Travel to Masohi
Travel to Masohi was uneventful but long: the Jakarta-Ambon flight leaves Jakarta at 1:30am and arrives at 7:00am, meaning for me a night without sleep. Our team member and logistics expert Acun had arrived a day earlier in Ambon and done some shopping for things hard to find in Masohi (alcohol for plant collections and a good portable genset). I set off immediately from the airport for the Tolehu harbor and we arrived in time for the 9:00am fast ferry to Masohi, Seram. The ferry was so crowded I couldn’t get out to the railings to enjoy the sweeping views of the Ambon and Seram mountains over shimmering blue water, so I dozed a bit on the ‘VIP’ class deck, assailed by booming Maluccan karaoke videos.
Masohi is a quiet, friendly town sited on a large, calm bay. The town is now divided into Christian and Muslim neighborhoods, and only the odd burned-out church offers evidence of the terrible ethnic clashes of a decade ago. Both Ambon and Masohi now have a relatively large permanent military presence, in the form of the fenced compounds of neat houses and green lawns that house battalions of TNI-AD, the Indonesian army.
Dining on local food is one of the best parts of travel for me, and I managed to find a restaurant selling ‘papeda’ and fish curry. Papeda is a clear, glutinous, nearly tasteless glue made from sago flour. Not particularly appetizing on its own, but it forms an unusual and not unpleasant base for tasty sauces. Love of sago products is mark of pride and identity for Eastern Indonesians and we’ll be eating a lot more of it as we leave the town. I’ll write more on the amazing sago palm in a later post.
We were picked up at the harbor by a patrol car of the Manusela National Park Service, which has been wonderfully supportive from the start. Two members of PEH (the park’s research group) will accompany us from Masohi, Iik and Jumrin. Both joined Acun and Endro in April, and they are tremendously enthusiastic about learning our plot and plant collecting methodologies. The head of the park office here in Masohi, Pak Zul, has a background as a plant pest researcher, and has taken a genuine interest in our study. The great majority of research and data collection in Manusela has been on animals, particularly the endemic and rare parrots, and the park office has almost no information on the park’s plants. We all hope to change this, and as the result of our existing methods we should be able to put together an illustrated guide to the common lowlands trees of Manusela even before we leave.
Yesterday, apart from formulating a plan at the Park office, Acun and I did some shopping for the trip. We’ve decided to do a 3 to 4 day fast walk from Unit ‘O’ in the east of the northern park extension to Solea in the west in order to locate a good place for the camp. Acun, Iik, and Jumrin will then come back to Masohi to fully stock for the trip, and for Iik and Jumrin to spend Idul Adha (an important Islamic holy day) with their families. I should be able to compose the next blog entry at that time. Until then…into the woods!