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Moni and Gunung Kelimutu

Written on: Thursday July 17th, 2008

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

I hadn't actually realised I'd arrived in Moni as it's such a small village. I was coaxed off the bus, my bags thrown to the side of the road and my new best friend arrived to waltz me in to his ramshackled guesthouse on the side of a hill. I was too tired to search around the village for the best accommodation, and John's Watugona bungalows were cheap and cheerful so here I resided for the next two nights. I was actually fairly low arriving here and the absence of anybody else in the town who could speak fluent English sent me even lower. Since being on the boat and getting to Flores I'd been travelling almost exclusively on my own with a few rare meetings with other tourists, but none of them backpackers. I began to question why I was doing this stupid without a plane thing, why I didn't just stay in Australia, I even pondered flying home. Moni thankfully was about to give me a couple of days that would put all those thoughts and questions to bed, at least for the time being.The afternoon wittled away with me playing football with the village kids and them shouting at me all the Premiership players they knew (which was quite a few) as they dribbled the ball past me time and time again. Although it was fun they didn't actually help my bout of depression, they just further added to it as when a 9 year old can continuously take the ball off you, you know you're getting old. I spent most of my time in the middle of the pitch between the action at both ends not getting a single touch of the ball. They began by calling me David Beckham and by the end if they'd have known who Carlton Parmer was that's who they would have been calling me. I had dinner-for-one in a restaurant where I was the only customer and the power kept failing and went to bed early not really looking forward to waking up at 4:30am to climb another bloody volcano, definitely the last one for a while. The stern knock at the door told me I'd overslept. For a second I contemplated staying in bed and not answering it, then grabbing together my thoughts leapt up threw on the clothes I'd left out the night before, jumped on the back of a motorbike of a guy who even now I have no idea who he is or what he looks like and set off on the 45 minute journey to the top of Kelimutu. He dropped me in the National Park car park and shot off again leaving me to climb the last 15 minutes walk on my own as the sun rose. There were only a handful of other people at the top of Kelimutu to experience the sunrise with me, all quite strange and interesting in their own way. Up there I met the first Estonian I have met travelling who proceeded to tell me all about her seminar in Bandung, Java she had been to on World Religions. I was wary as soon as she mentioned the 'R' word, and kept even more distance when she preached to me as the sun shed its first rays across us 'A new day, a brand new beginning, soon we will have peace!' An evangelist on top of a volcano at 6am was not what I needed. Compared to other European countries there are very few Italians travelling around the world. I can't actually recollect meeting any on my entire trip, although I'm sure there must have been at least a couple. Anyhow here at the top of Kelimutu with the first Estonian traveller in the world, were the first Italian travellers, after Marco Polo of course. They were an elderly foursome perhaps in their 60s with their scraggedly haired Italian guide (as all Italian guides should have), all very happy to be on top of the mount, very happy to share their banana pancakes with me and the two ladies very intent on singing at the tops of their voices all three verses of The Age of Aquarius. It was a very surreal start to my Friday morning.Within an hour everybody had left the peak and I had the whole place to myself to sit and shiver in the cold winds and decide just exactly where and what I was going to do next. I could either stay on Flores, head further east and cross to Pulau Alor, renew my visa in East Timor and then head up to the Banda Islands and Papua New Guinea or head back west to Ende, take a ferry to Sumba, then another to West Timor and try to get a boat from there to Australia. The defining factor was that the former would be great if I were travelling with somebody else, but going on my own would mean a lot more time spent on my lonesome as hardly anybody visits those parts of Indonesia. They're also quite dangerous due to the rioting of several tribes unhappy with their current situation in the archipelago. Their rioting tends not just to end in a few shop windows being broken, normally it's a few heads on spikes so I decided on the West Timor route. Content with my decision I took in the three amazing lakes and their different colours caused by the minerals in each of the craters. One is a brown shade, the middle one a very light green and the third a dark green, quite a spectacle with the early morning light shining down on them. There was no transport to take me back to Moni so I began the walk back down the mountain with my left knee in quite some pain reminding me time and time again what a stupid idea it was to climb Rinjani back on Lombok and my mind wandering for some strange reason playing a game with myself that involved thinking of a country, town, village or city that ends in each letter of the alphabet. I got stuck with 'b', 'p', 'q' and 'x' so if any of you can think of places ending in these letters please email me.About halfway down the mountain a path cuts away from the road and heads down a steep hill directly to Moni through a couple of villages on the way. These villages at first reminded me of Burma where the people just don't get to see tourists. I hadn't expected this encounter but walking between people's bamboo houses children would run off shrieking when catching sight of me, dogs would come rushing up barking then cower away very unsure of my odour and skin complexion and adults would beckon me on down the path pointing in what I was assuming to be the direction of Moni. I arrived in one village, brought a huge bunch of bananas off a lady for 20p and met another lady who introduced herself as Agnes who compared to everybody else around spoke an excellent amount of English. She asked me to sit down and speak with her under the shade of the branches of a big tree, which as I had been walking in the heat of the morning sun I was very relieved to, then she asked if I would like to have some coffee in her house. I was quite interested to see what the inside of one of these very basic bamboo homes looked like and was quite parched so gladly accepted. I entered her house and did not expect to see what I next saw. There was a huge big blue sofa that looked freshly purchased from Sofa Land, a big fridge and a price list hanging on the wall of all the food and refreshments I could order. This I suddenly realised was not Burma and I was not going to be getting a free cup of coffee. Agnes rocked in to the room carrying my coffee, telling me how she liked when foreigners took her to restaurants and out drinking and showing me her LG mobile phone and asking me if I would show her mine (phone that is). Through being polite I was stuck there for over half an hour as she told me her mother is very ill and how they don't have any money and how if I want I could take her to lunch and pay for her beers all afternoon and evening. Despite this sounding like such an tempting idea, I eventually managed to excuse myself by telling her I was very tired after getting up so early and that I thought it better that I go to bed. This didn't stop her giving me her mobile number on a piece of paper and asking me to meet up with her for dinner that night. I told her I'd keep it in mind.Just a short way from Agnes' lair is a beautiful clearing in the lush forest where a striking waterfall gushes water over its edge cascading in to a pool at the bottom. I hadn't actually showered since being in Bali two weeks ago as in all the places I've stayed they haven't had showers, just mandis, a concrete enclosure containing cold water that with a bucket you pour over yourself. I'm not particularly partial to these so for the past few weeks I've been keeping clean like the locals, using the natural water that's found around the island. In Bajawa I used the awesome hot springs and here I decided, although not hot, the falls were a great place to wash away the collecting grime under my nails and cool down from the walk. There was a bamboo bridge standing about 6 metres above a narrow gorge that the fast-flowing water has created, leading to the waterfall's plunge pool. Taken completely unawares as I took four steps across the bridge the bamboo under my right foot snapped right down the middle and my leg fell through leaving me in a heap on the bridge hoping that the rest of the bamboo struts would hold and that the breaking bamboo hadn't splintered my leg as I went through it. Gladly both these hopes were realised and I managed to pull myself up and cross the bridge safely to the well-deserved dip under the waterfall. Near Funeral Number 4! I took the opportunity that afternoon to catch up on some sleep in preparation for a local wedding that evening that I had been invited to. On awaking I searched the bottom of my bag for my shirt, tried to iron out the creases by laying it out on my bed and placing books upon it, sprayed some aftershave here and there and headed out to the wedding with John, another English speaking guy from the village called Jeffrey and some of their friends. I was greeted by beaming smiles and 'Hello Mister' shouts as I entered the wedding reception. I posted some money in an envelope in to a model of a new home outside the hall and then was beckoned in to formally meet the bride and groom whose hands I was directed to shake. They all looked very pleased to see me, but what seemed rather rude on my part I only got to shake hands with the bride and who I'm assuming was the bride's mother who looked a bit like Oprah Winfrey before the power went out, the hall was shrouded in darkness and my Indonesian friends quickly marched me away. I wasn't even sure if the guy next in line wearing one white glove whose hand, had the lights not gone out, I was no doubt intended to shake was the groom or the Michael Jackson cabaret.Similar to all English matrimonially events there's grub on so I helped myself to a large bowl of rice, chicken sate and other culinary delights, intent on eating my share of the above average monetary gift I'd bequeathed. And when I say above average what I mean is 1.20, which to people in this part of the world is a sizable amount I'll have you know. Before we'd even finished the food though there was a commotion and guests appeared to be leaving or moving on. I was told that because the power kept failing the bride and groom were not happy and had decided to leave here and go to another part of the village where the music and dancing would be held. Before heading to here though, my new posse of Indonesian friends, who it seemed were the bad boys of the neighbourhood by the looks they were getting from other members of the village, thought we should drink a fair share of Arak, the local alcoholic weapon of choice.An hour later we'd got through two bottles of the stuff and were buying more on our way to the party where seeing that we had liquor we were joined by just about all the male attendees. Buying all of these guys a drink is not the financial worry that a round at the Slug and Lettuce is though. I paid for 24 people's arak for the whole night, who were all sitting around in a big circle and each round came to less than a pound. It also served to get more people on the dance floor than might have been the case sober. The party was actually at the married couple's new home and so I was properly introduced to them and uttered some incomprehensible Bahasa at them which I hoped meant 'Congratulation on your marriage' but was probably closer to 'Where's your toilet I need to be sick'I have no idea what the time was but I'd done my fair share of bad dancing and needed to find my bed. One of the young boys who was at the party, maybe 14 or 15 saw I was about to leave, beckoned me over to his bike and drove me back to my hotel. I expected the request of 10,000 rupiah for the three minute drive, but not any more I was an accepted new villager. I awoke the next morning with a sore head but feeling a lot less lonely than what I had when I first arrived in Moni. I packed my things, said my farewells and waited by the side of the road to catch a bus coming through. I waited good on two hours, but all the buses that passed through were completely full. Finally one arrived that was good on full, especially inside so instead of adding to the cramped conditions I got to achieve one of my life-long ambitions and ride on the roof of the bus for my two hour hair-razing (if I still had some), white-knuckle journey back to Ende, from where I would catch my ferry onwards to Sumba.