Day 16-17: Flying to Flores and Kelimutu crater lakes

This is the ATR72 twin engine turboprop plane we boarded for Garuda flight GA7026, which would take us from Denpasar, Bali to Ende, Flores.

After two weeks in Bali we were ready to explore a new island. We headed to Flores to see the stunning Kelimutu crater lakes, to see Komodo dragons and to do another road trip not knowing what to expect.

The flight in pictures

It’s always so cool looking down from an airplane to the geography below. I guess it’s why Google Earth is so popular. Wish what we were looking at while we were on the plane also had the location icon and name – ha! Someone needs to make an app for that, just like the app for identifying constellations and stars in the night sky…

Not sure if this is Lombok or Sumbawa.
We stopped to drop off and pick up more passengers at Labuan Bajo, Flores.
Windy Flores road.
Ende airport: We made it!

The road from Ende to Moni

At Ende airport, we were met by a driver from the guesthouse we were staying at in Moni village, which is about an hour and a half away by car. Moni is the village closest to Kelimutu. Our first impression of Flores? It was rugged, raw, jungly, with sheer cliffs jutting out from either side of the road. So different to Bali.

Rice paddies
More rice paddies

Many people in Flores are nominally Catholic. They blend their belief in Christ with traditions based on ancestor worship, animism and nature. Living alongside this is Islam. In each town we’ve stayed at in Flores, you’ll hear the call to prayer a few times a day and women and girls wearing hijabs. Regardless of religion, the people of Flores are friendly and welcoming.

We had an interesting conversation with Robert at Palm Bungalows where we were staying in Moni. He explained that according to the local laws and culture, he inherited the land we were on from his father because he was the first-born son. The problem is, Robert has three daughters. His eldest daughter is attending school in Java. He said his wife didn’t want more children but this puts him in a bind…

Robert who owns and runs Palm Bungalows in Moni, Flores. Photo by Paul

When he dies, it has to go to his first-born son. Since he doesn’t have one, it would go to his brother – except he doesn’t have one, he has sisters. He was saying that if it went to one of his sisters, then that would rock the boat of established practice. And either way, this would leave his wife and daughters without any property.

He said traditionally, men in this situation will get a second wife and try for a son. Now, Robert is not young. He looks about 50. Maybe that’s because he constantly has a lit kretek in his hand. He wishes he weren’t in this predicament and he isn’t quite sure what he’ll do but is tending towards the second wife option.

He also mentioned that in Flores’s Ngada traditional villages – where we’ll be visiting next during our road trip – a maternal culture is practiced where women inherit and pass down the land to daughters.

A walk in Moni
Elina and I have been long been searching for these plants that close up when touched. We finally found them! Anyone know what they’re called?
A little watering hole, a hot spring, where locals come to bathe in volcano-warmed waters.
Goodnight, Moon.
We went to bed early as we’d have to get up at 4.30am to see Kelimutu’s crater lakes at sunrise.

Kelimutu crater lakes at sunrise

A 45-minute drive and a 40-minute trek to the top and we’d made it to Kelimutu.
Another pic of contemplative Elina.
It was a bit chilly at the top so Elina warmed up with some hot tea and a biscuit.
A panorama of the Kelimutu crater lakes.
The colour of the lakes change colour as the sun rises, but all three lakes have also changed colour depending on the minerals from within the volcano. They’ve been blue, green, red, black and brown.
To the local people, the lakes are a resting place for souls. Where a soul rests depends on their age and life lived: one lake is for old people and there’s one for young people, and the ‘bewitched’ lake is for evil people.
We dubbed this one the “ugly and scary” lake.
Selfie time!
The colour of the lakes were so brilliant. We could also see steam rise from one of them.

Onwards from Kelimutu

After an early morning rise to see the crater lakes of Kelimutu, we hit the road. It’s about 390km from Ende to Labuan Bajo, and if you drove it all in one go it would take 12 hours. We hired the nephew of the guesthouse we stayed at to drive us from Ende to Labuan Bajo over 4 days, with stops at tourist attractions along the way. It cost us $100 a day but worth it as the roads were very twisty, steep, and unmarked.

We stopped at ‘Blue Stone Beach’ for lunch.
There was a big swing on the beach. And of course, where there’s a swing, Elina will be on it.
We passed by lots of volcanoes. How picturesque is this!?
The Portuguese named this island Flores, meaning flowers, but really it should’ve been island of many volcanoes or something. But then again, all of Indonesia is in the Ring of Fire.
I’m assuming all the volcanoes on Flores are still active.
We came across these hardworking boys chopping really big bamboo. I asked in Bahasa why they were chopping the bamboo and they said it was fuel for cooking.
Showing off their chopping skills.
Ah, the next town is in site… Rest time.