[simage=2158,200,n,left,] Using a pinch day before Waisak day, we took a four day break to the volcanic islands of Ternate and Tidore islands in eastern Indonesia’s North Maluku province. It’s a four hour direct flight from Jakarta to Ternate, which we chose to do on the rather brutal red eye that leaves Jakarta at 1 am and arrives in Ternate at 6am. If this was not much fun for us, it was even less fun for our friend Olivier who had just arrived in Jakarta from Vancouver on Friday lunchtime. Still, we all got a bit of sleep on the plane and arrived safely in Ternate, a landing that involves circling clockwise around the volcano and dropping to land on the runway (at the second attempt in our case).
After negotiating the overpriced taxis to the friendly hotel Bukit Pelangi, we headed off by angkot to “downtown” Ternate to find some breakfast. Ternate is not overwhelmed with restaurants, but the Kafe Citra Rasa is pleasant enough. After food, coffee and juice we decided to hit the main sites, which are really quite limited. The highlight (or only real thing to see) is the Sultan’s palace/house, which is a nice Dutch colonial building overlooking the city and harbor. As we arrived to find no clear way in or information, we got caught in a torrential rainstorm that meant we were sheltering next to the private porch for a while. Gill’s perseverance meant that we did eventually find the museum and get a tour of the public part of the house – well worth a look.
We then decided to set about the task of finding a guide for the main reason to come to Ternate – climbing Gunung Gamalama. Not as easy as you might think. First, the tourist information office is closed on Saturday’s. Second, the hotels in downtown appear to be completely devoid of useful staff or information. When we headed back to our hotel, luckily they put us in contact with Basri, an English student and budding guide. We took ojeks to the start point the following day and began the hike at around 300 m elevation, with Gamalama’s summit of 1715 m ahead. The hike is fairly steep as usual, but starts through a nutmeg plantation before entering some reasonable forest. Quite a lot of trash dropped by local hikers. In the heat and humidity, the hike was quite fought for Olivier, and as we approached the rocky summit area, he decided to rest while we climbed the last 100 m to the true summit and edge of the active crater. Gamalama is really quite active and the crater and small vents along the edge give out quite a lot of sulphur gases. Unfortunately, the 5 hour climb meant we missed the view and the clouds had closed in. After lunch with Olivier, we started the slow climb down. This was even tougher for our city friend and we had to fashion a makeshift trekking pole to ease the relentless downhill plod. By the time we got down, through a brief rain shower, the summit was perfectly clear. Something that was to be repeated the next day on Gunung Kiematubu on Tidore.
With the knowledge that Olivier’s legs were going to be sore for days, we headed the next day to Tidore on the first ferry of the day with a car and driver. From the ferry both Gamalama and Kiematubu look fantastic. The plan was that Gill and I would bag Kiematubu while Olivier took a look around sleepy Tidore. The starting point for third hike was around 700 m, which makes a big different – the summit is only 50 m higher than Gamalama. The hike was a lot steeper though, but the trail is good. We got caught in heavy rain heading up to the summit and also encountered an Indonesian family who decided to video us hiking and overtaking them. Not subtle. We hiked fast to get back down in time to meet Olivier and get the last ferry back to Ternate. As we got to the great summit area there was a bit more rain but then the cloud rolling over us started to clear and we got some views back to Ternate and into the dormant crater. We knew the cloud was clearing, but needed to race back down. In good weather this summit would be really spectacular with Ternate, Halmahera and other islands around Tidore.
After some exploration of Tidore, we headed back to the ferry and for another pleasant grilled fish dinner watching the daylight fade and full moon rise next to Kiematubu. The following morning we drove all the way around Ternate, stopping at an old fort, a small crater lake and some local (trash strewn) beaches. All in fairly consistent rain. Overall, Ternate and Tidore are well worth a visit – they are off the tourist trail and you’ll not see many other foreigners. However, you’ve got to be interested in hiking one of the two mountains – there’s not much else to do! The historic attractions are mostly ruins. We really liked climbing Kiematubu, which is a steep but straightforward hike and the summit gives you a real “top of the world” feeling.