Ironically it was hot at Air Dingin (water cold). We had read about the waterfall of the seven surges and some bungalows for hire and had peeled out of the minibus at the little village on the outskirts of Tapaktuan where the mountains met the sea.
The lady at the ubiqutous toko selling coke and chippies didn't know anything about bungalows but from what we could gather some autralians had been staying down the road. Penny and Elo went to investigate while I tried to keep the monitor lizards away from the packs. They came back pretty stoked that there was an artist lady staying down the road who had a big room we could stay in.
Lisa has been living in Indonesia for just under 20 years since her marriage broke down and the Egyptian boyfriend didn't work out. She lived first at the tourist and magic mushroom hub of Lake Toba before moving to the soothing waters of the Indian Ocean where she eeks out a living selling the occasional painting and having occasional visitors.
Now days its just tourists that her or her Indonesian friend Ferida spot from the deck, or meet in town where Ferida sells clothes. But back from the late 90's through to the Tsunami her home was often occupied by elements of both government and rebel forces who fancied the western luxuries and elevated position for monitoring the road below. She still recieves regular visits from the police and intel who sit on the deck and stare wistfully out to sea.
Lisa remembers the day the army turned its machine gun on her house and raked it with bullets. She shows us the scar on the wall and tells of Feridas outrage. Then there was the rebel leader, the one who became famous for his disguises, dressing up as a doctor to smuggle his wounded comrade into the Banda Aceh hospital, or as an old man with a hunchback to bypass army checkpoints. The locals reckon he could be at two places at once, Lisa doesn't know where else he was when he called at her house one night to have his photo taken with the foreign lady.
Philip the squirrel has a body double too. He climbs the nearest coconut tree while Philip plays in the nutmeg beside the deck. Philips double chases the lizards but he never catches them. While Philip can jump from one coconut tree to another by sliding down leaves and leaping out he can't glide from trunk to trunk like those freaky lizards. Its a shame we can't ask Philip what he thought of the conflict or indeed the tsunami which brought an end to it.
He would proabably have preferred the tsunami to dodging bullets. In Tapaktuan the tsunami only manifested itself in a high tide compared to the devastation north in Meulaboh and south in Singkil. The people have a theory that they were protected by the giant of Tapaktuan who gave permission to the initial settlers to inhabit the area. Those with keen eyes saw the shaft of his spear protuding from the bottom of the harbour as the tide receded revealing the reefs and coastline before flooding back in.
Ferida headed north when the Tsunami hit to try and find her brother. Travelling with teachers from her village on a fishing boat they sailed into death. What looked like coconuts bobbing in the sea were corpses and when they reached Banda Aceh bodies were stacked in the street. The black water had cooked the victims if the rushing water hadn't drowned them. A terrible detail omitted from the western media.
Before the tsunami the road had been quite, even before the martial law, but now the road was widened and the trucks of aid to the affected areas were continuous once temporary bridges were set up. At this time cellphone towers were set up on all the vantage points and the telcoms moved in changing Aceh forever. Now everyone has a cellphone (very few have landlines) amd the cell phone shops are outnumbered only by the toko's. Then everyone got a scooter and now the traffic is continuous. To escape the noise you must cross the road to the beach and the coarse coral sands of the Indian ocean.
Lisa doesn't leave the house much now, with Feridas cooking you don't need to. we were treated to all sorts of goodies pancakes, cakes, fruit salads, yoghurt, as well as quality fish, coconut and the pungent durian. Scheming how to stay in the country, art and appreciating life now take up all her time, its amazing what you can see from your deck. Visit them for the real story!! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org