TUAL to BANDA NAIRA
Our short visit in Tual, Indonesia, was mostly taken up with the country check-in process. After the officials were satisfied we were issued the final gold embossed, stamped certificate allowing us to continue cruising their waters.
Meanwhile we hired a local agent to assist us with buying diesel. There are no fuel docks so we had to get official permission to purchase our 160 litres of fuel from the local petrol station, in Jerry cans, 40 litres at a time. Approximately 50 cents per litre. The gas station was a 20 min drive away, so having our agent and his car was a blessing helping with the 4 trips out to the boat in the dinghy and back again for more. He also took us to the local market to restock our fresh food supplies. We are going to have to do without cheese for the next little while, but they have plenty of other lovely fresh fruits and vegetables.
The city of Tual, is a city divided in half by a bridge. One side of the bridge is Moslem, the other side is Christian, with the church bells from one side competing with the call to prayer from the mosques, on the other. Everybody seems to get along just fine in this unique situation.
However, the city was very dirty, with open drains in the streets, but very colourful, interesting and the people absolutely charming and trustworthy. One morning a wedding tent had been set up in the main street and we were invited in to take pictures.
We did finally meet up with the other boats in the Rally and were surprised at the different nationalities represented. We have German, Swiss, Dutch, Chilean, Spanish, French, Swedish, Danish, English, American, Australian and a few Kiwis, so getting together leads to some very lively conversations. One NZ boat is cruising with their 2 children, 9 and 11yrs, and there are a good number of retirees who have been living this lifestyle for many years. It’s an interesting bunch! We will all make our way to the next island group, the Banda Islands and meet up at the various activities there.
An overnight sail of 190 miles brought us to an anchorage at the foot of the Gunung Api volcano, which last blew in 1988. As we approached the island a whale surfaced right next to Mai Tai, blowing a stream of spray into the air as if to welcome us. We later learnt that Blue Whales have been sighted in the area. What a privilege to witness these giants of the sea so close.
The Banda Islands, a group of 12 tiny volcanic islands, far away to the East of the Indonesian archipelago, have a gruesome history of European nations who fought to take control way back in the 17th century. It was the only place in the world where Nutmeg was found, and in Europe, nutmeg was worth more than gold. The nutmeg, and cloves, that also grow here, became sought-after medicines after the plague in Europe, and then as spices, used to disguise the flavours of aged meat, and add exotic flavours to many dishes.
The Portuguese arrived first, but when the British, then the Dutch realised the real value of this spice they were prepared to murder each other and slaughter the local people in order to take control of these tiny islands. The Dutch took over Banda Naira, built forts on hilltops, with cannons covering all the entrances to the protected anchorages. The locals who resisted were killed, the others made to work as slaves gathering their own nutmeg to be shipped off to Europe.
The British landed on one of the 12 tiny islands nearby, Rhun Island, took control, built their own fort, and claimed the island for Great Britain. The King of England for a short while became King of England, Scotland, Wales and Rhun. At the same time, on the other side of the world the British and the Dutch were fighting over another piece of land, New York’s Manhattan Island. They eventually came to an agreement that the Dutch would leave Manhattan to the British in exchange for Rhun Island, in the East Indies.
We had to go and see what all the fuss was about 400 years ago, so we visited a nutmeg forest. The nutmeg, is the innermost part of a soft fruit. When ripe, the soft fruit splits open to expose the nutmeg and surrounding mace and had to be prepared for shipment back to Europe. Once the nutmeg had been taken and planted elsewhere, for instance, Granada in the Caribbean, the Dutch lost the monopoly and prices plummeted on the international market.
We have loved our visit to Banda Naira and outlying islands. The people here are mostly Moslem. Everything is so colourful, the people happy and friendly and have made us feel very welcome.
Tomorrow some of us will head off to the next stop on the rally itinerary, South Buru, 220 miles away and we look forward to seeing what the next destination will bring.