The way to Ramelau

On a casual morning at the Dili Central Backpackers, I agreed to visit Maubisse and climb Ramelau with Ana. You dont say no to a woman adventurer… what a journey!

And so it begins. Ana with little cash at hand and myself without as I lived the no-money life for a few months. First, we had to grab every last bananas from the free breakfast offered by the hostel, then we hit the road.

We get on one of the main roads to grab mikrolet number 4, the dark blue ones which ends their ride at the Taibese market. It’s also where we could have taken the travel truck we ended on anyway a bit later. Of course, adventurer as we wanted to be, we thought about walking to the main road going to Maubisse. Only couple miles, going in zigzag and mostly steep incline. We hit the first road obstacles for both pedestrians and vehicles, covered in dust like walking through a desert, it’s only still in construction and its dry and dusty.

Just a few steps further, and we started hitchhiking. We quickly learnt that there is not much waiting in this activity here in Timor, everyone will stop and ask you where are you going, in Tetun mostly. So, we decide to go with a truck which seem full of people already. Not sure it this was normal transportation of humans or of vegetables and animals for market. Later on, each and every person will pay for their part of the ride, between .50 cents to 3 dollars if you go to Maubisse. So, for my part, Ana saved me and paid for both of us. I learnt that I may be able to volunteer here and there but it’s important to have a little money to get around the different districts.

Now, we are happy, we know we will get to Maubisse sooner than by foot. We thought… Sooner is relative in Timor, between stopping many times to pickup 3-5 times more passengers than seats and the many bumps and holes on the way, you can count between 3-5 hours to get to Maubisse from Dili.

Arriving in Maubisse, it’s time to find where we will sleep for the night as it was already 430pm. Few locals seemed to want to help us, we then followed but our miscommunication brought us to a restaurant, closed due to no electricity in town for the day. We hiked back to our last stop, then continue until few people can point to the church where we will then find Cafe Maubisse across it, a hostel which seemed abandoned as no one present. We sit and wait, then couple hundred people seem to walk to the Church… It was a funeral, and the whole town was there together. After this, a young lady come to greet us. Ana gets her room and I was able to negotiate the coach in living room for just a night.

Still on Day 1 in Maubisse, we then walked around a bit, hiked up a small hill to find the Pousada de Maubisse, a guest house set in gardens within old stone walls, with stunning views of all around the city. The perfect stay for some relaxing walks, meditations or contemplating the sunrise and sunset.

We then walked back in town to get some dinner. Of course, without electricity, most small restaurants were closed, but we were lucky to find this one blue place to eat some simple noodle soup with meat balls and candles for $1 each bowl.

Back in the hostel, we slept… a bunch. Our first day was just 14 km of walking, and we needed energy for day 2. After getting a quick breakfast, we went back to Pousada and had coffee with the 2 timoroan speaking english and excited to suggest us some places to climb, and waterfalls to see. We decide on hitting the road to go to Mount “Flezia” before the waterfall.

On the road, just a few meters further and we already got in to our first free ride with an sweet family from Same. They brought us an hour away, a bit after the turn to Ramelau for us to hike the first Mount Flezia. We arrived, welcomed by a group of kids from a town of 5 houses. Our skin color became the most interesting thing in their day, we were quickly followed by the whole town, calling for us, “Malai, Malai”.

From the obvious road leading to the top of this mount, we are hiking and still followed by a few adventurous kids who were still shocked like discovering a new specie in town. After saying hi to every kid on the way to the top, we arrived, and found what seem like an empty sacred house, right next to the cemetery on top of this mountain. The rocks coming out of the ground seem really volcanic and dark, a nice contrast with the perfectly green grass. We sat there for a while until a few barely dressed kids approached us, but not so close, and they start rolling around in the grass, having the most fun of their day.

Ana then suggest we forget the waterfall, and get to Hate Builico same day. It was 1230pm when we decided to walk Hate Builico. What we didnt know was the distance nor which town it was. Simple adventure… Back down, on the main road we just walked back a few miles to find the turn from main road to Hate Builico. That was easy and we didn’t need any transport as we were strong. Next, we start all smiley our walk to Hate Builico, the town at the bottom of Mount Ramelau. Our friend at Pousada said just go and ask for Senyor Armando to receive guidance to Ramelau.

The road to Hate Builico is barely drivable for vehicles as not paved, with few bumps which have of course broken down many 2 wheels. The safest is to walk and many locals do this walk every day. After doing twice, we now know it is about 18km without much going on. So, we got to town quite late and settle for Senyor Antonio, homestay before hitting Mount Ramelau the next day. Antonio Soares’s family is really nice, we had an amazing dinner and breakfast with them. This one bread we had with our morning coffee gave us so much energy. Most people decide to hike from 3am to see the sunrise in a freezing cold temperature, we went a bit later at 9am. It takes about 3 hours to get up there and at 1 one hour, you will arrive at the security allowing to pass and get on the stairs, the beginning of the hike to the top.

Ramelau wasn’t so difficult to hike up if you compare to Yosemite but its important to always bring the right hiking shoes and enough water to get up there. Once you get your blood pumped up right and your heart beating, let the hike meditation begin, and zone out looking around to some magnificent views of Timor. There are plenty of nice campground zone for those backpackers interested to hike around sunset, enjoy sunset on day 1 and hike a bit less before sunrise to also get sunrise views.

Once you get to the top, you will first find a ceremonial house where every 7th of October, a mess is organized for the village. Passed this church someone could call, you have another 30 minutes to go up and you finally get to see the 3 meter high statue of Virgin Mary which reside up there since 1997 which was erected during the Indonesian occupation, gift from Italy.

Lets take some pictures, rest a bit, eat our banana and last piece of bread, before getting down.

On the way down and back to Senyor Antonio, we refilled our bottles with fresh free water from the spring. You can find this water just flowing out free for you to grab… A bit of a waste but at least we knew that it was the drinkable water. Back at Antonio where we left our bags, we spend one more night in order to enjoy Hate Builico a bit more. This town really has some magic to it, and felt much more peaceful than Maubisse. It also has a Pousada where you can stay very reasonable prices.

Second and last night at Antonio, we decide to get back to Dili and leave around 930am. We could have left earlier to walk little slower… We still didn’t quite knew how many miles we had to walk before the main road where we would find these heavy duty trucks to ride back to Dili. On the way to the main road, we tried negotiating for rides with couple trucks but usually it will be around $10 per person and not leaving until 3p in afternoon to arrive in Dili pretty late. So, we decided to walk faster and get to the main road before 2pm. Well, we got there around 220pm. So that was quite a hike too. But from the main road, we got back quickly to Dili and arrive just on time to see sunset from the truck, and at Taibese around 715pm.

4 days of adventure. around 20km per day. 2 mounts. 2 towns. for less than $100 for 2 people. it was perfect, Timor is such a pleasure.

If you prefer doing just Ramelau or may not be ready to handle 80km hiking for all this, I recommend you to arrange a tour with a guide from DTC East Timor.