Background Information

The East Timorese Since independence and the withdrawal of the United Nations from East Timor (although a small contingent still remains) there is a strong feeling of life entering a new era. Many families are now returning to remote areas that they had been forced to leave during the Indonesian occupation. Historically strong community organizations and beliefs still exist and are reinforced by villagers building and harvesting together. Many  Timorese believe that if any family member becomes ill it is because they have upset the ancestors, and a ritual ceremony is needed as a means of repentance and reparation.People are realising that their government which they have sacrificed so much to create, is struggling  to reconstruct services that were almost totally destroyed during the Indonesian withdrawal. The East Timorese can see that as villagers they need to work cooperatively and undertake projects themselves. 


Trekking and Tourism

Trekking and tourism is a new concept to the Timorese, so you will need to explain your request and be patient as they will often say yes, so as not to offend when they actually mean no. They are gracious hosts and feel obliged to make you feel welcome, often spending money they can’t afford. Dress conservatively: knee length shorts for both men and women, womens shoulders should be covered especially when visiting someone’s house.


A local guide knows the language, terrain and hazards, so employing them on these treks is most important. They are likely to share some of their culture and local stories.

Most importantly, if you get into trouble, your guide will be able to call for help quickly. In Timor you are never more than a few hours walk from hamlets. However when cloud or fog suddenly closes in, you are very isolated. Because of the wild terrain it becomes quite dangerous to move without clear visibility.

Malae (foreigners) without guides have been lost, seriously injured and have died in these mountains during the United Nations era. Since the UN departure there are few or no helicopters to fly injured people to safety.  There are ambulances in the major towns

Although it is the tropics, the temperature on the higher mountains can get down near freezing with strong and sometimes wet winds. If you are physically and mentally exhausted, wet and cold you can die from exposure.


Leave details of your trek and expected return time plus a margin for delays with the local police at the beginning of each trek. And be sure to check back with them on your return.


Another important reason for employing a guide, is the difficulty of locating water in the high country. Particularly in the late dry season, it may be impossible without a guide. Before setting off on any of the walks you should remember that if not fully acclimatized you will drink much more water than the locals: up to six litres per day. Your guide may not realise just how much water you are going to need. Discuss this with him before starting your trek.

All creek water needs boiling for three to four minutes or some other means of purification. Local people will drink from some springs but they boil all other water before drinking.


In Timor what appears to be the main track through an area most often leads to a local water source or a vegetable garden,this makes navigation difficult,another reason for a guide with local knowledge.

Take a good quality compass with a reasonably large base plate. Topographic maps of the trek regions are not readily available and our maps only show the immediate walk areas. To familiarise yourself with the surrounding areas, study and make notes from other less detailed maps of TimorLeste..

Note: four wheel drive (4WD) tracks in East Timor are almost always only used by people or horses.

All bearings provided in the trek guides are magnetic, direct from the compass dial.

The seasons

The most suitable time (really the only time) for trekking in Timor is during the dry season, which starts in April and runs through until November. This is an approximation: some years the dry will start earlier or later and likewise may end earlier or later.

Although Timor is in the tropics, the countryside varies from hot and humid coastal flats to cold, exposed, windy, wet mountain peaks and valleys into which the cold air drains. Suitable clothing and equipment is essential.


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