Kelimutu National Park: A Tale of a Midnight Trek and an Unforgettable Sunrise
I have a special place where I like to see myself when the sun rises everyday – my bed! Yes, I’m not a morning person at all. So when this post is seeing the light of the day (could not help the pun 😛 ), you know why this one was worth the mention.
Watching the sunrise from atop the Kelimutu volcanic mountain was surreal, it really does seem like God goes crazy as he tries to figure out which color he should be trying out on the giant canvas each day. But this post is not exactly about the sunrise, rather, the journey to the top to see it happen.
You need to start late in the night, if you are staying at Maumere (preferably before the dinner, per Indian time standard, has made it’s way to the intestines to start getting absorbed into your system) to watch the drama unfold from the beginning. Its about 102 km from Maumere but takes a good 3 -4 hours journey. The drive takes you through villages drowned in their midnight sleep and there is nothing but the darkness of the night and your driver and his Indonesian classical music for company. Frequent yawning tells you every time that it’s a stupid decision to leave the comfort of your bed to watch this daily drama of a sunrise. After about a couple of hours’ drive, you enter the limits of the Kelimutu National Park and start feeling if you have been a tad bit too early for the thing. You then get your tickets, expect the driver to guide you to the top and he politely refuses showing you the cemented steps that you just need to follow and THAT’S when the adventure begins.
I have never seen such misleading steps in my life.
I am not saying the steps didn’t lead to anywhere, but they are only up to as far as you can see from the bottom – they turn and just end, end into a long, God knows how long, stretch of earthen road through a forest that, well, wrapped in the cloak of darkness, looks very comforting, if you get the irony!! Me and my husband, who’s normally chattering as long as he’s awake, but has been shockingly silent at the suddenness of this experience, walk in a line, wherever whatever’s left of a path, takes us. I dread somebody turning up right out of the darkness, with a gun, and robbing us point blank and I start wondering how would I ever return to my beloved country without my passport. My husband, gathering from all the jungle movies he has watched, starts dreading of snakes falling from trees and ruminates on the moments in life that would go wasted because of this untimely death from a snakebite.
They say, the best remedy to overcome a shock is to have another shock, preferably bigger. As if what we were putting up with wasn’t sufficient, we reach a T-junction with a signboard that first scares whatever’s left of you with the beautiful painting of a skull, smiling sheepishly if I remember correctly, and then puzzles you in your attempt to figure out which would be the correct way as the directions, though written in English fonts, are in Indonesian.
Fortune favors the brave and quite fitting to the bravery we had shown till this moment, it did favor us at last. I don’t remember what was written in the direction that we finally took but I remember the word ‘Parkir’ written in the direction that we didn’t. We had assumed, due to the lack of network and Google translate in the middle of this nowhere, that ‘Parkir’ probably means ‘Parking’ in Indonesian, and the direction it was pointing to probably was where we had our car parked. I still thank my stars and thanked the sun that day that we made the correct choice – couldn’t have made it if we were to go through it again due to a misdirection.
The sky had started showing up the colours and the road started showing up a bit more clearly. I won’t go into the details of the other mini-misadventure that we had as we reached another point just because it seemed closer. We did finally reach the top, a bit saddened to see some more folks already there as the self awarded glory of dreading the challenging forest to be the first ones to the top just dissolved into thin air. But boy, when the sun finally showed up in all it’s majesty, pouring colours into the sky and the green and blue coloured volcanic lakes of the Kelimutu, the journey, every bit of it, seemed worthy of the moment. Probably one I would undertake every single day (??) to watch a sunrise like this.
Ah and while I write this, I miss the smell and awful silence of the forest, while I climbed down the car park.
About Kelimutu Volcano: Mount Kelimutu is a volcano in Flores, steals the show because of this tri-coloured Kelimutu lake within the summit of the craters at 1690m. It consists of three lakes together, colors varying from each other and also at different times, making them surreal and mind boggling to be watched!
How to Reach: The nearest town from Kelimutu National Park is Ende and it takes 45 min to reach from Ende City and if you want to explore Flores. The second option is a stopover at Maumere, the largest town of Flores. It takes about 4 hours to reach Kelimutu National Park from Maumere. A recommended stay at Maumere would be @Sea World Beach Club. And of course the 4 hours road trip is worth every penny in the pretty little picturesque island of Maumere.
- Carry enough water and some dry food which you would need while hiking up
- Try to reach the base point of Kelimutu Volcano by at least 3 am since you need a good 1 – 1.5 hour to hike up to witness the sunrise on time.
- A torch is a must, since the hike up is pitch dark, be careful with every step you take, as wild insects or reptiles may just jump in at any point
- The route is otherwise safe, but no harm in carrying a pepper spray and a pocket knife. The darkness scares the shit out of you sometimes.