572 km Loop, Hard, Remote, Mountainous, Sealed/Unsealed Rough, 10 to 13 days
Cycling in East Timor is for the adventurous. The roads are a challenge, the temperature and humidity exhausting, and outside the capital city of Dili, shops are very poorly-provisioned. But for the cyclist who dares to come here, they will find themselves richly rewarded for their efforts.
Traditional village life. – Outside the capital, you will cycle through endless tiny villages. The people here are mostly farmers, living simply and in harmony with the land. You will pass traditional bamboo shacks with palm leaf roofs – if you’re lucky you will get invited to stay with a local family. You will cycle past women carrying firewood or pots of water on their head. These people live a unique and fascinating life, most likely so different from your own.
Friendly locals – So few tourists visit East Timor that the locals were very curious when they saw me. They were more shy than other countries in South East Asia, but always welcome and excited to share about their country and display their culture of hospitality. The Timorese people had to fight very hard for their independence which means they are very proud of their country.
Beautiful and varied scenery – around Maubisse, in the west, you will discover beautiful mountains which seem to stretch endlessly in every direction. In the east around Los Palos you will cycle through a grassy plateau with grazing cows and buffalo and horses. It feels a lush and peaceful place to live. The north and south coastline is dramatic, with the water displaying shades of blue, and a clarity, I never imagined possible.
Ride the loop anti-clockwise. By heading towards Maubisse first, you will get the largest climb (1,900 metres) and the worst roads out of the way first, while you are fresh. The north of the country is more developed than the south.
Stock up on food in Dili. Outside the capital you will be heavily restricted by what is available in the shops. Most shops sell the essentials (cigarettes, petrol, alcohol), and in terms of food, instant noodles and biscuits. In the morning (and only in the morning), you will find fresh bread rolls, and doughnuts available in every village. I would recommend to buy rice and tinned food (vegetables, tuna etc.) in Dili for dinner.
For breakfast I would always eat fresh bread rolls or doughnuts, for lunch instant noodles or a cafe if available, and for dinner I would cook pasta/rice with tinned food. I would snack on bananas or biscuits available from village shops.
Toilets – I did not see any public toilets and had to ask people if I could use theirs. They never seemed to mind.
Water – You can buy (cold, refreshing) bottled water; 1.5 litre for $0.50. Alternatively, most villages had a well or water pump – this was was not potable so recommended to carry a filter, purification tablets, or to boil it.
Ride early, finish late. The midday heat could be very harsh. Recommended to start riding early, and take a midday nap for a few hours.
Check for Australian Government travel advice for East Timor.