A Colorful Dawn at Kelimutu
“It is believed that spirits come to Kelimutu when people die. The mae (spirit) would leave its village and remain in Kelimutu forever. Before entering one of the lakes, the spirits would first meet Konde Ratu, the guard of the gate at Perekonde. Which lake the spirit would enter depends on its age and character when alive.” -Placard above the lakes
At 3:30 a.m. my phone alarm went off. I wasn’t my normal curmudgeonly self when being forced to wake up at this hour. I was already somewhat awake, ready to go see what had drawn me to the island of Flores to being with. And, well, it lived up to every superlative imaginable.
We left the hotel at 4 a.m. and drove to the final lot before the hike to the Kelimutu volcanic crater lakes begins. The hike was easy and quick, when compared to a year’s worth of volcanoes. Pak Ardi and I reached the look-out point where tourists and coffee sellers gather and wait for the sun. The smell of sulfur occasionally drifts through the air and with the breeze, this was the first time I remembered really feeling cold in Indonesia. Vendors wrapped in thick ikat chatted with us while I sipped a sugary, sludgy coffee. Pak Ardi was two for two for incredible views while drinking coffee. And then we waited…
As dawn began to break and the colors of the sky changed, the lakes emerged from the cover of night. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves so I don’t begin sounding like an Enya song about light, life, dawn, sky and sailing far away from it all.
The three lakes at Kelimutu are known to change colors. I was enamored by the blueish and greenish lakes until some of my little friends/enemies appeared:
“Look at what the silly tourists left us!”
Pak Ardi told me that the deadly 1992 earthquake that hit Flores altered the lakes. There used to be much more space between them and you could walk there — that is no longer the case.
The walk down from the lakes was beautiful. Pak Ardi and I talked about many things, including Indonesian politics and Papua. He made a reference to Java being the new colonizer in Indonesia. His views on Java would come up many more times in our conversations. He noted that for many years the joke on Flores was that Indonesia stopped at Bali and didn’t go any further east. Now, with roads being constructed as we drove and more money being poured in, that view is starting to change.
As we walked by the lush rice fields, the morning sun finally warmed me back up. We wasted no time and were soon on the road for what I dubbed the ‘longest vacation day.’
Where to Stay: Through my tour arrangements, I stayed at the Kelimutu Moni Eco Lodge. This is probably the nicest and most expensive place to stay in the area.