We flew from Labuan Bajo to the city of Ende, it was a clear day and while flying we were amazed at the number of volcanoes that line the center of the island of Flores. From Ende we took a car and driver to the little town of Moni which took about 2 hours on an extremely winding but very scenic drive. Along the way we stopped at some beautiful rice terraces and a traditional village.
Moni is a very small town nestled in a scenic valley near the 3 crater lakes of Kelimutu National Park. It has a tourist ‘cartel’ kind of vibe and it’s still a very rustic place – everyone in Moni either knows or is related to each other and we think they have agreed on set prices for everything. We stayed for 4 days in a small guesthouse and after the first day we were asking ourselves why on earth would we choose to stay here for more than a couple of days (Moni is strange). But with each passing day, Moni revealed its charms in ways we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Most people arrive here and only stay for the day or spend 1 night in order to see the tri-coloured lakes of Mount Kelimutu, which is the main reason we came here but we saw so much more than that.
The first morning we woke up at 5:00am to get ready to go up the mountain to the 3 crater lakes for sunrise. We were nearly ready to go and when we opened the door to our little terrace we were shocked to find that our shoes were gone – Gordon’s Nike runners and my favourite Clark flip flops were nowhere to be seen. We frantically looked everywhere for them and we were kicking ourselves for leaving them outside on the porch in the first place. After about fifteen minutes of cursing and voicing out various scenarios of what could have possibly happened, a guy comes walking out and hands us our shoes. Apparently the lady that runs the guesthouse took them inside her house so the dogs wouldn’t take them – very nice of her but we think there’s more to that story.
We took ojeks (motorbike taxis) that the guesthouse arranged for us and arrived at the crater while it was still dark. We took a short 20 minute hike to reach the top where we viewed a spectacular sunrise over the 3 crater lakes. It’s a sacred place for the local people and there are many myths about Kelimutu and why the colours of the lakes keep changing over the years. The scientific reason for the lakes changing is the different mineral contents in the water but the local people say the changes are caused by the neglected ancestral souls. The two lakes that are side by side are said to be the lakes of the ancestor’s souls and the young people’s souls. The third lake is off towards the west and is said to be the lake of the evil spirits (maybe that’s why it is so dark in colour).
After our visit to the tri-coloured lakes our ojeks took us to a little hot spring area, the hotspring itself was just a little waterhole but the surrounding area was really scenic.
Then they took us through some traditional villages that are on the outskirts of Moni and it was really quite interesting to learn about their traditions. We were escorted through the village by the village chief’s daughter and she explained their culture and traditions to us and surprisingly her english was fantastic. Along the way we stopped at a village house that had some weaving outside in the yard and we ended up buying a very beautiful Ikat Weaving which is famous on the island of Flores. We couldn’t believe that it took over a month to make it and some larger pieces actually take several months to complete.
On the second day we decided that we would just hang around the town and observe village life and see what the locals do during the day. While we were sitting on our terrace we watched the little local buses go by and often times they were so packed with people that some of them had to ride on the roof and their motorbikes were fastened to the back of the bus. Then a while later another bus would come by and instead of people on the roof there would be goats tethered to the roof, they had to stand to keep their balance and it was so funny because they looked like they were surfing. At that point we decided taking a car and driver was probably a good idea because we didn’t think we would want to ride on the roof of the bus on those crazy winding roads anyways. We noticed everyone that walked by was sporting a machete, it was the ‘must have’ fashion accessory in Moni and that amused us.
Trying to get something to eat in Moni was another story, eating places that were called restaurants really weren’t anything but someone’s little hut with a name out front. We never even saw a kitchen so we weren’t sure where the food was cooked and half the time we couldn’t find any staff even we wanted to eat there…we ate a lot of oreo cookies and nuts. At one point a random guy on a motorbike stopped us on the road, he spoke about his food like Chef Ramsey and convinced us to try his eating establishment. He even asked for a 50,000 rupiah deposit (which we politely declined to pay) but we said we would try his food and it was good but again not really a restaurant. At the end of the night he got a little crazy and ditched us in the restaurant (we were the only customers) and we had a hard time getting our change after paying the bill…have to watch that in some of these places. We were persistent and left with our change but it was a very weird situation (Moni is strange).
The next day our guesthouse highly recommended that we take an excursion to a remote beach because it really was an area that couldn’t be missed and we would visit a market along the way and go for a scrumptious seafood lunch on the beach etc. etc. Once we agreed to go, we were informed that the owner and her friend would be joining us – slightly awkward – but I guess nice of us to take them along and fund their outing (Moni is strange). The market was very cool and we felt like we were the ones on display, we would politely ask if we could take a photo and most times we were told yes with a big smile, and sometimes we were told a firm no, but the odd time they would ask us to take a photo of them and then they would write down their address so that we could mail them the picture – which we did. The beach was gorgeous, fine white sand, clear water, and not another soul on it but us (it doesn’t get any better).
Moni was quirky, strange, remote, rustic, and utterly fabulous. It felt like we had stepped back in time and it was 4 days that will stick with us forever.
Where we stayed: Estevania Lodge
Written by: Tammy Hermann…Live~Love~Travel