Village life and the ever-changing Kelimutu lakes

Trip Start Sep 24, 2009
Trip End Apr 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hiyadih Hotel

Flag of Indonesia  ,
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Moni is a very tiny village that is fairly basic. There are a few places to stay, and a few very basic restaurants.   The place we stayed in had been described in Lonely Planet as a couple of ramshackle bungalows – but the owners replaced these a year or so ago with a decent block of 4 rooms so they rooms were still reasonably clean and tidy.

Going out for a meal requires an unusual amount of patience in Flores, and especially in Moni!  You are given a menu and a pad of paper on which to write your order.  After deliberating for awhile, you write your order, then wait for them to come back and read it.  This may take awhile.  When they do come back, they tell you that half of what you ordered is off the menu.  (We later found out why:  they don't have much in the way of refrigeration due to the unreliable electricity.  So they don’t have chicken, for example, unless there is a group of say 4 people to make it worthwhile running out back and dealing to one of the chickens wandering outside.)  Your meal then arrives one item at a time.  By the time Alan finished his meal, I was able to start mine!  Oh well – just as well we’re not in a hurry to go anywhere.

The scenery here is beautiful.  There are lots of green rice fields and other vegetable gardens, volcanic mountains in the distance.  And the temperature is really pleasant as it’s up quite high.  It’s almost just a bit chilly in the evenings…. Almost, but not quite.  You don’t need to worry about having a fan in the room, and there have been no signs of mosquitoes.

Market Day

Our first full day in Moni was spent exploring village life.  Today was market day for the village, and as we were only 500m or so from the market, we were woken early by the sounds of the cars, motorcycles and tooting bemos arriving, along with some lovely Indonesian pop music broadcast loudly over a speaker system.

People from all the surrounding villages bring their goods to sell, and everyone drives away with bags full of veges and a chicken or two.  You can buy just about everything you need:  fruits and vegetables, hardware, clothing, ikat (a special local woven fabric).  I couldn’t find a replacement wireless PCMIA card for my laptop though.  Oh well – you can get almost anything..

The majority of the women at the market (and everywhere else in Flores, for that matter) chew betel nut as a kind of stimulant.  Aside from the fact that it leaves their mouths, teeth and tongues stained a horrendous black-ish red colour, it also corrodes their teeth.  I have never seen such terrible teeth (if they were lucky enough to have retained any, that is).

The kids love having their photograph taken – and often ask us to take their photo.  They get the biggest kick at then looking at the photo on the digital camera playback.  But many of the women outright refuse to have their photos taken.  I think this is because they are ashamed of their teeth.  The ones that would allow us to photograph would quickly wipe the red stain away from their mouth and clamp their mouth shut without smiling.
Exploring a local village

Rather than do a village 'tour’ which was on offer for a ridiculous price, we decided to just walk along the road that led through several villages.  It was nice to enjoy the country air and stop to talk to some of the locals along the way.

We passed a group of women sitting on their veranda, chewing on sugar cane.  They invited us in for a chat and to try some of the sugar cane.  They asked the usual set of questions (where are you from, where are you going, how many children do you have).  Instead of making up my two imaginary children, I decided to be truthful and tell them that we didn’t have any.  Well, you should have seen the look they gave Alan – he is obviously to blame!  I think he is now happy for me to tell the little white lies about having 2 kids rather than suffer another one of those looks again!

At another house, a couple of young girls were weaving ikat cloth.  We asked if we could have a look so they pulled up some chairs and allowed us to watch for a while and learn a little bit about the process of making a ikan cloth.  It takes up to a month to make a sarong-size piece of cloth. 


We knew that we had to start making plans for transport the next day for our visit to Kelimutu volcanic lakes, plus we needed transport to our next destination.   Our intention was to catch a bus from Moni – but this would be difficult as Moni was a drop-off point only;  no buses originated from here.  We would be forced to squeeze on to an already-overcrowded bus. And I mean it would be so overpacked that people would be hanging out the doors, and sitting on top.  There would be dead and alive animals.  There would be spewing passengers.   We would have to transfer to another bus along the way – and who knew how long THAT process could take just to get going.  This was going to be our longest leg, 7-8 hours if we were lucky, but more likely 10-12 all up.  All this on ‘spaghetti roads’, as the locals call it. 

Many people hire a driver to take them across Flores.  We resisted this when we first landed in Maumere, but we were starting to see how attractive this option was.   It was going to kill our budget, but we also knew it was going to make the difference to us in actually being able to enjoy Flores.  And this would allow us to stop at interesting places along the way.

So.. we now have a chauffer in our own private car.  We negotiated it to 500,000rp (NZD$75/day) for 5 days.  In Indonesian terms this seems ridiculously high, but we rationalized it back to NZ terms – and decided it really wasn’t that much, especially when it was split between two of us, and when we considered that we would have hire people to take us to the sights that we wanted to visit anyhow

Kelimutu Lakes

Up at 4am, ready for a 4.30 departure up to Kelimutu to see the lakes at sunrise.  There are  lakes, each a different distinct colour.  What makes them interesting is that almost overnight, one of the lakes will change colour.  They have a chart showing the different colours that the lakes have been over the years:  green, chocolate, light green, blue, maroon, black.    One of the lakes had changed to a light milky green the week before we arrived so that there were now 2 green lakes.  Apparently they have never had the lakes the same colour before (or for a long time, anyhow).

After a 1km walk from the carpark we reached the top, but unfortunately missed the actual sunrise.  There were maybe 4 other tourists there at any one time, and a couple of locals selling coffee and instant noodles.

Awesome stuff!
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Marsha on

As an Indonesian who's lived in Canada most of my life, going back to remote places in Indonesia really frustrates me. Though having countless rats run all over the streets and the fact that buses don't leave until they're full of passengers are valid complaints, that's just how things are in Indonesia. Especially since Flores is not a major tourist area, despite its beautiful scenery. So yes, hotels are run down, people don't speak English, and foreigners would have a hard time being there. But the fact is, Indonesia is incredibly blessed with breathtaking landscapes, and in my opinion it's a good thing that not all of it have been turned into Bali. My tip is to focus on the positive. Our side-of-the-road restaurants have way better food than your classy joints, even if it takes a long time to get your order in. Also, Rp 500,000 for a car with a driver is considered cheap for remote areas such as Flores.

lisa_nz on

Hi Marsha - many thanks for your comments. I certainly didn't mean to appear to come across as negative towards anything that I experienced in Flores. To the contrary, Flores was one of the highlights of my 6 month trip. I have explored different parts of Indonesia over the years (since I was 15 years old as a student, many years ago now!) and love the people, the culture, the food and the gorgeous scenery. I studied the language at school for 5 years and although I am no longer fluent like I once was, I still retain enough to allow me to hold conversations with people that I would otherwise not be able to - and those are the experiences that I value the most. Yes, there are frustrations along the way, but the warmth of the people that we met along the way more than make up for that!

It's funny - re-reading what I wrote now that I am back in the comfort of my home in NZ. You are right - $75/day for a driver (shared between 2 people, and covering the accom costs of our driver) seems paltry. But when you're there in the moment, backpacking around on a tight budget, it seems like a lot at the time! I would do it again in a heartbeat - and recommend the driver option to others who express an interest in travelling through Flores. Having our own driver gave us more flexibility and opportunity to see and experience things that we would have missed out on otherwise.

Thanks again for your comments.

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