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Mount Binaiya – Adventure Journal

The Manusela National Park and Mount Binaiya in Seram Island, Moluccas is one of the less visited  National Parks and Mountains in the Indonesia. It is spectacularly beautiful, and it was the multiple days-hike that could stood out in your memory as amazing hiking experiences.

I was woken up by the pilot announcement from its cockpit for landing preparation. The sun light went through the window when I lifted up the window shade, a sea of cloud with beautiful sunrises on the horizon.  We landed at Patimura, Ambon Airport, Moluccas after 6 hours night flight from Jakarta.  An excellent flight with Garuda, the Indonesian flag carrier.

What a nice airport, clean and neat, also decorated with many stunning photos of adventure destinations on this little archipelago, Moluccas Spice Islands.

Then waiting for our luggage. It’s a challenging situation these days with sky rocketing airlines ticket price in Indonesia and its baggage pricing policy. For adventure provider like us, we have to be very careful and cautious to all details of our long list of equipment and climbing logistics so we would be able to serve our clients with the type of services “hassle free adventure” without overly spend on check-in baggage.

As we walked out the arrival gate, we were greeted by local taxi drivers which offering their service to take us the city, all with friendly gestures and no scam. Everyone offered the same price, IDR 200,000 per trip to most of area in Ambon and its surrounding area. Then we saw a big smile of our trusted driver, who’s been serving us since we opened the trip to Moluccas Island.

“ Ambon Manise – the Beautiful Ambon”

The city of Ambon famously known has a tag line “ Ambon Manise “  meaning “ Beautiful Ambon”  is really meaningful when you see and enjoy the beauty of the beaches along the city’s coast. Yeah the city is surrounded by beautiful coastal line, making Ambon as a water front city with unique landscape, where the blue sea meets the high land forest, wherever you want to go you can see the clear blue sea, fused with the green mountains in the distance. 

First day in Ambon, first thing first of course the culinary tour. Well some said that Ambon is one of the best places in Indonesia to go on food adventure.  Ambon offers a variety of food experiences and dishes, especially for those who loves sea foods. The generous amount of herbs and spices variants combine with countless type of fresh fish from unpolluted seas have produced one of the best seafood meals in Indonesia.

Ambon’s signature dish is Nasi Kelapa (coconut rice), which is served with shredded coconut, a portion of grilled fish and Colo-Colo sambal (chili dish). This coconut rice is only served in the evening. If you’re happen to be around Natsepa beach in the afternoon, then you should try Ambon’s most famous dish “Rujak”  (fruit salad), which is widely available around Natsepa Beach. The chunky nut sauce tastes completely different as here in Ambon they use cashew nuts rather than peanuts.

AMBON TRADITIONAL MARKET

Other “must” things to do in Ambon is visiting the traditional market. We went to Pasar Mardika, the biggest traditional market in Ambon. The bustling Mardika market offers unique shopping experiences, with different kinds of vegetables, fishes, spices, fruits, and anything that you can think of for your kitchen need. Most of commodities present at the market come from Ambon and its surrounding islands of Moluccas province.

The market itself located right in front of Mardika Beach which is connected to Ambon port, around 10-15 minutes strolling from the center of Ambon. I would say this is the busiest place in Ambon. The vibrant atmosphere of Mardika market really make shopping lots of fun. Probably we wouldn’t stop exploring that place so early, if our bags were not already full of stuffs – time to go back to our hotel.

Gearing up for a multiday rainforest expedition is no small feat. There are dozens of items large and small, common and specific, to remember and bring along. But the bulk of the equipment for many trips are common outdoors items. We have 5 big rucksacks and a carry-on pack to cram it all in for the whole team member. It took us a few hours to pack everything up and get going.

FERRY TO SERAM ISLAND

Mount Binaiya is located at Seram Island, about 2 hours fast ferry ride from Ambon.  Seram is the largest island in southern Maluku Province, and according to local beliefs it is the “Nusa Ina” or Mother Island where all the people of Central Maluku once came from. Seram Island is very mountainous and that includes 3027m Gunung Binaya, the highest mountain in all Maluku.

That morning, we arrived at Tulehu port at 8 AM, it was bright blue sky, with beautiful blue sea as a foreground. As our van arrived at the port parking area, again we were greeted by number of men who were offering their service to carry our big ruck sacks to the departure area then to ferry. As we still have a plenty of time, we decided to handle of our luggage by ourselves.

The ticket counter was super crowded. There’s no queuing system, everyone tried to be in the front and wanted to be served first. Quite a challenging process, although in the end, everyone managed to get the ticket.  This fast ferry is the main transportation for people traveling from Ambon to Seram Island, while the regular ferry could take at least 6 hours. That’s why it is very popular and always fully booked.

After the boarding gate was open, there was another challenge to get into the ferry as passengers, porters, snacks sellers were trying to get on the ferry at the same time. We had to cross a small wooden bridge of 1.5 meters from the dock into the ferry, another challenging process though, especially when you had to carry luggage with both of your hand. Glad everything went pretty smoothly in the end.

Two hours ferry ride was awesome with an outstanding view of Ambon Sea, beautiful islands along the way and amazing coastal lines. The ride itself was smooth as butter, no big wave at all. December is kind of best month to visit Ambon, the Moluccas have the opposite rainy season patterns as most of Indonesia. The dry season lasts from October to March. The wet season lasts from late April to September in central and southern Maluku.

Then our ferry reached the Amahai port in Masohi, the main town in Seram Island. A pretty laid back town. The infrastructure here is quite well developed, port, power plant, gas station, banks, hotel and even a laundry shop are available there. Although it’s still need some improvement to make it as a better stopover city so visitors are willing to stay longer there.

In Masohi we completed the all the logistics for the expedition, then we ready to hit the road for three hour drive to Piliana Village, the entry point of Mount Binaiya. As we drove out of town, soon we entered the trans Seram road which lies on Western coast line of the Island. The overland trip to Piliana Village will pass some beautiful terrains, from white sand coastline to winding road on hilly terrain and some small villages in between. Along the way we could see local villager drying up the cloves, coconut near the road, and many fishing boats on the seashore.

The final part before we reached the village was very challenging terrain, our car had to maneuver in around 5 km narrow street, and climbed from the sea level to around 500 meter elevation,  with a lot of bends on hilly area.

PILIANA VILLAGE

Located just near the border of Manusela National Park, Piliana is considered as one of secluded village in Indonesia. It’s a quiet little spot in the middle of nowhere, which pretty much isolated from everything. From the capital of Moluccas it takes at least 7 hours with various transportation modes to arrive on this village. Local community there are engaged in agriculture with sago and taro as their main staple food. 

Cellular network is on and off, the electricity goes off often. The small solar panels, which were installed by government, have no longer worked, so local villagers mostly rely on small power generator.

Life is slow and relaxed in this village, there’s nothing to rush for, everything slowdown to snail pace with peacefulness all around. Just a few steps outside this village, you will find absolute tranquility green hills, mountains and the horizon towards Murkele mountains range.

That afternoon our host, the head of Piliana Village served us with a fried taro and hot coffee as we were enjoying the sunset.

Trekking Day 1 of our Binaiya Rainforest Expedition

Before the expedition started we conducted a “mandatory” traditional good luck ceremony – as mandated by local villagers – this is to bring protection upon us during our climb, the ceremony is led by the head of tribe. During the ceremony the head of tribe casted a spell in local language, touched our leg to transfer the energy and wishing that the expedition could run smoothly. At the end of ceremony, the head offered us for trying to chew a betel with lime which is part local tradition. Well it was fun.

We started hiking from Piliana Village at around 9 AM, our target for that day was reaching the Aimoto campsite at the altitude 1,278 meter above sea level. The track climbs steadily through sago plantation, conserved forest and crosses several small rivers with 20-40 cm depth, and afterwards entered pristine tropical rainforest of Manusela National Park. On this first day, we mostly hiked under the shade of dense rainforest.

After 7 hours of long steep trek, finally we arrived at Aimoto Campsite. The campsite is located at the bottom of the valley surrounded by bush and high trees, including a couple of big fern trees and giant bamboos, which stand tall not far from the wooden shelter. There are three modest shelters at the campsite and a small river, which provide a plenty of water, making it the perfect campsite at Mt Binaiya. 

By chance we were lucky to arrive there just in time, because not long after that the rain poured down, hitting the shelter’s roof like a bullet. When the rain stopped, the bush around us began evaporating, with sound of insects began to fill the afternoon silence.

Trekking Day 2

Morning was broken, we were woken up by birds chirping and sound of jungle monkeys, a beautiful sounds of nature that dragged us out from our sleeping bag. After a pouring rain yesterday, we were expecting a muddy, slippery track, especially on the steeper terrain. We let our crew who carried the mineral water to start first then followed by the rest member of the team. Good water management is very important, as there will be no more clean water source along the trail and until we go back again to this campsite. The only available water is rain water which collected at plastic container and puddle water at a small pond which normally located near the campsites, which both have poor water qualities.

The route was tough since the beginning as we swing through different hills and lengthy mountains range. After a half day of trekking, we observed that the vegetation is getting sparser and trees are shorter. We started entering the cloud/mossy forest. However as we got higher we could see the beautiful blue ocean, while at the same time, some part of the trail are rockier with sharp limestone. In this section of the trail, we started to spot the endemic red loris birds squabbled and squawked among the tree-tops. 

Binaiya Mountain range is not only covered by dense rain forests, also by limestone karst. Scientist described this area as a remarkably geology complex because of its location at the meeting of several tectonic microplates, which have been described as “one of the most tectonically complex areas on Earth”.

After long tough 9 hours hike and passing several peaks then we hiked down to Isilali campsite, which located at the bottom of valley, well shaded by trees. Night come early at this shaded valley as if all the animals and trees watched and waited.

Trekking Day 3

We set off early from Isilali campsite, with light packing, carrying only the essentials. The plan is to do a summit push and back to Isilali campsite at the same day, instead of 2 days hike as planned before.  In short, it is going to be a challenging long day hike for everyone.

We were lucky with the blue skies gave us amazing clear views of beautiful mountainous landscape and its surrounding including sea and Western coast of the Seram Island. The next part of our adventure took us over craggy mountain terrain as we moved to the higher and drier part of the mountain with more limestone karst area.  

The final trek to the top was stunning and challenging at the same time, passing the uncounted hills, which covered by amazing endemic tree fern savanna with glimpses of wild deer and steep sided mountain slopes add to the magic of the place. We managed to reach to the top of Mount Binaiya right after midday with a wave of fogs embraced us.

After an hour of break for lunch, we started trek down Isilali campsite, and it had already dark when we arrived there, cheered by our crew who patiently waited for us. The next day we made our way back down a similar route we had come up, and arrived at the village at dusk where local people were busy decorating the village for Christmas celebration. That night the first lady in the village cooked a very special meal – a traditional food – Papeda (Moluccan Sagoo Congee) everyone was happy to try it, including our clients.

When you climb Mount Binaiya with Climb Indonesia, you will climb with certified and English speaking mountain guides, reliable local crew, selected local guide and personal porters. The majority of your local crews come from Piliana village, the entry point of Mount Binaiya. You could meet their families, visit their houses and touring the village when we stop overnight in their village during the trek.

Mount Binaiya Rainforest Expedition is ideally done as 5 days trekking, to be able to enjoy the mountain scenery better. For those who have good physical fitness level, 4 days trekking is doable.

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