Three lakes, three conversations
Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
273Trip End Oct 08, 2008
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Sometimes I'm tempted, in the spirit of free enterprise, to shop around a little bit before choosing a hotel
After lunch I took a wander up the road to explore the town. There is only the one road. Like Ende, everyone here would greet me as well. But here the tourism industry was a little more developed. A lot of these people could have conversations. And they did. In fact, they were hard to avoid.
Dorotea was a diminutive middle-aged lady with very good English. She called out to me from a roadside stall and, being as I didn't have anything else to do, I stopped to chat. She had a pretty sad story to tell.
She was a single mother, quite rare for these parts. She didn't offer the whereabouts of the father. She didn't give me the impression that he was deceased, however. Her small boy was running around her feet with a kite. It was the saddest looking kite I had ever seen. Essentially it was a tiny piece of trash bag and a string. His other toy was much more impressive. It was a liter fuel bottle, cut into the approximation of a car
I went back to get Erin and while waiting for her wandered into the churchyard behind our hotel. The church was very large. While I was looking up at it someone emerged from one of the other buildings and came over to me
After we talked to Peter we moved down towards the other end of town. A huge traditional house rose out of the village section. This was the traditional village of Moni, while we had been staying in the outgrowth of hotels and restaurants stretching up the road. It turned out that the house was private and we couldn't look at it. But we did meet Joseph. Joseph was a guide. Or he had been a guide. He would take tourists up to the three colored lakes at Kelimutu or down to the traditional villages in the other direction
If you've been following along, you read about the time where we went to lunch in Hue, Vietnam, and were lead to make a "donation." So both of us decided on the price we were willing to pay for dinner and donation, prepared ourselves for some emotional blackmail, and returned to Joseph's house a little after dark. He was waiting for us.
He brought us into a small, dilapidated room attached to the front of a small dwelling. It seemed to serve as the living room, dining room, and guest bedroom. There was a tv turned on low at one end of the room. It was attached to a hodgepodge of mismatched equipment, including an enormous speaker that was handling the sound. The "table" was a relatively clean space of tiling on the floor. Joseph talked to us for a little while while his two children stared at us and giggled between themselves. Erin went over and poked them a little bit but never overcame the barrier. We were too scary. Through him we learned a lot more about Moni's history.
To be honest, the terrorist bombings in Bali were a stroke of genius. There are lots of things wrong with the tourism industry, but it is the biggest economic activity on the planet and takes money from rich countries and puts it into small ones. Many of the places we've been couldn't survive, or couldn't maintain their traditions and standard of living, without the money from tourism
The worst part is that Moni had only just converted itself to tourism. The three colored lakes of Kelimutu had only become a tourist desination in the early 90's. Originally, tourists were boarded in local people's homes. Then the hotels were built. Even these filled up. Moni was booming. It converted its whole economy to tourism. And about nine years later, when everything was just coming online, the tourists stopped coming. Moni and its wonderful people made me sad. They weren't just poor. They had seen a way out, savored being a tourist town, and then lost everything again. And Joseph had returned to the rice fields.
While he had been quite talkative outside, he seemed almost shy inside his house with his family. He brought in some rice, noodles, and aubergines. To drink we had boiled water. He apologized profusely about the simplicity of the food
Joseph ran an orphanage. He was currently in care of 14 children. The point was to train them to work as what sounded like house servants in Malaysia. He provided them with clothes, books, and schooling. He had been in the process of building a schoolroom when tourists stopped coming with donations. We had met him next to the empty shell that would have housed the school. It didn't matter much anyways. He was depending on the tourists to keep giving English lessons to the children. He showed us a carefully typed and edited letter thanking a woman who had provided monetary support for some of the orphans. He had cultivated that contact until she had passed away recently.
His wife, finished making dinner, finally emerged to sit quietly and watch the TV
We gave him the money we had agreed upon. At first I thought the proud man was going to refuse. But we insisted that it was a donation to the orphanage, and that he agreed to. Next time anyone goes to Flores and is looking to contribute, find Joseph and help him out. $40-$50 can provide these children with enough supplies for a year.
Anyway, after our conversations in Moni and the huge adventure of travelling across Flores, the three colored lakes of Kelimutu were almost anticlimatic. We were afraid that the rain would prevent us from seeing them at all. But luckily, after three days of rain we had a perfect morning. We decided against going at sunrise, had a nice leisurely breakfast, and then took two motos on a drive up through wonderful scenery to the entrance of the park. From here it was a short walk to the lookout over the three craters.
Originally the three crater lakes on this mountain were red, white, and blue. Like cakes of paint. I would have liked to see that. But they are also famous because they change colors. No one is quite sure why it first happened, but some think that when the president first visited in his helicopter in 1983 he stirred up the water with his rotors
After visiting the craters we walked back down through the beautiful landscape. We took a lot of photos of rice paddies and the occasional child. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful downhill walk. We got back to Moni and bought some pomelos from Dorotea like I had promised. After yesterday I would have given her whatever she asked, but she charge 2,000Rp, a little over 20 cents each. They were delicious, and Erin complained that we should have gotten more than two. I doubt we'll ever find the limelos again.
We had our final hop to Maumere the next morning. We just had to be waiting at the roadside when a bus came by. We were really lucky, and walked up to the road and right onto a bus within 3 minutes. The driver's friends seemed to find us amusing. Everyone here is in love with Obama. After a relatively easy minibus ride we arrived in out last destination, Maumere.