Tuesday, August 3, 2010

In and Around Banda

August 3, 2010--On Thursday the 29th we relaxed in the morning and then joined sv Tin Soldier and sv Esprit on a tour of a nutmeg plantation. We all got aboard one of the longboats and motored through a pass and over to the village of Lonthoir. As we walked through the village, the people were very friendly, and the children would say hello and then follow us for awhile.

We saw the communal water well where a young boy was dropping his bucket and hauling up water to fill jugs. Next we climbed 150 steps and walked through some more of the village until we were at the plantation. The nutmeg plantations also have almond trees, which shade the nutmeg trees, and cinnamon trees. We met two young girls who were picking up nutmeg nuts from the ground and were told that the price of nutmeg is up, which is good for the local people. They also harvest the almonds and cinnamon.

Our guides, Jufri and Wiwinn, were very informative about the history of the nutmeg trade in Banda. In the 15th century, the Banda Islands supplied all the world's quality nutmeg, which was in great global demand. They traded nutmeg with the Arab, Chinese, Javanese, and Bugis merchants who anxiously waited in line to do business. Then in 1512 the Portuguese arrived, followed by the Dutch in 1599. The VOC or Dutch East India Company played a major role in the area. In 1621, because the Bandanese would not hold to a monopolistic trade agreement, the Dutch carried out the virtual genocide of the Bandanese people by killing any male over 15 years of age. The English gave the Dutch problems for awhile; however, a deal was made (I don't know the exact year) for the Dutch to give the English Manhattan Island in exchange for Run Island in Banda. This gave the Dutch a monopoly in the Spice Islands for the next 200 years.

After the plantation tour we went down the hill to Fort Holandia, which was built in 1619. The walls were about the only thing left of this fort, but it was still very interesting to walk around. One of the locals asked us to sign a guest book, which we all did.

That night we ate a quick meal and then went into town for entertainment, dancing, and an awards ceremony. David, a representative of Sail Indonesia, gave out a prize for First Over the Start Line, Best Dressed Boat, and Best Dressed Crew. We were totally shocked when we won the Best Dressed Boat. The prize was a very nice foul weather jacket. Since it was a size medium, I thought that I would get to wear it; however, it swims on me so Steve has a nice new coat.

There were more local dancers who performed the traditional dances of Banda. They were followed by a young band who performed the AC/DC song, "Shook Me All Night Long." After that we all got up and did a Country and Western line dance to Bandanese music. It was great fun, and we were again fed local treats along with ginger tea, which was delicious. We got back to the boat at midnight and called it a night.

We have been SCUBA diving at three locations here. One was at the lava flow of Gunung Api from the eruption in 1988. The other dives were wall dives at two outer islands. The coral here is spectacular and the fish are abundant. Unfortunately, on our last dive, our underwater camera case came open, and we lost our Cannon camera with some great photos on it.

Yesterday we took time to work on the boat, but today we took a tour of Benteng Belgica, which is a fort that was built in 1611 and gave us a wonderful view of the surrounding islands. The fort was extensively restored in the 1990s and was well worth the visit. We also took a stroll through the streets to look in shops and meet some of the locals.

We have loved our time here in Banda. The people have been very gracious hosts. They have fed us and greeted us with warm smiles and friendly, "Hellos." We are very grateful that we came the extra miles up here to be a part of the Sail Banda celebration. We even skipped going to Ambon in order to stay a while longer. We plan take care of last minute items tomorrow and then leave on August 5 for Wakatobi and the Wakatobi Marine National Park, where should be some more wonderful diving opportunities.

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