committee including a President, Secretary Treasurer and 4 Committee Members. The Committee meets monthly and meetings are open to all members. Information relevant to East Timor is circulated to members via an extensive email list of members and non-member supporters totalling over 100 people.

And if you’d like to go on a tour with Eco Discover, as recommended by Barry, visit their website here.