I spent four nights in Waturaka village, and it was great! I highly recommend it to anyone interested in local culture and comfortable with a slow pace, but with something exciting each day, whether a party, day trip to another village, or to the local market in the largest nearby town.
Waturaka Village, Near Moni, Flores
Day 1 – Sunday
I sat behind Vicent on his motorbike to Igen Homestay (named for the 4-year old son of Vicente and Paulina). Waturaka lies several kilometers up the road from Moni among a million rice paddies and small vegetable farms.
After a lengthy tea and chat which Vicent’s brother, Sylvester, spoke with me regarding the town and gave me some background on his family. Before leaving Sylvester showed me the bathroom just outside the back door of the home. It has a sky blue western flush toilet with a roll of toilet paper hanging from the nearest wall. The shower is regular — 1 knob for water. Cold water only.
For the duration of my stay, I was loaned a heavy sarong of a black background and an orange woven pattern. The heavy, long tube of fabric is multipurpose. Both men and women walk around with them arranged as skirts, or up over their shoulders when the air is brisk. It can even go as high as the head and looks like an attractive cape with hood. Finally, it can be slept in at night for extra warmth. A sarong costs about 1,000,000 IDR ($70 USD) if you’d like to buy one.
Wanting to see village life, first I watched the women play volleyball in the court just outside Igen’s front door. It was the women’s game and there were at least a hundred female spectators of all ages sitting and standing all around the main plaza. I sat with them and we exchanged pleasantries and basic questions since my local language skills were very limited and their English skills we the same. Mostly we just smiled at one another, while they chatted amongst themselves. We all cheered whenever a point was scored.
Old women chewing betel nut had red spittle dripping from the corners of their mouth and their teeth were filled with bright red fibers giving an image of a bloody mouth. The ground is the public spittoon and the scarlet saliva glistened on the cement. Kids played with massive strings of interlocked rubber bands, some so long they were used as jump ropes.
After a while, I wander downhill to check out the view of the valley down towards the tiny town of Moni. The boys are playing soccer in a field with bamboo goal posts. I watch for a few minutes. A bunch of little boys and a male tourist sit in the grass near one goalpost chatting and giggling. I snap a few photos before continuing my amble past small homes constructed of bamboo and wood. They have tin roofs which must have been shiny when new but are now dull with brown rust.
In one home a woman peeks out a small window and spies me checking out the gardens. We say basic greetings that I can manage and I point at the plants growing under her window. I point at the nearly dried up chili pepper plant and say “coro”. She laughs so hard she nearly has tears in her eyes and repeats it back to me. Coro is the local language, not the national Indonesian language. She teaches me all the other plants, like utubai for papaya and invites me inside for tea and snacks and more chatting in the kitchen.
Calling her friends, she relates to them that I know the word coro. She teaches me more words and gives me hot tea and tahuisi, cooked by her daughter. Tahuisi is a small chunk of tofu slit open with a paring knife to make a pocket. The pocket is stuffed with a mixture of clear rice noodle (vermicelli?) and vegetable. Then the stuffed tofu pocket is dipped in batter and dropped into hot oil for several minutes of deep frying. As the conversation progresses it turns out she speaks some English. She notes that she never went to school, but has learned English, while her educated daughter does not.
Visiting Mount Kelimutu National Park and a Party
Day 2 – Monday
It’s well before sunrise when we depart Waturaka by motorbike by 4:15. riding up the winding road in the dark, I’m glad to not be driving myself, as I would be going much more slowly in my unfamiliarity with the hundreds of curves.
I pay the park entrance fee at the park entrance near the top of the mountain, where all the other tourists are in taxis. Fortunately, the prices are posted, so everyone has their money ready and the line moves quickly. A few minutes later, at the parking lot, I am directed to follow the other tourists to the path. I walk up the stone stairs and then along the wide, flat trail hoping for a beautiful sunrise over the Danau Kelimutu, or 3 colored lakes.
The trail is very easy and I would walk it in flip-flops if it were warmer. My sneakers were sufficient. The hardest part is the quantity of stairs, but I really hate stairs anywhere.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. Instead, it’s cloudy, rainy, and completely fogged in. I cannot see any of the three Kelimutu lakes. Eventually, I give up and leave with no decent photos. I hike the road back to Waturaka, encountering drizzling rain that soon turns heavier. A kind tourist on a motorbike picked me up and drove me the rest of the way to the village. After eating breakfast at Igen Homestay I went back to bed and slept until 10 am despite plenty of racket from motorcycles revving, chickens clucking, and people laughing and conversing directly outside my room.
Since I want to see the beautiful lakes, and the weather looked fine yesterday afternoon, I take a second ojek ride up the mountain, departing Waturaka at 2 pm. Walking to the lakes from the parking lot it is sunny and the sky is totally clear. Even the little monkeys are scampering about. There are not more than 10 tourists on the mountain, so it’s entirely quiet and peaceful.
Between my two trips up Kelimutu today, I am in Waturaka and observe 4 small cows and a very large pig being loaded into a miniature truck parked in the volleyball court. I feel quite sad for the cows, as they are yelled at and shoved onto the Bob Marley truck, appearing fearful. Meanwhile, the owner of the hog seems to know his animal and has already trained it to move according to his directions. He talks to it and makes small sounds, guiding it calmly onto the vehicle.
Once the animals are loaded into the truck I ask the owner about his love for Bob Marley and all things Jamaican. Then, he tells me to follow him through a narrow space between some homes. I’m a bit wary since by now it’s only the two of us in the volleyball court. We go a few houses back from the volleyball court, and there’s a party! Huge pots of food are steaming, and women are spooning the contents onto disposable plates for anyone who wants a meal. The truck owner gets me a plate and we sit in plastic chairs. Someone passing by with cups is called over, and we share a small cup of extremely strong clear palm liquor, arak. Whoa! Arak is very potent and a good match for the pork dishes. We ate rice with pork soup and darah, a pork dish with a brown sauce. Ingredients are pork, coro, garlic, red garlic, and bawang merah.
As I walked down Kelimutu in the morning, I saw signs for trails to outlying villages. And, I know you can walk down various trails, some of which take all day. For more information on Kelimutu trekking, I recommend you carefully review Google Maps online and ask at Mopi’s Cafe for any additional advice. The Tourism Information Office in Moni may also have some information, but I wouldn’t count on it.
As for trekking, most locals walk in sandals or light shoes, and I imagine the trails will be packed down well.
Moni Market Day, Local Sights, and Planting Rice
Day 3 – Tuesday
I love visiting markets and learning about local foods around the world. Last night my host family and I arranged that I could ride down to the market with Igen’s mom and all the women vendors at 5 in the morning. However, as the evening progressed it was decided that I could instead ride on the bus with my host grandfather and little Igen later in the morning. The small bus filled with everyone from the village, including a gaggle of girls on their way to school. The girls spent the bus ride staring at their phones, just like girls where I’m from.
Just as we exited the bus in Moni the rain began, so Igen’s grandfather decided we should wait under the eave of a shop. After a few minutes, the precipitation came to an end, and we stepped into the road avoiding any puddles.
Market in Moni
Arriving at the market, there was so much for sale. Hens walked on sawdust in the back of pickup trucks, fish lay dead on wood blocks, and donuts in plastic bins awaited someone with a sweet tooth. In the main market plaza, we found Igen’s mother, who was selling medicinal items alongside her friend. While Igen’s mom and grandfather chatted I had a rare opportunity to stand in one place without looking lost, and observe the market’s details. I spotted something wrapped in dry leaves formed into a cylinder. I wondered what was inside. Salt, I was told. Salt? Yes, salt. I wish now that I had bought a small one as a souvenir. I wonder if it was a regional sodium chloride with a delicious ocean flavor.
Murukeba Waterfall and Steam Vents Mutulo’o
In the afternoon, I decided to walk to the waterfall and steam vents. Using Google Maps app on my phone, I followed what I thought was the path to the waterfall, but instead arrived at steam vents with a herd of cows.
The waterfall was down a bushy path which included a few wobbly homemade bamboo bridges (one of them had the handrail come undone while I was crossing!). It was a scene to behold, with the fine mist of the dropping water merged into the surrounding fog.
Rice Planting at Waturaka Village
Walking back to the village from the waterfall I came across a man having his afternoon snack. We greeted each other and he offered me a slice of his mango. It was so delicious, and gave me a perk in energy, so a few minutes later when I saw a couple working in their rice paddy I stopped for a look. They invited me down to their paddy and I spent a few minutes ‘helping’ the woman plant some of the baby rice plants into the mud. Of course, with no experience, I worked at about a quarter of her pace. It was nice getting my hands and feet muddy, though! It was really just what I needed. When traveling after a few weeks I feel a bit lost sometimes since I have no chores or daily routine. I’ve always loved working with plants.
On Day 4 I visited Nggela to see the ikat woven cloth and ended up having a great day! Check out the Nggela post by clicking here.
Accommodation. 150,000 x 4 nights= 600,000. This included all meals, potable water, tea and coffee, private room with a comfortable queen sized bed, and private bathroom with cold water shower. Best of all, I could walk around the village whenever I wanted, walk to the waterfall, steam vents, and hot springs. And, my host family chatted with me in the evenings while we watched television and other activities around the home. I improved my Indonesian language skills, too.
Danau Kelimutu. I went up twice the same day, so only paid the national park fee once.
75,000 morning, ojek driver did not wait.
200,000 afternoon, ojek driver waited 2 hours.
275,000 Total ojek
Kelimutu National Park fee for entrance for 1 day – 150,000 for me and 5,000 for the ojek
Total for 4 days: 1,030,000 IDR or about $70 US dollars
Things to Know About Waturaka and Moni
Money. There is an ATM in Moni and you may be able to change U.S. dollars at Mopi’s Cafe. Alternatively, there is a large town about 45 minutes away from Moni called Wolowaru which has more ATMs.
Market Days. Wolowaru has its big market day on Friday and Moni has its big market day on Tuesday.
Weather. Waturaka is part way up Mount Kelimutu and the weather is pleasant during the day, but cools down at night. Bring your layered clothing for warmth. Read here how I packed carry-on only. It was great that my host family loaned me a thick local sarong, which kept me warm.
Homestay location. Igen homestay is really wonderful, but don’t expect to sleep in past 7 o’clock in the morning. The bedroom is on the front of the house and people hang out on the porch right outside the door. If you can drag yourself out of bed, you can watch the school ‘bus’ scooter loading up with adorable kids in their school uniforms.
How to Get from Ende to Moni, Flores and then to Waturaka Village
For speed, fly to Ende (ENE), whether coming from Jakarta, Bali (DPS), or Labuan Bajo (LBJ). Then, take a rented motorbike, taxi or bus to Moni, which takes 2 to 4 hours, depending on transportation method. Sunday has limited public transportation, but your hotel in Ende can assist you. I loved staying at Dasi Guesthouse. Click to read my review and here if you’d like to book now.
If traveling by public transportation get off at Santiago Cafe and Resto, which is near the fork in the road going up Mt. Kelimutu, and ask them to call someone in Waturaka for a homestay. It’s a good place since the food is nice and you can walk to a nearby waterfall and village while you wait. Mopi’s Cafe is also very nice but the food is more expensive and I’m not sure they have a contact in Waturaka.
If traveling by private transportation take the road up Mt. Kelimutu, which is just before Moni when driving from Ende. Waturaka will be on your left. The road into the village forks, so take the upper (right) fork to Igen Homestay. Of course, there are many homestays, and they are on both forks.
Have fun! Please let me know if this post need any updates. I visited in October 2018.