Monday, January 11, 2010

Pulau Weh, Indonesia

I was glad we had slept at the ferry terminal, because, like I’d suspected, people arrived early to assure themselves a seat on the boat. But after the boat quickly filled and was ready to depart, we continued to wait in the pier.

“What is the hold up, now?” I thought. “Don’t tell me our ferry is going to be cancelled again.” And the longer we waited in the pier, the worse the weather was getting.

“This is not looking good. This is NOT looking good,” repeated Jussi, a young Finnish guy who I’d just met that morning. He was traveling with his wife, Jenna, also from Finland , and were both anxiously awaiting to get to the island to do some diving.

“I don’t understand,” Jussi said, beginning to get restless, “The longer we wait here the worse the weather is just going to get. We need to leave now or it will be too late!” Soon after, the engine started. Everyone’s faces lighted up with joy as we all let out a huge sigh of relief. Apparently, to everyone’s dismay, we were all waiting due to our captain’s tardiness.

“Can you believe it, Jussi said in disbelief, “We were waiting for the captain. Unbelievable!”

It was such a relief when our high speed ferry made it out of the pier and entered the sea. The sea, however, got a bit rough as we approached the island. The staff of the ferry passed out plastic bags for anyone who needed to throw up. I thought for a second that I was getting sick but it quickly passed. Phew! Thankfully, the ferry ride only lasted 45 minutes.

After we made it to Pulau Weh, Ian rode his bicycle to Iboih beach where we would be staying. I split a taxi with Jussi and Jenna.

My goal upon arriving Iboih was to find Ian and me a bungalow. Iboih had loads of basic, rustic bungalows within the woods along the sea. I decided to wait for Ian before making any decisions, due to the…well…primitive bungalows that were available. I mean there were some nice places to stay the further down the path you went, such as Yulia’s, but the nicer bungalows were more expensive.

After nearly 2 hours, Ian, now shirtless and drenched in sweat, finally made it to Iboih. He was a little shaken up as he was ambushed by a gang of monkeys. He was upset with himself because he had forgotten some advice that was given to him about the monkeys prior to traveling here. He also forgot that he was carrying food which, undoubtedly, the aggressive little buggers smelled.

Ian and I lucked out and found a fantastic bungalow, located at Fatimah’s. It was built on stilts above the sea, so we had a gorgeous view of the crystal-clear water. Plus it had a hammock which I took full advantage of. Everyone told us how envious they were of us. The room set me back a whopping $2.50 per night. Yeah, buddy!

There was a certain intangible spirit felt here at Iboih. Many like-minded travelers flock here, creating a sense of community, which was comforting. A real chill out atmosphere, I spent my days here snorkeling, reading, and writing. I also began to play chess. I had to exercise my mind sort of way. The food was also good. Ian and I would eat every evening at Yulia’s; and every night I ordered the same meal: Gado Gado, a delicious vegetable dish, and 2 banana pancakes. Yualia’s was a nice place to eat and view the sunset.

[Frank Sinatra singing] “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…” Okay, as one can imagine, I didn’t experience a white Christmas. It was more like a blue Christmas, with blue skies and blue water. People really should wish for a blue Christmas. I highly recommend it. All kidding aside though, I did miss not being around my family on Christmas day. I spent the day like every other day at Pulau Weh: snorkeling, reading, and writing. There was an incident that occurred that frightened me a bit, however. Me, Ian, and some English girl that I’d met that morning decided to swim to Pulau Rubiah, an island across from Iboih that has pretty coral reefs. FYI: before swimming to Pulau Rubiah, make sure that the current isn’t too strong. While we were swimming across I began to get really bad cramps in my feet; and I couldn’t have gotten the cramps at a worse spot, as I was in the middle of the channel where it was the deepest and the current was at its strongest. I temporarily stopped the cramps by bending my feet backwards. By this point, the current had taken me pretty for off course, and I decided that it wasn’t worth swimming to Rubiah Island . I wasn’t going to take any chances, right dad? And I’m glad I didn’t because the cramps returned as I approached Iboih’s shores. I sliced my hands on the coral trying to swim back to shore, too. I was exhausted by the time I made it back to Iboih.

After nearly a week at Pulau Weh Ian and I decided to leave, as time was of the essence. Ian didn’t have many days left before his visa expired and I had a plane to catch—and we both wanted enough time to visit Bukit Lawang, and, possibly, Berastagi.

We decided we would get a room near the pier in order to catch the morning ferry the following day. But as Ian and I were about to leave, my motorbike driver said that I might be able to make the ferry that evening. So I told Ian, if I did happen to catch the ferry, I would meet up with him the following day in Banda Aceh so we could travel to Bukit Lawang together.

I made it to the pier just as the ferry was about to leave. The ferry was blowing its horn so I hurried, bought my ticket, and ran onto the boat. Phew! The sea was calm that evening so I made it back to Banda Aceh within 35 minutes. At the ferry terminal I split a taxi with a few people back to town. I decided I would sleep at the bus terminal again. As I was walking to the bus terminal I decided to take a break at a small outdoor café and watch a soccer game. I continued my journey back to the terminal at around midnight. After getting lost I hitched a ride by motorbike to the bus terminal. I must have thanked the man a million times as I somehow managed to wander off course. I offered him money but he wouldn’t take it.

The next day I would meet back up with Ian and board another long overnight bus ride to Bukit Lawang.

Next Stop: Bukit Lawang


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