Visiting Pope John Paul II in Dili, Timor Leste

While Dili had a lot to see and experience, the outskirts of the capital city also had its unexplored secrets. Especially a Pope statue which I had heard so much about, but was in the outskirts of the city. Of course, there is the famous Christ statue in Dili, which a lot of people mistakenly (!) assume to be the Pope statue. Hence, I was told this was a very exclusive tourist destination, very rarely visited.

So, I rented a taxi, and set out to see it.

Further Reading: Images from Dili’s beach front!

A Pitstop in Tasitolu

As I would find out, there was no need of a taxi here, and a motorbike would have sufficed, since the roads were in very fine condition. In fact, this road goes all the way to Batugade and Western Timor (Indonesia), so it made perfect sense for it to be one of the few impeccable roads in the country. Off-road vehicles are required in Timor when one takes one of the inland routes. Well, about the inland route, some other day.

dili timor leste

At Tasitolu, on the way to the Pope statue

There is a mini pitstop on the way at Tasitolu, with a small abandoned church or tower post of some kind. The only people around here were the local kids, playing in the structure. Oh, Timorese children are gorgeous and photogenic. I could click them all day. And I almost did.

It would only later that I would learn more about Tasitolu. It was at Tasitolu that Timor Leste declared its independence. And I missed the chance to go behind the Tasitolu church and take a look at the lake of Tasitolu. It was one of those lakes that sometimes turned red due to the presence of Algae.

But the locals believed that the lake turned red due to the the many people killed during the Indonesian occupation, who were thrown into the lake.

Dili timorese children

Timorese children

Visiting the Pope

After a little more driving, I finally reached a small hill that housed the Pope statue. Winding through a few ascending turns, there was no way that I could get the location wrong, as I was finally facing the statue of Pope John Paul II. Built in 2008, this statue is a tribute to the fact that the Pope was the only world leader to visit Timor Leste during the tumultuous Indonesian occupation, in 1989.

statue of the pope dili timor leste

There is a small chapel near the statue of the Pope.

pope john paul dili timor leste

And finally, Pope John Paul II smiles from the top of the hill.

True to what I was told, I was the only tourist here. The only others were 2 of my friends, who were in the same taxi as me! Or let me put it this way, we were the only people on top of the hill. Apart from a few sheep roaming around, there were no living forms near this impeccable structure.

To Read: For the time I saw the actual Pope Francis in Vatican City.

The view from the top of the hill was amazing. This stretch of the beach has some nice waves with perfectly timed breaks, and is begging for surfers to come exploring. Maybe not now, but hopefully after the tourism picks up in this country.

dili timor leste

View from the top.

With the Pope finally seen, it was time to head more west. The unknown Timorese destinations of Liquica and Maubara were just a little drive away.

But that would have to be another post.

Further reading: The ride from Dili to Aileu

dili timor leste

See you soon, Dili.

This post is part of my stories about Timor Leste. Click here to check out other amazing travel stories from Timor Leste.

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About Abhi Surendran

Abhi quit his corporate job, and decided to immerse himself in travels, photography, occasional periods of bankruptcy, and copious amounts of insanity. He is currently working on a book of his experiences, and a dream road trip through South Asia. Both in a haphazard fashion. He blogs at Iamnothome and you can also catch him at times on Facebook and twitter.

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