Island of fish and emerald waters.

Sunday, November 27, 2016
Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia
Bukit Lewang is pretty remote being at the fringe of the rain forest and as you would expect services are fairly basic. Most places do have Internet access but it's dial up speeds at best and that's only when it's working. When it goes down it goes down for the whole village and it's pretty much a daily occurrence. That didn't bother us at all as we were happy to be cut off from the rest of the world in the seclusion of our small bungalow however it did make it difficult to arrange any further travel once out of the area.

We wanted to spend our last week in Sumatra up at Pulau Weh at the very Northern tip of the island and it would mean 2 days spent traveling there and 2 more coming back to Medan for our flight back out of Indonesia if we went overland so we decided it was best to spend the little bit extra on getting a cheap domestic flight from Medan up to Banda Aceh where we could hop straight on the ferry to the island . With hardly any Internet though this proved difficult so we were still frantically trying to book a flight on-line for the same day sat at our digs with our bags packed ready to go and the clock ticking. Eventually we managed to get on-line and thought we had a flight sorted only to find out at the end of the booking process that we couldn't pay on credit card with the flight being less than 48 hours in advance. Instead we had a reservation and we needed to go to an Alfamart (Indonesia's own take on a 7-11) and pay at the till. It seemed a bit strange to pay for a flight at a convenience store but hey if it works it works, so we grabbed our bags and made our way back down the river to the village to look for an Alfamart and grab a local bus back to Medan airport.

I left Dani at the bus stop and walked a mile down the road to the nearest store only to find out our reservation had expired and we needed to book again. With no Sim card or data we had no way to get back on-line so hopped on the bus anyway in the hope we could still get seats on the flight and pay at the airport .

A few hours and two buses later we were in the airport and at the counter 2 hours before the last days flight was due to leave. Unfortunately they also employed the same policy and we could not pay on card, only cash so we tried the stupidly expensive option of trying to withdraw cash on our credit cards at the ATM only to discover that I couldn't remember my pin number and Dani's company had put a fraud caution on hers for trying to withdraw abroad. Great, we were now stuck in Medan airport for the night.

This did give us plenty of time and some half decent inter-net to do some research though and we eventually found a third party website that would let us book flights for the next morning on our cards so with everything finally sorted we spent the night in the customer services room getting very little sleep.

The next morning we were on the first flight out and when we landed we managed to grab a lift from Banda Aceh airport to the ferry thanks to a local guy on the plane who's friend was picking him up .

Once at the ferry port we discovered that we had just missed the first slow public ferry by a matter of minutes and there was only one more ferry that day in another 5 hours time.....this was all going smoothly and very well I thought, idiots abroad springs to mind. But hey such is life, there are worse things we could be doing than slowly making our way to a beautiful Indonesian island.

Finally on our boat over we settled in for the 2 hour ride and were really happy to spot dolphins swimming about, a beautiful sight to see and something you would usually pay a lot of money to go and experience. Perhaps this wasn't such a bad day after all.

Once at the island we grabbed a Tuk Tuk to Iboih beach where we wanted to stay. Typically Iboih is at the opposite end of the island to where the ferry docks and it took one more final hour to eventually reach the very small village there . It was dark now and we were absolutely shattered from our 2 days of travel, perhaps this flying lark wasn't the best way to reach the island after all but at least we were finally here.

In Bukit Lewang, Pino, the dude who sorted our local herbs out for us lived in Iboih for a while a couple of years ago and he recommended a place to stay where his friend works who would also be able to sort us out with some herb, so after a short climb up a winding path we arrived at the aptly named Greenhouse guest house and were introduced to his friend 'Daddy cool' I swear you could not make this shit up if you tried! There were already a few other travelers sat around enjoying a smoke and within all of 5 minutes we had our bags in our room, a smoke in our hands and the hassle of the past two days of travel disappearing in a heady plume of smoke. Time to relax.

The next day despite meeting our new green fingered friends we headed further along the path in search of somewhere different to stay . The Greenhouse was great for a night but it was set back from the waters edge quite a way and after not much searching we were able to grab a nicer room, with a balcony hanging over the waters edge for the same price. Great result, and that's where we spent the rest of our day. Reading books, playing cards and sitting in the beautiful peace and quiet watching the emerald green waters and the myriad of fish swimming beneath us.It's quiet season all over Sumatra and Pulau Weh had a very similar feel to Bukit Lewang but next to the sea as opposed to the river and rain forest. There must only be around a dozen places to stay, dotted along a small winding jungle path near the water and although the first full day was semi busy being the weekend and there were a few local tourists around, once it reached Monday it went very quiet indeed and wonderfully peaceful.

The days just disappeared and melted into one. We grabbed a motorbike for the day to go off exploring, in particular looking for a place called secret beach, which was apparently that big of a secret that despite spending an hour riding backwards and forwards and asking locals, we never managed to find it so ended up taking a spin to the opposite end of the island to a beach named Pulau Kasih . It was nice there but the short couple of hours we spent there was the only beach time as such that we managed during our stay. Pulau Weh is a bit of a strange one. If you look it up on the inter-net practically all the photos you see are off beautiful pristine white sandy beaches but in reality they are few and far between. But what it lacks in beaches it certainly makes up for in the crystal clear waters and marine life department. The variety of fish here that is easily accessible just by snorkeling straight from the beach is staggering and easily the best we have experienced so far in Asia. We saw everything from a 10ft long fearsome Moray eel to Purple Boxfish which I have always wanted to see. Tiny curious black and white clownfish and brightly coloured giant clams. The water was teeming with life everywhere. What was a little surreal and very sobering was the day we shared a boat over to a small island just opposite to where we were staying with an English lady and her two daughters. One of her daughters took us out in a different direction to the reef, to a spot where there were several motorbikes, a couple of cars, a computer and desk and various other odds and ends all sat at the bottom of the sea . Apparently they were swept out when the Tsunami that took the lives of at least 230,000 people hit in 2004. It was a sombre reminder that Sumatra is the world capital of natural disasters. Everything from volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and Tsunamis, to landslides and floods. You can't comprehend what the devastation must have been like.

The next few days were brilliant, spent either in the water enjoying the fish, along at The Greenhouse having a smoke and some food or sat in the hammock on our balcony enjoying the peace and quiet. It was a very relaxing few days indeed and we didn't want to leave at all. Similar to Myanmar we regretted only having 3 weeks here. We could easily spend a month or two on Pulau Weh, swinging in the hammock and swimming with the fish.

But all the good things eventually came to an end and before we knew it our time there was over and we were up early and in a Tuk Tuk at 6:30am heading back to the ferry port and on a boat bound for Banda Aceh. I'm sure Pulau Weh will be a place we will come back to again in the future, we miss it already.

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