Breaking the Law

Kelimutu is a pretty volcano with 3 lakes that when they feel like change colors. So I was in Moni (base for Kelimutu) about to sleep in order to see the place at sunrise when someone knocked on my door. It was the room owner: “Sorry mister, they just close Kelimutu area due to volcanic activity. You can’t go tomorrow” – “Wtf? does it happen very often?” – “1st time in my life”. OK, it had to be the day I arrived. He went on: “They closed the gate” – “How big is that gate?” – “It is very dangerous, you can’t go”.

I was already sleeping and again someone on my door. The  owner with a soldier this time who wanted to make sure I don’t try. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!. How many men do you have? Guns? (of course I didn’t dare to ask these questions)

So I decided to forget about sunrise (mistake) and try later. When I woke up the owner saw me and insisted on me not trying, or at least not alone. There was another local with him who wanted to take me in his motorbike to the gate and check the situation. I thought he was a mototaxi driver trying with the owner to scam me so I asked the price. The guy told me he was not doing it for the money and I could give him   what I wished.

My first impression couldn’t be more wrong. He was a rastaman sad because his friends left the village and now he doesn’t have a band to play anymore. He works washing cars. He was a very good guy who really wanted to help me and check on Kelimutu situation. Maybe for him it was the last chance. I was not alone in the battle. I am very grateful to the dude.

We arrived to the gate and waited till the guards got distracted to cross. We started to walk up the road. After a while 2 angry soldiers on a motorbike reached us and ordered us to go back. We pretended so till they left, then we went on with our plan. Authorities and rastaman are not usually good friends. I was a bit worried about what they could do to him. I, as a tourist, shouldn’t have any mayor trouble apart from a possible fine. We agreed to go as fast as we could and if hearing someone we would jump into the forest. A bit later a ranger was coming from the top. As the bitch had the engine switched off we couldn’t hear him. Again he was very angry and wanted to take me down with him. I insisted for long time “if my friend walks down I go with him, I don’t need your motorbike”. When he finally left we kept on going up.

We took a shortcut before the parking place where we could hear some of them talking. In order not to be seen we had to run or squat in some parts of the track. We started to smell sulfur, this time the smell of victory. My friend took me to the crater rim to see 2 of the lakes. It was cloudy so we couldn’t see much. Still we were very happy. He told me that going to the main  view point would be too risky as the soldiers may see us so we went down with the same caution and a big smile in our faces.

Wake up. Stand up. Stand up for your lakes.
Wake up. Stand up. Stand up for your lakes.

But for me that was not enough. It was a long way to Kelimutu so I decided to stay another and try to see it properly. My friend told me not to.

During the day I was working on a plan B. I searched for info in the internet and I found lots of porn and a couple of maps. The idea was to find alternative paths in the forest to avoid the control checks. Then I went to do some field research on the trails, walking some of the shortcuts in order not to get lost in the night. I was asking locals on the way to gather all the info I could. Most people were trying to discourage me from trying. I even check the weather forecast and the moon phase for visibility.

Finally I went to my friend. He was proud and surprised with my work so this time he decided to give me the final advice: “about 1 km after village X you will see one house standing alone, knock on the door to wake up the man and ask him to you the shortcut to Kelimutu, it is the best one and really hidden”. He wished me good luck. Later the manager asked me again not to try. I told him I wouldn’t. We looked at each other in the eyes and smiled. We knew, no need for words.

Bamboo bridges on the trails. Love them
Bamboo bridges on the trails. Love them

So at 2:30 am I started walking. The plan A worked like a charm. all that work was not required 😦 When I arrived to the gate everyone was sleeping and I knew from the previous days there weren’t dogs. I crossed the gate.

So at 2:30 am I started walking. The plan A worked like a charm so all that work wasn’t required. When I arrived to the gate everyone was sleeping and I knew from the previous day there weren’t dogs. I walked fast the way up and at 4:30 I reached the top without being seen by anyone.

Victory!
Victory! Enjoying the smell of fresh sulfur in the morning

I waited for the sunrise. The sky was perfect, very clear and I had the place just for myself. Amazing views!. Even when I left at 8 no one was in the parking. I descended all the way to the gate and politely said good morning to the law forces. There were only 2 police officers, a soldier and one ranger. A few minutes later, when walking down from the gate one of the policemen reached me on his motorbike. I felt not like Indurain but like Merckx (only cycling geeks will get this…). I halted him and ask for a lift which he happily gave me. They were lucky I didn’t want to fuck their wives.

When down I met my friend. He was very happy. Without him it wouldn’t have been possible. The locals were very curious and wanted to see my pics, even my room owner made a copy of them. Somehow they liked I went and I didn’t find any “volcanic issue” there. They are very worried about their business which relies on Kelimutu and some implied the closure maybe due to politic reasons. They were never happy about having people from “Jakarta” around.

And this story is an example of what NOT to do. If authorities close a place it should be for a reason and there is a risk not worth taking unless you don’t give a fuck, of course.

By the way, about the colors of the lakes. Nowadays one is blue-green (I think turquoise in women colors), the 2nd light blue (no idea how chicks call that) and the last one asshole black.

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