SOUTH OF BAUCAU
Once across Baucau’s plateau your next stop is Venilale, a tiny hilltop village favoured by the Portuguese for its cool summer temperatures and natural hot springs. Terraced rice paddies climb the hillsides around the village and to the east in the distance looms the solitary peak of Mount Matebian (‘Mountain of the Souls’), where Timorese believe that the spirits of their ancestors reside. A large orphanage/school run by the Catholic church welcomes visitors and provides limited accommodation. Japanese forces, who occupied East Timor during World War II, created a vast system of caves and tunnels in this area for their encampments and arsenals.
Hikers can follow a trail through the rice paddies into the Mundo Perdido (‘Lost World’) mountain range to the west. The less intrepid can continue by car to Ossu, a traditional village with a lively daily market and a beautiful waterfall that is sacred to the Timorese. Still further south, nearing the coast, is Viqueque, known for its weaving. Almost every house here has its own hand-made loom and produces textiles made from locally-harvested kapok coloured with dyes made from plants and berries. Viqueque also has its own culinary traditions, which involves the use of pumpkin flowers and other unexpected ingredients to flavour food.