Sunrise over Kelimutu
Up at 3:45 AM – man, that’s painful – and I had to practically drag Tony out of bed onto the floor to get him to wake up. (Getting Tony up that early is like waking a Tasmanian devil.) The last major activity on our tour was watching the sunrise over Mount Kelimutu, our second Indonesian volcano after Bromo. Famous for its three colorful crater lakes, Kelimutu is quite the natural wonder. The mineral-rich lakes all vary in color, and due to chemical reactions in the water, the colors can dramatically change over time. I had seen pictures of brown, green, yellow and even red lakes. Needless to say, we were curious to see what color combination was in store for us.
After a 35-minute drive and a short walk up the mountain, we found ourselves standing atop Inspiration Point (1,647m/5,404ft), the viewpoint from where all three crater lakes can be seen. Although it was still dark, locals had already set up shop to sell hot drinks to the early risers. Thank god. At 5 AM, I badly needed a little caffeine boost.
Tony stands next to the Bewitched Lake
By the time the first rays crept over the rim of Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai – the Lake of Young Men and Maidens – it was already light enough to see the lake’s brilliant turquoise color. The steep, mostly barren crater walls were so high, it took another hour before the long shadow over the lake gave way to what looked like a pool of thick acrylic paint streaked with traces of frothy yellow sulfur.
Beyond, separated by a thin crater wall, was Tiwu Ata Polo – the Bewitched Lake. Although depicted as red on the old 5,000 rupiah note, the lake is now a slightly darker turquoise than its twin. Too bad, I was hoping for some funky volcanic color combinations. (Gosh, am I getting spoiled?) But, of course, there was one more lake to go.
For most of our time at the summit, Tiwu Ata Mbupu – the Lake of Old People – was obscured by low-hanging clouds. But eventually they lifted and, indeed, revealed a different color. Black. Nothing flashy, but an impressive, deep-black lake which beautifully reflected the high, forest-covered walls enclosing it.
As I turned to take in the stunning 360 degree view over Kelimutu, I thought about the local visitors who come here for an entirely different reason. They believe that the spirits of the dead reside in these lakes – thus their names. One lake is the resting place for young souls, one for old, and one for wicked. This, of course, brings us right back to Tony. Where do souls reside when they’re old AND wicked? Hmmm.