Sunday, July 20, 2008

Buses, Guides and Orangutans

Penny, Elo and I are now in Blangpidie on the West Coast of Sumatra. We travelled from the highlands of Takengon today down to sea level and passed through the Tsunami affected area near Meulaboh. Apart from the fallow land near the sea and the rows of quickly aging identical houses it was hard to see the devastation that happened there five years ago.

Since the last blog we have spent time travelling through the middle of Aceh, two days each in Berastagi,Ketambe and Kedah then two days travelling with a stopover in the very disappointing highland lake town of Takengon.

The ongoing theme of our travels has been our relationships with the various guides, touts and rip off merchants that we have encountered. The genuine Efan and charismatic Dr Smiley from Berastagi, the driver Marco who drove us to Kutacane eventually after our lights broke down. All the people in Ketambe who tried to guide us and make us pay for stuff we didn't need to, especially Umar who followed us to Kedah and made us miss the roadside hot spring. Mr Jally in Kedah who struggles on trying to resurrect his guiding business shattered by the conflict in Aceh and one suspects the decline of the "hippy trail", not to mention Mr Happy Happy his assistant who walked bare foot through the jungle carrying food for us and got a rash.

Dr Smiley, Marco and Efan

Mr Jally and Mr Happy Happy making us rustic Mie Goreng

The highlight for me has been our independent jungle experience in Ketambe, wandering around finding our way to the bat cave, the hot spring, various monkey feeding trees and swimming spots before finally encountering some real life orangutans.We stayed at Pak Mus guesthouse in Ketambe a steal at 40,000 rupiah per night for a room, an outside bathroom and shower (showers being pouring the scooper over your head instead of into the toilet to flush it).

yes, there are obvious comparisons

Aceh was locked off from Western tourists while the civil conflict was intensified and the effect on the local tourism industry is still obvious, they are desperate for every dollar you have. Better try and post this, the internet is dodgy as, nowhere near good enough for photos which are accumulating....take care.

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