Little did we know such amazing scenery was waiting for us between Ende and Moni. The mountains grew bigger and more impressive. A huge river flowed alongside us for most of the way, with waterfalls pouring down quietly on the side of the road. We could not decide which way to look, as it was all too much to take in. The green forest on the hills looked ancient, untouched. A few rice fields decorated the valleys, but mostly, the roadside was wild. We arrived in Moni all too quickly, as we were both enjoying the experience a lot.
Moni itself is a very small settlement that sits at the foot of Kalimutu, possibly the biggest tourist attraction in Flores. Personally, the crater lakes of Kalimutu were the reason I had come across the name of Flores Island to being with, as I had stumbled upon their unspoiled beauty while surfing the internet, many years ago. This village is pretty much set up to cater for all the people that come from all over the globe to observe the ever changing colours of the water inside this craters… So its main road, no more than 1km long, is full of accommodation options. Eddy, in Labuan Bajo, had recommended a suitable place already, so we asked our driver to drop us there. As we got off the car, some lady approached us and offered us another hotel, with a competitive price. Her timing could not have been better, as she pretty much handed us a perfect bargaining weapon for us to use in the place we had chosen, Antoneri. We soon worked out a fair price with the owner, and proceeded to a clean, spacious room. For the first time since we left Bali, this place had a hot shower! Most of you have gone your whole life’s living with hot showers.. But after 3 weeks of cold showers (when we were lucky), or baths out of a bucket of cleanish water, the sight of an actual warm shower almost brought tears to our eyes. I don’t think I have or ever will have as many showers a day as I did in Antoneri…
Once settled and clean (OH, the glory!) we set out to check out the small town and try to find the best option to get up to the top of the mountain the following day. Trips normally depart around 4AM in the morning, as to be up there early enough to see the sun rise. We also wanted to survey the area and assess our dinner options, comparing offer and prices. Walking up and down the town took less than an hour, and we settled at the only Warung we found that had an Indonesian menu for lunch. Later on, with our bellies full and our hearts happy, we went for a tour around the local market, though it would only really bloom the day after; we explored some of the back streets, and as we came out through some little stairs and into the main road, we found Frando! It seemed like, after he failed to make our morning appointment, his mom and grandma forced him to drive all the way to Moni, to make sure we were ok. In their search for us, they even climbed all the way up the volcano! We were grateful and stunned, that he would make an 8 hour round trip just to ensure our safety (and drag a friend along). He even brought us a bag of oranges, as we had previously discussed how most fruit sellers called mandarins, oranges, and we had tried to explain the difference to him… We shared afternoon tea with them, and a beer between us (they did not drink). I prepared some crackers with avocado and tomato, and Frando found it utterly delicious! All in all, they did not stay for more than half an hour before turning around, now contented we were doing fine and ready to return to the village and let his family know the Bule mission was accomplished.
The next day, we arose at 4am and waited patiently (yeah, right) for our Ojeks to arrive and take us up to Kalimutu. We soon got anxious, as they were late (Indonesian time) and we were afraid we would miss the sun rise. They eventually showed up, we hoped on, and they drove off. To be completely honest, the journey up was very frightening to me. They drove really fast, obviously knowing every bend and every hole in the road… However, I was still rather new to the whole riding motorbikes business, so I feared for my life as we made our way up this narrow, winding, pot-holed path, and was thrilled to set my feet back into solid land at the top. Luckily, it was still early enough to see the last few stars shining above us as we walked up the steps to the top. The climb was not too long, and the scenery beautiful and still. We finally reached the summit and started shooting photos and sharing the moment with about 30 more tourist. Most were quietly enjoying the peace, though you always have the rowdy ones yelling and laughing out loud even at 5am in the morning in a place that just transmits peace. Wrapped in warm clothes, we watched the sun come up in awe, piercing through the clouds settled on the valley, and shining over the crater lakes, exposing and intensifying their bright, unreal colours. There were some plaques explaining the story of the place, though only one of them had an ‘English’ translation, that was hilarious in all its spelling and grammar mistakes. From what I could gather, the lakes are called ‘Blue’, ‘Red’ and ‘Green’. In reality, they were turquoise, green and blue… According to another sign, they change colours every few months. It was an outstanding spectacle that I will never forget, unlike anything I have ever experienced and I was amazed to see this dream of mine come through, and share the moment with my other half.
Originally, we had decided to walk all the way back to Moni. With that in mind, we made our way down the mountain, first enjoying an Arboretum and learning about some of the local shrub, plant and tree species. Unfortunately, neither of us was feeling 100% well, and the heat and exhaustion soon hit us. About 1/3 of the way down, we started flagging transport racing downhill, and were fortunate to get picked up by a van. The ladies inside soon made room for us, and we learned they were wealthy business women from Jakarta, effectively our first free hitch in this whole trip (the driver did look rather confused). It was refreshing to have a chat to them, as their English was good and they were really happy to meet us. They took us down the mountain and separated from us about 2km out of Moni, so we slowly made our way back into town, to take a shower and get ready to leave again for our next destination. By that time, the market was already bustling with life, so we walked through it, admiring all the food in offer, and settling for some doughnuts.
We later on enjoyed brunch at a local cafe, and as we were heading back to Antoneri, a bus came past, already filled with Bule (foreigners) and on its way to Maumere. I negotiated the fare with the driver, yelled at Tim to hurry up (he was talking to some locals) and quickly grabbed our stuff and climbed aboard.
The bus was carrying people from France, Holland, Colombia and Norway. For the first time since we arrived, we made some fellow traveller friends to share stories and the ride. We decided to all try to go to the same hotel once we reached our destination, hoping to get a good price due to quantity. The first two hotels in our list rejected us with the pretext of being full. Up to this point, we are uncertain on what the real reason was. Fortunately, there was another hotel around the corner with enough rooms for all of us. The hotel was simple, and infested with cockroaches, as I later on found out, but all in all decent for its price.
Our first mission in Maumee was to find the Pelni office and secure a spot in the upcoming boat to Makassar. Our French roomy, Eric, decided to join us in the hope of finding a boat back to Bali. We walked in circles for over an hour, with people pointing us in one direction, and then the opposite. Once we finally found the place, we realized it was just a 10 minute walk from our hotel, so we made our inquiry and confirmed the information we had was accurate. Once that business was sorted, we went towards the city centre to find internet and an ATM. The town itself was not very impressive, quite dirty but full of friendly people. We mentally marked all the places we needed to visit the next day, and returned to the hotel, to drop our stuff and have some dinner at the market, right across the street. We shared an oily Martabak, that was average tasting, and sat down with our new friends, chatting away for a few hours. Sadly, both Tim and my health were not improving, and we were starting to feel quite miserable, so we went to bed early, hoping a good night sleep would make us feel better.
The next day, it took a big effort to get out of bed, feeling exhausted and with upset stomachs. Hoping it was just the unbearable heat and not something serious, we walked to town to accomplish our chores: get money out, get internet to report home to our families, go to the supermarket to buy water and more provisions for the boat trip. Tim was unable to keep going, so I made my hat wet and used my last bit of energy to almost crawl to the Pelni office and buy our tickets for 3am the next day. I dragged myself back to the hotel, threw up (not that I had managed to eat much) and laid down to spend most of the day in bed, feeling sorry for myself and dozing in and out of sleep.
At 2am we woke up, and I was finally feeling a bit of strength returning to my muscles. The first obstacle was that they had locked all the gates in the hotel, effectively trapping us inside. Tim climbed up first, and I passed our heavy backpacks to him, so he could lift them past the spikes and I could grab them again through the bars once they reached the other side. While doing this, I kept thinking about my dad, and a story he shared with me when I was younger, of himself being impaled on a similar fence… Luckily we managed to get across without any trouble, and made our way onto the port and the ferry, picking up a large bottle of water on the way.