It’s been quite a while since I last wrote, firstly because I have been so caught up in the traveling that writing about it wasn’t high on my priority list and secondly because I was dreading writing this post. I was worried I couldn’t do it justice and in fact I’m not sure I did but here it is anyways, sorry for the delay.

Flores, Indonesia.

We awake very early in the morning, it’s still dark out. We hop on the back of motorbikes Crystal has provided and are driven up a narrow windy road to the parking lot for Mt. Kelimutu. Mt. Kelimutu is sacred to Indonesians, it’s a trio of multihued crater lakes whose colours change periodically and are so intense they almost appear to be the thick like paint. Minerals in the water are the explanation for its’ chameleonic colour scheme, although the turquoise lake never changes colour the other lakes can fluctuate to blue, yellow, orange, red and green. The colours don’t change often, I think it’s been about 3 years since the last change so it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to happen right under our noses but still it’s a “must see” place.

In the parking lot we pay for a quick cup of something that vaguely resembles coffee, gulp it down and then start up the path. We’re rushing as sunrise is fast approaching but the views are lovely and the birds are chirping. Up a steep path and many stairs and we arrive at the lookout, a concrete slab with a tiered statue for seating and views in all directions. We’re perched on a hilltop in between the 3 lakes. To the east we can see 2 lakes divided by a narrow wall of jagged rocks, one is a pale almost milky aqua blue with a few steaks of yellowish-green and the other is a rich dark turquoise.

Close up of the dividing wall.

Close up of the dividing wall.

To the north there are a series of seemingly uninhabited hills and mountains stretching away into the darkening blue distance.

The space between, where I scattered mom's ashes.

The space between, where I scattered mom’s ashes.

In the west is another lake, set deep into a deep hole, it is so dark a blue that it appears black.

The "black" lake.

The “black” lake.

Back to the south is the trail which we have come up to arrive here. It’s quiet up here, not crowded, there are only a few other tourists here to take in this glorious sight. Crystal takes us off the slab down onto the hillside which overlooks the 2 lakes, he’s brought blankets and spreads them out making us a cosy nest. We sit and enjoy the view, sunrise rising and slowly creeping over more and more of the surface of the lakes, exposing the colours to us. It’s a lovely spot, a serenity fills the air, spoiled only by Crystal’s inability to stay still or quiet for more than 10 seconds, did I mention the ADD?

Sunrise over kelimutu

Sunrise over Kelimutu

This feels like a right place to leave some of my mom’s ashes behind so I whisper to Andy what I am going to do and I wander off to the spot looking out over the northern stretch of mountains, between the lakes. I’ve been carrying a small baggie in my wallet which has some of her ashes in it, waiting for a moment like this. I take this bag out and empty its contents into my hand, it’s the first time I’ve ever actually done that, put them in my hand, and it feels a bit weird and uncomfortable but also like I am closer to her in some way. I squeeze my hand tight around her and tell her about where I am and how I’m going to leave some of her behind here. I think about how much she would have liked the beauty and the stillness of this place and as the tears fall down my face I throw my hand up and release her ashes. There is very little wind so I can watch as some of the heavier pieces come to the ground in front of me but the lighter bits float in the wind and gently scatter and disburse until I can see them no more. I sit on the ground and have a cry but it all feels good and right so it doesn’t last long. While my tears dry I think about her, I couldn’t tell you what exactly I thought about except that choosing this place felt like a very right thing to do. When I am ready I go back to join the others, sitting beside Andy she hugs me and we rest quietly in this very special place.

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When we are ready to go we head down to the parking lot and back onto the bikes. We’re going back to Moni to have some breakfast, (yay coffee!), and pack up our bags so we’re ready to leave later in the afternoon. We have pancakes and coffee and afterwards, as we digest, Crystal pulls out a whole bunch of my white hairs for me. I love this because I now have too many to be able to get rid of by myself and it’s a normal thing that kids do for their older relatives here. It’s also a very soothing feeling, I can see why monkeys pick fleas from each other all the time.

Our plan for the day is to visit some local sights (rice paddies, waterfalls, fruit market) see how traditional Ikat weaving is done and visit a small traditional village. In the afternoon we will meet up with Marcello (our driver) and start our journey across Flores back to Labuanbajo.

I had a moto driver take me up to Kelimutu in the morning but now that it’s light, and I have had coffee, I am itching to drive myself. I’m allowed to do so and happy as a clam when I get on the bike. We go a couple kilometers down the highway and then down a twisty and potholed dirt road, past schoolchildren yelling out “Hello Mister” and we reach our first stop, the Ikat weaving. It’s made by a few families in a neighborhood not far outside Moni. The older generation have betel-red stained mouths and teeth and a bit of a cynical attitude but not unfriendly, the younger people are shy and beautiful. I meet a child there who is so gorgeous that he inspired me to photograph him, getting in really close, starting a new photography addiction I still can’t shake.

inspiration

inspiration

Andy wants to buy Ikat so as she tries to decide between 2 different pieces I drink coffee with Crystal and ask people to let me take their photos, most folks are very accommodating. They tend to want to pose though, and I want “life” so I start to learn how to take the first photo, show them, and then keep photographing them while we laugh about something, getting some of the better shots this way, more relaxed, mouths open to reveal stained or missing teeth, smiles wide, laughing eyes, I’m hooked.

I help Andy dicker down a price for the Ikat she’s chosen and we head off again. We drive back through Moni and then further along the highway, heading to a traditional village.  Once there we have to suit up in traditional garb, it’s not flattering and hot as hell as we’re wearing it over top of our regular clothes, a necessity I assume so we do not offend.

The things I have to wear sometimes....

The things I have to wear sometimes….

The village is set in a circle around a burial mound of jagged stones, the homes are made of wood with carvings of wheat, fish, rice, fruits etc. done by each home owner so the quality varies according to each person’s artistic ability. Each front door is flanked by 2 pairs of carved breasts, quite lovely ones actually. The village itself is not that inspiring to me, quite dusty and hot, but the people are wonderful, super friendly and more than happy to accommodate my new-found joy of getting in their faces with my camera.

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We head back into Moni for a late lunch and then we meet up with Marcello to start our road trip. It turns out he likes to drive really fast and between sitting in the backseat and the curvy roads of Flores it’s recipe for motion sickness for me, Andy gives me a Gravol and I pass out promptly. I wake up when we come to a brief stop at the green-blue stone beach, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s surprisingly pretty though. The people who live along the beachfront collect these rocks and sell them for use in finishing construction, think inlaid floors, decorative walls, water fountains etc. There are piles of the stones all along the beachfront but it seems there is no shortage of rocks so the collecting continues.

Blue-green rocks.

Blue-green rocks.

We make our stop for the night in Bajawa. We sit down with Marcello to discuss our itinerary and run into problems. He tells us that what we had arranged with Crystal is not actually possible and he wants to change our plan. As we’ve agreed on a price and time-frame we’re a bit miffed about these late breaking developments but after some discussion, only a little heated, we come to an agreement. Plans made we retire for the night, it’s been a long day.

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