Climbing and Connections


Close to the peak of Ramalau
A village close to the peak of Mt Ramalau

On one of Timor-Leste’s many long weekend holidays a work colleague of mine suggested that perhaps it would be a good time for some staff bonding beyond the office. To get the ball rolling, she suggested a group trip to climb Mt Ramalau, Timor’s highest mountain. Enthused by the challenge we donned our hiking gear, and set out on our way.

Malai car!
Malai car!

As the group ended up with over 30 members, a divide in the team naturally occurred… which ended up cutting the group down the line of local staff and “malai”, or foreigners. Malai is a commonly used term here that makes many of us cringe, despite our knowing that it is in no way an insult in a Timorese context.

So some of the malai and I set off in one of the malai cars for the rough road trip out to Ramalau and we certainly did bond. After a very fun day of music, chatting and mixing with the international staff, we settled in around dinner and a campfire to get to know the local staff as well.


Many songs, a bit of dancing and a few stories later, we knew a whole lot more about our local colleagues and hit it off, to say the least. The Australian’s were, as always, placed in the awkward position of having to remember lyrics to songs to sing around the campfire… we were hopeless. I tried to compensate by making loud noises and yelling the chorus (don’t invite me to karaoke… ever).

Bonding by the campfire
Bonding by the campfire

After all the fun times, we settled in for a short rest before being woken early for the hike up Ramalau for sunrise.

Funnily enough, the group ended up dividing again along malai lines, with the over excited Australian malai charging up the mountain like zombies looking for brains (the fast zombies, like in World War Z), followed closely by our Japanese and Korean malai counterparts. Looking back on it, I felt this was more of a reflection of the Timorese “no rush” attitude, than an actual representation of fitness levels… I have a lot to learn about this “no rush” thing, my FOMO constantly overrides it and I end up rushing up mountains like a bat out of hell.


Whatever pace we made it up the mountain, we all felt it was worth the effort. The view was stunning, and the sense of achievement was awesome. The best thing of course was that despite linguistic differences and shyness I really have gotten to know a lot more staff on a far more personal level, making work a pretty sweet place to be.

First to the top: Chilling out as the sun rises

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