The ‘East Indies Spice Exploration’ voyage on the Ombak Putih went well, sailing from Flores to Solor, Lembata, Alor, Wetar, Romang, Demar and some smaller islands before reaching the Banda Islands. The only problem was that we encountered some unseasonable rough seas during the last two days when crossing the Banda Sea.
I am now enjoying some downtime on Banda Niera waiting for the Ombak Putih to return from Ambon with those passengers heading north towards Ternate on the Spice Routes Spice Wars leg of the next voyage.
The latest (and greatest!) place to stay in Banda Neira is the Cilu Bintang Estate where your hosts Abba and Dilla Rizal will receive you in their new colonial Dutch style accomodation complete with four poster beds and walls decorated with memorabilia from the three hundred year Dutch (VOC) occupation of the island.
Ibu Dilla Rizal is considered to be on of the finest cooks on the island and excels in combining the flavours of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, asian almond and other exotic spices into her food. Guests flock from all over the island to enjoy her cooking which is usually served buffet style on the hotel terrace.
The legend of Cilu Bintang is that she was the youngest daughter of one of the chiefs on Banda. At that time Banda was often visited by people from the eastern islands toward Timor. One of the chiefs of these eastern islands fell in love with the beautiful Cilu Bintang and requested her hand in marriage. Her father had already tasted the flavour of the nutmeg which apparently grew on these eastern islands and requested a dowry of 99 nutmeg seedlings. Her brothers planted the nutmeg seedlings on the Banda islands where they soon flourished in its rich volcanic soils making Banda the primary source for the Indonesian and then Chinese, Indian and Arab traders who began transporting this exotic and aromatic spice halfway around the world. Because of the length of this journey and they number of hands they passed through while being traded across China, India and the Middle East, then what nutmegs remained when they reached Europe were considered to be worth their weight in gold.
No wonder that Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English traders began seeking their own routes to the Spice Islands and began the so-called European ‘Age of Discovery’.
For more details on the Cilu Bintang Estate please go to the website below: