It turns out the ferry times we were given were wrong and we end up spending an entire morning at the terminal, waiting first for the ticket seller to arrive, then for the ferry. Meanwhile we provide the entertainment for the harbourmaster and others. We get to Pulau Weh in the evening and get settled into a bungalow. Something is wrong with us, though: we both have no energy whatsoever. Otherwise we feel fine and we can't explain it. We spend 5 days on this pretty island, mainly diving (me), relaxing and exploring, and for once it hardly rains at all.
The view from our balcony during the day...
... and in the evening.
At the road end in the very North of Pulau Weh stands a memorial to mark "Km 0" of the Indonesian road network. Local bike clubs make pilgrimages here and cement plaques onto the rocks:
29/4 We return to Banda Aceh and this time the ferry really does leave at 8h, as we were told. We check back into the same hotel and set out for the tsunami museum. Locating it is easy, but finding the entrance seems to be an intelligence test that I almost fail. Some students then explain to us that it isn't open yet. I just saw a banner advertising the grand opening ceremony with fireworks 5 days earlier... We then set out to find a ship that was supposed to have been deposited way inland by the tsunami. We think we have found it when we come across this obstacle on a road:
When I climb the wreck for a view, however, I spot the real thing. A generator barge, deposited intact and apparently used after the desaster, although it seems disused now.
30/4 We get up and away early, for we want to cross the highlands all the way to lake Danau Toba. Everything goes well until just after midday, when we stop for lunch just as the heavens open up. The rain continues off and on for the rest of the day. Somewhere in a village we miss a turn we didn't know even existed. As the road is very winding it takes me an hour of riding before I realise, looking at my GPS, that we have done a right turn. There are no roads on our maps here. We have 3 choices: turning back and hoping to find accommodation in the last village, a dubious proposition. Pitch our tent here in a disused building near some food stalls or continue to Tutuk and hope to find accommodation there. We opt for the latter.
We arrive in Tutuk at night fall. People laugh when we ask for a place to stay and point to the police station. Oh dear, I like to minimise my contact with the police, as some are known to demand a mythical permit foreign vehicles are supposed to have. The cops are very nice and give us the room of two absent officers, after clearing out an assault rifle. There is no water and no toilet, but we can collect rain water off the roof, as it is still raining. They take me to the river for a swim and wash, but it's too fast flowing to get in properly. Su as a woman can't do this, but she can have a wash in the cell block with the rain water. There is a police pickup parked under a roof on which we hang up our wet geat, after having been told that it's ok, the driver doesn't come back until the next day. While having dinner in the village we see to our surprise and horror the pickup coming down the hill. The driver has returned early! But our gear was removed before he took off. The night is rather disturbed, as the cops' only occupation is to sit in a room, smoke and watch TV at full volume. When I get up and ask them kindly to turn it down, they happily do so and close the door.
The derelict cell block.
The next day we have to ride all the way down to the coast to Meulaboh. We have now done a complete loop. Then, a short way down the coast, we have to turn inland again to get to Takengon. This is a small road with almost no traffic which winds its way over the mountains. There are great views back over the plains we just left behind until eventually we ride through the clouds at over 1900m altitude.
Some sections of the road are excellent, ...
... others not so good.
Takengon sports a river ...
... some interesting public transport ...
... and a lake, Danau Laut Tawar.
We ride around the lake and explore some of the villages at the other end.
There is nothing else of interest here, so we pick up the road again that we lost a few days earlier that runs down the centre of the island. It starts off as a two-lane highway, but as soon as it climbs into the mountains it's small and empty again. There are some good views before the jungle swallows us again.
We didn't cross this bridge, but it looks like the far end needs to be negotiated with some care!
Lunch stop of a different kind. There is chicken grilling on the left and the bamboo contains sticky rice.
We pass one big village on the way. There is a gas station, but it has no petrol. Su is running low when we get to Kutacane. So is every other vehicle here, it seems. Chaos at the gas pumps with queues stretching back onto the road. The town itself is also chaotic, somewhat unexpected after all the rural areas we crossed without traffic. There is another gas pump at the other side of town and that must be the reason for the long queues: it also has no petrol. We pass Sidikalang again and thereby cross our own tracks again. From here we head for the famous lake Danau Toba.