When an Australian visitor to Dili asked me how big Timor-Leste is, it got me thinking. Armed with my BA in Geography from 1975, I decided to investigate. I knew the country was small but we were both surprised to discover that Timor’s 14,874 sq km could easily fit four times into Tasmania, a state so tiny that mainland Australians often forget it’s down there.
In Kiwi terms, Timor is slightly bigger than Hawkes Bay province (14,111 sq km) but less than half the size of Otago.
This size, however, is deceptive. The rugged terrain and poor roads mean that distance isn’t measured in kilometres but in hours. In two days we’ll travel to Jaco Island at Timor’s eastern tip. The 223km one-way journey generally takes 8-10 hours. In the rainy season, the roads might be impassable. But because June’s the start of the dry season, we’ll hopefully bump along in our rented four-wheel drive at a relatively rapid 28 km/hour. Continue reading