Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Takengon, Indonesia

The following morning the owner of Pak Mus Guesthouses walked me to the road and hailed a passing bus for me. The bus would only take me to Blangkejeren, where I'd have to transfer to Takengon. I was anxious to drive through this area in Sumatra, known as the Gayo Highlands. I had heard it was supposed to be extremely beautiful--and it was. The Gayo Highlands was extremely picturesque with mountainous scenery.

In the bus, I just sat back--well, as much as one can in an overcrowded bus--and enjoyed one panoramic view after another. I made it to Blangkerjeren in about 4 hours. I had to wait in its dusty bus terminal for an hour before boarding the next bus to Takengon. The ride from Blangkejeren to Takengon was the bus ride from hell. Two people in the minivan bus, the woman in front of me and the guy to the right of me, were throwing up throughout the entire ride to Takengon. That's right...the entire time! And for some reason, the woman who was sitting in front of me continued to sit in the middle of the row as she threw up. So every time she had to throw up, her husband--who had the window seat--would have to slide the window open and have her lunge and lean over him to barf. Nice. Sometimes, however, she would throw up in a plastic bag and toss it out the window. I would have hated to be the driver of the car tailing us.

It got worse.

The driver played a CD which was scratched and wouldn't play after the second song. Every time the CD would make it to track #3, it would skip. And every time the CD began to skip, the driver would repeat the first two songs. This went on for hours. Also, the driver would play the music ridiculously loud. I was beginning to go deaf, which, I guess, isn't so bad when you're surrounded with people vomitting all around you.

Just when I thought the ride couldn't get any worse...it did. The roads quickly got treacherous. I'm talking to the point where I was fearing for my life. The roads became narrower, as the turns were getting sharper. Plus, there were a lot of recent landslides still visibly present on the road. Despite this, our driver still felt the need for speed. They must get some sort of commission or bonus if they make it to their destination at certain times, regardless if the passengers survive. Literally, I got to the point where I thought that I might have to bail. If we were going to drive off the mountain I was going to be ready. I grabbed my bag and reached for the door handle but to find that there wasn't any door handle present, at least from the inside of the bus. So I had to slide the window open and reach around to grab the handle form the outside. Luckily, I didn't have to bail and made it to Takengon safely.

Takengon, the largest city in the Gayo Highlands, is beautifully surrounded by mountainous hills. It also resides next to a large lake, Danau Laut Tawar. Once in town, I made my way to the Gayo Hotel. It had cheap rooms with clean beds. However, the beds were definitely not made for someone 6 feet four inches in height. My feet would hang off the bed by at least a foot. There really isn't anything to do in Takengon, and is completely absent of any westerners. So the next morning I found an internet cafe and got caught up on some emails and blogs. Later I would walk and explore the town. There are some pretty areas in Takengon if you walk beyond the downtown vicinity. Ian would make it in town later that night. Exhausted from riding on his bicycle for 2 full days through the Gayo Highlands, he went to sleep early. The next morning we decided since there wasn't much else to do/see we would get a bus to Banda Aceh. Finding a bus to Banda Aceh was quite tricky. Apparently, there isn't any direct buses from Takengon to Banda Aceh. We had to purchase a bus ticket from Takengon to Bireuen; in Bireuen we would have to find a connecting bus to B. Aceh. But before we started another long bus journey we opted for a good old fashion shave. The barbers here use long, straight edge razors. When finished, they give you a nice neck and head massage. A shave in Indonesia will set you back approximately $1 USD.

Next Stop: Banda Aceh


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