“So, if you had a sailboat and a few months to spare where would you go?” The Indonesian tourism official looked up with a puzzled look. It took some explaining but finally he got it. As an Indonesian, where would YOU go for holiday? He excitedly grabbed a map and began drawing lines and notes all over the place. “Ohhh Miiiister Brian! There are over 17,000 islands! But here is what I would do.” His path took us from Australia to Banda in the Spice Islands, through the heart of Raja Ampat, then West to a small island called Ternate.
“What is this one, Ternate” I asked? “Oh, this is very special place.” he replied. “The culture is very strong and there is a Sultan that rules the island. The city is built around a massive volcano.” He had us at volcano and Sultan. Brady and I smiled and looked at each other. And so at a random Indonesian Festival on the banks of the Yarra River in Melbourne our course was pretty much set.
We’d just spent the last two months diving the secluded and spectacular anchorages of Raja Ampat, but it was time for Delos to sail on to the next adventure. Armed with our lack of knowledge and no expectations we set sail from Penemu, Raja Ampat for the 280 mile trip to Ternate. With barely any wind our 1.5 day sail turned into a 4 day drift-about in the Muluku Sea. Arriving just before dawn we were able to run the engine for a few minutes to set the anchor just before the last of our coolant squirted into the bilge from that nasty leak that started a few weeks ago.
We relaxed in the early morning hours and soaked in the scene as the sun brightened the horizon. There was a massive, perfectly shaped volcanic peak that stretched from the Ocean and disappeared into the clouds. A city wrapped around the base of the volcano, stretching up into the jungle covered hill sides. Ternate looked different than other Indonesian cities we’d seen. Amongst the bustling traffic and buzzing scooters, there were billboards that could catch attention (perhaps designed by National Signs or another reputed sign design firm). Apart from that, there was what seemed to be a tree-lined pathway on the waterfront. There were no less than a dozen mosques in view, and a wall of prayer song blasted out at us from loudspeakers perched on the pinnacle of each mosque. It was like some crazy Muslim prayer concert in the dawn hours. It looked charming and well, surprisingly clean! A stark contrast to what we’d seen in Ambon and Sorong. Hmmm. Where were the piles of floating rubbish? Why doesn’t it smell like poo here? What are we to do with our idle time if we can’t play “I spy” as items drift by Delos?
We splashed Maggie and headed into the pier. A group of smiling guys helped to tie up and told us our dinghy would be safe here. They lived on the pier and provided 24 hour security. There was a barrage of handshakes, smiles, and photos the second we stepped on land. Did we need anything? Diesel? Petrol? Water? Food? It was a little overwhelming. Our only human contact in the last month (outside of Delos of course) were the conservation guys on Hang Tuah. And now we were surrounded by dozens of lovely people all trying to practice their English at once. We were hungry and a little shell shocked. Hold on a second- how is it possible that so many of these guys know English? I blurted out “Pizza!” and before we knew it our new entourage was pulling us down the road. Pizza may seem like a strange choice, but if you’d been cooking on a boat and eating Mie Goreng for the better part of 3 months you’d be keen too.
The “Hallllo Miiiister” was in full effect here, the strongest we’ve ever seen. We felt like rock stars as scooters and cars stopped in traffic to join us for photos. People from all walks would shake our hand, ask us where we were from, where we were going. Within a matter of hours we had a full social calendar! That evening we were invited to a local Rap competition, the next day to teach an English Class, followed by an evening of partying at the disco tech. Visits to the Sultan’s palace, drives around the island, hikes up the volcano, lounging at the beach, weddings, dinners, animal sacrifices, massages, and shopping were all on the table. Man, was this place INTENSE and really friendly.
Just one example I want to highlight- during a low tide we had a bit of trouble clambering from the dinghy to the dock where we tied up Maggie. Due to the swells and wind Josje almost fell in the water and I scraped my knee. Taking note of this our friend in the Ternate Indonesian Office had a ladder built for us the next day. The next day! Imagine that. Too cool!
And so in a random set of events our adventures in Ternate began. We were only going to stay a few days but you know how that goes.
DAY 1- In which the Delos crew gorge themselves on pizza, visit the cleanest market in Indonesia, get VIP seating at a local Rap competition and get photographed for the newspaper.
DAY 2- In which we teach an English class, end up at a disco tech, and get force-fed more Johnny Walker Black than one should consume (for free!).
DAY 3- In which we get an island tour while rather hung-over from the 5AM disco tech whiskey binge. While at the beach visiting our friends from the disco tech we bump into the governor and he invites us to dinner at his house for the following evening.
DAY 4- In which we eat dinner and attend a ceremony at the governor’s house. We meet the Governor, Minister of Parliament, Head of Education, Head of Police, and a few others during a random Karaoke evening at the governor’s mansion. Phoebe gets on stage and performs for the VIP crowd!
DAY 5– In which we shop, get massages, and generally lounge. The massages were intensely deep tissue and set us back a cool $8USD for 1 hour. As usual Brady get’s “handled” by the boy!
DAY 6– In which we explore the Sultan’s volcano palace and Kris insists on using government tourism budget to buy us dinner!
DAY 7– In which Kris takes us on a tour of the island’s lakes and lava fields, then to his family’s house for amazing food!
DAY 8- In which we get invited to another disco tech on the island. Our friends from Tabanga Rap Crew bust some rhymes and Phoebe sings with the DJ.
DAY 9– In which we witness the Muslim Eid al-Adha ceremony where animals are sacrificed and butchered at every Mosque in the city! The meat is then given to the impoverished people of the city. Good for the widows, not so sweet for the goats and cows. Pretty gruesome actually.
The generosity and kindness of the people we meet in our travels never ceases to amaze me, but Ternate went above and beyond. We felt so welcome and special in this amazing city located on a small island in North Muluku, Indonesia. Our friends took it upon themselves to be our personal guides wherever we wanted to wander. They took time out of their lives to make our experience special. I want to give a special thanks to Kris, Alfian, and Aziz for the time you spent with us.
The Delos crew with Kris’s family who fed us, loved us, and showed us an amazing time!
Kris! Kris! Kris! Kris! Thank you for everything! And remember “Everybody loves corns, OKKKAAAAYYYYYYY!!!!!”