Ascent of Mt. Binaiya (Seram Island, Indonesia)
Seram is a big island (17,000 sq.km; 6,600 sq.miles) located in Eastern Indonesia (Maluku Province), near New Guinea. It is mountainous, sparsely populated, and almost completely covered with dense forests. It is best known for its large number of endemic bird species. Its indigenous inhabitants are also locally famous for their magic. The goal of my trip was to climb Mt. Binaiya (3,019 m; 9,905 ft), the highest point in the island, from the North coast. I did this trip during the second half of November 2010, hence during the rainy season. I had initially planned to complete the traverse of the island to the South coast. But information obtained locally suggested that, due to heavy rains, this would have required crossing fast flowing rivers on the South side of Mt. Binaiya. So, instead, we returned from Mt. Binaiya by the same path as we came in.
The logistics for this trip (transportation, permits, food) was very well arranged by Joan Korompis, from Indonesia Trekking. Joan also joined the trip and acted as team leader to hire and organize porters. Overall, the party consisted of (see photos at the top of this page, from left to right): Joan, Demis (a ranger from Manusela National Park, originally from Western Papua), Jemmy (a porter from Masihulan, near Sawai on the North coast), Elie (a porter from Huahulu village), Frans (a porter from Kanikeh village), me, and Mister Leo (Leonardo Padeatu, the owner of Indonesia Trekking, who had decided to join the trip). Only Frans had been to Mt. Binaiya before and, so, was our actual guide to the summit beyond Kanikeh. Joan was the only member of the Indonesian team who spoke English.
Our trek started from the paved road along the Northern coast (see map below). We successively traversed Huahulu village (just a few kilometers away from the road), Roho village (a 3-hour hike from Huahulu), and Kanikeh village (about 7 hours from Roho), before reaching Mt. Binaiya (about 9 hours from Kanikeh). On our way in, we spent nights in Huahulu, in the forest between Roho and Kanikeh, in Kanikeh (~650m), in the forest below Mt. Binaiya (~2100m), and finally near the summit of Mt. Binaiya (~3000m).
Overall, the trek was quite hard and strenuous, as we had to hike almost continuously either in muddy or swampy terrain, or in rivers. The terrain was also often steep and slippery. It became somewhat easier above 2,200m near Mt. Binaiya: there, it was even steeper, but not as wet and vegetation was less dense. We had very heavy rains almost each day.
2. Seram island
3. Trek (very approximate)
View of North coast (near Sawai) from the last pass along the road connecting Masohi (capital of Seram, in the South) to the North coast.
Sawai, a fisherman village mostly built on pilotis above the sea, where we spent two nights.
View of Sawai bay.
Birds of Seram in a bird rehabilitation center near Sawai. Although I saw a huge number of beautiful birds during the trip, I was only able to take photos of birds in captivity.
On the first day we took a forest acclimatization hike around Sawai.
Encounter with a python that had swallowed a deer. Extremely impressive. It takes about a month for a python to digest such a big animal.
But donít mess with a python. Even with a deer in its belly, it can react quickly.
We left Sawai on a long boat to go to Salawai river. This allowed us to see Seram from the sea.
Along Salawai river. There were a huge number of birds and a few crocodiles.
A small visitor on the long boat.
Huahulu village. Like all the villages we traversed, it consists of two rows of traditional houses separated by a main alley. All houses are equipped with a small solar panel.
Huahulu is populated by indigenous Seram people, who still wear a traditional red bandana.
Half of the way between Huahulu and Roho requires hiking in rivers.
Sago bread in Roho. It is made by crushing the wood of the sago palm tree into thin particles. The bread was cooked in bamboo stems.
Our first camp in the forest between Roho and Hanikeh. The trail between Roho and Hanikeh is long, hard, and extremely muddy. Whatever gets wet can no longer get dry again. Keeping dry clothes in plastic bags for the nights is critical.
Next morning, early sun through the trees at the camp.
Lunch along the trail before Hanikeh.
Mt. Binaiya is in the background (center right), 2,400m above Hanikeh.
People of Hanikeh.
Traditional ceremony in Hanikeh to bring protection upon us.
The path above Hanikeh is often very steep, but slightly less muddy than between Roho and Hanikeh.
Above our night camp (2100m) the forest becomes a rain forest and is easier to hike.
As we climb further up (here, about 2600m), vegetation becomes sparser.
Below the summit of Mt. Binaiya.
Main (left) and secondary (right) summits of Mt. Binaiya.
At the summit with my wonderful porters (left) and with Joan and Mister Leo (right).
Our camp, just below the summit.
Giant ferns around the summit of Mt. Binaiya.
View of South coast from Mt. Binaiya.
View toward the North from Mt. Binaiya. Hanikeh village is visible in the plain below (white dot).
Sunrise over Eastern Seram seen from Mt. Binaiya.
After spending a night on Mt. Binaiya, we returned by the same way as we came in, through Hanikeh, Roho, and Huahulu villages. However, hiking for several days in rivers and muddy/swampy terrain ended up taking a heavy toll on my feet, mostly due to dust particles (as well, perhaps, as bugs and parasites) that entered my shoes and socks, and acted as abrasive sandpaper. When we reached Hanikeh from Mt. Binaiya, the bottoms of my feet were in bad shape (photo on the left). It took us two more excruciating days to reach the road. From there, a car drove us to Masohi on the South coast. The two photos on the right show my feet when we arrived at the Irene hotel in Masohi.
There, a Chinese woman (I believe she was the owner or the manager of the Irene hotel) applied some Chinese medicine to my feet. She had warned me that pain would make me scream, and yes, I did scream.
Thanks to her treatment, however, I was able to reach Singapore two days later. But by then, my feet had swelled much and were clearly infected. I spent the following 6 days in Mount Elizabeth hospital (excellent) where I was administered large amounts of antibiotics.