Arriving at the far-flung Banda Islands in the South of Maluku, a remote province of Indonesia, usually concludes a journey of no less than fourteen hours. Three times a week there is a scheduled flight between Ambon and Banda Neira – the islands’ administrative heart – but these are notoriously unreliable. Unable to take-off or land due to weather conditions further complicated by the short runway on Neira, the only other options is to take a Pelni boat which departs about two times a week.
This massive ship carrying passengers and cargo putt-putts for fourteen to eighteen hours while one has no other choice but to languorously stare across the horizon in the hope of catching a glimpse of these still incredibly illusive islands. There is something oddly fitting about arriving at the Banda’s like this. So much of the islands’ history is characterised by finding and reaching them.
In The Nutmeg Curse, Amitav Ghosh does not spare much thought to the actual journey to reach these islands but he does capture the sheer wonder of seeing them for the first time. Jutting out from the ocean like a giant Teletubby hill “Gunung Api” greets visitors from afar.
The iconic volcano has left a ferocious mark…