Kelimutu (Ende to Moni to Bajawa)

Trip Start Apr 30, 2004
Trip End Jan 28, 2005

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Sunday, August 22, 2004

Fri Aug 13 - Day 103
After 59 hours, the ship docks at Pelabuhan Port in Ende at 5am. We bid a fond farewell to Julius who's continuing to Kupang.

It's very still and just starting to get light. The wooden pier that juts out into the the shiny, calm sea from the black sand beach is full of people, proffering taxi rides in bemos (small vans with benches) or mopeds, take your pick. Ende has a dramatic mountainous backdrop and at this time of day it's towering cones are black behind the sky turning salmon pink.

East of Bali, you enter the region of Nusa Tenggara. Made up of 148 islands it's divided into two provinces. Lombok and Sumbawa form West Nusa Tenggara, Flores, Sumba, W.Timor and numerous smaller islands make up East Nusa Tenggara. A 300m deep channel between Bali and Lombok which extends north between Kalimantan and sulawesi, marks the Wallace line. This line, discovered after detailed surveys of Borneo and Sulawesi by English naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace in the 1850's, marks the eastern boundary of Asian fauna. The Lydekker line, lying east of Maluku and Timor marks the western boundary of Australian fauna. Nusa Tenggara is an inbetweeny with climate becoming drier, and crops changing as you head east.

It's one of Indonesias poorer and less developed regions, but despite political unrest, the economic crisis, drought and low crop yields, Nusa Tunggarans are renowned for being friendly and hospitable.

Flores is part of one of the worlds most geologically unstable zones and earthquakes and tremors hit every year. The last big one struck in 1992, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale and producing a massive tidal wave that killed 3000 people. Ende was also extensively damaged by this earthquake.

Having lost a day, we decide to head straight to a village called Moni, which is the closest place to the famous Kelimutu volcanoe. Amazingly there is internet available in Ende, so we spend an hour checking emails.

Banana pancakes for breakfast at Istana Bamboo cafe are a welcome change from rice. Afterwards we take a bemo to the bus station just outside of town to catch a bus to Moni. Surrounded by children trying to sell us everything from nuts to cigarettes we find the bus to Moni and realise we need to move our watches forward an hour.

All around are mountains dotted with well spaced out palm trees. Incredibly tall with a round palm growth on top. From a distance they look like Kojak lollipops. Bizarre and unlike anything we've seen. It's a spectacular 2 hour bus journey. Hold onto your hats and scream if you want to go faster. Unsurprisingly it was an old bashed bus. It was full of locals with boxes of food, sacks of rice and live poultry with their feet tied together. We sat on the back seat next to the emergency door, which was tied open, so we had a breat view and plenty of air.

The roads are very narrow but reasonably well surfaced. We followed the course of the river to begin with, huge boulders and little water, then we began to climb up and up zigzagging our way round the side of a mounatin. We passed through tiny villages of thatched roofed houses where the walls were constructed from woven palm panels.

At times on external corners there was nothing but a foot between the bus wheel and a shear 300m drop to the river valley floor. Very scary indeed.

The landscape was green and lush containing every imagineable type of palm, bamboo and fern plus endless other trees and brightly flowered bushes and shrubs. The lower slopes of the mountains were laced with terraced rice paddies and as we levelled out in the highland approach to Moni the roadside was filled with orange trees. you know you're a long way from home when oranges are growing on trees and volcanoes fill the horizon.

The village of moni is strung out on either side of a steep road. Again it's surrounded by mountains and is cooler than lowland ende. It's scenic and in the heart of the Lio region. Lio people have their own dialect and are renowned for the quality of their Ikat weaving. The Indonesian word Ikat, which means to tie or bind, is the name for the intracately patterned cloth of threads which are skilfully and painstakingly tie-dyed before being woven together.

Rene quickly finds a room at Watugana, very basic but fine for 50000 (3.10). She has finished her latest book and discovered there's an exchange book place about a mile away, so we take a walk. The road is busy with people heading somewhere, some wearing football kit and carrying football boots, it's a strange sight here in the mountainous middle of nowhere Moni. I'm intrigued and not a little excited that there may be a match nearby.

A mile turned into 2 and we ended up on a dirt track, we passed children playing football on scrubland and locals on mopeds shouting 'Hello mister'.

Half an hour of book exchanging later Rene is loaded up with a hald decent thriller and some Maeve Binchy girly tat.

Walking back past the scrubland we notice a crowd has started to gather and quickly realise this is the venue for the game. It's Friday afternoon in Flores, we have no plans for the rest of the day, so what more could a football fan wish for on the eve of a new season, than some live local football. I just wish Steve, my older brother and an avid watcher of local football could have been here, he'd have loved it.

Far and away the worst pitch I've ever seen anyone attempt to play football on. It looked like to Ayres, rock hard and sandy with clumps of ready grass scattered around. It sloped across the pitch and along its length. At one end the corner flag was actually higher than the level of the crossbar, it was on such a slope, at the other end one of the corner flags was elevated like a golf tee, halfway up the bank.

The crowd sat on the elevated bank that ran along the length of the pitch. (Like Old Boys Steve, but much bigger). Bamboo for goalposts, no nets and no line markings. Halfway along the top edge of the pitch brambles and thick bush encroach the playing area. The players appeared and warmed up by passing the ball to each other. The home team, Woloaru, were wearing Juventus shirts while the opposition, Pota, were sporting white shirts with blue and red stripes. As with all good local football, socks and shorts were mix and match. Footwear ranged from boots to plimsoles. The ref seemed to be wearing a ladies blouse and was armed with 2 flag carrying linesmen.

The mountainous volcano backdrop was stunning, and as kickoff approached the crowd had reached around 500. Unbelievable. The bank was packed and the track behind the bank was full of bemos and wagons with people watching from the rooftops. We had been surrounded by fascinated but at first very wary children, who would stare and shout hello, then run off squealing when we answered. Their shyness was shortlived. I took a photo of a group and showed it to them on the digital camera, they could not have been more astounded or excited at this and ran off to tell their parents.

Much of the crowd were wearing traditional Ikat cloth clothing and a lot of the women were chewing something (beetlenut?) that made their teeth red. It looked like they'd been hit in the mouth. Many of the men were farmers who were carrying 2ft long machetes in sheaths. There was no crowd trouble.

It was a quality game of low quality football, largely due to the pitch. The highlights were mainly crowd induced, with the women supporters from both teams producing ear bleedingly loud tribal hooting and a hollering, and the men blaming black magic for the goals (we met an English spekaing local who explained what was being shouted). The half time 100 aside barefoot children match was a joy, but the outstanding highlightof the game was one of the funniest things I've ever seen and eclipses my previous favourite comedy football moment, when on a very cold day Ian Delooze wearing woollen gloves inexplicably caught the ball in his penalty area and in a flash handed it over to the goalie, everyone in Laxey except the ref saw it, and the other team went ballistic. This comedy moment involved the linesman, who was on the top side of the pitch near the bank, who repeatedly in a vain attempt to keep up with play found himself deep in brambles and thick bush, by the time he'd made it the ball was long gone. You had to be there.

It was a full blooded but good natured inter village match, with it seemed, both villages turning out in full to watch. Potu beat Woloaru 3-2.

The crowd quickly dispersed and the light was fading fast as we walked back to Moni. Back at Watugana, Maximus (honestly) books us on a bemo to take us up Kelimutu in the morning. The volcano is supposedly at its best at sunrise so it's a 4am start.

We have dinner near by and despitewrapping up as best we could, it's very cold. It's the first time we've been cold since we left home.

Expenses (16,500 rupiah / pound): bemo 20000, mopeds 8000, bfast 20000, lunch 33000, accom 50000, kelimutu 60000, dinner 60000

Sat Aug 14 - Day 104 (Happy Birthday Gabe and Beryl)
The drive to Kelimutu is about 13.5km, it's 4am and we're half asleep. It's a narrow track with hedges covered in reads and grasses, it reminds me of driving home in the dark from the Ayres with Dad, after he'd taken us beach fishing when we were little.

It's a 2km torch lit hike from the drop off point to the top of Kelimutu. We are at 1600m and it's cold, but we're not alone, ther's about 20 other tourists and a few guides.

Arguably the most spectacular sight in Nusa Tanggara, the coloured lakes of Kelimutu are not to be missed. Set in deep craters near the summit they have a habit, yet to be fully explained, of changing colour. At the moment, one is turquiose, one is chocolate brown and the other is black. It's to do with the minerals apparently.

We reach Inspiration point at about 4.30am. It's the highest point enabling you to see all three lakes once it's light. It's often cloudy up here, so you need to be lucky to get a clear morning. We were very lucky, and witnessed the most incredible sunrise. (Look out for the photos).

Rene was shivering uncontrollably at this point and her lips had gone blue, but once the sun got up she soon defrosted.

The craters and coloured lakes were surreal and it's not until full daylight that their true colours show. By 7.30am we're driving back to Moni, the views were beautiful all the way down, culminating with looking down on a vast area of terraced rice paddies, it looked like a giant spiders web. We also pass a natural hot water spring, where the local women are washing their clothes.

Watugana provide us with a delicious breakfast of banana pancakes followed by fruit salad, it's part of the room charge.

No time to spare means no time to linger, so at 10.30a, we're on the back seat of a bus to Bajawa, the last two-seats. Our rucksacks go on the roof along with any fit and able man, now the bus is full. It takes a further 5 hours to Bajawa.

I've pretty much ran out of superlatives to describe the scenery in Flores, but todays 6 hour bum number beats the lot. Especially the couple of hours after Ende when we followed the coast, trily spectacular.

The buses are cramped, overcrowded and far from comfortable, with worn out seats and every available space filled with peoples stuff. The ears take a bashing with continuous overloud Indonesia-vision song contest like music blaring out of the stereo.

We had a verygood driver and the only dangerous moment came when we had to cross a bridge with a massive hole in it. We jumped off to take a photo as the bus manouvred over the piece of wood placed over the hole.

We arrive in the hilltown of Bajawa at about 4.30pm. It's surrounded by volcanic hills and is the trading centre for the Ngada people. At an altitude of 100m, it's like Moni, has cooler nights and early mornings. The bus station is outside town so we hop on the back of mopeds for the ride into town. Not the most comfortable with our backpacks on. We check out Korina, which has good clean rooms with attached mandi for 75000, so we decide to stay.

We have an early dinner in the Camellia Restaurant opposite and with another early start in the offing tomorrow we have an early night. Football is nowhere near as popular in Indonesia as it was in Thailand and Malaysia, and despite many places having huge satelite dishes, I can't find anywhere showing any of todays Premiership matches. World service is my last resort. I know that at 10pm Indonesia time World Service do a sports show, which includes second half commentary froma Premiership game. As luck would have it, the reception high up in Bajawa is as goog as I've had. What I wasn't prepared for was that my beloved Liverpool had kicked off early, only managing a draw against Spurs, and that Michael Owen had joined Real Madrid! A couple of days out of touch with the world and this happens. What's going on Mr.Sherrard? All I heard was him giving a cheesy press conference declaring his love of Real Madrd? Haven't they already got Ronaldo, Rauel and Morientes? Who has Benitez signed? To further darken my mood the commentary game was Norwich against Crystal Palace, a 1-1 bore draw.

Expenses: Bus moni - Bajawa 100000, bikes 10000, moto 5000, biscuits 2500, accom 75000, dinner 63500
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