In Bahasa Indonesia, Selamat means “Congratulations” and Jalan means “to go” (or “road” or “walk”, but work with me). Together these worlds (Slemat Jalan) mean “Goodbye,” but as we saw the words pass above us on a number of arches in our descent of the mountains from Kelimutu, I couldn’t help find the literal translation amusing; “Congratulations on going.” This little side trip definitely threatened, several times, to not let us go.
This expedition was on our very short list for Indonesian attractions, and more importantly (to me) it was the thing I felt might lift my travel weariness and give me a new perspective on this leg of the voyage. To say it was difficult to organize would be to grossly understate the situation. There were a few points at which our plans fell through so desperately, that we seriously considered dropping the whole idea. This coupled with the very real concerns about leaving our boat untended overnight seemed, at times, a crippling obstacle.
After a full 24hrs of half executed planning, we decided to take a series of public busses (‘bemos’) for the two and a half hour trip to the mountain. This turned out to be a mixed bag. On the plus side, it was authentic, and cheap (AU$12 for the four of us). On the negative side, we had to sit the kids on our laps, the woman behind us got sick half way up the mountain, and the little van seemed at times, a bit precarious on the side of the cliff.
Food and Lodging
We kind of took what we could get on the lodging front. Our accommodations were clean, and had a shower (which we didn’t have to duck for cover in, and had hot water) but I think folks not accustomed to boat-camping, might have found it a bit… basic. It was great for us, and at AU$30/night, I’m not going to complain.
Dinner was a story unto itself. On the tail end of the bemo ride, the owner’s brother saw us in the van and hailed it for a ride. He chatted us up all the rest of the way to Moni. We learned that he was the Best Chef on Flores (and had the certificate to prove it), and that he would like us to join him for dinner at his restaurant. We were seriously balking at the price, which approached the price of our room, but the fact that he spoke impeccable English, and assured us that his specialty did not contain meat (which we seriously distrust here) nor gluten, sealed the deal for us. We put a deposit down on dinner (for real, that’s a thing) and scoped out the location so we could find it after dark.
I am here to tell you that I was more than pleasantly surprised. We had a banana flower dish with a pumpkin-coconut soup and wild rice. It was divine and my only complaint was that, after eating only tiny snacks for lunch, the portion size was a bit smaller than my belly desired.
After sorting out the food, I still had to figure out how to get from Moni to the mountain. There are two choices; a) join a man on a moped (ah, no); b) hire a car. A car would be about AU$40 for the four of us.
|I found myself an Agent and tried negotiating. I actually talked him down by AU$5. Then he offered me another “deal,” whereby his driver would take us aaall the way back to Ende for AU$75. This was a full AU$15 more than I had “negotiated” for a round trip to Kelimutu to Ende and back, a few days earlier. Being the expert bargainer that I am, I accepted the deal!|
It turned out that Frankie (our driver) was a gem, and the luxury of spending four hours in a vehicle without losing sensation in my tush, seemed a reasonable indulgence.
When we discovered that the road between Kelimutu and Ende had temporarily disappeared (not once, but twice), leaving us to socialize with the Indonesian drivers and European tourists, on the side of the road, I was once again delighted with our choice.
The Main Event
I’m going to leave the description of Kelimutu to Vick for whom it was a particularly special experience. In addition to the main event, we also stopped by a rather lovely waterfall, a hot springs, and a few vista spots (overlooking rice terraces), and accidentally came across a woman doing ikat back-strap weaving. I also got to see green coffee beans drying out (and later roasted some, back on Convivia).
In the end, this trip, which almost didn’t happen; which we almost couldn’t return from (due to road failure); was awesome and challenging in all the best ways. I returned to the beachhead and was relieved to find Fatty, tied to the tree we left her on (oars still inside) and Conviv floating jauntily in her spot. Once everything was unloaded, I made us coffees and collapsed. I am so grateful for this experience, and will graciously accept the mountain’s well wishes; “Congratulations on going!”