Hebe Jebes 2015 Issue JAN/FEB - Page 40

FEATURES The Banda Islands are the most distant part of the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, which were a focal point of trade for who knows how many centuries. First the Chinese, then the Arab traders, and then Venice built their glories on the strength of spice, for they had a monopoly on trade through Constantinople throughout the Middle Ages. Eventually the Portuguese broke that monopoly and the race was on between the European powers. Nearly all the exploration throughout the age of enlightenment was motivated by the desire for spices. And the wonderful thing was how they all set out in different directions. Columbus, Barents, Magellan, Drake—they were all chasing the same thing. Or at least their sponsors were. America was discovered and European settlements began there, and ultimately New Zealand as well. Truly it was the search for spice that shaped our modern world. Life must’ve been pretty cruisy for the Bandanese for a very long time. The nutmeg groves were wonderfully productive without much encouragement, and harvesting them a couple of times a year not too onerous. There was always a ready market. All this was to change when the price of nutmeg rocketed spectacularly towards the end of the 16th century, when it was lauded as a preventative and cure for the Black Death that was convulsing Europe. And in those days, it was only on these tiny islands that the nutmeg tree Myristica Fragrans grew. A dramatic contest took place between the new kids on the block, England and Holland, for control of this trade, which the Dutch eventually won hands down. But they were pretty ruthless. These days we tend to think of the Dutch as a tremendously tall but nevertheless peaceable people, touring their small country at weekends in huge packs of bicycles, only stopping to amiably drink low strength beer together at quaint 38 Hebe jebes • JAN/FEB 2015 Features country taverns. The only questionable thing they do these days is dress their grandmothers up in red suspenders and put them on display in glass-fronted shops. But it was a different story in the 17th century. They had a goal in mind—total conquest—and would stop at nothing to achieve it. Back to the present day in the largest settlement—Banda Neira—and all this history is evident with every step you take, even if most of it is falling down before your eyes. There are fragments of old ceramics on every beach, every second store has collections of old coins for sale, there are dozens of old Dutch mansions in various states of collapse, huge crumbling warehouses, and the ruins of the two grand forts dominate the town. Modern yachts no longer anchor out in the beautiful natural harbour between Banda Neira and Gunung Api (Fire Mountain), but pull in stern first to the foreshore and use the historic cannons as bollards. During our stay in the Banda Islands we had plenty of company, after spending our first two months in Indonesia quite alone. Most of the Darwin–Ambon race fleet pulled into Banda on their way home, and a most congenial bunch they were too. Several of the skippers had taken part in the inaugural race in 1984 as young men, and most crew members had done the race many times before too. Their deep affection for the picturesque little harbour was very evident—even though they said that the town had declined in that time, largely due to the communal conflicts of 10 –15 years ago. A very affable Dutchman called Otto, who we met at Abba’s table, rather confirmed that. He’d come out to pursue the history of a perkenier (plantation owner) forebearer, but found all traces destroyed. But he certainly wasn’t regretting his trip. He’d just completed his second or third day’s snorkelling, and was contemplating a dive course. There are plenty of things to do on Banda. The other five islands all have their own charms, in addition to wonderful coral. A dawn climb of Gunung Api is obligatory, and a ‘spice tour’ to nearby Banda Besar is fascinating. Or you can just wander the narrow lanes chewing the fat with locals or fellow yachties, perhaps enjoying a quiet one in the evening on the foreshore, while the exotic mandarin fish perform their elaborate mating rituals in the clear water below you. If you love adventure stories, there are none better than the accounts of the explorers who attempted to come this way to seek their fortunes. And there is really no better place to read them than in the lounge of the Mutiara (Pearl) Guest House, because you certainly deserve a bit of a reward after sailing to these most remote of islands. After all—you survived your journey, and didn’t succumb to scurvy, fever, piracy, head hunters, mutiny, storm or shipwreck like so many did before you. Stay a week, or preferably three, and succumb to Banda’s languid charms. Have a look at www.sailblogs.com/member/brigadoon for our latest landfalls. 班達島島民過往的生活必定很安穩,那裡的肉荳蔻樹非常茂 盛,一年裡有多次收成,並有一個現成的市場,然而這一切都 從16世紀末開始被改變。當時肉荳蔻被視為可以預防和治療肆 虐歐洲的黑死病,因此價格飆漲。當時只有在這些小島上才有 肉荳蔻樹,於是一場戲劇性的爭逐展開,英國和荷蘭人都爭相 控制香料貿易,最後荷蘭人勝出,可惜他們很無情。現今的荷 蘭