Friday, October 25, 2013

Banda

If there is 1 thing we have learned from our years of sailing, it's that plans are etched in sand. It's about being flexible and exploring as you go. With this approach, we have had some of our best experiences and seen the most interesting sites.

Our port of entry to Indonesia led us further northeast than some. And once we were there, we heard more than once about the Banda islands. "You MUST go to Banda!" is what they were saying. It was more or less in the direction we wanted to go, so why not? What? Lost? No, we're just exploring!

The draw to these islands is not only its quaintness and picturesque setting, but it is steeped in and centered in the intriguing spice trade history, in particular nutmeg and cloves. (Recommended readings on the subject include Nathaniel's Nutmeg by Giles Milton and Scents of Eden by Charles Corn.)

The Banda islands are out on their own in the NE part of the Banda Sea. They consist of Banda Besar (the largest), Banda Naira, Gunungapi (volcano), Hatta, Ai, Run (aka Rhun), and Nilaka. With no wind, we had motored for 22 hours to get here before setting anchor (S04°31.437' E129°53.831') at Banda Naira.

Sea Turtle at Banda Naira

Banda Naira is on the north side of the largest island of Banda Besar and up close and personal to the volcano island, Gunungapi (which erupted in 1988 resulting in 5 deaths and the evacuation of Banda Naira for a few weeks). With Jordan conning from the bowsprit, he directed me through the coral in the shallow and narrow south pass  to the inner harbour. A man on shore waved us over and directed us to "Med moor" which we did by dropping the anchor and backing in, throwing him our stern line which he promptly tied to a coconut tree.

The man was the Harbour Master and right away, solicited us for fuel delivery. A buck a litre and "don't worry, clean fuel". It was our only dealings with him. He never asked for paperwork or did any checking-in procedure. A few minutes later, 2 others were competing to get our laundry business.

Another, a pleasantly accommodating young man introduced himself as Maga, a tour guide who we agreed to later employ. In the meantime, he took us on a brief walk through the town and directed us to some important spots (market, internet, eateries, etc.)

We soon met Abba on a motor-scooter. (Everyone has motor-scooters that best navigate the narrow colonial street layout and there are no great distances to travel. Only about 5 regular vehicles on the island.) Abba invited us for dinner at his guest house for the following evening which we then booked..

It was a quick and welcoming intro to Banda!!

After an excellent lunch (2 plates of of delicious Indonesian food, 2 smoothies, and a cola totalled about $8), it was back to the boat to receive 4 jerry jugs of fuel. Jordan emptied them into Sea Turtle through his Baja Filter, carefully scrutinizing the last litre in each jug, and wouldn't you know it, the last litre in the last jug had crud in it. We had been warned about getting bad fuel in Indonesia. Later we found the 1 and only fuel station close by, so the last of the needed fuel top-up, Jordan safely did on his own and for a lot less too.

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