There were many highlights of our stay in Banda – a few lows as well, including the chaotic and high speed entry into the Harbour by a huge ferry/cargo ship that caused havoc amongst the boats tied up to Hotel Maulana with some quite serious damage to one of the yachts.
Fortunately, although Bali Hai skewed round like a corkscrew and dragged her anchor, she was fine. We weren’t there at the time but a number of locals and other yachties made sure her lines were tight and she re anchored herself! Thank goodness for our marvellous new Rocna anchor!
Walking round the town of Banda was an absolute highlight and we especially enjoyed being taken around on one of the days by Maga, the teacher we had helped with the plastics clean up.
The first thing that strikes you as you walk around is that there are cannons just lying in the street wherever you go! In fact, our dinghy was often tied up to one in the grounds of Hotel Maulana.
Maga took us to the Fort, the small museum, the prison, what had been the the former Dutch Governor’s House, to a beautiful property lying empty but could make the most marvellous boutique hotel, and to many other interesting places.
One of the most poignant things I have seen was a note scratched in beautiful copperplate hand writing on the window in the former Dutch Governor’s residence.
The story goes that it was written by was the French mistress of one of the governors and she was so unhappy with the way things were in Banda (exploitation, slavery, savagery) that she decided to hang herself.
Her note scratched in her native language saying goodbye and saying how much she loved her family tore at our heartstrings.
Apparently many years later notes that she had written in secret expressing her unhappiness were found hidden in a cavity in a wall.
Not sure how much of the story is true but if anyone has more details I would love to hear what year she died and more about the circumstances of her death.
Fort Belgic, built in 1609 by the Dutch on the abandoned foundations of Fort Nassau laid by the Portuguese almost a century earlier, is still more or less intact. It was wonderful to be able to clamber around its ramparts without hindrance and even go up a rickety ladder up to the turrets where cannons still stood.
We had the chance to snorkel in the waters after visiting Pulau Lanthor which was fun – while the coral wasn’t all that colourful, the amazing variety in the shapes and size and type of coral made up for that. There were also lots of colourful fish and some people saw an enormous conger eel.
We also loved walking in the narrow, dark, market lanes crowded with stalls selling everything from eggs to nutmeg, clothes, bottles of two-stroke and heaps of vegetables and fish.
A few crews were corralled into visiting a school to give the students the opportunity to practice their English.
Amusingly, we were the only native born English people – the rest were Dutch! It didn’t matter however, as they speak excellent English, albeit with a Dutch accent.
A fleet of motor bikes took us to the school (driven by teachers but they looked so young Jonathan thought they were students!).
In between times we enjoyed sundowners at the dive school and the Hotel Maulana, as well as some excellent meals, mostly at the beautiful Hotel Cilu Bingtang.
We left Banda with a heavy heart and hope very much that one day we will return.