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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Trekking in Timor Leste

Berrigan locals established a community tourism homestay and trekking program when they visited Timor Leste recently.

July 9, 2014 3:35am

Jenny Barlow, Sue Rose, Kate Hawkins, Jo Boake, Denise Watts, Anne Crawford and Sue Lawson embark on the Timor trek. Absent: Eileen Clark


Berrigan’s Katrina Tehan has recently returned from Timor Leste where she and fellow Friends of Luro members, George Weston and Eric Hudson, established a community tourism homestay and trekking program.

They worked with local Timorese residents in the mountainous village of Luro.

The Friends of Luro Homestay & Trekking program will take two groups of intrepid Australians from August 10 to 16 and August 17 to 23, on a six-day adventure into the unexplored landscape of East Timor.

‘‘Functioning entirely as a non for profit initiative, our Homestay & Trekking program will ensure that income and employment stays in local Timorese hands,’’ Ms Tehan said.

‘‘We have designed the program to offer travellers an opportunity to participate in a fantastic small group adventure that includes breathtaking scenery, dramatic coastlines, hiking in the mountains and an amazing cultural experience - staying with a Timorese family in their home.’’

Ms Tehan outlined the philosophy underpinning the Homestay & Trekking tours is to ‘‘maximise the benefits of community tourism in Timor; creating local employment, using local suppliers, buying local and promoting Timor as a safe and friendly place to visit’’.

‘‘We believe that community tourism should be community led in partnership with Friends of Luro.

‘‘This partnership will generate sustainable improvements for local communities through the development of their own accommodation and hospitality enterprises.’’

For Friends of Luro, community tourism is not merely tourism that benefits the Luro Sub District, but tourism where the product is owned by the Luro community.

‘‘This means that not only do benefits flow directly to the community from our tours,’’ Ms Tehan said, ‘‘but the community learns to make decisions and organise themselves so that tourism works for them in a holistic way.’’

The program will see the local community host travellers in their homes, cook traditional meals, act as guides on the highland treks and have an opportunity to sell handicrafts and ‘tais’ (the traditional weaves of East Timor) to visitors.

For travellers, they will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to engage with the Timorese community, visiting schools, trekking the spectacular highlands, eating traditional food, playing football with the locals, travelling through local villages and practicing a new language (Tetum); giving a unique insight into Timorese local life.

‘‘Most people return from holiday and tell their friends about it. They load some photos on Facebook and

enjoy the memories,’’ Ms Tehan said.

‘‘I have taken it a step further and set up a trekking tour company, Timor Trekking, taking it to the next level to give something back to the mountainous village of Luro, that captured my heart.

‘‘Our first tour is already booked out with a group of farming women from Berrigan, led by Kate Hawkins, and we still have couple of spaces left for the second trip from August 17 to 23.’’

Cost for the trekking trip is $985.

Friends of Luro originated in Leeton 10 years ago.

For more information, contact Katrina Tehan on 04207505686 or visit www.friendsofluro.org.

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