Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What colour will it be today?

Kelimutu Crater Lakes are the number one tourist attraction in Flores. Not counting those going to Labuan Bajo to visit Komodo National Park to dive, snorkel and see those dragons. So it comes with a bit of hype.

By now I've seen quite a few crater lakes, but most of them require a little bit of effort to view them. Here's a couple of my favourites.

Danau Gunung Tujuh in Sumatra

Ijen, East Java

Kelimutu, on the other hand, requires rising at 4am to take your chosen transport up a sealed road, pay the inflated National Park entrance fee, and arrive at a carpark, from which you walk for about 15 minutes to a viewpoint looking over all three lakes.

Being late April, it's well outside the usual tourist season, so only a small amount of people were there. No need to jostle for a good camera vantage point, and plenty of room to set up my tripod. We arrived just as the first colour stained the horizon and we waited for the sun to make its entry for the day.

There are three crater lakes at Kelimutu and they are all different colours, which periodically suddenly change hues. Local legend says that when people die, their souls come to rest in one of the three lakes. One for the old, another for the young, and the third for the wicked.

The two lakes in front of the viewpoint are more active than the third one behind us. This latter one is for old souls, and because it doesn't have steam rising from it, it is surrounded by trees and plants, and birds. It also collects a nice little mist, which obscures the colour of the lake.

The sun rises, and everyone busily takes their photos and then looks frustratingly at that third, mist enshrouded crater. They hang around another 15 to 20 minutes with no sign of its clearing, so leave. Well all except myself and two others. We'd decided if we were going to make the effort to get up so early we were damned well going to wait another hour or so until the mist cleared. I mean it was only 6:30am, there was still a lot of the day left….

So we waited.

Slowly the mist cleared as the sun got higher. But then more high cloud drifted in, closing down any views of any of the lakes.

And then suddenly it all cleared. Blue sunny skies and beautiful coloured lakes, all to ourselves plus a few late arrivals who didn't make it for the sunrise.

After taking far too many photos, we wandered down to a vantage point between the two active lakes. You could even hear the bubbling as the steam came off the surface of the lakes.

And then we rode back down the mountain, visited a tiny hot spring in the middle of a rice paddy, and returned to the hotel for breakfast.

So did it live up to the hype? Actually it did, but only because we stayed, waiting for the final crater to clear, and experienced more than just the sunrise.

I'd recommend lingering, I mean what else is there to do besides take a bus to the next destination? Well actually, there's a bunch of traditional villages nearby, with communal clan houses, and of course ladies selling local ikats. But even if you add that on to your day, which I did, you'll still have time for lunch before hopping a bus to Ende.

Yep, that's next….

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