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Published: January 18th 2011
The red bit inside is dried to make mace
For more than two years we have tried to figure out how to get to the elusive Banda Islands, also known as the Spice Islands for one obvious reason. This is where spices were first discovered.
Well we've finally made it! The journey here has been quite difficult. Just getting information about ferries and flights was a major problem. Then when we did find out times and dates ect it was difficult to book on a flight as there are only two a week and the plane has only 20 seats. The next ferry was sceduled for over 2 weeks away.
In the end we decided on the plane even though we had a 9 days wait. The flight left a bit late but otherwise no problems there.
It was a very tiny plane, inside it was very basic more like a bus than an aeroplane. We could see the pilot the whole time, he had to fly the plane without the aid of radar as the airport is so small on Bandaniera. There is a huge volcano close by so not an easy job as it was often swathed in cloud. The flight lasted about an hour and
Nutmegs drying in the sun
The reason the Islands got their name!
landed on a very short bumpy runway!
The Bandas are a group of seven islands, the main one being Bandaniera where most of the accommodation is. The area is known as having some of the best unspoilt coral in the world, the sea is very deep and has treacherous currents and at times rough, high seas.
Our guesthouse is right on the water overlooking the volcano across the water, it last erupted in 1988, so hoping it will keep quiet while we're here!! On our first night here we experienced an small earthquake just as we were going to bed! Good start!
The small island of Bandaniera is steeped in local culture and history. In the 15th centuary Banda supplied all the worlds spices - nutmegs, cloves and cinnamon. Merchants queued up to do business. In 1512 the portuguese came and in 1599 the dutch came, they demanded trade but had nothing that the Bandanese people wanted. The Dutch dissappeared for a while but were back a few years later. They found the English trading nutmeg in Puala Run and Puala Ai. Jan Pieterzoon coen reacted in 1621 by ordering the virtual genocide of the Bandanese. Just a
Given to us by a kind local man
Where the Spice Islands got their name.
few hundred of the local survived and escaped to the Kei Islands.
The Dutch took over the spice trade with 70 plantations on Bada Besar and Puala Ai. This system survived for almost 200 years but corruption and bad management meant that profits were not as good as expected. By the 1930's Bandaniera was a place of genteel exile for better behaved anti Dutch dissadents. In April 1999 there was a flare up of violence when churches were burned and at least 5 people were killed including the last Dutch trader in spices, Wim De Broeke. Most of the christian minority fled to Seram. The islands are now 90% muslim and 10% Christian but have remained calm since the last flare up.
Des Alwi, the head of the village died in December 2010, he ensured that the Bandas remained unspoilt so now the locals fear for the future. On February 2nd we watched a ceremony at the Mosque, we were told it was to do with the village head but we;re not exactly sure in what respect. All the same it was good to watch, we were the only tourists there so attracted a lot of attention. A
The Tiny Plane that Got us Here
Very Dodgy!!! Especially as we're in Indonesia! They do not have a good safety reputation
group of children danced in front of us accompanied by bongo drums. During the ceremony the rains came and the winds whipped up but hey - that's the tropics for you!
We walked back to the guesthouse sqwelching in our flip flops.
We spent a morning a exploring the Dutch Fort, Benteng Belgica and the ruins of Benteng Nassau, the first Dutch Fort that was built on the foundations of the earlier Portuguese fort. We roamed around the island and found several Dutch colonial buildings, some in ruins, others converted to guesthouses.
There's a couple of restaurants plus a few Warungs (local cheap eating place) but most tourists eat at Delfika or Mutiara guesthouses, After being on the island for a few days you pretty much know every other tourist around. Many of the tourists are dutch for obvious reasons but we also met people from Spain, Germany, France, Finland, Canada, Italy, Australia and just two others from England.
We hadn't expected to find internet here as the islands are not touristy at all. However the local school let the odd tourist use their computers but it's not easy to get on it's taken us a few
Inside the Plane
The pilote had to negotiate passengers luggage to get to his controls!
days before we could send this message
Anyway, history lesson over, hope I've not bored you too much but it is quite fascinating when you're here!
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