Voyager International & The Quest
For The Treasure Of The Island Kings

By Ketut Suryani

In the summer of 1985 Rich Mutschler, a musician and photographer, finished a tour playing the club and concert circuit in Germany and France living on the road five nights a week. His group had just won the "Blitz Tip" magazine performing arts and song writing competition sponsored by the Frankfurt Rundshau News. They were weary from touring and no one objected when Rich suggested a break. Days later he visited a local travel agency to discuss an exotic destination. The agent suggested Bali, an island where the art movement of the 60's never died and the indigenous people had a live and beautiful culture. It sounded like the perfect place to visit. Little did he know that his stay in paradise would change his life forever.

He bought the ticket and took the ride. After a lengthy flight and stop in Singapore aboard Garuda Air they arrived in Bali airspace and circled the island over thirty minutes before landing. From the air it looked like the map of "Treasure Island" in the Robert Lewis Stevenson classic. After clearing customs and registering at the hotel Rich headed off to the beach with a guitar and Nikon close at hand. Soon he drifted off to "Neverland" surrounded by the native sun, which reached in and warmed him to the bone.


Gold Canitar Cai from Sumba

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometime later, he was touched on the shoulder. A young tanned native man inquired if he was interested in purchasing antiques. The visitor outstretched his hand to reveal objects that reflected the morning sun. Rich recognized them to be Spanish pieces of 8, Dutch guilders and a lonely gold doubloon. All the coins were purchased for a good price and for the next few days the young man came about eleven o'clock redeeming his goods for cash and departing again on his old but reliable bicycle with faded red paint. Rich asked where the man acquired the coins. He would only say that an elderly man in the village had found them in a hillside and sold them as needed to pay his bills.

This unexpected opportunity was enough to wake Rich up to the possibilities of pursuing treasure in the Indies and Indonesia in general. Soon, through practice and experience he became a skilled trader returning three months of the year making new friends and business connections. As time went on he became aware of the numbers of wrecks and goods that had washed ashore from numerous trade ships from the Middle East, Europe and Asia laden with spices, gold, textiles, pearls, cannon, jewelry and more... Many of these items were now in private collections in Java and Bali for sale and for trade.

Now, after many years of purchasing shipwreck related items throughout Indonesia, Rich’s company, Voyager International, is recognized as a major trade organization. At its trade and cultural center in Batubulan, Bali one can find a connection to the past through the acquisition, restoration and exportation program carried on there since 1997. Rich is the founder and President of the Inter-island Trade Cooperative of Indonesia. He and his wife own and operate the Voyager Trade & Cultural Center in Batubulan, Bali. Voyager International Inc. is a recognized and prominent artifact and treasure dealership in the US from its base in Ft. Pierce, Florida.

For Rich, Bali and the "Spice Islands" is more than its two hundred million people, 365 languages, and 13,000 islands. This is his home centered amidst a turquoise sea and islands like gems strewn in a place of mystery and a culture spanning thousands of years of history and commerce. A place where the sound of music, primitive rain forests and the laughter of children replace a world of high rises, mass media and the growing isolation of living in Western society.

This is a trade culture that began with its people and a storybook history like no other. It is for the most part a story told from mouth to mouth and from generation to generation beginning with two couples referred to as the Baliaga who settled in the place called Trunyan near the sacred volcano, which is now near the Mother Temple. They were traders who supported their families through agriculture and exchange. From these two couples came the spirit of what is now considered the Bali traditional way of life. With the coming of Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Dutch traders, opium merchants, the Rajas and Cast System all that makes Bali unique became Balinese. And at last it is a modern society like no other, which struggles at conserving its ancient past amidst satellite television, the Internet and the endless invasion of tourists, which descend upon the island of the Rajas.

The Dutch East India Co. was the first trade organization in Indonesia. It was established in 1602 after negotiation between the Dutch and the Rajas of Java then called Batavia. So much trade was generated over time that it was said that "the trees rained gold coins". Wars were fought over nutmeg and other spices between Spain, England, Holland and Portugal. Many died for the control of spices and the usage of them for the gracious tables of Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, visitors from around the globe come to the Trade and Cultural Center to purchase rarities in quantity trade lots while living as guests of a Balinese family. Available are antiques & contemporary teakwood furnishings back to the 18th century, aristocratically jeweled pieces of the 15th century including gold and silver, stone temple relief’s, 15-19th century weaponry including bronze cannons, assorted gemstones including sapphires & rubies, ethnographic artifacts, intricate textiles, mastodon fossil ivory’s, blue & white Ming porcelain celadon and temple bronzes of the 13th century.  Pricing is based on availability and quantity.

Once at the Center, visitors can experience many ceremonies and festivals open to the public yearly. These include weddings, cremations, tooth filing ceremonies and the "Summer Arts Festival". All the festivities of Bali are beautiful, inspiring and memorable.

Where else can one obtain such fine objects of art? Where can you find the experience of primitive exchange and friendships that last a lifetime while listening to Gamelan music and watching exotic dance? No place is quite the same as Bali. When in Bali one never knows when he or she will have the opportunity of discovering a classic object of art and purchasing it.

Like the time on a lazy afternoon in June when Rich was visited by a friend of his wife from the village. He said he had something to sell. The piece for sale had been a marker on a loan to the King of Sumba that had not been redeemed. Removing the object from the bag Rich saw it to be a rare Canitar Chain. It was used to show nobility and social status and was worn down the front of the neck reaching the feet. This particular one was two and a half meters long from about 1620 in twenty-two karat gold. It had stylized dragons on the ends...simply beautiful. The man asked twenty five thousand dollars for the chain. After eight weeks and many telephone negotiations the price was settled at $8700 the hour before Rich departed on his flight. Later the value on chain was assessed at over $187,000.

Unfortunately, many who visit Bali rarely leave the pleasantries of a hotel or resort. They believe that they can find Bali in a day or two while visiting by ocean liner. These assumptions cannot be further from the truth as Bali has many cultural layers. These layers must be slowly digested to know the pageantry of Balinese life.

Voyager International now offers a program of Bali tours. Its "Trade & Cultural Expeditions" are scheduled June through August. Groups of up to ten per two-week session experience live cultural programs, trade sessions, historical sites, and culinary delights. One of the highlights of the expedition program is the "Tiger Motor Tour" including up to 5 islands over two weeks by motorcycle and Jeep with its final destination at the 17th century pirate stronghold at Adonara. Finally, evening in Bali is an experience of sites, smells and culinary delights and the capitol city of Denpasar is one of the best examples.

Rich Mutschler has found more than an occupation in antiques and treasure. He has found a lifestyle carved out of nature and humanity on an island, which is in a pure sense a wonderland of art, music, dance, and theatre where the past meets the present on a daily level. For Rich, after numerous experiences that are imprinted permanently on his mind and spirit the mission in Indonesia is a fine balance between the preservation of a culture and the sale of it. While respecting the past he and other traders go on to design the future of a delicate pearl, which rises from the sea. It takes over the mind, spirit and imagination of all those who become enchanted by this unique island of people, unforgettable culture and treasures that appear in special moments of exchange.


Rich with Village Girl

 

About the Author: Information about personal appearances by Rich Mutschler, Voyager International show schedules and Expedition Information is available at 561-373-0619 or by writing to: PO Box 12339 Ft Pierce, Florida 34979

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