Ternate – Rigged battery solutions & smiles

Friday, September 20, 2013
Ternate, Maluku Islands, Indonesia
Johannes and I were on a mission early to get a solution to our battery issue. We were on the search for either a portable booster, a 24v battery or, at least, a couple 12v car batters we could wire in series to get us in the air. After stopping at a stall that sold some car batteries and various other supplies and aToyota dealership, we realized we should stop asking for a booster. No one had apparently ever heard of the concept, much less seen or sold one. 24v batteries were also out of the question, as everyone we spoke to said we should just connect 2 12v batteries in series.

That was the only solution we had . The Toyota dealership made a reputable impression from which to get batteries, so we had them delivered. While we waited they served up coffee and donuts which helped lighten our mission. With the two batteries tested, a series cable connector, and two jumper cables, we were off to the airport. All that only took a couple hours ;-) Our plan was to put the two car batteries on top of our emergency raft, so as close forward as possible. The batteries were heavy so we wanted to make sure they weren't too far after. From there the two jumper cables strapped together would be long enough to get through the pilot’s window to the access panel where we could connect directly to Maggie’s battery. It would be a very jerry rigged solutions, but we didn’t really see other immediate options.

Once at the airfield, our handling agents started giving us the runaround about avgas. We were told that avgas would be available, even if only at astronomical prices . We wanted and needed some, and had planned on getting some, so not getting any would make our next legs tight. We knew we wouldn’t get any in Ternate, Banda Neira, or Biak, so our next three destinations would surely be avgas-free. Only in Papua New Guinea would we be able to get avgas again. Interestingly, the only reason they have avgas is because there are so many Christian missionary planes flying through there. Oh well, no need to look too deep in to it – at least we’d have a fuel source!

After considerable threats and runarounds, we were finally told there were 100 liters available about 30 minutes away. We took it, at such expensive rates I can’t even share. We knew the rate beforehand so it wasn’t a surprise, but again opening the wallet that wide was painful. You have to either laugh or cry about it ;-).

Important for us was to get off the ground and get to Ternate on time because that airport closed at 4pm and we’d lose an hour traveling eastbound . We were of course also anxious to see if our jerry rigged battery solution would do the trick. Fingers crossed. We got everything set, filled up the tanks with every last drop of the expensive avgas, and then turned the key to start. Success!! We were powered up. As soon as I bolted on the access panel we were on our way.

It was a relatively short flight to Ternate and we could see the volcanic island on which the town was located already 40 miles away. We were coming from the west and the airport was on the eastern side, so we had the giant volcano to deal with first. We rounded from the north and then could see the long runway right on the shore. Pretty spectacular. After one go-around we got Maggie where we wanted her.

Instantly I liked this town more than Manado and surely more than any in the Philippines. There were fun blue buses pounding music that would pick up folks and of course the obligatory stalls along the road that sold all kinds of odds and ends . The shady trees though made for a pleasant atmosphere and the people were constantly smiling at us. After settling in at the hotel and taking a dip in the pool – which a local school was using to learn how to swim – we took a blue van into town. Not knowing where we were going, we just had it take us to a point that looked good. That just happened to be along the harbor with various food stalls. We perused the stalls and quite an appetite settled on one where you could pick out the fresh fish catch and see it prepped an grilled before your eyes. With fingers crossed we dove in and at it all. It was very, very good. And cheap. And quite a fun experience. At the stall next door we got drinks, and at the stall next to that fried bananas with chocolate sauce and peanut sprinkles for dessert. All of it was excellent! All the while the folks were exceptionally polite and all of them greeted us with enthusiastic "hello!"s. The last time I can recall being greeted so genuinely and with such enthusiasm by almost everyone was in Syria back in 2001 . In Syria we were also a novelty, with folks wanting pictures of us and not minding having their picture taken. I must say the visit to Ternate put Indonesia high on the list for a repeat visit.

After dinner and walking around some we opted to take moped taxis back to the hotel. The primary taxi options in town were either the blue community vans or moped taxis. The mopeds were everywhere. It was a riot jumping on the back and merging into, what from our western perspective, is chaos. For them though the rules are somehow understood and it just seemed to work. We made it back up to hotel in ten fun minutes, all for about $1.

It seems Indonesia is one of those last few places where things really are exceptionally inexpensive (except avgas!!) and the folks genuinely friendly towards tourists. Perhaps it’ll be different in Bali with the tourist hoards there, but so far, so good.  


From Manado (WAMM) to Ternate (WAMT): HALMO TRN at 7500 (oddly a VFR altitude, but that’s what we were given. No radar coverage anywhere, so lots of position reporting with DME from VORs and radials. Fun.)
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