Although travelling alone is great, there are certain things you are better off doing with other people. Like climbing Ramelau, the highest mountain in East Timor. Two on the bike is just too heavy so the chook chaser was left to its own devices for a few days and me and Manuele, my Italian fellow mountaineer, turned to the age old technique of hitchhiking to get us to the mountain. The turn-off from the main road was reached in 3 rides of various comfort levels. One nice 4×4, a truck cramped with people and a goat under the seat and last a truck full of fuel drums. Getting off our last ride slightly high of the fuel fumes, we started to walk the 18 km to the village of Hatu Bilico, at the foot of the mountain. Thinking we would find a ride on the way, we were in good spirits. After about 16 km the long anticipated truck arrived and drove us the last 2 km to the village.
In the dark we put up the tent at the foot of Mount Ramelau and ate some of the food we brought from Dili. The next morning we weren’t in a hurry, enjoyed the views before heading to the village to stock up on supplies and find a decent meal. After a lot of asking around, a police man pointed his blunt machete in the direction of a little shack with a window-like opening at the front. This was the town supermarket, we had walked past it 3 times without noticing. The assortment of the shop was rather small, mostly instant noodles, sugary drinks and cookies. Being gluten-intolerant limited my choice of food drastically. We finally settled on some guava juice and condensed milk (a thick, very sweet milk derivative). Then, to fill our bellies before the big climb we continued on into the village. The shop owner ensured us we should be able to get food at the guesthouse and after overcoming the language barrier we sat down to a great meal.
It was mid-afternoon now. With our stomachs
full we were ready to start the climb. The first stretch was road-like terrain, not too hard to walk but at a decent incline. Then we arrived at an interesting place. An arch denoting the start of the climb up the mountain a wanna-be roundabout and some grassland with streetlights on it. It looked like someone tried to develop this place into a tourist attraction but then backed out halfway. After a short stop we continued upwards. The climb was good, not too hard, and the views breathtaking, as was the weight of our backpacks. Weighed down with all the camping gear and some celebratory drinks it took about 3 hours to reach the top. When we were almost there a guy came out of a house just below the summit, build next to a radio-antenna-thing. We were totally surprised to see a person up here, let alone someone living here! He walks up and down every day! Wow! Once the visitor book was signed, we completed the last steps to the summit just in time to watch the sunset. It was magnificent! At 3000 meters above sea level we were above the clouds, above any of the surrounding mountains. But it was also incredibly cold and windy!
Behind some bushes we found a spot relatively sheltered from the wind to put the tent. Dinner, tomatoes and tuna carried from Dili, was served in the tent while trying to stay warm in our sleeping bags. Then the highlight of the evening, condensed milk for desert. I can tell you, condensed milk never tasted so good before! The whole situation was highly entertaining! All throughout the night I was worried the tent would get damaged or simply fly away, but to my relief it remained upright and in one piece. The next morning we woke up early to see the sunrise. Now there were clouds rushing past the summit as well, making the experience even more impressive. There really are no words to describe the world from 3000 meters height, you just have to go see it for yourself.
Then the decent, much easier than the climb, and assisted by the decreased weight of our backpacks we made it down in only an hour and a half. In the village we ran into some fellow motorbike travellers, who were just about to climb up. You meet bike travellers in the weirdest places! We agreed to meet up in Dili afterwards. Now all we had to do was walk the 18 km back to the main road and hitch a ride to Dili. As the top of Ramelau was further and further away, Manuele kept saying: “Look that is where we were this morning, we walked all this way!” With sore shoulders, some condensed milk for breakfast and only a banana for lunch I was very happy to climb into a truck after walking 50 km in 3 days. In the truck, watching the sun go down, I felt blessed and grateful to be surround with the beauty of nature and enriched with another incredible experience.