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Published: October 18th 2014
Alfred Russel Wallace's home
The father of bio geography used this home as a base while developing the theory of geographic evolution and the mapping of the Wallacea line.
Continuing our tour around Ternate, with Linda who had joined us after a late flight and a marathon trek from Kansas, we were leaving Fort Oranje when Sofie tripped over a metal stake sticking out of the fortress wall taking a horrible heavy fall. A fall that would have put most of us in hospital saw us make a quick stop for ice and bandaids at the Apoteki before Sofie insisted on continuing on. As a diver about set out on an exploratory trip this could have been catastrophic, but Sofie is made of tough stuff.
In a fairly large but unassuming house lived Alfred Russel Wallace, the father of bio geography. Wallace's contributions to Geography and Biology equal that of Darwin. Wallace developed the theory of evolution through natural selection and identified the line separating the animals and fauna divide now known as the Wallacea line. Put simply, this part of Indonesia was once part of Australia. There is a distinct divide between the Indonesian archipelago caused by continents breaking apart which is evident by some of Indonesia having native animals of Asian origin and some with Australian origin..yes there are Kangaroos in Papua and the area varies from
Jungle to desert with anthills similar to those found on the Australian main land. He further developed the theory of speciation by identifying natures barriers to hybridization. He was a man with an endless quest and hunger for discovery, adventurer, prolific writer, unlucky in love and probably rather eccentric.
In the Malay archipelago he collected 126,000 species - 80,000 beetles alone. One of his publications delves heavily into climate change and rise and fall of sea levels and glacial ages, gleaning knowledge of past events from rocks and exposed fossilized reefs. While wandering around his home - now occupied by a very helpful family who let us have a look around - fair enough I suppose when the rent is over 100 years overdue - I looked at my companions and said how frustrated Wallace must have been being limited to land when he could clearly see another amazing world below the surface of the islands he lived on and traveled to.
I found this comment from one of his journals -
In The World of Life
(1911) he wrote:
These considerations should lead us to look upon all the works of nature, animate or inanimate, as invested with a certain sanctity, to be used by us but not abused, and never to be recklessly destroyed or defaced. To pollute a spring or a river, to exterminate a bird or beast, should be treated as moral offences and as social crimes; ... Yet during the past century, which has seen those great advances in the knowledge of Nature of which we are so proud, there has been no corresponding development of a love or reverence for her works; so that never before has there been such widespread ravage of the earth's surface by destruction of native vegetation and with it of much animal life, and such wholesale defacement of the earth by mineral workings and by pouring into our streams and rivers the refuse of manufactories and of cities; and this has been done by all the greatest nations claiming the first place for civilisation and religion
Wallace that he would turn in his grave at the state of the world today.
I dont know if these are genuine or genuine made to order reproduction antiques but I like to imagine Wallace sitting here deciding which sub species to catalogue a beetle under.
After our intrusion on the family living in Wallaces home it was time to continue on.
On we went but first, we needed lunch.
Our driver suggested we would like to eat at a beachside restaurant at Sulamadaha Beach one of the prettiest beaches in Ternate.
The spice islands seem to have a liberal approach to the definition of restaurant. The road into the beach area has a booth where we paid a small entrance fee which entitled us to free much needed use of clean toilets. I was looking for the restaurant and could only see a pile of shacks and rows upon rows of tables - all facing the beach - one side only big enough for seating. Sitting on the ''school bus bench'' to eat meant waiting for a goat to move or brushing a chicken out of the way so you could fit your legs under the table.
The safest thing we could find to order seemed to be noodle cups, with Simon overseeing the cooking to ensure they boiled bottled water - none of us got sick so always rely on the humble noodle cup in times of um..i dont recognise
that meat as anything thats ever come off anything thats moo'd, baa'd or swam. The fish didnt smell real flash - typical racks of grilled and dried Indo fish. We played it safe.
After lunch we walked up along the cliff face around the rockface up and down steps (legs, get used to it, you have a long way to go!) through beautiful scenery ending in the beautiful Sulumadaha beach. Vendors sold inner tubes for rent and local families floated around, ate corn cobs, had picnics, laughed and splashed, the perfect saturday afternoon in Ternate. This bay really was beautiful, unfortunately for most of the trip the light didnt offer much help with capturing the sheer wildness and amazing colors the north Malukas are made of.
After a look at the beach with its white coral sand we headed back over the hill as we were due to visit the magical lake. I spied a stall holder selling my favourite Indochine 3 in 1 coffee sachets and approached her pointing at them and finally getting the message across I wanted all that she had. She would only sell me 6. I tried to pay her in
Indonesian Rupiah from 1998 which she refused. She fished through my purse, took out a 1000 rupiah note and gave me back change. The people of Ternate really are gracious hosts. Even if they do limit the amount of Indochine you can buy.
She actually looked pretty strict. Like the Soup Nazi..I imagined if I spoke enough Indonesian she would have yelled at me Only 6 for you today! No More for YOU! I discussed this with Linda who graciously offered to buy some more on my behalf when she walked past on the way back.
Coffee lady had gone so we piled back into the cars for our trip to the magic lake - lake Tolire Besar. This magical lake had been created by a biological accident when a drunken father didnt recognise his daughter and had sex with her...or something similar..making them both turn into lakes from what I could understand. His was the big lake with crocodiles in it (actually a caldera from a collapse during an explosion in the 1700s - but how the hell did the crocodiles get in there? - sea level rise and fall?). Around 6000 years ago this bit of
Lindas legs and a goat under the table
Leg space was fiercely competed for - sitting at the school bus benches.
land was the fringe of the Australian continental land mass in its last violent tectonic tantrum breaking free. We were not lucky lucky and did not see any magical white crocodiles, although they are there. It also proves Russ's observation that if you put something in a plastic bag and a price on it people will buy it. Tradition has the locals here buying bags of rocks to throw into the lake - although there are rocks everywhere.
Starting to tire we headed back towards Batu Angus, the burnt rocks, a lava flow from a catastrophic eruption in 1840 when almost every home was destroyed. The biggest eruption which caused the burnt rocks or Batu Angus was probably the 1712 eruption creating an alien landscape of black glossy spires tumbling down into the ocean. The rocks are testament to the fury of Gamalama, Its still very active, last erupting in 2003 and Ternate residents often have to evacuate to nearby Tidore. Our driver had lost his home when one of the smaller volcano's on another island had erupted. The beauty and insistence of life to continue is evident at Batu Angus with the emergence of fragile maidenhair ferns in
the fractures of the rocks, life simply refusing to be defeated. It might have taken almost 400 years but give it another 400 and the entire area will be carpeted with greenery. A group of young men live here amongst the rocks, creating a park by planting trees where ever they can find soil and keeping the area clean. When wind, sea and time erode these rocks into fertile soil it will be prime agricultural land. Perhaps they are staking a claim for generations to come. Its not unusual to find flags denoting a family's claim to an area on lava flows. Living on a volcano, which most of these islands are nothing more than, breeds resilience and patience.
I was in geomorphic heaven. Trying to imagine the force that caused the burnt rocks had me doing some pretty wierd expressions and actions while trying to explain to Sofie who was probably thinking..um yeah, black rocks, surrounded by black rocks...Its a geomorphic thing.
Tired and having seen almost all of this tiny island yet having just scratched the surface we made our way back to Villa Marasai for another lovely night before our trip to Tidore the following
day. The rain kindly waited until we were 3/4 of the way to Vila Marasai before it started smacking down - my room developed a small leak and the aitrium in the centre of the dining areas became a wonderful waterfall.
I snuck outside to have a cigarette when Pak Hasrun opened the door to remove a large frog who had positioned himself in the lobby importantly and spotted fireflies. Tim and Linda called them lightning bugs. We had a discussion about photographing them so Tim grabbed his mega camera and started snapping some shots. Fireflies or lightning bugs are not easy to photograph as they like to flit happily about but Tim did capture some light trails.
After dinner and conversation we all retired to our rooms sleepy and tired from our day trip around Ternate. I quickly fell into a deep sleep and just as quickly woke up needing a pee - I should know drinking 20 watermelon shakes a day makes me pee a lot but I dont really care, I love the taste of them.
Sitting on the toilet I noticed tiny lights everywhere in my room - Id left the windows open!
YES Fireflies in my room! What a wonderful way to drift off to sleep - watching firefly's through the mosquito netting over the comfy bed listening to geckos chirping. We had a big day planned the next day so I didnt stay awake long to watch the fire flies. Pak Hasrun probably cursed me the next day when he had to remove them from the room.
Ternate, you were worth waiting for.
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