The fast boat from Ternate to Morotai was undertaken during the last few hours of very wet weather in North Maluku and consequently the trip was rougher than I am used to.
Thankfully, Bu Esty had foreseen this and had ensured we had tickets for the seats in first class on the bottom deck. As it was going to be a 5 hour trip, I had initial thoughts of being able to wander around and explore the different aspects of the sleek boat however once we headed off, the only way I could keep my seasickness under control was to keep my eyes closed and try to sleep. Ichal did make it to the top deck which he said were mainly the Mecca travelers and they were even more seasick to the point of vomiting. So thankfully, I didn’t get that far or I would definitely had joined them!
We reached Morotai around 6:30, exactly 5 hours after leaving Ternate and thankfully the weather had cleared. It was so wonderful to be on land again and not feeling nauseous! Not far from the dock, we came across a small hotel called, ‘Singga Dulu’ (Drop By) which had only just been renovated (‘rehab’) and had only been opened a week.
It was lovely and clean and the people were incredibly friendly. The rooms included not only air-conditioning but also a fan! Everything was brand new and working perfectly. The wardrobe still smelt like timber and the keys were still in the doors!
We dropped off our bags and then went straight out to look for some dinner. We found a warung that was run by a family from Maadura selling nasi kuning. Just as you walked in the door, there was a glass cabinet right inn front of you and in it was a selection of meat and vegetable dishes you could choose from to have with your nasi kuning (yellow rice). We all had sambal tori which is just like a spicy fish abon. It is made from dried fish with the bones and skin removed before being pound finely in a mortar and pestle with chili. It is absolutely delicious and the best thing about this sambal is that once made, it lasts for several weeks so makes a great traveling food.
After dinner we went for a walk around the township of Morotai as Bu Esty has friends and family there she wanted to drop in on. After a while, we realised we were lost, so we hailed 2 bento’s
and let them show us the way! I just love this way of traveling and it is such a shame there aren’t any in Ternate or other parts of Indonesia. It is like a motorised becak and some of them are very fancy with stereo systems in the back of the seat, decorative rain covers and cute head cushions. At the second house we visited, Bu Esty organised a boat for the following morning to take us to Dodola, a nearby island. As it was getting late, Ichal and I headed back to the hotel while Bu Esty and Salfa headed out again to do some business and catch up with friends. I am not sure that Ichal would’ve headed back quite so early had I not been with them, however he assured me he was glad to have an early night. I had a lovely nights sleep with the light off and alternating between the fan and air conditioner while waiting for Salfa to return. I woke at 6am to discover that neither Bu Esty nor Salfa had made it back to the hotel! I also woke to the realisation that I had left my bathers hanging on the clothes horse in Ternate! Oh well….
No sooner had I had my mandi and got my bags packed, than they both walked in the door explaining that they had stayed up so late chatting to friends, that they fell asleep there! After a quick breakfast of coffee and a slice of kue lapis (link), we headed off to the beach where we met Beni, the man we had spoken to the previous night about taking us to Dodola, who was busy getting the boat ready for our departure.
The boat was a long narrow canoe styled boat and we each had a plank of wood for a seat which we also used to put our bags on as there was water floating around our feet. The water was so calm and it was still quite early that it was so beautiful out on the water. We headed first to Zum Zum Island which was sort of on the way. This island was where General McArthur and his entourage was based while coordinating the ‘Leap Frog’ Strategy around the Pacific Islands. He was based here for 2 years.
Leapfrogging (also called “island hopping”) was a military strategy employed by the Allies in the Pacific War against Japan and the Axis powers during World War II. The idea was to bypass heavily fortified Japanese positions and instead concentrate the limited Allied resources on strategically important islands that were not well defended but capable of supporting the drive to the main islands of Japan.
Source: Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leapfrogging_(strategy)
To commemorate MacArthur’s presence, several statues have been built. I like the original one the best as it looks like an Indonesian MacArthur.
The more recent MacArthur statue was completed earlier this year for the ‘Sail Morotai’ event which is an international maritime event. According to the Jakarta Post, the commemoration for the launch of the Batlle of Morotai (Sept 15, 1944) was incorporated into the festivities of Sail Morotai 2012.
See http://m.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/09/21/morotai-making.html for more details.
a close up of the plaque:
Bu Esty in particular loved the clam shell I used for the following photo
and put it in the boat so take home to grind it down to eat with her betelnut! Had it not been so large, I would have taken it home myself but instead I was strong and restricted myself to just the orange shell and the other shell which makes me think of a painter/decorator crab shell. The water on this side of the island was absolutely beautiful and with the rising morning sun, was just gorgeous. We didn’t hang around nor do any significant exploring because we only had the one day to see everything and as looking around Morotai was last on our list, I wanted to make sure we had enough time to do it justice.
We jumped back in the boat each with our own goodies and headed off to Dodola Island which was about an hour away. Dodola is absolutely beautiful. It is 2 islands at high tide and 1 long white sandy island at low tide.
The water was crystal clear and while we took snorkels and goggles, it was largely white sand and sea grass off the beach. As I had forgotten my bathers I was prepared to snorkel in my 3/4 pants if Ichal raved about the snorkeling, however as it seemed the only coral to be found was that which we passed over in the boat while quite a way off the beach and it was randomly found along the sea bed with huge tracts of sand in between each small clump. So instead Ichal & I explored the shallow waters. Out by an exposed reef we came across 5 baby sting rays swimming together. We also found 2 live cowrie shells which we put in the flipper with some different coloured sand dollars to photograph closer to the edge of the water where i had left my camera.
The animal inside the cowrie shell was fascinating and we spent ages sitting in the shallows watching both emerge from the shell. One in particular was not as shy, and we noticed that as it emerged, it looked very much like a snail, however the most interesting thing about it was the membrane that covered the shell. I couldn’t remember if they were poisonous, so didn’t take any risks touching the white topped filaments which waved in the water.
We also had a large cockle type like shell which we also rested on the sandy bottom and no sooner than we had put it down, than small sea snails appeared from out of the sand to eat it.
They took advantage of the slightly open shell and feasted. When one of the larger ones let go, we took it and dropped it on the cowrie shell to see what would happen. As soon as the snail made contact with the membrane, it used its long tail to put as much distance as possible between it and the cowrie, so that confirmed in my book that we too would avoid touching it. When we had finished watching and photographing them, we returned the cowries to the water away from the waters edge however we left the cockle and it’s predators alone. Ichal wasn’t happy with this decision but in my book it was nature at work. It was now lunch time, so Ichal swam back in the aquamarine waters
while I made my way back by foot to join Bu Esty for our nasi bungkus lunch. In our nasi bungkus was rice, noodles and a piece of fish. I gave Ichal my fish and instead ate mine with sambal tori! Absolutely delicious. We sat there asking our boat ‘captain’ about the facilities on this island while we ate. On Dodola are about 8 cabins which can be rented for about Rp250,000 a night which is pretty steep considering their current state of neglect and the absence of power and water. A lot of money has been poured into Dodola by the Dept of Tourism however as it is not maintained nor is there a caretaker of any sort, it is falling to rack and ruin both due to the climate and from curious visitors. On the beach are 2 jet skis available for hire but both sit there in the open air under the casuarina trees! A criminal waste of money in my opinion.
While I could have spent a much longer mooching around on this gorgeous island with Bu Esty, Salfa & Ichal,
I will definitely do so another time, but my priority was getting back to Morotai. Our journey back seemed longer and was also much hotter in the midday heat but thankfully there were a couple of umbrellas on board that kept off most of the heat.