Ubud Food Festival, 5-7 June 2015

Mari Makan Competition Graphic

Food Forum | The Spice Islands Friday June 5, 2:30pm, at Taman Baca

For a serving of spice island history, Ian Burnet will dish up a tale of the high seas and colonial rule focusing on Indonesia’s legendary spices, cloves and nutmeg.

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Fascinated by its rich history and diverse cultures, Ian Burnet has lived, worked and travelled in Indonesia for 30 years. His two historical books – Spice Islands and East Indies – are highly revered, while his third, Archipelago – a personal story of a journey across the archipelago, will be published this year.

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Please go to the Ubud Food Festival website for the full Program

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Fort Nieuw Victoria, Ambon — A Mystery Solved?

A fort on this location was built by the Portuguese in the 1500’s and then captured by the first war fleet commissioned by the United Dutch East India Company in 1605 and commanded by Steven van de Hagen. The fort was the first permanent settlement of the VOC in the East Indies and the first three Governor’s-General of the VOC were based here, prior to the establishment of Batavia in 1619.

The first Governor-General was Frederick de Houtman from 1605-1611, who happened to speak fluent Malay as a result of his eighteen month imprisonment by the Sultan of Aceh. A painting of Ambon and a greatly exaggerated Fort Victoria hangs in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam with an adjacent cartouche showing an image of Frederick de Houtman. The cartouche that is painted out is where Frederick de Houtman apparently claimed credit for the capture of the fort, credit which belonged to Steven van de Hagen.

Fort Victoria

Fort Victoria

The fort was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1754 and rebuilt as Fort Nieuw Victoria. Ambon and its surrounding islands became more important to the VOC as it was here that they concentrated their clove plantations so as to control and monopolize the production of cloves from the Moluccas.
Fort Nieuw Victoria is still a military base so there is no public access and even photography of the outside of the fort is forbidden. When I visited I was able to see a very impressive changing of the guard ceremony (no photographs allowed) and tried to convince the guard on duty if I could take a photograph of the historic entrance, no success until one of the commanding officers came along and said “ok, let that crazy foreigner take his photo, but remember only the entrance”.

Fort Nieuw Victoria 1755

Fort Nieuw Victoria 1755

Each of the bastions is named and on exploring the outer walls I found Groeningen and Hollandia but could not get access to the others.

Fort Nieuw Victoria

Fort Nieuw Victoria

Bastion Hollandia

Bastion Hollandia

Near the northwest bastion I found a plaque with the words Adriana Iohanna (Johanna?) which I assumed to be a name or names, and I was curious as to its significance.

Adriana Johanna

Adriana Johanna

Could this be Adriana de Stuers-de Kock? Her father headed the Dutch contingents that fought against Diponegoros’ armies in the ‘Java Wars’. Adriana was born in Surabaja in 1809, grew up in Batavia, and married her father’s adjudant in 1828. In 1837 her husband was appointed governor of the Moluccas. Unfortunately the ship carrying the new governor and his family founded on a coral reef on route to Ambon. Here the 140 passengers and crew including Adriana, who was now expecting her fifth child, managed to survive by clinging to the reef and the wreck. After four weeks of this ordeal they were finally rescued and brought to Ambon.

Is this the same Adriana on the plaque or somebody else? My thanks to Abe Smits a voyager on our 2014 Spice Routes/Spice Wars sailing adventure who brought the name of Adriana Johanna Bake to my attention.

It now seems more likely that the plaque is for Adriana Johanna Bake who was born in Ambon in 1724 and married in 1743 in Batavia to Petrus Albertus van Parra who became Governor-General of the East Indies in 1761, and for whom an inscription is seen on the entrance to the fort. Of course we still need to know the significance of the plaque in her name, but we can imagine her visiting the town of her birth and newly rebuilt Fort with her husband the Governor-General and being honoured in this way.

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East Indies Spice Exploration 2015 – Flores to Ambon (Updated)

Departure from Maumere on Flores September 26 for 12 days until October 7 in Ambon

The Ombak Putih

The Ombak Putih

“ …I would dream of the fabled Spice Islands. Images of palm-fringed tropical islands backed by towering volcanoes filled my imagination and I saw myself arriving on their sandy shores by sailing boat, like the explorers, adventurers and traders that had gone before me…“ (from ‘Spice Islands’, 2011, by Ian Burnet)

SeaTrek has teamed up with author and Spice Islands expert Ian Burnet to curate this fascinating look at the colonial history of Indonesia and it’s role in the international spice trade of the 17th century. This 12-day voyage travels in an eastward arc capturing the maritime route of early colonials who traversed the Indonesian waters in search of the precious spices found within this small band of islands. Ian Burnet will lend his expertise and you will be transported back in time as you learn about historic outposts, see the colorful native villages, experience the marketplaces, and smell the aroma of the spice plantations. These unforgettable excursions on land will be matched by those at sea as the Ombak Putih wends her way through stunning volcanic islands with stops at pristine beaches, giving guests ample time to swim and snorkel in some of the richest and most magical waters in the world.

Maumere to Ambon

Maumere to Ambon

Day 1
Our guide will meet you and organize your transfer from Maumere airport to the harbor and boarding on the Ombak Putih. For those who may have arrived the previous day, in the morning after boarding the ship we will tour the small village of Watoblapi to enjoy a village dance and see a demonstration of their local traditional weavings. Watublapi is a small community in the Sikka district well known for its fine traditional ikat weaving. Whereas many other local weaving communities switched to industrially spun yarn and chemical dyes for the sake of saving time and money, the weavers of Watublapi still use the traditional, handspun yarn made out of local cotton, as well as local natural dyes.
When all voyagers have arrived and settled in their cabins, we will weigh anchor and navigate the Cape of Flowers (Cabo de Flores), so named by a Portuguese expedition crew in the early 16th century, and head for the port of Larantuka. Enroute, we are certain to enjoy a first swim and snorkel in these beautiful waters.

Maumere to Lembata

The Flores Strait with the islands of Adonara, Lembata and Solor

The Flores Strait with the islands of Adonara, Lembata and Solor

Day 2
In the morning we will moor close to the town of Larantuka, the capital of Flores Timur and a central hub for early colonization and Catholic clerical activities. There we will see the five Catholic Churches and the ‘Stations of the Cross’ built along the waterfront. Later we will cross the Flores Strait and visit the village of Lohayong on the island of Solor, a lot of the villagers here make a living by processing sea salt. The process is seasonal, but with a bit of luck we will be able to witness the process. After that we will visit the ruins of Fort Henricus built by Dominican Friars in 1566 to protect their spiritual work from enemies. Early Portuguese sandalwood traders left this task to the missionaries. The fort was later captured by the Dutch East Indies Company. Back on the ship we will have a beautiful sail through the Solor Strait with the Lili Boleng volcano on the island of Adonara as backdrop as we as we navigate to Lembata Island. As always, we will work to plan time to stop for a swim and a snorkel.

Churches along the waterfront in Larantuka

Churches along the waterfront in Larantuka

Day 3
Today we arrive in Lamalera, island of Lembata, which is one of the two remaining whaling villages in Indonesia. Bordering the Timor Straits, the village is in an area long recognized as hunting-grounds on the nineteenth century British and American whaling voyages. Since at least 1836 these villages have taken various species of whales and yet today, these traditions remain available to observe. On the beach we will see the small craft for the hunting of the sperm whales and perhaps preparation for their hunt if whales are in the vicinity. This small-scale hunting (no more than 25 per year) is considered sustainable, and the local economy has some dependency upon it. We might join a short sailing on of one of the boats, admiring the harpoonist standing on the edge of the bowsprit. In the afternoon, we begin our sail to Alor.

Traditional whaling at Lamalera

Traditional whaling at Lamalera

Day 4
The bay of Kalabahi on Alor is enchanting in the morning. We will visit a traditional village in the mountains where we may witness a war dance around the mesbah, the ritual center of the village. Here we will see the moko drums, which for centuries have been part of a wife’s dowry as well as played for New Year celebrations and are thought to originate from Indochina. Alor produces Ikat cloth famous for its intricate patterns and bright colors. In the evening we will proceed further to the east and the western Daya Islands in the southern Banda Sea.

Kalabahi Bay

Kalabahi Bay

Traditional Ikat weaving and bronze Moko drums on Alor

Traditional Ikat weaving and bronze Moko drums on Alor

Day 5
Today we cross between the Lesser Sunda Islands group and the Moluccas of the region known as Maluku. The first Moluccan island we will enounter is Wetar. We will anchor here in a delightful bay. The island appears virtually impenetrable from the sea. It and close by islands comprise part of Wallacea, the area of deep water separating the Asian and Australian continental shelves. We will find fishermen drying their catch on the beach, great swimming/snorkeling and visit local villages. In the evening the captain will set the Ombak Putih on an easterly course towards Romang.

Wetar, Romang and Damar

Wetar, Romang and Damar

Day 6
We will awaken off the island of Romang. After our breakfast gathering on the deck we will have a chance to trek around the island. Back on the boat we will have lunch while we sail eastward to the tiny island of Mapora here we spend the rest of the afternoon snorkeling and beachcombing.

Fish for Dinner

Fish for Dinner

Day 7
In the morning we will reach Damar, the next island in the Ring of Fire chain. This island, volcanic in nature, was one of the few islands outside of the Bandas that produced nutmeg. All the trees were destroyed by the V.O.C. in 1648 to further monopolize the spice trade. We will visit a small village consisting of simple huts made from leafs of the sago palm. Staple foods of the locals are sweet potatoes (ubi), bananas and fish.

A volcano erupting in the Flores Sea

A volcano erupting in the Flores Sea

Day 8
We will pass four spectacular volcanic islands virtually standing alone and jutting from the clear blue ocean. Known as stratovolcanoes, meaning built up over successive millenniums of periodic eruptions, they express a quiet beauty for us to enjoy. We will make a stop at Serua, the last in this extended chain of volcanoes. It is home to one of the few villages in the chain. If time allows we visit to experience their remote lifestyle. Since the eruptions in the sixties and seventies, many of these island populations have migrated to other islands in the Moluccas. Today, we also reach the small island of Manuk which is uninhabited by humans but truly a bird and marine sanctuary. Frigate birds, gannets and other marine birds have their nests in the trees. If the tide allows, we will make a landing and go in for an up close look at the birds and wildlife. In the late afternoon we proceed towards the Spice Islands.

The Banda Islands

The Banda Islands

Day 9
The first of the Banda Islands is Run. An amazing historical footnote is the fact that in 1667, under the Treaty of Breda, this small island was ceded by the English to the Dutch in exchange for Manhattan. After rounding Run we will reach the Island of Ai. Here we go ashore on a beautiful beach to meet with the villagers. A short walk brings us to Fort Revenge which was built by the English before being captured by the Dutch. Behind the fort we find the first nutmeg plantations. During lunch the captain will move us to the main island of Bandaneira. With the Ombak Putih moored in the bay, we will spend the afternoon strolling through the old town and get a feel for its incredible history viewing the restored planters’ mansions, fortifications and churches. We will find that Fort Belgica built by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was an early blueprint of the Pentagon. Even today this island population is an interesting mix of Malay, Arab, Dutch and Melanesian. At the end of the day we will spend a quiet evening under the stars in the lagoon.

The Banda Islands

The Banda Islands

Day 10
In the course of the morning we cross over to visit Lonthor, the largest island in the chain. We visit the fortress Hollandia and the nutmeg plantation of the last perkenier,small land owner, on the island. By lunch-time we get back to the ship and in the afternoon there will be time to go snorkeling at the black lava stream caused by the eruption of Gunung Api.

Day 11
The morning is free to spend at leisure in Banda Neira. We invite the fit and ambitious to first come along for an early morning ascent of the Gunung Api volcano. While this is a challenging climb up a narrow track to an elevation of about 600 meters the reward to reach the top of the “Fire Mountain” is more than worth it: a stunning and unforgettable view over the Banda Sea, the surrounding islands and the crater itself. On our way out the ‘Sonnegat’ (sun’s gap) between Bandanaira and Gunung Api we are often escorted by one or two ‘Kora-Kora’, long sea canoes, rowed by over a dozen muscled men and used in ancient times to attack the invading colonists.

Kora kora at Banda

Kora kora at Banda

Day 12
We arrive at the harbor on the island of Ambon. After breakfast, it’s time to say a final farewell to the crew and the Ombak Putih. Depending upon flight departure times we may have a morning program to see the town, the markets and a visit to the local museum, we then board a coach for our transfer to Ambon airport for the flight via Makassar to Denpasar.

Please go to the Seatrek Sailing Adventures website for the full details

http://www.seatrekbali.com/cruise/east-indies-spice-exploration-with-ian-burnett/

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Old Batavia – Public Enemy Number One

The tombstone of Peter Erberveld has been relocated from its original site on Jalan Pangeran Jayakarta (Near Gereja Sion or the Portuguese Church) to Taman Prasasti (The Garden of Tombstones) in Tanah Abang. The spike through the skull is a graphic reminder of his fate and the tombstone reads:

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As a detestable memory of the punished traitor Pieter Erberveld nobody shall now or ever be allowed to build, to carpenter, to lay bricks, or to plant in this place. Batavia, 14th of April 1722.

Peter Erberveld was of mixed blood and his crime was to plot a rebellion against the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC), and according to his accusers, kill all the Dutch inhabitants of Batavia on New Year’s Eve of 1721/22.

A few days before that date, he, his co-conspirator a Javanese named Raden Kartadria and seventeen followers were arrested during a secret meeting at his house on Jalan Pangeran Jayakarta. This was followed by the arrest of another thirty of his followers. After confessions were obtained by torture, he and his followers were cruelly put to death on the Gallows Field in front of Kasteel Batavia and not as usual in front of the Stadhuis. This may have done for security reasons as the VOC was afraid of a continuation of the planned rebellion or since the leading conspirators were ‘hung, drawn, and quartered’, the horror may have been considered too much for the general citizens of Batavia.

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The stone tablet in memory of the traitor Peter Erberveld is inscribed in both Dutch and Javanese as a warning to all the 18th century inhabitants of Batavia.

[Reference – The Historical Sites of Jakarta, A.Heuken SJ, Cipta Loka Caraka ]

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Old Batavia – The Westzijdsche Pakhuizan

The Westzijdsche Pakhuizen or Western warehouses were built in the early part of the 17th century by the United Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) to store spices and other goods coming from across the archipelago, before they were shipped back to Holland in the twice annual convoy of the ‘Home Fleet’. This painting from 1649 shows Asian and Dutch ships anchored off Batavia and a Dutch East Indiaman being loaded with goods which are being brought down the Ciliwung River. On the left side of the river is the former Kasteel Batavia which protected the city from attack and on the right are the Western warehouses

Asian and Dutch ships at anchor off Batavia

Asian and Dutch ships at anchor off Batavia

This 1780 map of Batavia courtesy of the Bartele Gallery in Jakarta shows the Western warehouses located on the right bank of the Ciliwung River opposite Kasteel Batavia, labelled with the letter y and next to Bastion Middleburg labelled 27.

Batavia, at the mouth of the Ciliwung River

Batavia, at the mouth of the Ciliwung River

Today, the Warehouses have been restored and house the Jakarta Maritime Museum or Museum Bahari. This photo taken from the adjacent Harbour Master’s Tower shows the typical Dutch architecture of the restored buildings.

The restored Westzijdsche Pakhuizen which are now the Museum Bahari (Jakarta Maritime Museum)

The restored Westzijdsche Pakhuizen which are now the Museum Bahari (Jakarta Maritime Museum)

Looking north from the Harbour Master’s Tower towards the entrance to the Maritime Museum.

Looking towards the entrance of the Maritime Museum

Looking towards the entrance of the Maritime Museum

A view of the interior courtyard between the buildings of the Westzijdsche Pakhuizen

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There were a number of extensions to the Western warehouses and this ‘new’ wing was added in 1774

The 'new' 1774 building

The ‘new’ 1774 building

There are many interesting exhibits on display in the Maritime Museum showing the types of maritime vessels used across the archipelago, and the history of Jakarta including this model of Kasteel Batavia

Model of Kasteel Batavia in the Museum Bahari

Model of Kasteel Batavia in the Museum Bahari

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East Indies Spice Exploration — Flores to Ambon

Departure from Maumere on Flores September 26 for 12 days until October 7 in Ambon

The Ombak Putih

The Ombak Putih

“ …I would dream of the fabled Spice Islands. Images of palm-fringed tropical islands backed by towering volcanoes filled my imagination and I saw myself arriving on their sandy shores by sailing boat, like the explorers, adventurers and traders that had gone before me…“ (from ‘Spice Islands’, 2011, by Ian Burnet)

SeaTrek has teamed up with author and Spice Islands expert Ian Burnet to curate this fascinating look at the colonial history of Indonesia and it’s role in the international spice trade of the 17th century. This 12-day voyage travels in an eastward arc capturing the maritime route of early colonials who traversed the Indonesian waters in search of the precious spices found within this small band of islands. Ian Burnet will lend his expertise and you will be transported back in time as you learn about historic outposts, see the colorful native villages, experience the marketplaces, and smell the aroma of the spice plantations. These unforgettable excursions on land will be matched by those at sea as the Ombak Putih wends her way through stunning volcanic islands with stops at pristine beaches, giving guests ample time to swim and snorkel in some of the richest and most magical waters in the world.

Maumere to Ambon

Maumere to Ambon

Day 1
Our guide will meet you and organize your transfer from Maumere airport to the harbor and boarding on the Ombak Putih. For those who may have arrived the previous day, in the morning after boarding the ship we will tour the small village of Watoblapi to enjoy a village dance and see a demonstration of their local traditional weavings. Watublapi is a small community in the Sikka district well known for its fine traditional ikat weaving. Whereas many other local weaving communities switched to industrially spun yarn and chemical dyes for the sake of saving time and money, the weavers of Watublapi still use the traditional, handspun yarn made out of local cotton, as well as local natural dyes.
When all voyagers have arrived and settled in their cabins, we will weigh anchor and navigate the Cape of Flowers (Cabo de Flores), so named by a Portuguese expedition crew in the early 16th century, and head for the port of Larantuka. Enroute, we are certain to enjoy a first swim and snorkel in these beautiful waters.

Maumere to Lembata

Day 2
In the morning we will moor close to the town of Larantuka, the capital of Flores Timur and a central hub for early colonization and Catholic clerical activities. There we will see the five Catholic Churches and the ‘Stations of the Cross’ built along the waterfront. Later we will cross the Flores Strait and visit the village of Lohayong on the island of Solor, a lot of the villagers here make a living by processing sea salt. The process is seasonal, but with a bit of luck we will be able to witness the process. After that we will visit the ruins of Fort Henricus built by Dominican Friars in 1566 to protect their spiritual work from enemies. Early Portuguese sandalwood traders left this task to the missionaries. The fort was later captured by the Dutch East Indies Company. Back on the ship we will have a beautiful sail through the Solor Strait with the Lili Boleng volcano on the island of Adonara as backdrop as we as we navigate to Lembata Island. As always, we will work to plan time to stop for a swim and a snorkel.

Larantuka

Larantuka

Day 3
Today we arrive in Lamalera, island of Lembata, which is one of the two remaining whaling villages in Indonesia. Bordering the Timor Straits, the village is in an area long recognized as hunting-grounds on the nineteenth century British and American whaling voyages. Since at least 1836 these villages have taken various species of whales and yet today, these traditions remain available to observe. On the beach we will see the small craft for the hunting of the sperm whales and perhaps preparation for their hunt if whales are in the vicinity. This small-scale hunting (no more than 25 per year) is considered sustainable, and the local economy has some dependency upon it. We might join a short sailing on of one of the boats, admiring the harpoonist standing on the edge of the bowsprit. In the afternoon, we begin our sail to Alor.
Day 4
The bay of Kalabahi on Alor is enchanting in the morning. We will visit a traditional village in the mountains where we may witness a war dance around the mesbah, the ritual center of the village. Here we will see the moko drums, which for centuries have been part of a wife’s dowry as well as played for New Year celebrations and are thought to originate from Indochina. Alor produces Ikat cloth famous for its intricate patterns and bright colors. In the evening we will proceed further to the east and the western Daya Islands in the southern Banda Sea.

Alor

Day 5
Today we cross between the Lesser Sunda Islands group and the Moluccas of the region known as Maluku. The first Moluccan island we will enounter is Wetar. We will anchor here in a delightful bay. The island appears virtually impenetrable from the sea. It and close by islands comprise part of Wallacea, the area of deep water separating the Asian and Australian continental shelves. We will find fishermen drying their catch on the beach, great swimming/snorkeling and visit local villages. In the evening the captain will set the Ombak Putih on an easterly course towards Romang.
Day 6
We will awaken off the island of Romang. After our breakfast gathering on the deck we will have a chance to trek around the island. Back on the boat we will have lunch while we sail eastward to the tiny island of Mapora here we spend the rest of the afternoon snorkeling and beachcombing.

Alor

Day 7
In the morning we will reach Damar, the next island in the Ring of Fire chain. This island, volcanic in nature, was one of the few islands outside of the Bandas that produced nutmeg. All the trees were destroyed by the V.O.C. in 1648 to further monopolize the spice trade. We will visit a small village consisting of simple huts made from leafs of the sago palm. Staple foods of the locals are sweet potatoes (ubi), bananas and fish.
Day 8
We will pass four spectacular volcanic islands virtually standing alone and jutting from the clear blue ocean. Known as stratovolcanoes, meaning built up over successive millenniums of periodic eruptions, they express a quiet beauty for us to enjoy. We will make a stop at Serua, the last in this extended chain of volcanoes. It is home to one of the few villages in the chain. If time allows we visit to experience their remote lifestyle. Since the eruptions in the sixties and seventies, many of these island populations have migrated to other islands in the Moluccas. Today, we also reach the small island of Manuk which is uninhabited by humans but truly a bird and marine sanctuary. Frigate birds, gannets and other marine birds have their nests in the trees. If the tide allows, we will make a landing and go in for an up close look at the birds and wildlife. In the late afternoon we proceed towards the Spice Islands.

The Banda Islands

The Banda Islands

Day 9
The first of the Banda Islands is Run. An amazing historical footnote is the fact that in 1667, under the Treaty of Breda, this small island was ceded by the English to the Dutch in exchange for Manhattan. After rounding Run we will reach the Island of Ai. Here we go ashore on a beautiful beach to meet with the villagers. A short walk brings us to Fort Revenge which was built by the English before being captured by the Dutch. Behind the fort we find the first nutmeg plantations. During lunch the captain will move us to the main island of Bandaneira. With the Ombak Putih moored in the bay, we will spend the afternoon strolling through the old town and get a feel for its incredible history viewing the restored planters’ mansions, fortifications and churches. We will find that Fort Belgica built by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was an early blueprint of the Pentagon. Even today this island population is an interesting mix of Malay, Arab, Dutch and Melanesian. At the end of the day we will spend a quiet evening under the stars in the lagoon.

The Banda Islands

The Banda Islands

Day 10
In the course of the morning we cross over to visit Lonthor, the largest island in the chain. We visit the fortress Hollandia and the nutmeg plantation of the last perkenier,small land owner, on the island. By lunch-time we get back to the ship and in the afternoon there will be time to go snorkeling at the black lava stream caused by the eruption of Gunung Api.

Day 11
The morning is free to spend at leisure in Banda Neira. We invite the fit and ambitious to first come along for an early morning ascent of the Gunung Api volcano. While this is a challenging climb up a narrow track to an elevation of about 600 meters the reward to reach the top of the “Fire Mountain” is more than worth it: a stunning and unforgettable view over the Banda Sea, the surrounding islands and the crater itself. On our way out the ‘Sonnegat’ (sun’s gap) between Bandanaira and Gunung Api we are often escorted by one or two ‘Kora-Kora’, long sea canoes, rowed by over a dozen muscled men and used in ancient times to attack the invading colonists.

Kora kora at Banda

Kora kora at Banda

Day 12
We arrive at the harbor on the island of Ambon. After breakfast, it’s time to say a final farewell to the crew and the Ombak Putih. Depending upon flight departure times we may have a morning program to see the town, the markets and a visit to the local museum, we then board a coach for our transfer to Ambon airport for the flight via Makassar to Denpasar.

Please go to the Seatrek Sailing Adventures website for the full details

http://www.seatrekbali.com/cruise/east-indies-spice-exploration-with-ian-burnett/

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Exploring the Spice Islands — 2014

Exploring the Spice Islands in Eastern Indonesia. – Garry and Anna Connery

The following article was published in the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron magazine — Logbook

In October we travelled in Eastern Indonesia. On the way to the Spice Islands in the Moluccas we enjoyed four days in Bali at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, an experience to be recommended. An interesting cohort of speakers with diverse strands and activities.
This however was a prelude to the main purpose of our Indonesian trip – 12 days and 1100 kilometres on a traditional 35 metres long Sulawesi Bugis Phinisi, a beam of 10 metres and two masts rigged fore-and-aft with marine-blue sails. These vessels have been built for centuries for cargo and transport throughout the Indonesian Archipelago. The ‘Ombak Putih’ has been purpose built with 12 snug ensuite cabins and we had 20 fellow travellers from France, England, Holland, Canada, USA, Indonesia and Australia.
This trip turned out to be enormously educational highlighting the history of maritime exploration, trade, imperial domination, geographical, geopolitical and geophysical histories … and one of the best holidays ever!
Ambon, our starting point, is a busy central port for the Moluccas. We visited the beautifully maintained Commonwealth Graves Cemetery which honours our fallen soldiers, sailors and airmen, many from Gull Force (2/21st Australian Infantry Battalion). Over 2,000 Australian, American, English and Dutch servicemen, many unknown, lie here and we found the grave of the notable Australian cinematographer, Damien Parer.
A peaceful resting place and a moving experience.

Sailing to the Spice Islands

Sailing to the Spice Islands


As the sun set we joined our vessel and headed overnight south east to the Banda Islands, approximately 240 kilometres, arriving at the island of Ai under billowing navy sails (assisted by motor!) in the early afternoon. The Banda Islands are 900 kilometres directly north of Darwin. The islands Ai, Run, Lonthiar and Banda Neira are central to the history of the Spice Trade, particularly the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English who fought ferocious battles, massacred local islanders, and built substantial forts to protect their spice interests which were worth more than gold by the time they reached Europe. We visited the nutmeg groves shaded by huge kenari trees and saw the sun-drying of nutmeg, mace, cinnamon and kenari nuts. Two kora kora canoes, beautifully painted with 25 – 30 paddlers in each, raced each other to rapid drum beat in a farewell as we left Banda.

Kora kora at Banda

Kora kora at Banda

We were accompanied by Ian Burnet, the author of the books Spice Islands and East Indies, who has spent 20 years living, working and travelling in the Indonesian archipelago during his career as a geologist/geophysicist. His fascination with the 2000 year history of the spice trade and also contemporary Indonesia gave us a new perspective on our close neighbour which is complex with its population of 246 million peoples in 18,500 islands … quite a task for their new President, Joko Widodo.
The history of spices is a little like a history of the world! Egyptologists have recorded cloves in the tombs of the Pyramids and archaeologists found clove buds in a ceramic pot dated 1,721BC in Terqa, Syria. The earliest versions of the Ramayana epic (300BC) mention seafarers bringing cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to India and cloves have been dated to the Han Dynasty (200BC) in China. Traders opened the Silk Road across Central Asia in 138BC with trade dominated for several hundred years by Middle Eastern and Venetian merchants. The lure of the fabled spices drove the “Age of Discovery” and the first circumnavigation of the world. Spain and Portugal backed explorers such as Columbus, Vasco de Gama and Magellan to try to find a sea route directly to the Spice Islands. The Portuguese reached Banda to trade nutmeg in 1512, the Spanish Armada de Molucca arrived in 1521, Francis Drake arrived in Ternate in 1579, the first Dutch fleet in 1596. The English East India Company was formed in 1601 followed by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1602 who eventually came to control the trade. In 1667 the Dutch agreed to a land swap to gain the last island, Run which they exchanged for a small island on the North East coast of America – Manhattan in New Amsterdam – now New York!

Spices drying in the sun

Spices drying in the sun

The trip was not all history! Most days we swam and snorkelled in crystal clear waters. Several times we stopped as pods of whales and dolphin surrounded us. Thrice daily buffets with an Indonesian influence, many with fresh fish speared by the crew, were served on the quarter deck where we enjoyed exchanging stories of our fellow travellers. Some evenings the 15 crew entertained us with singing and dancing and one night about 30 from a local village arrived on board to party and sing accompanied by their “tea-chest” bass!
Perfectly calm weather meant we sailed only on the first day – mostly we motored overnight to the next island seeing the production nutmeg, cashew, cloves, sago, copra and dried fish with a following of most of the village children! Twice we visited local schools where we caused chaos – visitors are rare in these small communities and every child had to clap hands or high five with us all! One school gave an impromptu concert led by our Captain.

Crossing the Equator

Crossing the Equator

After passing the Ceram Sea and Halmahera Island we crossed the Equator which brought us close to Tidore, Makian and Ternate, three volcano cones which rise majestically from the water. Tidore was in full preparation for the swearing in of its new Sultan within a few days. Ternate is a busy centre of trade as it has been for centuries. It sits in the shadow of the Gammalama Volcano which last erupted in 2012.

Volcano on Tidore

Volcano on Tidore

The day starts with the calling to prayer at 4am. There is a mosque every two blocks and each amplified call is different – hard to sleep through, even across the water! In the evening there was a beauty to these unaccustomed sounds. We visited some of the forts built by the Portuguese and Dutch, the home of Alfred Russel Wallace where he penned his famous letter to Charles Darwin on the Theory of Evolution and the Palace of the Sultan. A final farewell dinner on board, singing with the crew, whilst the sound of Ternate partying on Saturday night wafted across the water. This was not quite a ‘sailing’ holiday, but certainly an experience and an education. 12 days of no watch, no shoes and no internet – perfect!

No watch, no shoes, no internet --- perfect

No watch, no shoes, no internet — perfect

Text by Anna Connery
Photos by Anna Connery and Jeffrey Mellefont

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