RAMELAU MOUNTAINS CIRCUIT

The region
The Ramelau mountains of East Timor (more than 30 million years old) have great significance as the home of the spirits and souls of the ancestors. In the local language (Mambae) the country’s highest mountain, Tatamailau, is tata (old man) mai (oldest man) lau (most older and first). Timorese from all over the country come here every year on 7 October to thank god and have happy thoughts.This Ramelau region was originally a huge eucalypt forest which the Timorese were frightened to enter. In 1927 the Portuguese organized people into the district to set up farms.Following their invasion of East Timor in 1975, the Indonesian military ordered the people to move to the areas near the town. As the forest was a Falantil stronghold the Indonesian military forced the people to clear it. Open fighting between Falantil and the Indonesian military continued up until 1984 when Falantil tactics changed to clandestine guerrilla operations.The farmers grow vegetables, mainly potatoes, using an unsustainable technique: slash, burn, and move on from exhausted soil. Severe soil erosion and major land slips resulted. A tree planting project has begun but this has no funding or expert advice. Many of the people are now moving back to live on their former remote hillside farms where they can grow crops for most of the year due to the mist and rain.

MAIN NORTH SOUTH HIGHWAY. DARE

Access

From Dili a four hour drive south takes you to the central Timor hill town of Maubisse (1400 meters) in the northern foothills of the Ramelau mountains. Opposite the market is a good restaurant for lunch. The journey will take a little longer if you use the regular daily long distance bus service along the main road from Dili.

From Maubisse if on foot, either take a local truck (not many and you may have a few hours wait) going to Hatabuilico, or catch the long distance bus and ask them to stop 10km south on the main road. (Look for a bitumen road that turns off sharply to the right, there is a new rock retaining wall on the south side of the  Hatobuilico road and a wood and tin shed in the apex beside a white guidepost.). If you get to the top of the range and see a Telcom tower road on the left you have gone 1.6km past the turnoff.

COOKING WOOD HATOBUILCO

This broken bitumen road to Hatobuilico 8,52’40”S  125,35”30”E   is not suitable for conventional cars it winds west through eucalypt woodland, hamlets and vegetable gardens at 1800 to 2000 meters elevation.Travel along this road  is by four wheel drive or local truck (there may be a few hours wait for a lift.) The 18km takes one to one and a half hours.

Base town: Hatobuilico
A beautiful hillside and ridge town at almost 2000 meters  is surrounded by high mountains.

The Alecrim guest house run by Alexandre Araujo, his wife Adelaide Barroi and children is 800 meters north of the police station on the low side of the road with the school and soccer field below. The family live next door above the market.

Alexandre is district superintendent of education. He speaks Tetum, English, Indonesian, Portuguese and Mambae. The guest house can accommodate about twelve people. Tariff is $15 per night and for a little more all meals can be provided.

Alexandre can organize a guide for about $15 per day plus all costs. A pony and attendant costs $15 per day extra. Alexandre’s office phone number in Ainaro is 2430010,  or mobile +67077304366. If unavailable please text.

The town power was off during the week of my visit.  As of 2014 the mobile phone service works well in most of Timor Leste.

Anne and Fiona from the Blue Mountains near Sydney, have written a guide to some other high country walks centred on Hatobuilico, including details of guesthouse stays. It would be easy to spend a week in this beautiful area. There is also a short informative vidio on there blog at;  hatobuilico.wordpress.com Also lots of information at; www.hatobuilico.com a web site of the local community.

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