11th March 1995
We spent two nights and a day in Ambon, staying at Wisma Game (Rp.15,000). We discovered coffee-cake shops to hang out in and found snorkling spots, ruins of forts and nice people out of town on the west coast.
But Ternate and Tidore beckoned.
Gunung Kiematuba on Tidore viewed from Ternate
After a Bouraq flight (Rp.126,000), an interminable wait for our bags, a long walk to the main road for a bemo, then a sweaty exploration of the town because we couldn’t get our bearings, we found the recommended Wisma Alhilal had shut.
So we ended up at the Merdeka Hotel in Ternate with an obsequious young man practising his English for a bargained non-bargain price of Rp.22,500 per night. A very loud group of businessmen or local government officials kept us awake until 1am until I shouted some fluent Indonesian at them. I do need my sleep! So they were malu (embarassed) or takut (afraid) and the manager, or rather Mr. Obsequious, apologised to us on their behalf.
We visited the Sultan’s Palace (video), which was shut, and for Rp.2,500 watched a Dolph Ludgren / David Soul movie – it was either that or a Chinese film. There was good food and cold beer to be had, lots of “hello misters” and reasonable shopping. The only westerners around were Russian seamen bringing cement from China who were really friendly. We thought they were possibly lonely.
So we went to Tidore for three nights and relaxed at the Hotel Jangi, Rp.20,000, meals included.
It’s all very friendly, the streets are neat and clean and apart from walking, dabbling our feet in hot springs and waiting for bemos, there isn’t much to do, but we saw the ruined Sultan’s palace and Tohula fort. We have absolutely no idea what the non-bemo drivers and non-civil servants do for a living, unless it’s spice trading.
A memorable afternoon was spent at the Pantai Akesahu hot springs, just past the lava flow across the road. We were sitting on a broken branch of a tree which gave us some shelter collecting sea shells, when we heard a rustling above. Sam saw it all, but I only saw its tail, some two feet (60cm) long and dark green. It was obviously very big, a monster. Sam said it was a dinosaur, I presume it was a monitor lizard.
On the way back into town, a village of about 50 people came to shyly stare at us; they gave us a bunch of jambu air (water apples)
We saw no westerners until we returned by speedboat to Ternate and checked in again at the Merdeka Hotel and rebargained our room rate.
For our last day, we visited the two lakes. Lake Laguna was weird. A crater lake surrounded by nutmeg trees, covered at its rim with water lilies. There were basilisk lizards running across the water between the lily pads – Jeezus, I exclaimed when I first saw one. There was rumoured to be a crocodile in the lake, but that didn’t stop a woman doing her weekly wash. The whole place reminded me of an overgrown garden, a spooky one.
We caught a bemo onwards. It dropped us off at an abandoned beach restaurant, uncompleted and cobwebbed – those were BIG spiders! We caught another bemo which took us onwards, picking up three westerners at the point we got down, an upwards path through Jurassic Park terrain to Tolire Lake (video).
We looked down; it’s obviously a crater lake with little access to water’s edge unless we fell. So what were those creatures which, periscope fashion, raised their heads, looked around, then swam underwater for a bit before popping up again? Kin of the Loch Ness Monster?* They must have been big because even I could see them although it was a long ways down.
[*Note: Now we have the internet, I know that the lake is infested with crocodiles.]
Ternate and Tidore are so very different from other islands. Coming in by ship and seeing dozens of volcanoes, both large and small, proves that there is a ‘Ring of Fire’. One can only imagine what the remnants of Magellan’s expedition and the early Portugese, Dutch and English spice hunters must have felt and said when they first reached the islands in those long ago days pre-TV and jumbo jets.
Awesome, cool and fucking-A seem to be the current expressions.