Trek A: Oecussi Mountain circuit

(Warning: the last section of this trek goes along the border with Indonesia. If you are uncomfortable with this, there is a shorter less interesting route out from Cutete north to the coast. If walking in the border region, the East Timorese government stipulate that you must be accompanied by a local East Timorese guide.) 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.


Oecussi town to Bobocase

The trek starts from the south side of Oecussi town. Walk west along the main east-west road and turn south at Sanane. Walk through Oetulu and up the Oetulu River valley. This river supplies most of the town’s water with a diversion dam about 3 kilometers upstream from the main road.

Cross the river twice. On the left is a 20 degree bend in the large pipeline. Turn left here and cross the pipe then right to follow the track, sidling uphill with the river down on the right. (The pipe crossing is approximately 2.5 kilometers from the main road). There are black cliffs on the hill to the west.

The valley around the water diversion structure upstream is quite beautiful and well worth a look. It is about 15 minutes walk up the river. Shortly after the pipe crossing-point the track forks: the right side goes straight ahead and level. Turn left and walk steeply up with a very steep fall on right. Then cross a small creek running away to right. This water is OK to drink.

50 meters further the track is held up with wire and logs. After a left curve onto a short spur then a curve to the right the track sidles along with the river 100 meters below on the right. The track is fairly level, with some short rock scrambles.  Ignore any minor turnoffs and stick to the main track.

At a point where there is a view ahead to the right of a box canyon, a V in the rim marks the position of the river. Cross the rim just a little to the left of the V and then go into the upper section of the Oetulu river valley. Logically there must be a waterfall or rapids where the river drops into the canyon however they are not visible. Another small creek comes down from the left and it is used to irrigate palms. There are excellent views back down the valley over Oecussi town and out to sea.

From the rim of the canyon the track continues in the same direction then curves right and eventually crosses the river. This is a pleasant rest spot. As there is habitation upstream the water needs boiling for a few minutes before drinking (as is the case throughout Timor).

After going 100 meters turn right and zigzag steeply uphill at 230d, ignoring any minor tracks. The track then levels with the river down on the left. Cross two fences, ignore the left track going down to the river, and take the right uphill into corn fields, then rice paddies and into the village of Bobocase. You may be able to purchase some coconuts for lunch here. One of the agile young men  will climb up a palm and drop them down.

On the 25th of October 1999 the first INTERFET ( UN military) helicopter flight into Oecussi took place. It landed here on the main rice paddy, and left communication equipment .They then took Lafu (the Oecussi boy hero) and dropped him off at Cintrana at the west side of Oecussi to report back the movement of TNI and the militia during the INTERFET landing operation.

Bobocase to Nipane

Continue south through the Bobocase village and up onto a saddle with views across the Tono River. This river drains most of Oecussi. Circle left around to the east side of the rice paddies and head down toward the valley. Then walk up a gently sloping hill at 130d parallel with paddies, a wooden fence and river on the left. The track leads into rainforest, then up into drier vegetation. Ignore the track on the left just before a saddle. This heads up towards Mt. Fatupeno (we took this and didn’t have enough time to get to the top of the mountain. This route becomes trackless and extremely steep and overgrown). Instead cross the saddle and continue at 120d.

Walk down to meet the road west of the village of Buneu. Continue through on a dirt road to Cutete 9,14”18.00”S   124,25’14.00”E   with the fall away on the right to a brightly painted school building on the left. This is the children’s centre Padre Dasbach.spoke of using for visitors accommodation until a guest house can be built. If continuing on to the border region, leave via the east side of Cutete. Walk down and over a wooden fence with a two meter diameter rock up on the left. Cross the creek and take the left fork on a bearing of 120d. The bed rock and soil change here and the vegetation becomes a dry open eucalypt woodland.

Cross a small creek running away to the right on a three-log bridge in a small pocket of rainforest. Continue on to a spur. Turn right and walk down the spur, and shortly after turn left to cross a small creek with the fall on the right. Ten meters further turn south and 30 meters down come to a new hand-made road. Go left and travel down this road at 110d.

After the road ends continue on down the spur until a well worn foot track drops down steeply to the left, at 90d. Carefully zigzag down to cross a creek with the flow away to the right. About one kilometer ahead is the border village of Nipane. There are border control police stationed here with two-way radio connection to the national police network.

Nipane to rest spotDuring Indonesian times the people of Nipane had access to markets via a road into West Timor . This access is no longer available, so they have taken on the massive task of constructing a road by hand out through the bush to connect up with the rest of Oecussi. However a major obstacle will be bridging the local river.On leaving Nipane walk steeply up to the north, then cross a creek that flows to the south west. The track then goes uphill parallel with the international border which is about 100 meters off to the right. After you have walked about 20 minutes the track leads into a small hamlet on a terrace. Leave here via the left corner, cross a fence and sidle up at 270d, with fall on left.The track then leads north into rainforest and a creek with many bamboo pipe water diversions. Cross the creek, turn right and zigzag uphill with the creek on the right. Fifteen minutes on is a fork in the track. Go straight ahead on the right track which is now level. You will soon come to the last hamlet high up on the mountain.

You may be able to purchase some of the locals’ lovely oranges. There are great views of Mt. Maonmuti at 240d and Mt. Sapu at 62d. Exit the hamlet in the direction of Mt. Sapu, up through vegetable gardens, then into wet rainforest. Climb over a large fallen eucalypt where the track climbs up steeply, then crosses a saddle approximately 200 meters south-east of the top of Mt. Sapu (this saddle is visible from the hamlet). The track then sidles along with fall on the right and circles to the left down into gloomy rain forest and crosses a creek.

This area is of great cultural significance to the locals. It is taboo to cut the bush, drink the water or take photos. After the second creek crossing at some beautiful rock pools the track emerges into an open area. On the left is a conglomerate rock knoll. This is an excellent rest spot with fantastic views across a void to the great cliffs of Mt. Maonmuti.

(I had hoped to travel the ridges north from here to the coast. However on seeing the huge gaps and cliffs between some of the mountain tops along the ridge line, I now believe this would, at best be a very slow route that may require the use of climbing equipment).


Rest spot to camp spot & main coast road

The track leads north, with a rocky climb down to cross a creek that flows away to the left. This takes the track below the huge bulk of the rocky mountain tops that are on the right; it then sidles along, fairly level past two empty thatch huts. As we walked there were monkeys up ahead with a huge male sitting on a spur that juts out above and in front of the track. He sat there observing us for some time.

The track then climbs up to cross the spur just left of where the monkey was. The path then curves gently right up to a beautiful grassy saddle: an ideal camp site or base to climb to some of the mountain tops.

Cross the saddle and follow the track south-east down a gentle gradient in the direction of the frontier, with views left to the north down the Meto river valley and across the river into Indonesia. The river valley is the only route north to the coast.

After walking through areas of slash and burn the going becomes extremely steep as the track drops off to the north, and emerges from the bush at a spring beside a bamboo thicket then through vegetable gardens in the valley to the mountain locked hamlet of Bankio.  9,113”30.00”S      124,27”40.00”E

From here it is a three hour walk to Meobola on the coast road. Head north through vegetable fields. The path then curves right and drops steeply east down into the rocky gorge of the Meto river. Midstream is the international frontier, so be sure to keep left and stay in East Timor. Toward the end of June there was a gentle flow of water through this gorge.

Follow the river downstream, at first over boulders and huge rocks beneath a canopy of rainforest. The narrow gorge then widens; the stream bed widens and becomes gravel; then the water disappears into the gravel bed. After a short distance the track emerges into bright sunlight and scrubland. There are thatch houses on the river flats of the Oecussi and Indonesian side of the river.

At times the river meanders over and cuts into the hillside which forces you to take a short walk along the left side of the broad gravely river bed, until you are able to climb up onto the next river flat.

Three kilometers south of the coast road the river swings off to the right. The track remains close to the hills and meets the main coast road in a small border settlement of Meobola 300 meters west of the border crossing point. It is 15 kilometers west to Oecussi town. This could be walked along the beach or road. A regular bus runs from the border to town about every two hours.


This is a three-day circuit trek, difficulty medium to hard.

 In these mountains beautiful sunny conditions can quickly turn into heavy fog. You can rapidly become lost and get into serious trouble. This is one of the main reasons why it is so important to have a guide.   

Note: this trek guide was written in Australia from notes taken during a trip in June 2004. It should be taken as an indication only: use common sense at all times. The author welcomes any corrections to update this information.

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