Kelimutu Crater Lakes, Indonesia

Journal snippet | December 2009 | Flores Island. 

We waited beneath the ever warming sunshine for a Bemo (an Indonesia minibus) but as always they only appear when you don’t need one. We eventually gave up and decided to walk 3km uphill to the bus stop in Bajawa. Our backpacks were weighing us down and we soon began to drip with sweat, there’s nothing I hate more then getting sweaty before a long bus journey. On the plus side we had time to appreciate the scenery, with vast forests of the thickest bamboo we’ve ever seen, and the impressive pyramid shaped Gunung Inerie volcano in the distance. 

As we approached the bus stop the ‘BULE, BULE!!’ (Which means foreigner or even albino) chants began as locals gave warning to the bus touts that two, supposedly rich white people were about to hop on a bus. Five men came running down the road to meet us and we just looked at each other and cracked up, it was the same everyday in Indonesia. They tried to grab our bags off us and frantically asked where we were heading. After some hard bartering we got a price we were happy with and set off on some narrow, winding roads. It took two separate bumpy bus rides to reach Moni, both of which were full of vomiting locals and goats helplessly sliding along the roof. 

Moni was a very cute village surrounded by rice paddies and palm trees and we quickly found a nice homestay with a bubbly owner called Rita who introduced us to her family, along with the dead ones who lay beneath tiled graves outside our room. There’s a purpose built water channel that runs alongside the road and the water gushes down it from the mountain tops past all the villagers houses. It’s everyone’s bath, washing machine and fun-slide, I love the concept. We have a 4am start tomorrow to visit Kelimutu’s volcanic crater lakes, I hope it’s worth all the horrible bus rides to get here as this is as far east as we will be going in Indonesia.

The beautiful surroundings of moni

The beautiful surroundings of moni

Rita organised a motorbike taxi to take us up to the 1600m high crater of Kelimutu. It was a bitterly cold ride up, and the sulphur in the air burnt our throats and made our noses constantly run. We were left at the top just before sunrise and had to quickly find our way to the best viewpoint. We got to a t-junction, picked the wrong path and had to quickly rush back, I was having a hissy fit that we’d miss the sunrise so we took a short cut by climbing over a lava wall which had a ‘danger do not enter sign’ and we found ourselves looking down at a 300m drop with stunning turquoise water below us. We were clearly in the wrong spot for the sunrise as we saw a crowd of people up a hill nearby, but we managed find a decent enough vantage point which we had all to ourselves.

Sunrise over the crater rim

Sunrise over the crater rim

We sat on the cool, dusty ground and watched the sun poke above the crater rim and turn the clouds a vibrant orange colour. As the sun rose higher, the colours of the three crater lakes became clearer. Three perfect lakes lay hundreds of meters below us. One was turquoise with a peculiar white circle like someone had dropped a dollop of white ink in the water. The middle one had more of a green tinge to it while the third was on its own and black in colour. Due to the climate and the chemicals, the water colour changes throughout the year, apparently the turquoise lake was burgundy just a couple months ago. We experimented throwing rocks into the lakes to get an idea of how deep they were. It took a good few attempts to realise we were looking in the wrong spot, and the rock actually took about 10 seconds to hit the water.

The two lakes separated by a rocky wall

The two lakes separated by a rocky wall

Kelimutu Crater Lakes

Kelimutu Crater Lakes

The black crater lake

The black crater lake

It was an incredible area, the scenery was nothing short of spectacular, and we left a couple hours later with big smiles on our faces. We decided to walk the 14km down hill to Moni, but after a relentless hour of zig zags a man driving an open yellow truck pulled up and offered us a free ride in the back. He took us halfway down hill and went to continue his work while we continued plodding down the hill. 30 minutes later he pulled up beside us and gave us a ride all the way back to Moni. It was so nice for someone to offer us a ride for free, and not demand money or try to rip us off. Maybe he felt bad for us as we were still coughing and wheezing from the sulphur.

When it came to leaving Moni we hopped on a Bemo which happened to be full of smiley nuns. For some reason, these ladies were on a mission to buy every mango en-route. The Bemo driver was instructed to stop at every single stall selling mangos along the 6 hour journey. The nuns would all hop out, grab the mangos and pile back in. They kept insisting we ate some so we had a very sticky journey attempting to cut and eat them with our Swiss Army knifes along the bumpy roads.

Oh yeah, there was a film crew at the top who wanted to interview the Bule's!

Oh yeah, there was a film crew at the top who wanted to interview the Bule’s!

Craig in the back of the open truck

Craig in the back of the open truck

Enjoying the free ride!

Enjoying the free ride!

passing a volcano on the bus ride

passing a volcano on the bus ride

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