It took over 2 years but finally the Mt. Ramelau ascent has been achieved with no oxygen or indeed any sophisticated climbing equipment. That’s because you don’t need it unless you are not a finely tuned athlete like myself. The biggest post-ascent health problem was sunburnt lips – worse than oxyxgen deprivation, I imagine.
I pooh-pooh the convention (insisted in guide books) to head off post-dawn in order to reach the top as the sun rises. I am more in the reach the top for morning tea category – much more civilised. Its a bit of a trek from Dili to get to the start at Hato Builico. Although Ramelau is 70kms south of Dili, it is around 105kms by road to the open grassy field a few kms above Hato Builico. An overnight stop at Maubisse is probably best if you want to be refreshed for the 2.5 hour climb/walk. But it is still 2.5 hours drive from Dili to Maubisse then a further 1.5 hours to the grassy field.
We did not use a guide but I would think one is mandatory if you want to do a pre-dawn climb. They are available at Hato Builico but the starting price is ridiculous. In brief :
- the 4 hour non-stop drive home after reaching the top was as knackering as the walk itself – my hands were sore from the constant steering work (105 kms divided by 4 hours equals very slow but as fast as I could do it without passengers screaming)
- a 4WD is recommended but absolutely essential if wet conditions prevail
- there are no road signs – brief yourself on the exact route as the turn-off to Hato Builico is a hidden trap as is the road up from Hato Builico to the grassy field
- wear good non-slip footwear – the climb up is similar to the gravelly conditions of the hills around Dili
- expect to see no-one on Mt. Ramelau
- bring food, drink etc. from Dili
- enjoy the views of the sea on both sides of the island including clear views of the town of Ainaro on the southern side
Take 2 days and don’t rush it.