Trek A: Matebean Mane

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. Matebean Mane is an extremely important and special place to the people of Timor as this is where the spirits and souls of the deceased reside. Please speak quietly whilst in the area, and show respect for this most sacred of places. Whilst on the mountain Timorese about to have a smoke will break some off and drop it on the ground to be shared with the mountain. Timor folklore holds that only the souls of the good go to Mt Matebean and as the Timorese consider cats the perfect animal they worry about the amount of room taken by their souls.Travelling around Timor Leste you will see many cats with a broken tail rendering  them imperfect.                                  Baguia to OssohunaUaiboro is a three to four hour easy walk up from Baguia via Ossohuna. Walk up to the top of Baguia town toward the face of the mountains, on top of which are the grassy high plains. There is common land use by communities both east and west of these mountains. The people release cattle and horses to graze unattended. The broken bitumen road swings left and gently climbs up through vegetable-growing land above to the right; and down to the left are terraced rice paddies. Away to the south-east are views to the Timor Sea and the mouth of the Ireberi River, about 20 kilometers away.

It takes less than two hours to walk the seven kilometers up to the hamlet of Ossohuna  elevation 808 meters. A 4WD with aggressive tires and good driver can get to this point. This road ends about 4 kilometers further on to the south, although it is open to cyclists and walkers. Looking up and to the west from the verandah of the Ossohuna school is the summit of Matebean Mane. The track heads up to a saddle on the ridge line a little to the left of the main peak. This is the only route up the mountain from the 1210 meter high hamlet of Uaiboro (pronounced why-bore-oh) up ahead and nestled in against the massive east side of the mountain.

Alternative exit routes

From Ossohuna, if you’re on foot, there are three alternate exit routes:

( After  Ossahuna the bridges are broken and impassable by motor vehicle):

 1 There is a steep track (not suitable for bikes) down to the west from the high ridge saddle near the top of the mountain where the church is, (the saddle is visible from the Ossahuna school), this leads down to Quelicai. From here a bus could be taken through to Baucau.

2 Travel west along a disused Japanese road to a small plateau on the west side of Mt Beremata. This is the isolated ancient village of Buibela. A track then goes down north west to Quelicai where a bus could be taken to complete a circuit back to Baucau. The position of the route to Buibela is shown in mauve on the trekking map, it  is only approximate.  Seek local information to locate the turnoff.

3 Travel south for 2klms then east for 19klms, on the way  passing through the ancient  village of Afaloicia, then south past the Iribi fountain and continue south  to the coast   road.

The second two tracks are suitable for a cycle or a long two day walk.

Ossohuna to Uaiboro

Ossohuna is the start of the climb to the southernmost and largest mountain, Matebean Mane. The walk to Matabean Mane is shown on the topographic map as an unbroken blue line.

It starts from the house of the community leader Martino De Silva, situated on the west side of the road, just north of the school. This walk is a reasonably hard slog. No scrambling required. Some maps have the names of the Matabean  mountains the wrong way round. The more southerly mountain is Matebean Mane. The north mountain and smaller of the two is Matebean Feto (Tetum   mane = man     feto = woman).)

Start on a grassy disused 4WD road walk uphill over a felled tree at 240d. About 200 meters up on the left are the ruins of an old  Portuguese community centre destroyed in the Indonesian invasion.

Continue uphill at 300d with fall away on left and a creek 200 meters away. The road crosses the small creek flowing away to the left. Twenty-five meters after crossing the creek on a bearing of 220d turn off to the right, then  follow this walking track at 320d. Altitude is 958 meters, approximately 1.8 kilometers from Ossohuna. On this narrow track the fall is away to the right.

The track becomes a narrow road built by local forced labor so that the Indonesians could get access to the produce grown further up the mountain. Approximately 1000 people died in this area in battles following the Indonesian invasion in 1975, when 10,000 Timorese fled to the Matebean area. As you climb up the hill, on the right buried under the rocks are the remains of resistance fighters, including Jakerios, a Falantil commander.

The road leads up to level off at a saddle. To the right is craggy Mt Ossasama. There is an ancient village where many people lived high up in the rocks for safety. An uma-lulik (sacred house) stands on this summit. Turn a little to the left at this saddle. In 1987–88 Indonesians forced people from this area to move down to live on the south coast. Many are now returning.

Uaiboro Approximately 2.7 kilometers up is the village of Uaiboro. altitude 1210 meters).This is the highest village and is tucked in against the massive east face of Matebean Mane. It makes an ideal base for the walks:

  • to Matebean Mane and return.
  • North then north-west up over the high plains (an area of rolling hills) to Matebean Feto, then back to Uaiboro
  • Or alternatively going south then east from Matebean Feto over the plains down through hillside vegetable farms back to Baguia.

 

VIEW FROM MATEBEAN MANE

 Uaiboro to Matabean Mane and back

Walk south from the village through vegetable gardens and rocks, sidling (following the hill around staying fairly level) gently uphill with a fall away to the left. Continue south-west and onto the spur that leads up to a saddle just south-west of the mountain peak altitude 1390 meters. Turn a little to the right and walk up the spur past many limestone rocks.

You will probably hear and see some of the farmers at work in their gardens. Climb over a rocky thorn-covered fence used to keep stock out of and above the village gardens. The farmers in this area have later crops than lower down the mountain due to the colder climate at this altitude and extra cloud and rain. Walk past many thatched huts and houses and then into open eucalypt woodland with lots of moss and lichen attached to the sharp fluted limestone outcrops.

There are many tracks crossing and going off at angles. It would be very easy to get onto the wrong one, even with good visibility. It would be impossible to walk here in heavy cloud without a local guide.

During 1977–78 many people died in this area in battles with the Indonesian military. Aircraft came from Kupang bombing and strafing throughout the morning. At lunchtime the aircraft would land at Baucau, and the attack would resume in the afternoon.

There was also navel shelling from the south coast.

Approximately two kilometers up from Uaiboro, bearing 250d, the track climbs above the tree line at around 1900 meters . Care is needed in this area as the eroded track is hidden by long grass up to a meter high. At around 2000 meters and directly south of the mountain top, climb over a natural-looking limestone fence into short grazed grassland. There are many bomb craters.

The track passes over caves inside of which are the bodies of Timorese killed by the Indonesian bombing. Large rocks have been jammed down to close the entries.

At 2080 meters is an area of huge fluted limestone outcrops. In the mist this looks like some long lost city. The track levels and swings  north. On the right is a wooden church and storeroom. During October many people come here for a religious festa. This building could be used as a refuge if necessary.

The top of Matebean Mane is now less than a kilometer away to the northeast, with a steep walk up to gain these last 250 meters of altitude. The start of this climb is on a bearing of 40d. Zigzag up amongst the rocks and be careful not to touch the broad leafed plants as these can cause itchiness. The route then goes up through open grass meadows among huge monoliths of fluted sharp limestone. and sweeps around to the right for the final 100 meters ascent to the statue at the top. 8,38’28.15”S   126,35’43.22”E      Altitude 2377 meters).

The views are truly stunning with a feeling of being on the top of the world or in a helicopter. On a clear day Tasi Feto (feto female) =  north  sea, and Tasi Mane (mane male rough = southern sea are clearly visible. The 4.5 kilometer walk from Uaibaro 1170 meters below takes about five hours for a reasonably fit person, including lunch and snack breaks.

The top of Matebean is often shrouded in cloud. To get the view may require a one or two hour wait on the summit. The clouds often roll in mid morning. My mobile phone was getting reception via Baucau from the top of Matebean Feto and Matebean Mane.

In dry conditions the walk back will take about two and a half hours. When wet the rocks on the track become very slippery and there is a real danger of a fall with perhaps serious consequences. The walk back down to Uiboro in wet conditions could take from one to one and a half hours longer.  You really do need to make an early morning start.

 

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