We were really excited to visit Flores. Our friends told us how much they enjoyed this beautiful island and we were ready to explore a less-touristed destination than Bali.
After arriving in Maumere (and taking a beach day) we reached Moni. This little village is known for being the gateway to the famous Kelimutu volcano. However, we found more to Moni than just a beautiful photo op!
Welcome to Flores
Nestled in the foothills of the mountains, Moni enjoys cool temperatures at night. However, it’s still pretty darn hot in the afternoon. Once we settled in at our homestay, we had a nice lunch and took a walk to a picturesque waterfall for a cooling swim.
As the sun began to set, we took a walk through the village. Locals called out to us, “Hello Misterrrr!” (This seems to be standard no matter your gender.) Little children ran up with hands outstretched, eager for high fives. We posed for selfies with a group of Indonesian tourists.
Yellow fields lined the road, with vibrant green hills looming above. The scenery and the friendly people reminded me of Konglor in southern Laos.
New Travel Buddies
The next morning, we made new friends over breakfast. Jola is from Poland* and just completed an internship at a kindergarten in Java. Her friend Teddy lives in Malang and joined her for a trip to Flores.
We hit it off right away and decided to explore together. Our first stop was a hot springs in the middle of a rice field. We relaxed in the water and talked for a while.
After lunch, we headed off to visit a traditional village. Jopu village was established over 640 years ago and the original “big house” remains the center of village life. Interestingly, the corpse of the first chief is preserved in an adjacent structure.
Two of the villagers invited us inside the big house to tell us more about the village and their customs. Vincent introduced himself and seemed pleased to have visitors. We felt very lucky to have Teddy, who was able to translate where Vincent’s English fell short.
The villagers still hold traditional ceremonies and maintain their animist beliefs. For example, the big house is renovated every 5 years after a ceremony in which the people wait for a sign from a spirit. Yet these customs exist alongside modern religions: most of the villagers are Catholic while 10 families are Muslim. We heard the afternoon call to prayer from the village’s tiny mosque and saw the Christian graves outside the big house.
We learned that there are 98 houses in the village. The people grow corn and cassava as well as raising animals like goats, chickens and buffalo. The weaving of traditional ikat is the main business of the village and they make natural dyes from plant materials.
However, most of the villagers don’t hold jobs. The village is quite isolated even from the tiny tourist stop of Moni. Kids played badminton and carried chickens around. A group of onlookers watched two men play chess. Life here is simple and revolves around the community.
Visiting this village was a great cultural experience and really highlighted the diversity of Indonesia as an island nation.
The Kelimutu Volcano
Moni is on the map in Flores for the Kelimutu volcano and its three crater lakes. These lakes are famous because they unpredictably change color. Scientific explanations aside, the volcano is a place of spiritual significance for the local people. The lakes are believed to be a place where ancestral souls rest.
It’s the thing to do to wake up for sunrise over Kelimutu. We stumbled out of our guesthouse around 4:15 am, but since we drove ourselves (on motorbikes) the journey was longer than anticipated. Once we had paid for tickets and parked our bikes, we raced up the trail in the early morning light.
Schuyler and I aren’t avid photographers so we weren’t too devastated to have missed the perfect shot. In fact, we had the first viewpoint to ourselves because everyone else was already stationed further up the trail. I’m a morning person anyway, but there was something magical about being on top of a volcano at daybreak with the person I love and our new friends.
We ambled up the trail and climbed the stairs to the highest point. There were less than 20 other people, all bundled up for the cool weather and bleary-eyed like us. Some intrepid local people had set up shop with hot water for tea or coffee. Behind this viewpoint was the third lake.
We watched the changing light, waiting and hoping for some radical color change in the lakes (which sometimes turn black or red). A group of monkeys came up harassing people for food. We sipped on coffee, talked and took pictures.
A couple of hours later we realized that there wasn’t much point in sitting on the mountain any longer. Feeling very accomplished for 7:30 am, we hiked back down the trail. Now we can finally say we’ve been on one of Indonesia’s many volcanoes! Bonus: it was a walk in the park compared to the Pinnacles Trek.
*Our new friends are way more talented photographers than us. Check out Jola’s awesome travel blog. It’s in Polish, but everyone can appreciate the beautiful photos that she takes with a 35-year-old analog camera. Jola and Teddy also post amazing pictures on Instagram!