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Three Colour Lakes In A Crater Of A Volcano – Kelimutu

Kelimutu Lakes look as if God accidentally dropped bright-colour paint in a crater of a volcano. There are three of them in one crater, each of a different colour, and the colours are constantly changing. When I saw them, two had almost the same tone of turquoise (one slightly brighter than the other), and the third one was very dark green. They used to be different, and had colours including: blue, black, brown and reddish. The process of colour changing is due to a chemical reaction and weather and is happening fast. According to Wikipedia (yes, I have just used Wikipedia as a reference), the colours changed six times between January and November 2016.

Tiwu Ko'o Fai Nuwa Muri (slightly brighter) in the front and Tiwu Ata Polo in the back
Tiwu Ko’o Fai Nuwa Muri (slightly brighter) in the front and Tiwu Ata Polo in the back.

I made two attempts to reach Kelimutu crater. My goal was to get there from Bali on a motorbike. I wanted to do that trip overland and by ferries between the islands. I eventually achieved that, but there were some moments when I was thinking that I had set an impossible goal. I failed at the first attempt when I was already in Sumbawa island (one more ferry cruise and I would be in Flores – the island where Kelimutu is located). It was in Lakey Beach when I got to know that Bima, the city in Sumbawa, is flooded due to heavy rainfalls, and there is no other way to reach Sape, the place where the ferry to Flores starts from. So from Lakey I had to turn back to Bali.

We Love Indonesia - a ferry I saw between Lombok and Sumbawa.
We Love Indonesia – a ferry I saw between Lombok and Sumbawa.
The view from the ferry going from Sumbawa to Flores - Komodo National Park on the horizon.
The view from the ferry going from Sumbawa to Flores – Komodo National Park on the horizon.

The second time I tried, and it was eventually a successful attempt, was also during the rainy season, which does not last that long in Lesser Sunda Islands. But the journey me and my friends embarked on had a bad timing – it coincided with the heaviest and most frequent rains. We were travelling on motorbikes with backpacks and tents, the journey lasted four weeks instead of the planned two or three, so the most often repeated words during that trip were: “girls, we are not normal”.

A bike trip in rainy season. Who came up with this idea?
A bike trip in rainy season. Dijana, why did you come up with this idea?

We did not take a single homestay during that time. Among the weirdest places that I slept in were: a hospital, a church, a tent in a local house (tent as a protection from mosquitoes or cockroaches, once even from snakes). I still cannot believe that we spent one month of our lives in that way.

Getting ready to sleep in a hospital. Dompu, Sumbawa,
Getting ready to sleep in a hospital. Dompu, Sumbawa.

During the second attempt a few things occured which made me doubt again whether I was ever going to be able to reach Kelimutu. Among them were:

  • Ewa got a fish bone stuck in her throat, but luckily the hospital staff in Dompu did a great job and removed the unwanted object.

    A professional surgery requires: one smartphone as a flashlight, one pair of tweezers and four hijabs.
    A professional surgery requires: one smartphone as a flashlight, one pair of tweezers and four hijabs.
  • Once we got to Sape we were told that the ferry from Sumbawa to Flores was not operating until nobody-knows-when, and “maybe tomorrow” turned out to be five days.

    In Sape we had a chance to admire this view for five days, while waiting for the ferry.
  • When we eventually got to Ende regency in Flores, we saw streams of water and rocks on the road, fallen trees, and tourists turning back from Kelimutu, saying that the crater had been closed due to terrible weather conditions.

    It lookes as if someone was preventing us very hard from reaching Kelimutu
    It lookes as if someone was preventing us very hard from reaching Kelimutu volcano.

So we waited. We were waiting for another four days in Moni village, at the foot of the volcano, with no electricity, since the falling trees damaged the cables transmitting electricity to the village. We ate sweet potato and pumpkin soup in Mopi’s Place, in the evening we sat together with the brothers that ran the business and we played instruments (unplugged) and sang, barely being able to read the lyrics with the candle light.

Waiting patiently in Moni for the clouds to go away.
Waiting patiently in Moni for the clouds to go away.

It seems that we appreciated the stunning beauty of Kelimutu even more, also because we had to wait so long for the nature to reveal that beauty.

In the first hours that Kelimutu National Park was open for visitors again, we rode our bikes up the road to the crater. It was foggy. The clouds on the top were dense, coming in and away. Finally, after maybe half an hour of waiting on the top, all three lakes were visible: the two turquoise lakes adjacent to each other; and the third, a dark green one, looking very enigmatic. Me and Dijana were completely alone there. It was almost a spiritual experience.

First moments, when the clouds began going up and revealing the beauty of the dark lake.
First moments, when the clouds began going up and revealing the beauty of Tiwu Ata Bupu.
Tiwu ata Mbutu - mystical lake where the souls of old people rest.
Tiwu Ata Bupu – mystical lake where the souls of old people rest.
Tiwu Ko'o Fai Nuwa Muri - the lake where souls of people who die young rest. Soon, the fogg went up.
Tiwu Ko’o Fai Nuwa Muri – the lake where souls of people who die young rest. Shortly after I took this photo, the fog went up.
The view was worth riding 1500 km, most of it in rain. But I will never do that again.
One more smile.
And one more
And one more.
Wondering what coulour they will be the next time I am here…

The lakes are believed to be a spiritual place though. According to the local beliefs, souls of the dead rest in Kelimutu lakes. One lake is for those who die young, one is the lake for old people, and one is where evil spirits go. For my friends from Poland – if you want to know more, you can listen to a short broadcast about Kelimutu by Tomasz Gorazdowski.

Ende regency has a lot of this bluish pigment. Blue Stone Beach.
Ende regency has a lot of this bluish pigment. Blue Stone Beach, Flores.
More blue.
More blue.

Published by

Emilia Majewska

I am not a traveler. I love my home country - Poland, my favourite activity is lying in my bed with my cat and I cannot stay vertical without my morning coffee. But at the same time, I love my life and everything it offers to me. Once I got accepted for a yearly scholarchip in Indonesia, I packed my backpack, gave my crying parents a goodbye kiss each and came to Bali.

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