Banda Quest 1: Journey Begins

19 July, 2011

Lost beauty, rare spices, a history of pirates and crazy Dutch people, a pint-sized spurting volcano, and miles of untrod beaches; since 1993 I’ve wanted to see Indonesia’s Banda Islands. But I’ve always been stopped by the sheer logistics of getting there: infrequent, uncertain flights, dodgy ferries (in a country known for ferry disasters) and the islands’ very distance and isolation amidst the smattering of islands in remote eastern Indonesia.

Terminal Confusion

To finally get there, I’m allowing two weeks for travel cock-ups and other fiascos just so I can spend at least two days in this Pacific outpost. I start in Bali, where the always zoo-like domestic air terminal is especially chaotic (and under-cooled) because of school holidays.

Fruits or G-Spot?

The reading choices at the newsstand are under-whelming, with a choice of fruits in English or a G-spot guide in Indonesian (so much for local censorship worries).

Bad banana?

I’m even less tempted by food offerings, including banana-chocolate cookie boxes adorned with a woman who appears to have been slipped a bad banana.

My flight on budget carrier Lion Air finally leaves a couple hours late. I’m only going as far as Makassar today as my goal is Ambon in Muluka (the region with the Bandas) and I don’t want to risk a tight same-day connection as Ambon is where I get the irregular flight to the Bandas.

Don't miss the plane

If I miss this Thursday’s flight on the one-airplane airline with the Banda service monopoly, I get to hang out for another week in Ambon, mostly known of late for its regular Muslim vs Christian riots.

Makassar proves memorable for all the wrong reasons. My room at the (now-considered execrable) Kenari Tower is a disappointment. The window is blocked by a sign outside hawking new cheap rates, the Ikea-branded light (Torgë? Bütfc?) falls apart when I switch it on, stains of the most vivd colors and sizes abound, the internet is off and just as I lose my cool, I realize it might actually be the temperature. Yep, the air-con has failed. To the Kenari’s credit, a complaint gets action and my room fills with young men who raise their hands in front of the feeble trickle of muggish air and fruitlessly poke at the controls. After an hour of debate, it’s finally decided to take the surprising step of moving me to a room with working air-con.

Dinner of Doom

Off to dinner, I opt for the uniquely named Mie Titti, which is highly recommended in, yes, the Guidebook. I have the house special mie kering titti, which is a bowl of freshly fried crispy thin noodles under a sprightly lemon and garlic sauce studded with chicken bits. It’s actually quite tasty. Unfortunately it’s a taste that keeps giving as the first burp arrives during the short walk back to the Kenari and this proves to be merely the forward scout for an entire army of burps, belches and other rumblings.

Makassar's dazzling new airport

By 3am it’s clear I’ve made a gross error in mealtime judgement and I fantasize about the Ayurvedic practice of having your innards hosed out top to bottom. At 10 I return to the dazzling new airport where the check-in, wait and flight all seem interminable but actually are quite efficient and I arrive in Ambon right on time. My spoiled and soiled carcass is met by the effervescent Michael “no problem” Erenst, whose job is to get me on the one flight to the Bandas the next morning. The airline, the otherwise unknown NBA, has no website or phone number, rather, you let fixers like Michael sort things out and you hope that any of many reasons that NBA used for canceling their flight and stranding in you in Ambon don’t come to pass.

Afloat to Ambon

But such details are far from my concerns. I want only a bed and a place of mie kering titti-free refuge. The hour-long ride to the bright lights of Ambon include a ferry across the bay, but it’s all a blur and things look up when I check into the Hotel Mutiara. My room is cool, clean and blissfully silent. I sleep for 12 hours. If there are any riots, I miss them.

Next: Flight to the Bandas?

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8 Responses to “Banda Quest 1: Journey Begins”

  1. Geir Says:

    This is really exciting. You’re travelling my dream trip, so I’ll follow you with the eyes of Argus.

  2. Michael Says:

    This is exciting. I took a trip to Lombok back in 1992 and it was nearly as adventurous as this one is to the Banda Islands. Would you be albe to let me know if there is any surf there please?

    • ryanverberkmoes Says:

      Hi Michael:

      Sorry for the delay, I’m in the middle of Sulawesi. There are no recognized surf breaks in the Bandas and nobody rents boards etc. But this being Indonesia, it wouldn’t surprise me if there wasn’t a site waiting to be “discovered”.There are a lot of reefs and the waters get a lot of currents. If you hear of anything, let me know. A real adventure might be to go with a cheap board and see what you find.

      -Ryan

  3. humidor Says:

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    and in accession capital to say that I gget actually enjoyed account your blog posts.
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  4. I’mextremely impressed together wirh your writing talents as
    smartly as wiuth the format to your weblog.
    Is this a paid topic or did you modify it your self? Either way stay up the excellent high
    quality writing, it’s uncommon to see a great weblog like this one nowadays..

    • ryanverberkmoes Says:

      Thanks for the kind words. I write this as part of my research of the islands for Lonely Planet. The best news is that I recently returned, so I am going to write an update. The Bandas are better than ever.

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  6. […] of Banda by Hanna Rambé – Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton – This website – This blog page – and this […]


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