It was easy enough to jump on an overly-crowded bus towards Moni and beyond from the road just outside Ricky’s place, costing 30,000 IDR for the 90 minute or so journey up into the hills. It was at this point I realised everything everyone had told me about Flores’ roads was true. Just this relatively short hop was a nauseatingly meandering drive, with me squashed on the back seat between various vomiting passengers (sick bags are provided). If you’re travelling in a group, it’s definitely worth asking about a car (or hitch-hiking) as the split costs wouldn’t be too much more. Whilst a car won’t spare you from the twists and turns of the highway, at least you can throw up in relative comfort. Alternatively, many travellers I met simply flew from Labuanbajo to Ende, though then you skip some destinations in between. The saving grace of the Flores highway is that it is stunningly beautiful, if you can stomach looking out the window.
I arrived in the beautiful hilly village of Moni, looking almost as green as the hills that surrounded it. Tourism has transformed Moni into a great little base from which to visit the nearby iconic volcano, Kelimutu. There’s a bunch of quaint guesthouses here. I opted for Legend Guest House which sat just off the market from where you alight the bemo. Run by Enu who speaks excellent English, this small guesthouse is simple but comfy. There are a handful of restaurants in Moni which are more expensive than you will find elsewhere, most probably because the demand is so high. The best eatery in the village by far is Mopi’s, towards the end of the road. With a lovely terrace overlooking the hills, Mopi’s has delicious food and also does great breakfasts. In fact, it’s from Mopi’s that I type this now, whilst chomping on delicious fluffy pancakes.
Moni has an oddly Rastafarian vibe and I’m not quite sure where it came from. You’ll see plenty of young local men sporting huge dreadlocks. Enu was wearing a hat so big to contain them that I thought Voldemort was hiding in the back of his head.
Of course the reason just about everyone comes to Moni is not for the village itself, charming though it is. Arguably Flores’ premier attraction, the Kelimutu volcano sits about 15km from Moni. As if you needed convincing to visit another spectacular Indonesian volcano, Kelimutu is unique in that it houses 3 craters containing vividly colourful lakes which are just gorgeous. The most popular way to see the volcano is to go up for sunrise. However, during my time in Flores I was told on several occasions by locals and travellers alike due to how crowded it could get up there at this time. Instead, I was told, a visit in the early afternoon would mean I had the entire volcano to myself.
I decided to heed their words (and bag myself that lie-in) and so as soon as I arrived in Moni, I spoke to Enu about getting up to the volcano. A return trip by motorbike is usually around 150,000 IDR. I instead decided I’d go one way (70,000 IDR) and trek back down to Moni which is a really nice way to do it. Enu took me on his spluttering 1983 motorbike up the winding hills with breathtaking views. We passed the ticket booth (entry is 150,000 IDR) and then snaked up further to the car park where I was dropped off.
Kelimutu is oddly well-kept as a tourist destination. There are information boards and signposts in English throughout the site and the walk up to the craters is via stone steps, making it an incredibly easy walk in comparison to some of the arduous volcano treks you can embark on in this country. They even have safety rails. You will come to the green/blue craters first which are the most vivid. From here, you can climb up further, giving you a view of the final ‘red’ crater which is much smaller. The top vantage point is stunning, with the craters set against the other hills and the occasional wispy cloud. And the locals were right – the place was almost completely deserted at this time. It was beautiful.
I would equally recommend the trek back down. Enu pointed out the route to me on the way up so it’s worth asking your driver too. Alternatively, I’ve heard the route is available on Maps Me. The trek at first involves simply walking back down the windy road for about an hour, most of which was a construction site when I headed down. About halfway down there’s a ‘tourist map’ which is a basic sketch but is worth taking a picture of. Of course the views are incredible whenever the road opens up. Eventually, I came to a house with a multi-coloured bemo outside. I asked the man outside and he confirmed this was the turn-off for the walk down to Moni.
From here, I left the road and walked through a tiny collection of houses with roaming pigs and chickens. The path then became a dirt trail which wound its way down. It was a little steep in places but nothing too bad and it felt good, after the ease of the Kelimutu walk, to be trekking my way back down the mountain. It was incredibly peaceful with just the buzzing sound of the jungle around me. The sunlight was perfect as well as it was late afternoon by this point, splashing gold on the lush green trees and hills. The path snakes its way down past a waterfall and then you rejoin the road to the Moni. There are a couple of intersections on the way down but they are always next to a house or farm and asking one of the locals ‘Moni?’ will result in them pointing you in the right way. One guy was sitting in his tiny house with no less than 13 gigantic boom boxes blasting away which was slightly surreal. Even if you don’t fancy a rave, I’d really recommend this walk as a way to round off your Kelimutu experience.
Having said that, there’s no right or wrong way to see Kelimutu. Just make sure you do see it because it’s really something special.