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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Discovering the Remote Islands of Indonesia - Page 2

Written by Roger Marks
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Eruption of Volcano and Alor Island

 

When we returned to the ship before sunset, we received word that the nearby volcanic island known as Komba has been active recently and in keeping with the nature of an expedition cruise (where there is a spirit of adventure and flexibility by the captain and crew to sail to locations not on the itinerary), the decision was made to cruise over to this island after dinner. This turned out to be a very good idea as the main vent suddenly let loose with a magnificent eruption that sprayed red glowing rocks and boulders down the slope all the way to the water. This proved to be an intermittent display that occurred every five to fifteen minutes, and we spent nearly two hours in the vicinity. Watching continuous bursts of flames from the vent (making for a very loud sound) and the stream of red lava cascading down this uninhabited island (contrasted against the dark night sky) made for a spell-binding scene. The professional photographers on board who worked for National Geographic noted this was their first time witnessing a spontaneous volcanic eruption. We were mesmerized as we watched the volcano continuously erupt. We therefore could not pull ourselves away to retrieve our camera to capture these scenes, particularly since we didn’t know when the eruption would end.

 

The next morning we arrived in Kalabahi, the only town on the island of Alor. The local farmers cultivate vanilla, almonds and other nuts and tamarind. They also grow sandalwood. There are over 15 native languages spoken on Alor. As we disembarked, the local people performed a greeting dance. We made stops at a local market and then a museum that displayed ancient Vietnamese bronze Dongson drums, dating back to 1,000 BC.

 

Our vehicle followed the coast line and then climbed a steep road into the rugged interior to Takpala Village. Here, we were met by indigenous Melanesian people wearing traditional clothing and we were led to the village site where we were treated to a traditional dance. Once a head-hunting culture, the warriors are the real deal, chewing beetle-nut and giving us “the look”. We saw several traditional ceremonies and the ikat tapestries. Against a backdrop of thatched-roof houses, there were photographic opportunities in every direction. We were able to view the inside of their simple wood houses that were open on the first floor (where they would cook) and ladders that went to an enclosed second floor used for sleeping.

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In the afternoon, we enjoyed snorkeling in the reefs around Alor. Our local guide on the island informed us that two ships per year come to Alor Island and other nearby Indonesian islands.

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Snorkeling and Dinner with Dr. Lawrence Blair

 

Our expedition cruise sailed in the Banda Sea, passing isolated coral reefs and atolls. The Lucipara islands lie isolated in the midst of an azure sea. Steep walls of a volcanic atoll arise thousands of feet from the dark depths. Corals, both hard and soft, flourish on vertical walls. In the morning, we saw presentations on The Story of the Spice Trade and Underwater Exploration. While crossing the deep blue waters of the Banda Sea and having lunch on the outdoor deck, we saw the world’s largest animal, the blue whale. The behemoth’s life breath stood tall for the length of a sigh before vanishing into the hot tropical sky. The ship’s course was altered so that all of us could take in this unique sight. In the afternoon, we went snorkeling off of an anchored snorkel platform (tethered to two Zodiacs) where we saw giant barrel sponges and an abundance of tropical fish.

 

We received an invitation to have a private dinner with one of the guest speakers on the ship, Dr. Lawrence Blair (and his wife and 3 other passengers). Dr. Blair is particularly known for creating and producing (with his late brother) the internationally acclaimed series Ring of Fire, which aired on PBS in the US and BBC in the UK and won two Emmy awards in 1988. He has spent much of the past three decades exploring and making films in Indonesia and his lectures/slide presentations on the ship were always spell-binding, including his theory on the loss of David Rockefeller who was collecting art in West Papua. We had the honor of having a private dinner with him twice while on the ship. The private dinners with guests were held outside on deck rather than in the dining room. The first dinner included a spaghetti dish as an appetizer, Tasmanian salmon and apple tartan with vanilla ice cream.

 

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Last modified on Friday, 02 September 2016

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