After out history tour of Morotai, we headed straight to the ferry dock to organise transport to Tobela, North Halmahera. We added our names to the list of people also waiting, and as we were a group of 4, it seemed that we only needed a few more to make it worthwhile for the boat captain to head off. It took about half an hour before a few others arrived at the dock, so it was 4:30 before we headed off. >
The boat we all piled in was a speedboat with 2 engines so it flew across the water but because of the engines, it was impossible to have a conversation. To get into the cabin, we had to bend low as the ceiling was no more than 1.5m high. At the front were some seats facing forward, however Ichal grabbed the seats facing inwards at the back where the boats up and down motion would be more tolerable. All in all, the boat would have fitted about 12 people comfortably and we ended up with 11. With the constantly up and down motion, it was difficult to sleep however everyone else managed to at least doze. I sat there enjoying a packet of garlic flavoured peanuts while watching the colours across the sea changing as the sun set behind the mountains on Halmahera. It was absolutely beautiful however getting a photo of it was not so easy. With the constant motion of the boat, trying to fit my camera to capture it through a tiny window and then my camera battery showed that it was almost empty.
It took 2 hours exactly to get from Morotai to Tobela where we were met by friends and family of Bu Esty. Ichal & Salfa grabbed a bento while Bu Esty & I jumped on the back on the 2 motorbikes ridden by her cousins. Luckily it was still just light so I could see where we were going. It was great to finally experience Tobela and get an idea of what it looks like. Bu Esty and Ichal often speak about it and I had no idea where it was. Nothing like experiencing something to make it finally resonate. After dinner, Bu Esty headed out to visit her grandmother while I enjoyed a mandi and an early night, so that I would be ready for our 4am start the next morning.
Bu Esty had us in fits of laughter the next day in the car while driving to Sofifi, the capital city of North Maluku, telling us about her visit to her elderly grandmother. She told us that her grandmother had suddenly became bashful when Bu Esty asked to take her photo. First she insisted that someone find her false teeth which she had only just bought. Then on looking at the photo, she decided her hair was too messy so she then insisted someone find her a jilbab (head cover). Only then was she happy with the photo, now that her teeth were in and her hair covered!
The trip to Sofifi from Tobelo took 4 hours however we broke the journey in half and stopped in Malifut, where Bu Esty’s younger brother lives with his wife and 2 children. As soon as I saw him, I recognised him from my first visit to Ternate.
While everyone else raced to the toilet, Ichal & I headed off to see the Japanese Shipwreck which is just off the beach at Malifut.
It was a perfect time of day with the sea turning golden with the rising sun and the sky all shades of purple. The steel on the ship was plundered recently much to the locals disgust because they have great plans to develop bungalows and cafes on the the beachfront. I think the plans are over ambitious and slightly unrealistic as to get to Malifut, tourists would have to travel via Ternate which is also struggling to attract the numbers of tourists it dearly desires.
Ichal was delighted to be back in Malifut as he lived here for 3 months when he was in primary school. However, conflict between the Muslims and the Christians, meant Ichal & his family retreated to Ternate where he finished his schooling. We passed through a Christian village where an enormous church was being built however the most noticeable thing about this area was the huge number of dogs. In the muslim area, I rarely saw a dog and then suddenly there were packs of them roaming the roads and each house seemed to have at least 5 in the front yard. Ichal likes dogs as much as he likes crocodiles, so I could see him twitching nervously as we passed through that village!
After a delicious coffee break including freshly deep fried battered bananas, we hit the road again and watched the scenery lighten with the sunrise. We passed several interesting points along the way. One was a small waterfall.
Soon after we arrived, a man driving a ute pulled up and positioned his ute so that he could connect a long PVC pipe into the waterfall and then ran it into the water tank on the back of his ute. Bu Esty explained that people order water from him and this is where he sources it.
The collected water will be filtered to make popeda, the traditional food of North Maluku and looks just like glue, and the cassava pulp will also be processed abd then taken to market. Bu Esty and I had fun joining them trying our hand at squeezing the water out of the grated cassava. It was like making mud for mudpies! We got flecks of cassava all up and down our arms and up our legs! So much fun.
We arrived into Sofifi and after paying a very quick visit to the Governors office,
we headed straight to the dock where Bu Esty organised our boat back to Ternate. We arrived in time that we were able to board the boat straight away and soon we were off leaving Halmahera behind us. This boat had 3 engines and while much faster than the previous speed boat, was also that much more noisier too.
Ichal told me to sit right at the back this time which was outside the cabin and in front of the three engines. While waiting for the fares to be collected, we sat there breathing in the fumes of the engines and the fuel which sat in containers just underneath. The last passenger to get on was a young lady who as soon as she boarded, collapsed into the seat next to me. Once we got going, it was obvious she was not comfortable traveling by boat. She spent most of the trip with one hand on her stomach and the other gripping my arm! For me, the tip didn’t take long at all and in no time at ill it seemed that we were pulling up into Ternate.
What a whirlwind yet amazing trip. Looking back over what we accomplished and how much of North Maluku I saw, it was hard to believe we were only away for a day and a half!
Once again, a huge thank you to Ibu Esty for this fantastic opportunity whereby I was able to see more of the beautiful North Maluku.