Mount Ramelau is a site of great cultural and historical significance for the Timorese people. A place of interest for tourists, the mountain is also visited by large numbers of people travelling long distances to for religious and cultural purposes.
Mt Ramelau is also known as Tatamailau (FohoTatamailau) and this name is also used on most technical maps for the area. This name refers to the very tip of the mountain. The local name for the mountain was “Namrau” and this was changed to Ramelau by the Portuguese. Local legend has it that this was a mispronunciation only. Tatamailau is of Mambai origin and means “Grandfather of all”. Mambai is the dialect spoken in the area.
Mt Ramelau was also a place of great significance during the 400 year period of Portuguese rule of Timor. Not only was it the highest mountain in Timor Leste, Mt Ramelau was the highest mountain within the Portuguese empire.
The mountain is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a 3 metre high statue is set at the summit. The statue came from Italy and was erected in 1997 during the Indonesian occupation. There are several annual pilgrimages to Mt Ramelau – the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary in March and a pilgrimage in October when a mass is held at the umalulik near the summit.
Walking to the summit of Mt Ramelau
The walk to the summit of Mt Ramelau is an exhilarating and rewarding experience. Whist the climb is about 910 metres, the path is steadily up and traversable by walkers with reasonable levels of fitness. Care needs to be taken.
The walk to the summit will take 2.5 – 3 hours depending on where you start and your level of fitness. The return walk will take a little less time.
While the track is quite evident, it is best to take a guide. The guide can ensure that you take the best path, assist with information and ensure your safety. The other reason to take a guide is that this is another real way to make an economic contribution to the local community (and it needs your assistance).
You can either walk from the village of Hatobuilico or drive to the gates of Mt Ramelau. The road is 4WD only and care needs to be taken with driving due to a couple of landslides.
The actual walking track starts at the Gates to Mt Ramelau (about 2 kms from the village). The gates were erected with support from the Timorese government and through the Catholic Church on a spacious meadow. They are placed in beautiful gardens, with gazebo like lookouts, parking and water. Inscribed on a monument at the gates are statements from Timorese leaders.