The Three-Colored Lakes of Kelimutu

Trip Start Sep 17, 2011
Trip End Oct 07, 2011

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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Friday, September 30, 2011

Bill here (Lisa editing). Woke up to Lisa shaking me and telling me it's time to go. I barely heard her since I still had my earplugs in to silence the musical extravaganza earlier in the morning. I thought we did a good job of getting going and out the door somewhat quickly. It helped that we had our clothes ready. Fortunately, we dressed warmly since the temperature was a bit cool. For us, it didn't feel all that cold, but for the locals, they thought it was freezing! Gabriel had a coat on and made some brrr sounds along the 30 minute drive up the mountain. The road wasn't so bad. It had the usual hairpin turns as it traversed the hillsides. The headlights illuminated several dozing goats and cows reclining in the brush on the sides of the road along the way.

When we arrived at the entrance to the park, we had to walk in the dark up to a booth to pay a fee for entry and for use of the camera (they have fees for everything here). No one was around, but after Gabriel tooted his car horn, two guys came out of a nearby building, one wrapped up in a thick flannel blanket. They did some consulting and came up with the figure of 96,000 Rp (a little over $10 USD) for our entry and camera fee. It was a good opportunity to unload all of our small money, and I spent several minutes counting it out on the table, both men bent over and watching closely. Fortunately we had exact change, as apparently they had no cash on hand for change (go figure).

Shortly past the gate, we drove into a parking lot where many "guides" were available to help us up the clearly marked (in English) path. We followed one whose only words were, "We walk one kilometer." The sky was beginning to lighten, but it was still hard to see our footing, and our "guide" took off like a shot, carrying two large sacks in either hand. We followed him as best we could through silent woods over about 1/4 mile of shallow, irregularly-placed stone steps and then along a stony dirt path (I heard Lisa nearly biff it behind me at one point, tripping over a rock or tree root). We then came to a clearing. I looked ahead and saw the path steepen, turning into a curving staircase which went up and up to the top of a large hill. I turned to Lisa and said, "I hope we don't have to go up that way." Guess what? That's exactly where Mr. Guide led us. There were approximately 800 steps to the top. It actually wasn't too bad since we could break for rest anywhere we wanted, and the guide didn't care and never looked back. Of course, Mr. Guide made it swiftly to the top even with his sacks of hot water, coffee and snacks. As we climbed higher, we began to see one of the colored lakes come into view. Then another, and another. It was nearly dawn now and we could begin to see things come into view better and better. When the sun finally broke, it was more blinding than anything at first. Us and several tourists began taking pictures and repeating the process frequently for the next hour or so. The largest lake was a deep blue color. The next largest was black. The smallest of them was a different shade of blue than the other. Aside from the different colors, what I found impressive was the amount of earth that was expelled in order to form the lakes themselves. A whole lot of dirt and rock was blown out of each crater. Perhaps the geologists know how it happened in detail. All I know is that it was pretty damn cool. While at the top, we chatted with some of the other tourists, namely an older couple from Holland and our neighbors (at Hidayah) from the UK. We all found the views amazing. There was a brief moment of excitement when a trio of macaque monkeys made an appearance at the one and only trash can, rooting around for blackened banana peels then settling in to eat them. Just as we were all reaching for our cameras, one of the guides shooed them away. Apparently a tourist had been bitten recently, so they were taking no chances.

We chatted with the Dutch couple, whom we'd met at other points earlier on in the trip, all of us apparently on the same tourist circuit. We knew they had been planning to stay at the Flores Sari Hotel same as us, and asked them how their night went. Well, they said that they had done their homework ahead of time and read up on the hotel in TripAdvisor so had an idea what to expect. They found out that another tourist recently staying there had actually been electrocuted in the shower. That person listed the room number he/she stayed in. When the Dutch couple were being shown around, they said the proprietor wanted to put them in the same room, which they declined. They were very careful while there and although they had hot showers, clean towels and clean sheets, everything else was filthy. They laughed it off. They then said that they had messed up in their trip preparations and, instead of continuing on to Maumere and then flying out from there (like us), they instead had to turn around and backtrack all the way to Labuan Bajo for their homeward flight. Ugh! We couldn't imagine it. Three additional days of stomach-turning roads, seeing the same stuff all over again. However, they laughed that off too.

After a couple cups of (overpriced) gritty/chewy coffee, Lisa and I headed down the mountain. Along the way, we climbed a different, shorter flight of stairs to get a better view of the smaller lake from another perspective. Lisa interjecting: As we were strolling back through the woods in the direction of the parking lot, we began to hear the forest birds wake up and begin to sing. It was absolutely surreal. It was like listening to weird, bleeping and warbling synthesizer music. Or what neon lights would sound like, if they could vocalize. There were coos and clacks and strange trills and it was surrounding us on all sides. It felt like we were in a David Attenborough documentary, only we didn't have him around to explain what we were hearing. We spotted only one bird in the trees--it was totally unremarkable looking, like a brown robin, but what was coming out of its throat was something else entirely.

We headed back to the room and were served breakfast on the front porch. It wasn't too bad - some fruit and a mango pancake. Lisa interjecting: While we were sitting in our plastic chairs, the proprietor of the place, a sad-looking man, came out of his bamboo walled house carefully carrying an infant in his hands. He sat down on his front step and began to cuddle the baby, who stared solemnly back at him, not appearing to move. The man touched the baby's face, stroking his little eybrows and caressing his face. He then disappeared with the baby into the house and came out a minute later with a different infant and cuddled this one too. We discovered that these were twins and one had been born with a head tumor which had to be surgically removed in Denpasar. I could see why this man seemed sad. Neither baby appeared at all energetic, barely moving in his hands. It was so sad to see, but what could we do? It was a sobering end to our stay in Moni.

Bill: Meanwhile, we were eager to get the hell out of Moni. We quickly got our stuff packed and loaded in the car. Took one last photo of the room, particularly the unmade bed, then hopped in the car. Gabriel motored on and we were thankful to be heading out again.

Lisa again, and I'm finishing this to avoid any further confusion. As we began our last leg of the overland trip, Gabriel plugged in his music player, for the first time. When we asked why he waited so long to do so (it had been a long, quiet 3 days' drive), he shrugged his shoulders and said he hadn't thought we liked music. Huh? What followed was quite entertaining. The music player kept resetting itself every time we hit a bump, which was about every 15 seconds. The musical selection seemed to consist of Bob Marley's greatest hits interspersed with rap songs. When we hit bumps, the player automatically went to the beginning of the same song, again and again: Buffalo soldier...dreadlock rasta....there was a buffalo the heart of America... This went on endlessly. We wound our way through jungle--

Come my lady, come-come my lady, you're my butterfly--sugar--baby...

past villages--

Is this love? Is this love? Is this love? Is this love that I'm feeling?....

across mountain ranges--

Now ladies come, ladies go out my revolving door...some ladies never come back--most come back for more...

heading north toward our final destination on this road trip, to the city of Maumere.

We reached a stopping point, mid morning, on the north side of the island along the seashore. We drank cold Cokes while sitting on wooden stools, looking out at the ocean. Didn't realize this would be our last stop but turns out it was.

Back in the car, we headed into Maumere proper (population 51,000 according to Lonely Planet's outdated guide). We got stuck in a traffic jam at one point, some sort of market going on, women sitting on blankets selling tiny carrots and greens. Before we knew it, we'd pulled into our hotel, Sea World Club, a beach resort. I headed in to register while Bill and Gabriel unloaded the car of our stuff. We said our goodbyes, and suddenly we were on our own again.

We were led to our little bungalow on the beach. The guy helping us with our suitcases showed us around the room. We were very excited because we had a big, soft-looking bed with a decent mattress, air conditioning, a toilet that flushed, and hot water. A few minutes later, a girl came by with welcome drinks. We decided to sip them on the front porch of our new "home," which looked out over a beautiful expanse of gleaming water, palm trees swaying, a sense of peace and tranquility coming over us. I swear, we no sooner sat down when some scruffy-looking men came out of the dive shop right next door, turned on an air compressor and started painting a beached boat that was sitting a few yards away from our doorstep. It felt sort of like a nightmare. We were so tired by that point. Fortunately they stopped awhile later, and things got quiet again.

We headed to the restaurant for lunch. We were both ready to stop eating Indonesian food for awhile, so Bill ordered spaghetti and I ordered a club sandwich. Bill's meal looked normal, and so did mine, but when I bit into my sandwich, I discovered it consisted of tomatoes, cucumbers, a slice of cheese (I think), a layer of ketchup, and a fried egg. Bill said his dish was a bit unusual too. Nonetheless, it was food, and we were both famished and cleaned our plates.

We did little for the remainder of the day, although we did take a walk around the property, which abutted some local homes. The fence separating Sea World Club from the outside world had a huge hole in it which, we discovered later, admitted many local people onto the property, allowing them to make themselves quite at home. That's for another day though. Along our walk, we heard the horrible, frantic squealing of pigs--they must have been getting slaughtered--coming from nearby barns or what really should be described as shacks. It was awful to listen to.

We ate in the restaurant for dinner and went to bed quite early. There were very few guests, so it was quiet and peaceful (other than the native element, more on that later). We were very tired and slept quite well, although our ears were attuned to the distant thumping of Indonesian pop music, coming from the back of the property. But at least it wasn't coming from outside our window.
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Mike Radoye on

Boy... what a beautiful lake.. I wish I would have seen that... I already have one as my screen saver.. :)

Brian Reeves on

Sorry, these blogs aren't just good, they are classic.

jgabrielli on


Erica on

The lakes are amazingly beautiful. Funny how you seem to go from remote village, where the room may or may not be clean, to a nice resort that's clean with flushing toilets. What a contrast.

On Amazing Race, they went from Taipei to Jogjakarta!

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