- Elevation: 995 m (3,264 ft)
- Prominence: 995 m
- Ribu category: Spesial
- Province: Timor Leste (East Timor)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: none
Gunung Manucoco (995 m), sometimes spelt ‘Manukoko’ (probably the Indonesian spelling), is the highest point on the island of Atauro (pronounced ‘ata-uro’) and located on its southern-most corner. Atauro Island lies off the north coast of East Timor and is visible in the distance (about 36 kms) from Dili. East Timor, Atauro Island and Jaco Island, located off the north-eastern tip of East Timor, together comprise this fascinating country of Timor Leste.
Atauro Island is about 25 kms long, 9 kms wide and 140 sq km, with a population of about 9,000 who speak three local languages. The lingua franca of the island is Indonesian and Tetum. The people in the north are Catholic and those in the south Protestant; traditional beliefs and practices are still very much a part of daily life. Historically, Atauro was used by both the Portuguese and Indonesian governments as a place of exile. Its isolation made it a natural prison for dissidents and supporters of the resistance against the Indonesian military. The Portuguese fled here from Dili for safety in 1975.
The Government is promoting Atauro as a tourist destination: “Enjoy the peace and tranquillity of a naturally beautiful, simple and unspoilt part of the world. Snorkel in clear water and see an amazing pristine underwater world of incredible diversity. Go scuba diving on some of the best and untouched coral reefs in the world. Climb Manucoco.”
Our group visited Atauro and climbed Gunung Manucoco to conclude a 4WD-trip trekking three other peaks in Timor Leste’s high country – Ramelau, Mundo Perdido and Matebean Mate. It was a delightful conclusion to the trip with excellent snorkelling and relaxation in a beautiful beach setting.
Gunung Manucoco is a wonderful trek affording panoramic views across the island and its idyllic coastline. The mountains are mostly limestone with some ancient volcanic rock formations. Manucoco is regarded as sacred. The trailhead is located some 4 km south of Beloi, on a road heading inland from the coast road, several hundred meters towards new military barracks. A local guide is recommended both to locate the trailhead and to navigate the numerous tracks that crisscross the lower reaches connecting plantations both on the ascent and descent.
Barry and his wife organised a driver to the trailhead ($2 per person) and guide ($15) for the hike at short notice. Although some people made the trek sound like a “walk in the park”, Barry’s appreciation was more realistic. The only easy section was the descent where we walked through areas of rolling green hills with white-barked Eucalypt trees. Bring the usual 3-4 litres of water and some snacks (provided by Barry’s Place).
Our guide was excellent and we tipped him well. He even brought walking sticks if needed. He stopped for regular breaks and climbed a coconut tree to provide fresh drinks for each of us, which was most appreciated.
The trek commences some 100 metres above sea level. Allow 3 hours up and 2 hours down to complete the trek if returning by the same way. An alternative, which we chose, is to traverse over the ridge to the village of Anartuto from where it’s a 3-hour march back to the trailhead mostly on a dirt road.
Starting at a low altitude, this is a relatively hot trek. The trail is in three sections. Initially, the trek is dry and quite hot. (Our 9 ½ year-old trekker did not enjoy the heat – but did complete the whole trek). We passed a few small farms including coconut and pineapple plantations. The countryside resembles the dryness of the Komodo islands.
The middle section is easier and more enjoyable with tall grass and scattered trees. (The tall grass was too high for our young trekker to see above so he missed out on most of the wonderful views.) Eventually, the path becomes narrow and winds its way up some rather steep slopes.
The final, highest section is through lush jungle and is much cooler. The trail emerges at a junction on a saddle where a spur trail leads to the summit, while the main trail continues on to Anartuto Village. The last part to the summit is grassy with some bushes where the ridge narrows to some five metres or so.
While we stood on the summit of Manucoco over its survey mark, we couldn’t help but think that the adjacent peak, some 200 inaccessible metres further along the broken ridgeline, seemed just a bit higher. Whether or not this was an optical illusion, we were delighted with the view on hand and satisfied that we were at the true summit with the survey mark at our feet.
We returned via the village of Anartuto – an easier trail, descending slowly through grasses, Eucalypts and plantations. Unexpectedly, we encountered an annual beetle nut festival with lots of activity and local goods for sale. Our guide took us through various shortcuts to limit the distance along the dirt road (some 18 km) arriving eventually at the military barracks and original trailhead.
Manucoco is a highly recommended trek on a visit to the beautiful Island of Atauro, Timor Leste.
Submitted by: David Robertson, with Nicholas Hughes, Maike Willuweit and Lisa Peterskovsky, July 2018
- Getting there: Atauro Island is reached by several boats from Dili. http://www.barrysplaceatauro.com/getting-here.html provides further information. We went on the Dragon Star fast boat ($15), a former riverboat from China, that took just over an hour, and returned on the Laju Laju landing barge that took some three hours ($5). The fast riverboat was not a pleasant experience – doesn’t handle the waves at all well. Moreover, one is confined inside – no fresh air, no views. The slow barge was much more enjoyable, sitting on deck with the sea breezes and views over Atauro and East Timor. Be quick to board as there is limited seating. Bring your own drinks and snacks. There is an inside area should it rain. There is another smaller, fast boat ($45) that seems better designed for the ocean crossing.
- Accommodation: We stayed at Barry’s Place, Beloi, ($50 per room with all meals included), a 5-10mins walk from the jetty (or take local transport). Although basic it is easy going and includes everything that a traveller should need. Barry’s Place takes the concept of an eco-lodge seriously. Indeed, access to water and electricity is a major problem for the people of Atauro. Some of us visited the doll and textile factory, Vila Boneca de Atauro, a community enterprise, and had excellent Italian gnocchi in the Manukoko Rek restaurant opposite the factory. Getting to Vila Boneca from Barry’s Place takes about 25 min by Bajaj (3-wheeler) and costs $2 per person. A 20 min walk up a nearby hill, along a Way of the Cross, offers beautiful views over the coastline of Atauro and of Manucoco.
- Permits: Not required, but take a local guide.
- Water sources: Take 3-4 litres each with you.
- Travel insurance: We recommend World Nomads insurance, which is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities including mountain hiking.
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