Kelimutu’s Three Coloured Lakes: Third time lucky!

The three coloured lakes of Mt. Kelimutu are arguably Flores’s biggest tourist attraction, and they incentivised Norman and I to road trip across Flores to go and see them. They are supposedly very beautiful at sunrise, so we had mentally prepared ourselves for a 4AM wake up call. That would give us enough time to dress warmly, drive the +- 12KM up the mountain, and do the 40 minute walk before the sun came up. Unfortunately, just as we were driving home from dinner on our motorbike the night before, our one tyre went flat! It was too late to get it fixed anywhere, so we had to cancel our plans, and book to stay an extra night so that we could attempt it the following morning. That was attempt number 1 – failed.

We explored the rest of Moni (the town at the base of Kelimutu where we were staying) the next day. There is a waterfall just a short walk down a hill, beginning opposite Rainbow Cafe. Accompanied by 2 local children, we walked down the path and were soon surrounded by forest. Tall, thick trunks, moss and ferns made me feel like I could encounter a fairy at any moment! The waterfall itself was magical too, and it cascaded into smaller ones down the river. We took some photos and then sat and just enjoyed the serene atmosphere. 3 old local woman came ambling down the path, crossed the rickety bamboo ‘bridge’, and then sat on the other side laughing and eating guavas. When I walked past they offered me one, and I thanked them and then saved it for breakfast for our hike the next morning.

That afternoon the owner of our home stay, Sylvester, invited us to a party his family was throwing. We would have to wear formal clothes and give the customary gift of a few bucks in an envelope. I jumped at the opportunity, and a while later we found ourselves at an otherwise all local party. It wasn’t much of a party, so it was quite boring for Norm and I, but I’m still glad we went. There was some dancing to the tone-deaf music of a local band, with a piece of fabric as a dancing partner. The way it worked was that several of these ikat cloths were circulated around. When you are done dancing you fold it up and drop it in someones lap, and then they have to resume the dancing with the cloth until they decide to pass it on. People insisted on giving it to Norman and I numerous times, which was rather embarrassing. At the end there was an amazing selection of food, which was nice. But the best part was taking off the sweaty clothes we borrowed from Sylvester and his wife, and having a shower!

Half asleep, in a zombie like state, we rose at 4AM to begin our second attempt at seeing the lakes. The freezing air whipped my face as we navigated our way up the steep, winding road in the dark. A moment of panic set in when we got to the top and I thought I had lost my phone. We began driving back down, looking for it on the road where I thought it may have fallen. Norman was sure we were going to miss the sunrise and cursing that this was so typical of me. I was imagining a life without my phone, and it was frightening. After about 2km, I remembered that I had tucked it into my bra so that I wouldn’t lose it… We sped back up the mountain so as not to miss the much-anticipated sunrise.

An hour later Norman and I found ourselves on the viewing platform in a little huddle, using a monument as shelter. It was still dark and it was freezing! Completely unprepared for that sort of cold, we spent the next 3 hours shivering. It was such bad weather that we didn’t see the sun rise at all. We could hardly see 5 meters in front of us because the mist was so thick, let alone any lakes. We held out for a long time in the hope that it would clear up, but it never did, so we admitted defeat and walked back down.

I was desperate to see the lakes because they were what we had spent hours in pain on that stupid motorbike for. It was the main objective of the whole road trip. I just didn’t want to give up. The problem was that we were pressed for time because we needed to get back to Labuan Bajo urgently to renew our visas. If it weren’t for that we would have spent several days in Moni because we liked it so much. After much debate we decided to wait until lunch time to see if the weather cleared, and then because we would behind schedule with our trip back, we would have to do 2 legs on one day.

I have included this map before, it is just to show the route we took across Flores. The lime green splodge is Mt Kelimutu, and Moni was just at the base of it.

I have included this map before, it is just to show the route we took across Flores. The lime green splodge is Mt Kelimutu, and Moni was just at the base of it.

Well, third time lucky! On our 3rd attempt, we managed to actually see the lakes. They were exquisite, and such a unique sight to see. It was 3PM by the time we managed to leave Moni and head back to Ende, so we knew that due to so much lost driving time we were going to have a long sit on the bike the following day. But it was worth it because we finally got to see the famed lakes.

I don’t remember the complete history of the lakes, but they are basically in craters in a volcano. They are coloured due to their mineral and chemical composition, and change colour sometimes. One guide told us that a Dutch man fell into one about 2 years ago because he was standing too close to the edge, and although he survived the fall he died because of all the sulphur down there.

I would definitely recommend anyone visiting Flores to make the trip to Kelimutu! It such a spectacle, and I doubt I will ever see anything like it again.

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