Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Flavor of the Bandas

We came to the Bandas Islands to see the old spice trees and remnants of the old spice wars left over from the Dutch and English East India Trading Companies. They fought wars during the 16th and 17th centuries in the remote Bandas Islands for control over the spices: nutmeg, mace, cloves, cinnamon, and peppercorns. We have stumbled over some old canons casually strewn on the side of the street seemingly waiting to be picked up and used later aide from the slick layer of moss that coats them. Stepping through the crumbling doorways of old forts we find it hard to imagine the old days. But on the hook in the stunning natural anchorage with the smoking volcano, Gunung Api and beautifully still bay I can see trading vessels and warships at anchor and can see the town bustling with action. Almost all of that is gone but for some crumbling old buildings and the hope tourism will come back to the Bandas.

Not only are the Bandas an attraction for the historical value and what little spices are still grown but also for the pristine coral reefs and clear waters off many of the islands. Through rainstorms we have snorkeled beside dried lava flows and along Hatta's coral shelves and even along the pier. We have seen some special things but we are also very spoiled and have quickly lost interest in the mandarinfish and pretty waving soft corals.

Mostly, we are appreciating the warmth and kindness of the people here. I have already made friends with three special women I can barely communicate with. A Muslim 18 year old girl who bravely approached me while I was sitting alone on a lava rock beach and proceeded to tell me about her soul mate love and sing me American love songs (the only one I recognized was "Titanic") with an angelically high pitched voice. The rest of our time together we practiced English and Indonesian and we were smiling the entire time. One woman I met at the market buying weird lemons from her (you know the kind with the warts on them that are very sour?) she taught me to say sampai jumpa (my favorite new phrase, meaning see you later), now we see each other in town
daily and I love her. We always depart with each of us laughing and almost shouting, "sampai jumpa" with huge grins on our faces. And then there was the woman in Banda Besar. We met her wandering through the old nutmeg and almond forest where she was collecting almonds, machete in hand barefoot. We came to her through a rainstorm. Then she took us walking through the forest and got us stunningly fresh nutmeg and glowing rose apples. She walked us to the village and wanted nothing. Instead we asked her for lunch and I photographed what I think were her nieces and her mother. We ate an omelet, rice and msg noodles and then had the excuse to pay her for her time. She walked us down old rock steps holding my hand and smiling the entire way. Lucky me.

The remainder of our time in the Bandas has been spent farming out our laundry to Abba's wife Dilla at the Mutiara Guest House and eating scrumptious meals with them, hanging out with our new Italian tourist friend Claudio, doing boat jobs, teaching two abysmal classes of English (remind me to take an ESL class if we ever do this again) and recovering from a nasty flu. We're leaving here with our fist's full of nutmeg, a fully stocked fridge, and a joyful heart.

1 comment:

Bobby said...

Hey kids! I miss those Indo islands and you too. I'll be back in Bali Aug 1. Any chance you'll be around?

Bobby on Barraveigh