On Saturday afternoon, Ichal convinced us to go snorkeling as the Telcomesel (internet) and Pelni Shipping offices I wanted to visit were all closed till Monday. He had chased up 2 snorkels and masks and thought it would be better to go today while it was quiet. An was thrilled with the suggestion as was her brother, Bu Esty & me, so we quickly got changed, grabbed the goggles and rode off to the beach on 2 motorbikes. Bu Esty rode one with 2 of her children while I rode with Ichal. Because we went by motor bike, we could only take 2 children, however Bu Esty promised the others that we would all definitely return there again the following day and they all cheered!
It was quite a long drive and my hip joints are not used to sitting on the back of a motorbike, so I was relieved to finally arrive at the beach. This beach is a major destination for families on public holidays and Sundays however on other days it is usually deserted, so Bu Esty & Ichal were staggered to see a huge crowd there. This beach has 2 sections, the first one is a length of beach and the second is a cove flanked by a rocky cliff. The parking area for cars and motorbikes overlooks the first stretch of beach and it was so crowded that Bu Esty called it the Bondi Beach of Ternate!
The water was full of bodies all frolicking in the water and having a merry time. The ‘banana boat’ was in action and it looked so much fun, that Bu Esty promised us a ride tomorrow when we returned with the family. Today however, we followed Ichal through the rabbit warren of warungs to a concrete path that wound around the edge of the bay. We shared the path with many other people and several motorbikes too! The first section of path was edged with solidified lava boulders. It looked like a frozen flow of lava.
The concrete path curved around and went up and down before finishing at a tiny cove. Here the track became a rocky track passing wooden warungs perched precariously on the side of the cliff. We followed Ichal passed several of the warungs and finally found a free bamboo platform where we could put our bags. We changed into our bathers in a tiny change room made from thin ply wood and then grabbing the snorkels, climbed down the rocks to the water below. While Bu Esty and the children rented rubber tubes, Ichal and I swam over the bay admiring the beautiful fish swimming in the coral. The variety of colourful fish was incredible and one day I’d like to be able to identify more than just an angel fish! After a while, I became nervous in the water as 2 banana boats, which were each being pulled by a speedboat, were passing quite close to where we were snorkeling and I also noticed that after a speedboat passed by, the water became hazy with what I realised was fuel.
So I handed the snorkel and goggles to An and her brother who were delighted to get a chance to go out snorkeling with Ichal.
Not long afterwards, Bu Esty called everyone in to start heading back as the sun was setting and it was getting chilly. At the second warung we passed through on our trek back to the concrete path, Bu Esty discovered they still had bananas, so she put in an order for a serving of fried bananas. These bananas are apparently traditionally eaten here at this beach and are surprisingly called ? bananas. They are picked green and unripe, then the skin is peeled off with a peeler and then the funny little bananas are sliced very thinly and then fried and served crisp and golden with chili sambal.
Eventually Bu Esty realised it was almost dark and if we wanted to see where we were putting our feet, we needed to finish and resume our trek back to the motorbikes. As none of us had changed, we were all damp, so it was a cold trip back home!
The next day was Sunday, the first Sunday after a month of fasting and living moderately, the last day of the long school break for Lebaran as well as being the one day in the week that most families are free to get together and do something special. We all knew the beach would be crowded but all of us were absolutely gobsmacked with just how crowded it actually was. By comparison, yesterday’s crowd wasn’t that bad after all! Following the queue of cars and bikes lining up to get into the grounds, we slowly made our way in and amazingly found a park. Out of the car tumbled 3 adults, 2 teenagers, 7 children and 1 baby! With no stress at all, the children were let loose and I have no idea how we didn’t loose anyone as we wound our way through the crowd looking for somewhere to base ourselves while waiting for Ichal, Iba & Aja who had travelled by motorbike. What really helped was our family ‘uniform’ which Bu Esty had distributed before we left home.
Once we had all found each other, we began the trek to the back cove. There were many people here too but because the warungs were built on a cliff face, it didn’t feel like we were cheek and jowl with them all. We found a spare table at the top which conveniently was where the change room was, so after changing, Bapak took care of our bags while we made our way down to the water. With the huge numbers of people, the banana boats were operating constantly and there were also wooden boats out on the water which people also hired and propelled around with paddles.
When the snorkel and mask became available, I swam over to the other side and snorkeled there for ages reasoning that if I kept to the shallows I should be safe from being run over by one of the speedboats. Once again I throughly enjoyed the variety of fish and most were so unfazed by my presence that I could easily have reached out to where they were swimming. There were huge patches of dead coral, however large patches of living coral too which I hope aren’t killed off too soon. Not only is the cove used for motor sports like the speedboats and jet ski’s, but there were also large fishing vessels berthed,
so no wonder the coral environment is struggling. I think I would like to revisit the cove again one day when the banana boats are not working so I can enjoy the snorkeling without feeling as though I am covered in a film of petrol or worrying about being run over!
Soon after handing the snorkel and mask back to An, Bu Esty grabbed a group of us and we had a turn on the banana boat. We were handed life jackets and everyone except me put one on. I am not sure why I chose not to wear one, but I think it was that I was confident that I could swim and keep afloat should I fall off. The speedboat took us out of the cove and we circled back to the beach where we had parked our car. There were still quite a few people in the water and we whooshed past them and on the turn back to our cove, our banana boat over turned! We all fell into the ocean and were laughing so much, we had trouble getting back onto the banana boat. Not wearing a life jacket, I was the first back on and was able to help everyone else back up. We then continued back to the cove with Ichal trying to stand at the back and he was thrilled to fall off again however as we were close to the point where we started, Ichal was left behind and had to swim back himself!
By this time, there was no heat left in the sun and I was feeling cold, so I changed out of my bathers and managed to get some photos before everyone else got out.
Ichal then decided thaat we would leave earlier than everyone else so that he could take me to a nearby beach to watch the sun set. As we were getting on the bike, we heard that there had just been an accident and one of the young men riding a jet ski had fallen off and disappeared. We looked down at the beach and everyone was out of the water and a group of people were standing at the waters edge peering out to sea. We walked down to see what has happening and found Bapak there who told us that they were waiting for the coast guard.
As there was nothing we could do, we headed off somberly. While driving along, I could see Mount Gamalama so clearly on my left and the closer we got to where the best spot to see a sunset on Ternate is, the better the view of Gamalama became too. By the time we reached the beach, I could see the crater at the top of Gamalama and also smoke coming out of some of the vents. Ichal is climbing the volcano tomorrow afternoon with friends and they will be staying the night up there! How cool would that be!
On the beach, we got some amazing photos of the sun setting. There is a small patch of water between the road and the beach which we used to get some great reflection shots and I also used pandanus and the people sitting on the beach as silhouettes in front of the dying sun. I also loved the beautiful clouds that were in the sky!
Just before the light went out of the sky totally, we left and on the way home, dropped in to Sulamadaha Beach to see if the man had been found, but unfortunately he hadn’t. Everyone commented on the fact that the search for him would have been a lot easier had he been wearing a life jacket which made me realise in hind sight that my decision earlier not to wear a life jacket had been really foolish.