The alarm went off at 0200. Since we have just come off a passage, our sleep schedule is all messed up anyway, so getting up at that hour was no big deal. Had we taken the tour after our bodies had adjusted to an 8 hour a night sleep schedule again, it probably would have been much tougher to get up.
We were being picked up for our tour at 0300 to go to the summit of volcano Kelimutu to see the famous colored lakes in the craters around the top of the volcano. Each lake is a different color, and the lakes each change color over time. Currently the lakes are turquoise, dark green and chocolate brown. A few years ago they were blue, maroon and black, and a few years before that they were blue, red-brown, and light brown. One of the lakes has warm water, one cold, and the information provided didnâ€™t mention the temperature of the third. Kelimutu is sacred to the locals, and they believe the souls of the dead go to the lakes.
When we walked onto the back deck to get into the dinghy, we saw that there was a lightening storm in the mountains. It was really hot and we were sweating buckets. We motored over to the pier with the lightening helping to illuminate the dark around us. We were right on time and the driver was already there waiting for us. We quickly made our way through town on the dark and mostly deserted roads. Outside of town the number of buildings thinned out. All the structures we could see in the light from the headlights were small rectangular structures made of bamboo walls and tin roofs that are low on the sides and tall and pointy in the center, the kind of roofs that you envision of when you think of Asia.
As we wound our way up higher into the mountains, the temperature cooled off. It went from hot to warm to comfortable to cold. We were also getting closer to the lightening, and we could see strikes coming down to our left, relatively close by. There was no rain.
We reached the car park (parking lot) of the volcano at 0445, just as the first rays of light were beginning to take the edge of the inky blackness. We pulled out our flashlights and climbed the steep, wide and well maintained trail up the volcano. As we walked, occasionally we would hear loud rumbling in the distance from the storm.
We made it to the first crater just as it was getting light enough to really see anything. We couldnâ€™t see the other two craters anywhere around. The trail went on, but it wasnâ€™t nearly as well maintained, so we werenâ€™t sure if we were supposed to continue on or not. We did, knowing there was a viewpoint where you could see all three and figuring it had to be farther up the road. The trail became even steeper, and eventually turned into a long staircase. From the bottom of the stairs we could not see the top.
We needed to hustle up the stairs. The most magical moment is supposed to be as the sun breaks over the horizon and illuminates the pools of water, and it was so light now that it seemed the sun would peek over at any second. We reached the top breathless and hot, despite the cool temperature. There were a handful of tourists up there, along with a local man selling hot coffee and sarongs. The man walks 15 kilometers up the mountain every morning, barefoot, in the dark on the uneven and rock laden roads, holding thermoses of hot water, glasses, spoons, sugar, coffee and a load of material. Wow. He sells his coffee for 55 cents, almost double the going price of 30 cents. Almost everyone got a cup of coffee, but no one got a blanket, so for all that walking he made maybe $4.00 USD. We wonder if he has to pay the $2.00 park entrance fee.
Just as we were told, there were three lakes, one a beautiful aquamarine, and the other two darker, with it hard to tell what the colors really were. The sunrise and spectacular illumination of the colors never came. Instead, the clouds rolled in and blocked the sunrise, so we only got to see the lakes in the low light of the misty fog. It began to rain on and off. Even in the mist and the rain, you could see why this site is considered sacred to the locals. You intuitively know this is hallowed ground.
To be continuedâ€¦