We awoke at 3:00 AM in order to infuse ourselves with coffee, get into shore and walk up the road to catch the tour bus that was scheduled to depart at 4:00 AM for Mount Kelimutu. The "bus" turned out to be a modified small pickup truck with two metal naugahyde-covered bench seats running down each side of the truck bed. The ride was mildly uncomfortable with 10 of us crammed into the back facing each other. There was a roof, and sides that came halfway up our backs. The rest was open…to dust and fumes. Nonetheless, the group in our "bus" was convivial and we enjoyed one another's company for the approximately 3-hour ride. Being pitch black out we couldn't see much on the drive up, so some slept, although I can't imagine how, and some conversed. Three of the couples were Amel owners and naturally the conversation would drift to their particular make of boat. We are learning quite a lot about Amels by osmosis. The other two cruisers with us were Peter and Evelyn from Renegade. Eventually the sun began to rise and the temperature dropped dramatically as we climbed in altitude, winding up to into the mountainous rainforest area of Flores. We passed village after village, and eventually came to a massive open market that ran for nearly a kilometer. We salivated at the thought of shopping here on the return trip. The landscape became beautiful green farmland lush with flora and dominated by rice fields. It truly was eye-catching. Dirty, stinky smells eventually dissipated to be replaced by the wonderful earthy smell of fresh vegetation in the air. It was as though we had been transported to another world.
We arrived at the national park at around 8:00 AM, very excited about this journey to see the sacred lakes at the top. Here is a little bit of history about Mount Kelimutu and why it is such a marvelous attraction:
The volcano contains three striking summit crater lakes of varying colors. Two that are separated by a shared crater wall; Tiwu Ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People) is usually red or rust colored, and Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of the young and innocent) is usually blue. Tiwu Ata Polo (or the evil one) remains black. The colors of the first two lakes vary on a periodic basis. It is believed that spirits come to Kelimutu when people die and enter one of the three lakes. The spirits would first meet Konde Ratu the guard of the gate, before entering one of the lakes. Konde Ratu would determine which lake the spirit would enter depending on the age at death and the character of the spirit when alive.
Kelimutu is also of interest to geologists because the three lakes are different colors yet are at the crest of the same volcano. According to the locals at Kelimutu National Park, the color changes as a result of chemical reactions resulting from the minerals contained in the lake perhaps triggered by volcano gas activity. It truly is a mystical place and held very sacred by the people. Vincent stopped at the entrance on our arrival to pray to the gods, asking for a good viewing, and to thank them for letting us visit today. If the gods are not happy we will not see the lakes, which will be obscured by low-lying clouds. The summit is often obscured but is just as often visible early in the morning, hence our 4 AM departure. Fate delivered us a clear blue sky and a perfect setting for viewing the lakes. Strangely, the lake that is normally red appeared bright turquoise blue, and the one that is normally blue appeared a very milky turquoise with streaks of green algae. The black one was stunningly beautiful, reflecting its surroundings like a magical enchanted mirror. I recall that Satan was the most beautiful angel of them all before he fell from grace. Oddly, the "evil" lake was the most mesmerizing and picturesque. We spent a good bit of time there at the summit just gazing at the stunning lakes. As we made our way back down, thick low clouds began to move in rapidly, and by the time we had reached the base, the top was completely engulfed. Vincent must have a strong prayer line to Kande Ratu, or to whomever he was praying. On the way back out of the park, he once again stopped and offered a prayer of thanks.
Next was a stop for a delicious Indonesian lunch and a walk along the mountain roads to view the vast green gardens and rice fields. Returning back down the mountain, now that it was daylight, we could see the array of goods laid out and drying along the sides of the road in each village. The goods included nutmeg, cloves, coffee beans, cocoa beans, tamarind, cashews, rice, and some other products no one could translate for us. One entire village grew nothing but mandarins, and the trees we passed were bursting with bright orange. It was an artist's dreamscape. We eventually arrived at a small mountain market where we piled out for a stretch and some shopping. I purchased an entire kg bag of beautiful red tomatoes for 10,000 rupias: $1 US. We also purchased mandarins, and a treasure trove of fresh goods.
We were to have stopped at the Ikat-weaving village which is also where the massive market was located on our way up the mountain, but by the time we arrived there it was shut down already. Although bitterly disappointed, we felt that the day had been absolutely fulfilling nonetheless. Knowing that this bunch of cruisers would be really, really thirsty when we returned to the bay, Vincent had called ahead to arrange for delivery of large chests of beer, sodas and water for us all on the beach. This adventure had only cost each of us somewhere around 180,000 rupias (IDR), for the tour, park entrance fee, lunch and drinks which comes to somewhere in the neighborhood of $18.00 US. Just amazing.