Flores - Road Trip to Kelimutu

Trip Start Jun 01, 2007
Trip End Jun 01, 2008

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Friday, October 5, 2007

The reason we had chosen to travel to Flores on the Eastern side of Nusa Tennaggara was to visit the infamous volcanic mountain Kelimutu. It was recommended in most of the guide books as a must see if you were traveling around Indonesia. So the Perama boat trip dropped us off on the Western tip of Flores in a small port town called Lubuan Bajo. This place is really off the beaten track. It gets only a small amount of tourists as most people who are visiting Kelimutu would take the easier option of flying from Bali or Lombok to Ende which is only an hour or so from the mountain. Unfortunately for us all the flights (even though not recommended because of bad safety records) were booked out a month in advance. So instead of a 3 hour flight we had a three day boat trip and then we would have to make the rest of the journey overland through Flores. We had met a Dutch and English couple, another English girl on the boat trip and they were heading the same direction as us. Accommodation in Lubuan Bajo was the worse we had come across so far so we decided to spend as little time there as possible. It took us a day to sort out our travel arrangements to Kelimutu so we ended up staying for two nights. We rented a long tailed boat on the 2nd day to bring us to another island offshore to do a bit of snorkeling but that was the sum total of our activities.
So between the 7 of us we decided to rent a people carrier and driver for 3 days to drive us to Kelimutu. To make a long story short it was the hardest traveling we had done to date. We didn't realize just how bad the infrastructure was on the island and how long it would take us. The first day the 7 of us crammed into the van at 6am and were thrilled with the drivers choice of funky Indonesian techno music (Four non blondes speeded up by about 1000% with drum and bass accompaniment) for the entire day. Luckily he had to take out his amp and speakers from the boot so we could fit our knapsacks in! So basically the day entailed 12 hours in a van on the worse roads I have ever come across, laughingly called the Flores Southern Highway, with an hour or so stop for lunch and a couple of coffee breaks. The scenery was fantastic though with great views of the sea, winding roads up through the mountains and then really amazing lush green plateau at the top. That first night we popped into a hotel in a place called Bajawa which was recommended by our driver. It was a small town up on the plateau about halfway across Flores. We were all pretty knackered after the drive so we didn't get up to much. Sandra and I managed a trip down to the local market though where I picked up two Indonesian soccer jerseys for about $4. The next day we were up and gone again at 8 am. The second days drive was even longer. We had set a target of reaching Moni which is a small village half way up Kelimutu that tourists use as a base. In order to see the sunrise over Kelimutu which is what we were hoping for, you have to be at the base of the walk up there at 4 am! We never thought it would take us 17 hours to get to Moni though! The less said about it the better. We did have one amazing stop off in a town half way through the journey. There was a soccer match on in the pitch which was just off the main road and practically the whole town had lined the sides of the pitch to watch it. There was even a fella in a hut on the far side of the road with a PA system set up doing commentary on the match. We were due a break anyway so we asked the driver to stop for a while. We all piled out of the van to stretch our legs and have a look. They stopped the game! Apparently we were a more interesting site than the match and even the commentator started babbling something on the loudspeakers about the Falangi who were after arriving! So we all had some photos taken and had a good laugh with the locals for 10 or 15 minutes. It was a nice break and really drove home the point that they're not used to tourists around these parts!
We didn't get to Moni until 12 night and had our work cut out for us bargaining with the hotel owner since we were only going to be in bed for 3 and a half hours! Eventually we got them down to half price and hit the sack immediately.
As I said we had to be at the base of the walk up the mountain at 4 am in order to get up in time for the sunrise. Some very grumpy sleepy heads got up that morning and we had real trouble getting the driver up. We made it in time though and were delighted to find locals ready to walk with us up the trail with flasks of coffee and tea for sale.
It was a truly amazing site watching the sun rise that morning. Kelimutu has three lakes in craters at the top of the mountain and each of them are a different colour. These colours are constantly changing because of the chemicals in the ground beneath the craters. So when we were there the three lakes were red/brown, Dark blue and Green. The views over the valleys surrounding the mountain were unbelievable as well. It was the most picturesque thing we had done since Sapa in Vietnam. I hope the photos do it justice. Once again we both forgot that we were heading to the mountains when we were packing our bags for the journey so all the photos show us wearing every item of clothing we had with us (this includes two pairs of socks on while wearing sandals!)
The journey back was just as difficult with a stop in the middle. We were truly wrecked after the trip but it was definitely worth it. We were planning on getting a bit of rest for the following two weeks back to some beach life on the Gili Islands off the coast of Lombok. Unfotunately we had to get there overland though. So again we took a 24 hour ferry-bus-ferry-bus-taxi-boat journey! The roads in Sumbawa which was in between Flores and Lombok weren't half as bad though and we slept most of the way through.
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