Ok, this is finally it! The final installation of the Hari Raya vacation extravaganza at Banda Islands: the sights and activities that one and all should enjoy on a tropical smattering of rocks in the middle of the ocean in Indonesia.

Now I can move on and write about more everyday life, which is equally awesome and interesting (at least to me – be prepared to read about soil and water!), especially since anyone can have a cool vacation (although Matt disagrees with me on this), and that’s not what this is about.

The journey over to Banda Islands from Ambon was definitely a journey in itself, but one that was well worth it. We boarded this large boat for the 11-hour overnight trip. It was overflowing with people – all flat surfaces were covered with people. Even the hallways had people sleeping on them; one man got quite upset at us for tiptoeing over him to get out (it was an acrobatic feat to navigate around this boat!), but what could we do? He was sleeping in the hallway. Lesson learned though, we took another boat back, the Tata Mai Lau, and it was rather a night-and-day experience. Avoid the Kelimutu if you can.

A peak into the 2nd class cabins. Notice perhaps the large mounds of onion sacks outside the window and the bottle of Ambon fruit wine (tastes like Ethiopian honey wine). The first class cabins was no better in terms of quality; they just had fewer beds though not fewer people! The little bed next to me had 4 people all crammed together on it. Of course steerage class was something I imagine the old-timey immigrants also used: cramped simple wooden bunks all in one gigantic hull. The crew also sold sleeping spots on their beds for people in steerage if one were desperate.

The ship crew so thoughtfully placed mini petting zoos in the corners of the cabin. There were definitely some loose critters roaming about.

Getting on and off the boat involves this madness. The way out was particularly crazy where the boat crew allowed all the porters to rush on first and crush all the people waiting to exit the boat. I nearly trampled a small child – it was not a pleasant scene.

These small island hopping boats were considerably more enjoyable. We motored past pods of dolphins. Matt saw a baby one leap up out of the water; I did not. I also did not see the sea turtle and giant tuna while snorkeling, so Matt is clearly the sea whisperer between the two of us.

Good thing the coral stays in place, so I could get a chance to see it…

Amazing drop off. However, unfortunately for Banda that is trying to develop its snorkeling and diving tourism, many of the young boat captains (including our own) drop anchors in the very spots they take people to see the coral. We mentioned this to the owner of a guest house who became very upset, as many of the older men who own businesses and boats have tried to train the younger boat captains to avoid this practice. Efforts were even made to provide designated moorings, but the buoys kept being stolen. We saw sad lengths of string floating in the current where the buoys should have been.

One morning we climbed up Gunung Api in the pouring rain! It was a moderate climb until less than a 1/4 of the way up, and then it was straight up for the rest of the way.

This was the trail up Gunung Api most of the way. Definitely by the end Matt and I both had jelly legs. It was my first volcano to climb, and of course the closer I got to the top the more it looked like a volcano and the more I hoped that today wouldn’t be that fateful day.

We made it to the misty, cold and wet top! 636 meters. I was rather scared, because we couldn’t really see where the crater was and tumbling down into a volcano was not how I envisioned my end.

The big celebration for Hari Raya of course required firecrackers and sparklers. So, we spent time with small, unsupervised children lighting off minor explosives and then reciting all the English languages phrases they knew. Adorable.

Perhaps we coddle our kids in the West a bit?

Although many of the shops were closed for Hari Raya and boat trips were a bit more expensive to set up, traveling during the holiday season does lend itself to joining in on once-a-year celebrations! This is where the 11-year old was the local talent shyly singing his heart out. The pole in the middle is a tradition the Dutch established if I remember correctly; the pole is greased and men climb up and try to claim the prizes.

We cultured ourselves by visiting the houses of famous Indonesian dissidents and leaders (Hatta) and the small, local museum. Here is an artists interpretation of when the Dutch hired Japanese mercenaries to slaughter the entire population of Run, because they weren’t pliant enough submissives.