more then a thousand islands strung like gemstones across a vast expanse of crystal blue tropical seas are safely protected from the tourist circuit of Bali and the rest of Indonesia. These islands are extraordinarily beautiful and varied, mostly volcanic and filled with a terrific kaleidoscope of marine, wild and plant life. Like most islands throughout Indonesia, off the beaten path, the Malukus provide an endless amount of attractions for anyone with a true spirit of adventure. Just as versatile as each island is, so is the food which reflects the bounty that the oceans and the island gardens provide. Known as the Spice Islands, Maluku was obsessively sought for many years before they were rediscovered by Portuguese sailors in the 15th. century. Explorers like Christopher Columbus, Vasco de Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and Sir Francis Drake all dreamed of finding their wealth there. In fact, one of the main incentives for Europe’s age of discovery was the avid search for spices, easily worth their weight in gold then. Spices like nutmeg, mace and cloves were used to camouflage the flavour of spoiled meat in the days long before refrigeration. It was also believed that these exotic spices had huge medicinal value. As far back as the 3rd century BC, the Chinese knew of cloves, and by the 4th century AD, fragrant cloves had reached Europe. Yet for hundreds of years, the worlds total clove production come from five little islands in the far east of Indonesia. Ternate and Tidore in the north, Ambon in the centre and the island group of Bandas on the southern edge. Control over these spice producing islands assured immeasurable fortunes, and countless lives were lost in the quest for them. But the introduction of refrigeration and British success in propagating nutmeg and cloves in Sri Lanka brought an end to the spice wars for ever. Trekking @ Gunung Kiematuba
Just west of sprawling , four armed K-shaped Halmahera island two perfectly shaped volcanic cone islands lurk off the western cost. Ternate and Tidore, the famous clove islands. Three century ago, the great kingdoms of Europe fought bitterly for the control of these tiny islands that measure just a little more then 10 km across. Today Ternate and Tidore have faded from the world’s attention, but these lush, breezy islands are just as beautiful as they were when first Portuguese sailors landed.
The main reason for our visit to the spice islands was to search for indigenous dishes that will be included in our newest book publication that will feature Indonesia’s most original dishes as well as showcasing the many great mountains and volcanoes of this fascinating country. Obviously there are very few places in the country where you can combine food and hiking on two very tiny islands that have changed the history of our planet so much. It was our aim to arrive on Thursday, climb Gunung Gamalama on Friday, then relocate to the island of Tidore on Saturday and climb Gunung Kiematuba on Sunday morning. Well this was the plan which then was changed rather dramatically a week prior to our departure, when Gunung Gamalama on Ternate started to spew large clouds of ash and the volcano was placed on high alert, making any attempt at climbing impossible. Despite not being able to climb the volcano we tremendously enjoyed the sights, sounds and flavours of these very remote and bustling islands. hiking @ Gunung Kiematuba
The islands are easy accessible by many daily direct flights from Jakarta, Manado, Makassar or Ambon. Unlike in the past the flights are now on time, but please be advised to book early as each flight seems to be fully booked. To get around the islands and visit the many sights it is easy to rent a motorbike or even easier is to hire a bike with driver who then becomes your local guide and will bring you to places that are normally not open to public. It is definitely worth spending a little extra time on the island to discover the various sights of both islands. Please keep in mind that tourism on the islands is virtually non existent and as such accommodations are simple to say the best. Travelling between the islands is easy as there are countless fast, slow, big, small, simple boats continuously shuttling between Ternate and Tidore. A journey can cost as little as US$1 on a crowded slow boat that will take a good 30 minutes or US$10 on a privately chartered “speed boat” which will cover the distance in a little over 10 minutes.
Tidore island, slightly larger then Ternate is less than a kilometre from here better known twin’s closest shore. Unlike Ternate, Tidore is dormant. Gunung Kiematubu rears up in a perfect cone from the southern part of the island and smaller mountains rise in uneven steps from the north coast of Kiematuba’s 1730 meters.Trekking @ Gunung Kiematuba
I spent the night prior at the village of Soasiu. It is only a short 20 minute care or bike ride away from the starting point at the hill village of Gurabunga (650 meters). Here I meet my happy friendly guide who will lead me up to the summit. It was actually rather nice to see how well the village thrives on the relatively high nutmeg and clove world market price.
It was my aim to be on the summit for sunrise and as such we departed at 3.30 am which was actually almost an hour too early. Hikers in good physical condition will make it easily in 2 ½ hours to the summit, and a more comfortable pace will have you on the summit in a little over 3 hours. Trekking at night is obviously rather boring and will not give you much of a chance to actually enjoy the beauty of the surroundings. Especially the first or then the last ½ hour at the end is remarkably beautiful and different to most other volcanoes. This has to be the most fragrant trekking adventure anywhere with nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon trees as far as you can see. Trekking @ Gunung Kiematuba
The path on its own is straightforward without any major obstacles. The first 30 minutes will lead you through hectares of plantations. Once you enter the forest the path widens and just before the wooden hut that belongs to the caretaker of the forest the path makes a left turn and descends for a few meters before ascending into the forest up the hill side. Just as on any other mountain, the trail which is in very good condition leads relatively steeply towards the tree line that you will reach after a little over an hour of making good pace.
It was then as we came close to the tree line that we noticed a light mist in the air, which gradually started to release a few droplets of rain. The stars were gone and my fears become reality an hour later when we sat on the summit in thick clouds making it impossible to see a few meters. Just before you get out of the forest the trail crosses a small rocky river bed, and I was told that there normally flows a small trickle of water well into the dry season. Again it was dry during my trip.
Once the tree line is reached you will only have another 150 meters altitude to go which you will conquer in an easy 20 minutes. The vegetation here consists of shrubs, reeds and relatively high and very dense grass like bushes. The path is partially rocky but again offers no difficulty. Within no time you reach the actual summit that is marked by a cement block that is covered by colourful graffiti. Passionately sitting in the clouds we could only imagine how fantastic the views in every direction must be during clear days. Well it was not to happen during my trip but I would not be surprised if one day I will return and attempt another climb. It is definitely worth considering spending the night on the summit as there are several well protected camping areas. At least this will give you a chance for a sunset as well as a sun rise. Hiking @ Gunung Kiematuba
Trekking @ Indonesian Volcano Adventures