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Gunung Keli Mutu
Gemstones in supernatural environment

It's dark and cold, everyone is wrapped up in jackets or blankets, and we are all looking at the sky. We shiver and wait. After just more than one hour the sky starts to get lighter, and after a while we are confronted with a terrible, disappointing truth: we are in the middle of a bench of clouds and the lakes of Keli Mutu are completely obscured! A yell in the fog: 'Konderatu!'. And once again 'Konderatu!'.

It's an elderly man, Pak Carolus. He organizes the truck of the catholic mission, which brings tourists from Moni to Keli Mutu every day. 'Konderatu!, he yells again. 'Let the clouds disappear!'.

He tells us: 'There are many people from far countries, let them see the lakes.' I walk to him and ask him what Konderatu is. 'He and his wife Bobi are the owners of this place', Pak Carolus tells me. 'We have to ask them if we can see the lakes'.

About one hour later, whether it's because of Konderatu or something else more meteorological, a corner of one of the lakes is disclosed. Everyone grabs his photo camera, but then it closes again. The next half an hour we only see a little part of the lake very once in a while, which plays hide and seek with the desiring tourists. Eventually the clouds disappear beneath us and we can see the entire beauty of the lakes.

Lakes like gemstones

Gunung Keli Mutu is located in the south of Central Flores, about 40 kilometers northeast of Ende. The volcano consists of three craters, each filled with a colored lake. The lakes got their color because of the mineral deposits, which resolve in the water.

Because of the changing amounts of minerals the color of the lakes changes over time; the last decades the lakes used to be dark-red, light green and light blue. The bald and grey landscape around the lakes makes this phenomenon even more spectacular. It's no wonder that the lakes are sometimes compared with gemstones.

Sacrifices to Konderatu

It's no miracle that this spot at an altitude of 1690 meters was an important location for rituals. Just in the 1950's they abolished the sacrifice of pigs and water buffalo's because of respect to Catholicism. It is believed that the souls of the deceased found their final resting place in one of these lakes; one lake for the old people's souls, another lake for the young people's souls, and those of polo, witches in the third. The visitors who want to be sure of good weather have a good thing to bring sacrificed for Konderatu and Bobi.

The villagers which live near the road to Keli Mutu, which maintain the road - which can be destroyed or heavily damaged by landslides, especially during the wet season - are thrown in the mud or their tools are grabbed out their hands in a mystirial way. When this happens it's time to bring sacrificed to Konderatu to calm it. A big pig, rice tuak, pinang and jewelry of fake gold is enough to settle everything. People also tell that the spirits wake up at night to wander around the mountain.

Visit to the lakes

The starting point for the climb of the Keli Mutu is Moni, a village along the main road from Ende to Maumere. In the 1970's the lakes were only reachable by foot or by horse. You had to start at two in the morning; it's a heavy trip which takes about three to four hours to reach the summit.

Only fanatic people do it this way, mainly by horse, which is a bigger torture than walking when you don't have a saddle. Take a guide with you; outside the nights with full moon, chances of getting lost are big.

Nowadays trucks pick up the 'climbers' around 4 in the morning in Moni. The trip takes 45 minutes to the summit. The walk back is a lot more fun after the lakes have been disclosed when the clouds and fog is gone. You ought to be at the viewpoint around 5.30, the place is an ugly concrete slab which can be reached via a concrete stairs. It can be cold there; bring along warm clothes and maybe come warm coffee or thee.

Supernatural environment

On a clear day Keli Mutu is one of the most spectacular places of interest in the world. The first light slowly crawls along the sky, stars fade away and magnificent mountains gradually become visible.

The sun is welcomed with yelling and clicking camera's when she climbs above the horizon, near Gunung Egon, a dead volcano which dominated the eastern landscape. In the south, the dark, oval summit of Keli Bara (1731 meters) rises over the flattened summit of the Keli Mutu. Unless the sun the cold winds hold on for another couple of hours, while you are waiting to see the light shining on the lakes.

The sunlight makes the wrinkles water of the closest lake into a beautiful color play with at the top a thin layer of sulphuric foam. Towards the time that the eastern crater throws it's characteristic shadow over the water (just before of 9:00 hours), it's time to make a walk to the other craters.

A good footpath follows the western summit from the green lake, runs along most of the turquoise water and ends along the eastern edge. From the path you can carefully watch to the other lower lakes, which are separated by a thin wall of rock, about 15 meters high. The sun shines into the lakes, which shine against the rock walls. The southern and western border of the blue-green lake are the best spots to make pictures in the morning.

When the lakes stay clear of clouds and fog, you would like to stay until the afternoon in this supernatural environment, but there is no water and food around this place. A hat and water are things to bring with you for the six kilometer long descend to the waiters house of the Department of Nature Conservation (Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam, KSDA), where you fill out a form and pay a small fee.

From the KSDA-post you can reach the main road just outside Moni, with passing several settlements. The easy to follow footpath leads you along Manukako, Koposili and Nuadepi before it arrives at the road.

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