north halmahera: wangongira – tobelo dalam

_MG_0283wangongira sacred spring, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

water is our life. most of my travel somehow end up with water. i’ve been even collecting spring water from various springs lately. i even put water as part of bhumy name: wisesa, means water in javanese sanskrit. as while i was pregnant with him, i spent once in two days swimming in the spring just 2 kilometers away from our house then. living in jogjakarta made me being accustom in the tradition of swimming or taking a late night dip in the springs. in the traditional javanese belief, spring water is sacred. they even have the tradition of kungkum, means, meditation in the water.

one of my biggest impression in my tobelo days is the spring in wangongira. we first heard about it in our third day while meeting with the village elders. the village elders from wangongira reminded me with gandalf version of tobelo people and them-whose-name-could-not-be-spoken (but you can write them down). while preparing for the “nusantara water ritual” ceremony in tobelo as the sacred water bearers, their main resource of water itself is being threatened. the national water company (PAM) is currently building their water tank so near to their spring.

wangongira spring is very unique. various type of paddy plant grow in the middle of the spring. they used to held traditional ceremony celebrating their harvest. now the paddy in the middle of the spring is gone, only some grow scattered downstream.

IMG02160-20120417-1219sacred various type rice-paddy plants used to grow here, where the rocks are now :(

we somehow end up going there with the regent inspection hearing about the issue. the track could only be done by a four wheel drive and it’s impossible to be passed when it’s raining heavily. it was a jumpy ride for all of us. the car nearly stumbled twice on our way.

the wangongira spring is so beautiful, i touched the water firsthand to say hi, the rocks that ruins them broke my heart instantly. i feel like crying. i asked the regent a very straight question: “does tobelo has problem with water, that this kind of thing need to happen?”, he answered that it’s not but if tobelo become a big city, it would be. the incident is that PAM before promised the villagers to build the water tank 100 meters away from the spring, somehow they decided to build their water tank so near with the spring and ruin the sacred paddy plant.

IMG02165-20120417-1223PAM water tank on the spring

i never got the idea with this logic of such development. that a city have to grow so big, it sucked everything to the center. it sucked other people’s life, such as the wangongirans to support their existence. the wangongirans rely their daily needs of water from the spring. one more thing that makes me choke, that this water project runs for 90 billions rupiah from the central ternate government. it’s so obvious the motive of this useless and unnecessary project. f*k it.

IMG02168-20120417-1518path to some semi-avatar world

522871_10150677174072043_2101248955_nwangongira village, tobelo, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

IMG02172-20120417-1537crosses on the ground

the only thing that could calm me down is to take a dip into the spring water. beforehand we should ask permission: tabea molulu. the story goes that a long time ago, one of their ancestor from huana lina, a women walked from the hills carrying some newly harvested paddy. she fell from the hill and the paddy plant fall to the spring. and that’s how the legend of wangongira spring started.

_MG_0319the ladies throwing their water buckets, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

_MG_0329me and rinto taking some water back to the villagers, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

_MG_0330rinto passing filled water buckets, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

me and dalih decided to take a walk around the village. our local youth guide is rinto. he is so funny and hilarious. he took us around and nicely answered all of our questions. we ended up taking another dip while waiting for the car to come back to take us.

we were helping the women villagers in filling their water upstream, while some workers were throwing rocks to the spring. the village children were also around helping to carry the water back to their mothers. and suddenly someone screamed: watch out snake! me and rinto swam back and running to the small hill. half of the people watch a medium size snake going into the water. half of them did not. while catching back my breath from running, our driver was back.

suddenly rain pour heavily. it was like flooding from the sky. our car could not start either. we nearly did not make it back if the rain last more than 30 minutes. at the 20th minutes, i remembered something, i haven’t say bye to the spring and the place, while panicking along the running to the hills thing. i said in my heart: tabea molulu, thank you for today and someday we will be back again. we ask permission to go home now. the rain stopped, the car ignited. in a place like this, you should believe in the spirit of the place.

IMG02159-20120417-1215the downstream from the spring

i prayed one day, human could conquer their greed and stop exploiting mother nature. i wish to still see my son and other children could still play in these amazing water. i owe wangongira a promise to go back again one day. i hope this nature beauty stays in their place.

for more about this story: A Public Works Project Threatens Rice Harvest in Remote Indonesia (by Labodalih Sembiring)

north halmahera: things you do when your boat flip

P1040826this is how our boat being tolled by the sea police post flipping

laugh first. and realized that a flip happens in other aspect of life too.

it was the most beautiful day and the calmest wave in tobelo at the end of april. it was the day of the kora-kora festival (boat festival). hundred of boats were at the sea making a round trip in the north halmaheran seas. out of all the boats, it has to be the boat that we ride that made the incident.

_MG_0744one of the best day in tobelo, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

i remember taking a small kora-kora boats with 7 other people. the kakara mamas with their particular scream and dancing on their own boats. the guys in the other boat with the wangongiran elders. the cakalele musician in their own boat. it was probably the most sunniest day of my life and such a festive atmosphere.

_MG_0763mbak heidi and me smiling without premonition, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

P1040804the dancing ladies of the seas: the kakara mamas

_MG_0778wangongiran elders of tobelo dalam, traveljunkieindonesia spotted (with his papuan ikat), photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

P1040796musician and their instrument carried by a kora-kora boat

no one sees it that the boat going to flip that day. the only strange things is that our boat machine died like 5 times from the start of the journey. the last one, it was really long maybe 10 minutes stop and the other boats already went far away by then. the water police boat was coming for us, to change to their boat to continue the journey. but when they are near suddenly our boat flip. everything happen so fast.

i just remember grabbing the other end, trying to stabilize the boat. but since the flipping is really happening, i went to the other end. and somehow sit on top of the upside down boat. but it’s also slowly drowning. forget my bag, it catch the water already. although trying to put it up.

the water police was panicking and jump into the water to rescue some of us. the kids of the fishermen cry out of shock. only one friend who can’t swim (but somehow manage to save her ipad). they threw us life jacket, but when i looked everyone who belong to the media team are putting their camera up high. but unfortunately none of those camera survived.

P1040817our boat navigator with only one hand and his two kids

we were rescued. the kids are being calmed and put into towel, and also jacket. most of us laughing when we were on top of the police boat. what else do you expect we would do? the total damaged cause us all our gadgets. but the most important things, our lives were save. i just notice that our boat navigator only had one hand, somehow his right hand looked like it’s been cut. i don’t know because of what.

you could speculated a lot about how the boat flip. we prefer not too. but since then i always believe that every boat can flip. the only thing that you can do when you are riding any boat and doing island hopping, is to surrender your life to the sea. whatever happens, happens.

when the boat you are riding flip, put your best smile and dive along (and don’t forget to bring dry bags next time). be thankful when you survived. we were lucky because help was near. and remember, always remember not to waste your time in life. and for us, the flip, make us laugh with life.

_MG_0855last photo from labodalih sembiring‘s camera, smile!

P1040824the last photo from my camera (it survived after being repaired)

north halmahera: kakara island

P1040679i would say kakara island is the heaven on earth

breathless beauty.

i’m still breathless on how to say it. how do you really reach this heaven? take a plane from jakarta/surabaya to ternate. take the ferry to north halmahera then take a drive to tobelo, and yes, be patient in that 2,5 hours drive. in tobelo, usually from tanjung pilawang you could rent a small fishing boat. and reach here around 20 minutes trip.

then you decide whether to stay, amazed until dark. or even might decide to stay forever. i nearly did anyway (then i remember i have a son waiting for me).

kakara island become an obsession during our stay in tobelo, every chances we got to go here, we always go for it. either to just swim around, jumping from the docks and do snorkeling around the area. the coral rocks! there is even one absurd afternoon where we spend one of the most dreamy sunset of my life. where the color of the sky turn very vivid. and then a kite flew into the kakara island from the island across. i suddenly felt to be in one of salvador dali’s painting. the clouds was like cotton candy in different colors. psychedelic.

kakara island also have a legend of a woman warlord in the pirate legend among the tobelo people. buranita (say it with respect), whose husband is a white crocodile, ruler of the halmaheran seas. we met one of the her straight descendant called, mama pere. she is an amazing little women. i’ll write in another post of all this amazing kakara mamas. i miss them so much.

for now just enjoy the sight of this amazing island beauty :)





P1040698amazing color even in not so sunny afternoon | this is how clear the water is | taking picture with mamas from dufa-dufa island | kakara’s children – photo courtesy by sigit d pratama | sunset at kakara with the boys – photo courtesy by sigit d pratama | the way home to tobelo at the back of the talented mr. photographer @sigitdpratama