Manatuto beach trip

Forty-one kilometres east of Dili is a creatively-named beach called K41. It’s a well-known dive spot with shady trees, smooth pebbles to the sea, and, below the surface, a beautiful coral wall. And it’s an ideal place to visit when your long weekend work trip gets postponed by a day and you’re able to join some friends and their esky for a spontaneous trip down the coast.

One long, straight road connects Dili to its eastern neighbouring district, Manatuto, and you hit K41 just over an hour driving along it. (Stretches of neatly tarred bitumen invite optimism that’s quickly dashed by Timor’s ubiquitous potholes and roadworks – one day, we’ll zip down it in a hatchback, but for now, a Pajero Mini, gritted teeth and quick wit is essential).

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We spread thin cotton Turkish towels over pebbly shade and they flick-flick cigarettes as I walk to the edge. Hands spread cautiously tip-toeing over rocky beach. Cold water glittering clear. Thick plastic snaps and a snorkel in my mouth. Then, an ungainly flop crashing through the surface, droplets flying as my body descends into the sea and bobs back up.

There’s beautiful diving all along this coast, and at spots like K41, the reef’s close enough to the shore that you can still see everything without needing tanks. We spent a whole lazy day snacking and swimming and reading and baking in the day’s heat, safe from the sun under our tamarind tree. Melting chocolate biscuits and thick paperbacks wrinkled wet. Then, without really saying it, moving, stacking bags and esky into car boot, crushing plastic wrappers and shaking seawater from straggly wet hair.

Two hours back to Dili, if you drive slow. And there’s never any rush.

 

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