It was about time to plan a trip to the notorious spice islands, also known as Maluku Islands after having a years long intense relationship with spices being a raw food chef. Spice is the essence of the taste. A little touch of nutmeg can turn a cake into heaven or a bit of clove in your winter tea can give you the kick to start the day. Personally I love cinnamon (especially in my grandma’s “sutlac” which is a traditional Turkish desert with milk and rice), star anise, nutmeg and clove which are the “touch” spices; which gives the food the “kick” it needs to turn it into something delicious. And here I am, in the island of nutmeg and clove.
Ternate is an island in the Maluku Islands of eastern Indonesia. I arrived at Ternate around 1 pm from Manadou by Garuda Airlines. After passing through the Kota (city) Ternate we arrived at a beautiful hidden villa in the middle of the island. After a welcome Sirsak drink (a sour fruit juice) we were refreshed to hit the road. Our first stop has been the Palace of the Sultan. Once upon a time, Ternate was the world’s major producer of clove and Ternate Sultan was one of the most powerful sultans in the Indonesian region. The current Sultan’s Palace, which was built in 1796, is partly a museum today. Sultan has died 2 years ago and now the new Sultan will be elected between 2 sons of Sultan. While we were walking around the Palace, which didn’t have any security or control, we came across a ceremony. We were peeking through the door and suddenly one of the women approached me, hold me from my arm and I found myself at a chair sitting along with them. I felt very royal! Apparently, it was a welcoming ceremony for the new Sultan to their new home and as guests from abroad we were very much welcomed and had our share from their warm hospitality.
We wished the best of luck in new Sultan elections and head to the beach to get a bit of a view of the Tidore volcanic island during sunset. We visited Floridas Restaurant, which is known by the significant view it hosts which also inspired the 1000 Rupiah (Indonesian currency). You can find the view on 1000 Rupiah. With clouds covering the top of the volcano with green surroundings and Blue Ocean it is just like a setting from wallpapers.
Today almost all of us know about the basic spices and they still hold a mystic and colorful space in our lives. Going back to 14th century, things were a bit different. Years long journeys in the oceans, bloody wars and endless conflicts happened for the sake of the spices. Of course it was not only for making more tasty food. In those times, spices were being used to preserve meat (in the absence of fridge!), medicine, cosmetics, aphrodisiac and flavor. Basically some of the main sectors today were dominated by spice trade those days. And some of these spices are found in the Maluku Islands.
To summarize shortly, chasing these valuable spices and trying to find direct access to them bypassing Arab and Asian merchants, first Portugeese sailors and explorers discovered the core of the clove, Ternate. They started first settlings in 1511, built Fort Castella in 1522 and started to dominate the clove trade.
Today you can see the huge clove monument in Fort Castella which is the only well preserved remain after 600 years. In early 15th century, Dutch arrived at Ternate. They gained power over Portugeese and also get support from the Sultan as they were seen as a strong enemy against Spanish and Ottomans who were a threat for the whole region those days. And this is how the Dutch rule started They were first welcomed to create a buffer against Spanish and British forces. But then the Dutch colonization period started. Ternate has been the capital of clove trade until the 19th century when the spice trade has substantially started to decline. Today you can see the Fort Oranje, a 17th-century Dutch fort located at the centre of Ternate City.
It has been the center of governance in the region until the end of the colonization period. Today the fort is not well maintained but you can still sense the importance it had those days from its size and high security system. I am actually impressed by the clove monument in the middle of the fort, which looks like a very post-modern structure. It is also a symbol how much significance the clove had these days and almost changed the world history.
Next day we headed to the hills, where the clove and nutmeg farms are located. We climbed the steep hills by motorbike, which was quite a challenge. All through the way you can find clove and nutmegs exhibited at the streets. They were newly harvested and dried. Finally I had the chance to touch a nutmeg and clove in their branch. Nutmeg is like jewelry; the maze has a beautiful red color.
With the smell of clove in my head, we started our trip to our second stop: Batu Angus, volcanic rocks next to the coast. I felt as if we are at a sci-fi movie set or another planet. Actually, this place deserves much more attention then it has today. The volcanic structure is very interesting and very well preserved. Combined with the beautiful view of volcanic island Tidore your eyes can feast. I had the chance to capture a few very beautiful photos.
All through the way we were saluted as “Hello Mister” almost by everybody! I accepted to be a mister and take their warm greetings with a happy smile. Our next stop has been Tolire Lake, a beautiful volcano lake with an impressive green color.
The lake also hosts crocodiles but we couldn’t see them as sheer cliffs border it! I had the best banana chips I had in my life, made of duck bananas J I’ll definitely try it at home. We ended the afternoon from the viewpoint in Laguna Lake. As the clouds change, the view also changes. It is like being in the middle of a volcanic dream surrounded by ocean and spices.
If you are into an off the beaten tropical track with some interesting history, this is definitely a place to visit. It is very interesting to see how the world history has changed while the nature still stays unique and idyllic in this beautiful island. Here you can also find huge smiles like the rest of Indonesia, nice diving spots, beaches, local Indonesian food and tropical views. And get some taste of the spices!