Flores: Visiting Mount Kelimutu
Kelimutu was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. The photos I had seen online looked magical and I was really looking forward to experiencing the beauty of these three volcanic crater lakes.
One can either fly into Maumere or Ende, with the latter being a little bit closer. The vast majority of Western tourists will travel through Bali with the only other alternative being Kupang on Timor. We opted for Ende and were greeted with a spectacular approach.
I had once again looked for a driver online and contacted one via WhatsApp, after my recent success with this method in Thailand. I settled on 1.5 million Rupiah to take us from Ende to Moni/Kelimutu and onwards to Bajawa the next day. Everything was confirmed and there was a driver waiting with our name on a sign when we arrived. There was a little confusion as Rio wasn’t the name of the driver I was expecting. Turns out, my initial driver seemed to have given away (sold?) the job to someone else. While annoyed in the beginning, I was very happy with Rio and can recommend him (he is based in Bajawa). English skills could improve a little bit but he was a very reliable and safe driver.
The drive up to Moni took just short of two hours. Going in with low expectations for Moni, I wasn’t disappointed. It is basically a town that stretches along the main road for about a kilometer. It seems that word has spread that running a guest house/homestay is a great idea, hence every other house advertises vacant rooms. Research online showed that there are no real jewels around, so I relied on Tripadvisor this time and opted for the “Estevania Lodge” at 350’000 IDR per night. It was perfectly fine though nothing to write home about. There isn’t much to do in the town (as in “nothing”) so we wandered around a little bit and visited a nearby waterfall. In the evening we visited the new “hip” restaurant just outside of town, “Santiago”. Since it was Good Friday (and most of the population is Christian), all dishes were vegetarian.
The fact that all guest houses are along the main (and only) road became an issue at night. Windows aren’t exactly sound proof and we were kept up by a mix of football on TV, babies crying, music blasting from cars and other random sounds. The only concern we had was that we were supposed to wake up at 4.15am the next morning to see the sunrise. Our driver was kind enough to wake us at 3.45am (not sure how we got lost in translation regarding the time) and started blasting music from his car. I didn’t mind since I was up but I wonder what the neighbors thought of it.
In order to get to Kelimutu, you have to drive for over half an hour up the mountain. Eventually there was a ticket booth that relieved us off 150’000 IDR each (locals are charged 5’000). From there it is another half an hour or so hike. By the time we reached the viewing platform it was still dark and quite cold. Luckily there are some vendors up there selling hot drinks. By the time the sunrise started, there were around 30 tourists anticipating the first rays of light of the day.
While not the perfect sunrise, we weren’t disappointed. The colors of the lakes are very special and so distinctly different. It almost doesn’t appear to be water but colors used for painting. Once the sun was up, we spent around another half an hour enjoying the views and then walked over to another platform to get a closer look at the darker lake.
By around 8am we were back in Moni for breakfast. Since we did not plan to go hiking in the area, we packed our stuff and left for a long drive to Bajawa.