Mt. Ramelau – we knocked the bugger off

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.

Mid-year budget update background info

We all seem to know that there is an extra mid-year budget update process going on which at this stage represents a 122% increase in the budget allocation.  As always it is best to know your facts and Lao Hamutuk have kindly made some official documents plus some responses available on their web site.

Some days you just shouldn’t get out of bed.  I got sunburnt on Sunday and felt like a cooked prawn yesterday.  I had 3 bicycle flat tyres – (1) the original hole, (2) the faulty replacement inner tube and (3) my 1st repair to the original hole failed.  I am down to less than 10 minutes to do a tyre change now – something I have always aspired to !!!???


I have almost forgotten what has changed lately, having spent far too much time pondering over Dili-gence technical problems in recent weeks.

As one commenter mentioned recently, it does look like the Indian Megha restaurant is closed and I think the Thai Pavilion has also shut its doors. That all comes not long after the Fat Boys closure and the temporary Thai Jasmin closure.  [ADDED : and Carlos (ex-Purple Cow) across from Exotica].

The Jardim IDP camp (ie the one between the port and Hotel Timor) has almost emptied of people and tents. To be honest, the area looks a bit on the post-apocalyptic side today.

The road block near the Memorial Hall by the lighthouse has now been removed, which will take the heat off the roads around Motael. Regular roadblocks outside Hotel Timor seem to be more common these days, presumably because some person deemed to be of note is staying in the hotel.

The odd bits of road repair are occuring. I am sure traffic is the heaviest I have ever seen these days.

The Mr. Timor competition was held last weekend. (Think male bodies, oil and bravado.) I was elsewhere at a farewell function but I am told it was all a bit of a laugh.

The dog bite wound is still slowly healing up. The back is better after the fall 2 weeks ago but the shoulder is not in such good shape – strained ligaments or something. Note to file : do not trip over while running at pace and hit a solid immovable object.

And FOS had a big birthday a couple of weeks back.

Roadworks 101

I know it has been raining a bit lately.  And the roads have been steadily deteriorating but the current roadworks from “Pig Bridge” to the Hera turn-off are trying the patience of the most sturdy of characters.

Most of the remaining bitumen has been ripped up and numerous mounds of soil have been dumped on the road surface.  Travel times to the Christo Rei statue have doubled.  By the living Je***, its hard to cycle down there now !

The slow pace has meant more time to observe the fact that “Thai Foods” has morphed (ever so briefly) to “Thai Reterong” to “Thai Moon” restaurant.

My love of dogs has taken a severe battering lately after the dog bite.  Its now 2 weeks and the “hole” in my leg is still struggling to heal.  When a chunk of flesh goes missing, its pretty hard to facilitate a neat healing process.

I am due to visit the site of the bite incident next week and I will be taking the cricket bat as protection – vengeance will be mine !

Blowing out the cobwebs

Forgive me lord for I have sinned in that I raised my middle finger in protest at the truck bearing down on me at full speed while I was innocently cycling on MY side of the road.  I apologise for keeping said finger in vertical position while heading off into the dirt to avoid aforementioned truck while it was performing an unnecessary overtaking manoeuvre on beach road when a 2 second wait would have provided a clear road ahead devoid of cyclist with middle finger raised in forlorn protest.  I also regret cursing this event in the seconds afterwards and hurling abuse about the flashing headlights which were obviously subtle encouragement for me to vacate MY side of the road.

I am better now … but I have to give some credit for UN drivers who these days seem to have complied with requests not to speed and perform ridiculous manoeouvres like unknown non-UN truck driver above.  Well, they are better anyway.

Be that as it may (whatever that means) it gave me incentive to blow the cobwebs out this week.  Recently I attended 2 functions courtesy of the Kebab Club (near the ANZ bank) and I have to give the place pretty good marks for the food.  I also visited the Atlantic Grill down near Christo Rei and it seems to be cutting a more refined image in that neck of the woods.  Nevertheless, I reverted to the old favourite CazBar next door which was more in keeping with my standard of dress and demeanour.

There is no doubt that the little bay containing Caz Bar, Atlantic Grill and Sol e Mar (my favourite juice bar) is the choice relaxation spot with a neat little beach and the picture perfect orientation to capture the absolutely magnificent sunsets. Provided you can find a car parking spot, a perfect place to blow out the cobwebs before curfew.  Cobwebs blown.

2008 – rain, rain and more rain

After a fairly entertaining New Year’s Eve with lots of fireworks and lots of rain, New Year’s Day was spent tucked away at home watching it rain all day.  It seemed the right thing to do.  And it seems it has rained most of the time ever since.

Apparently there is a huge weather system that is affecting the whole region.  The more common pattern of clear mornings followed by cloud in the afternoon and possible afternoon or evening rain is not to be seen.  It is strange to wake in the morning to rain.  However, it is causing a bit of a mess even though Comorro River has still not quite run bank to bank yet.

There is a huge brown streak heading east along the coastline from the tons of silt washed down the Comorro River.  It looks like waves of mud breaking on the beaches.  On some of the roads to the west, there has been a lot of topsoil washed down onto the roads and a few of the small bridges have been overtopped and were impassable.  The road was cut in at least one place due to the huge depth of slushy mud deposited onto the road surface but there are a number of excavators working to move slush back into controllable places.  It looks like a lot of soil has moved closer to the sea and a few crops washed away.  In one place, the road has eroded to half its normal width with one half having fallen into a newly created drain.

I believe quite a number of people in the Liquica area have had to leave their homes temporarily.  It just looks like one or two more big rains could cause a fair bit of trouble.  But I would hardly have known this if I hadn’t driven out to Liquica and seen it myself.  I am guessing it is much the same in the easterly direction.

And the mosquito count is definitely up.

Letter from Portugal Part 3

Although one’s experiences no doubt vary, my general impressions of Portugal are of short beds, thin walls and a seemingly total absence of greenery on any main course in a restaurant/cafe (amongst many other things).  Thanks to these large food servings and economical beer and wine offerings, I shall be returning to Dili health camp with a few kgs to waste away.

Apart from being glad to see the end of a bit of excess ballast, I will certainly not miss airport security checks.  It seems they have wound up the metal detectors sensitivity such that stripped of every piece of metal apart from the zip on my fly, I set off detectors and succumbed to a manual search every time.  I even set off the detectors at the airport shops when entering.

Will be back next week.

Letter from Portugal Part 2 – coffee and port

I was nearly getting the shakes not getting my normal morning fix of at least 3 coffees until I arrived in Lisbon.  I kept getting the shakes paying USD2-50 in parts further north.

Arrive Lisbon, pay USD0-80 for an espresso – problem solved.  I just love the way you walk in, order your coffee, its in your hand in 30 seconds, and the guy next to you has purchased, consumed and left the pastelaria in under 2 minutes.  I prefer to savour my 80 cents for a bit longer.

It is no coincidence that the word Portugal contains the word port, as does the city of Oporto.

For the OZ wine lover accustomed to travelling around a large vineyard area sampling wines from a number of different wineries, it certainly comes as a pleasant surprise to arrive in Oporto and find the port cellars all concentrated on the south bank of the Douro river right in the middle of Oporto tourist central.

The cunning plan to go to one or two before lunch then tackling a few more after lunch failed miserably.  The port tasting took over and lunch was missed entirely.  By 5pm, the strong desire for a burger from a large US hamburger chain appeared.  So much for the planned sophisticated lunch by the Douro river.

Apart from all the port and coffee, Oporto is pretty neat if you like walking up and down hills and taking some pretty speccy photos of old European towns.  The light is a photographers dream or maybe it only seems that way after the 6th port cellar tasting.

Letter from Portugal Part 1 –

The budget for the Europe holiday was dealt a severe blow in parts north of here and a bit of a shock even by Dili standards.  The wallet was haemorrhaging severely until the arrival in Portugal.  As a strong presence in TL, it seemed a reasonable place to put high on the visit list.

Being a bit warmer than other euro countries north of here, it felt a little more comfortable and conducive to nudging the odd amber beverage.  Fortunately, the Portuguese invented pastelarias where one can buy pastries and snack-like items along with beer.  In some parts, it seems like there is a pastelaria every 20 metres.  Hard going if you struggle to walk past one and can not keep walking.

I heartily approve of the ability to obtain beers every 20 metres, at pastelarias, restaurants and for the first time in my experience, beers at McDonalds … sophisticated.

Try as one might to get a cold beer at a supermarket (thinking they will be cheaper), one pays very little more to obtain the chilled article at a premises as mentioned above.  We are talking about USD1 to USD2 a beer (ie bottle) and down to USD0-70 for a smaller glass poured from the tap.

The 2 main beer companies are Sagres and Super Bok.  I tried them all and have pronounced “Super Bok Abadia” and “Sagres Bohemia” as my personal favourites – nothing to do with the 6.5% alcohol content.  The “Sagres Preta” (or black beer) is my next choice.  Pity Sagres is so much harder to get in TL.  There is also “Tagus” beer and one or 2 others.

Having covered the required refreshment after a hard day on the tourist trail, there is the dinner drinks to worry about.  Again, this is a relief after some pretty stiff prices in some places further north, but an enormous relief to find competent wines at around USD5 and others I dared not touch at USD1-50 a bottle.  At this point, I am being won over.

There is a reason that traditional Portuguese food does not appear as one of the 6 great world cuisines (neither does Australia food) but if you select carefully, you will get some pretty honest food at reasonable prices.  The usual caveats apply around tourist traps.  Pay more and you can get more international cuisine.

I brought Timorese ground coffee with me, on the basis that hotels/pensions may have a kettle in the room.  Such foolish Australian thinking means I am still carrying around TL coffee.  Fortunately, the Portuguese pastelarias make coffee drinking a breeze.

More on coffee and port in the next letter from Porto, north of Lisbon.