Poker, diving and hitting the hammock
Iboih Travel Blog› entry 209 of 658 › view all entries
People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Ash (England), Erick (Indonesia)
The North of Sumatra has always been somewhat of a hot bed of religious and political tensions. After the heartbreaking, devastating 2004 tsunami, where over 220,000 people in this area alone died, the Indonesian government and Free Aceh Movement laid down their weapons and united in their attempts to rebuild the area. With large numbers of foreign aid workers in the area, the tensions have now calmed to a level where tourism is back on the rise. Seeing the opportunity to get there before the area is once again 'rediscovered' by tourists was too good an opportunity to miss - oh and the World class diving wasn't a bad reason to drop in either!
The only downside to there been so many foreign peace workers, was the inevitability that prices had soared in recent years, in comparison with other areas of Indonesia.
Arriving in Iboih, we immediately met an English guy called Will, who had lived in the area on and off for many years.
Our room was set slightly up a hill, with a balcony that offered very pretty views out to sea and an ideal place to play some chess and watch the changing of the tide. The communal areas at Ericks were also fantastic, with plenty of hammocks set up to chill in and a plethora of board games and books to pass the time.
My first objective on the island was to get some diving booked, but i was pretty surprised to find that even though we wanted to do 10 dives between us, the price was basically more expensive than anywhere else that i had dived in South East Asia. The prices i was originally quoted ranged from $28-$45 a dive and the fact that Indonesia is one of the cheapest places in Asia, i had expected the price to be more like $20 a dive. After chatting with a nice old bloke called Stan, who had been visiting Pulau Weh for over 20 years (and travelling a mind blowing 54 years on and off!), he told me that it used to be only $16 a dive up until 6 months ago! What infuriated me more, was the flyers that the dive shops had printed to attract tourism back to Pulau Weh, these stated that they had slashed their prices in an attempt to attract divers back, what a load of nonsense! Not to be put off, i carried on looking for another dive operator and eventually met a guy from Pulau Weh divers, which had only been open a month.
A routine was pretty much established for how we spent most of our 9 days on the island. The mornings involved waking up whenever the mood took us, walking to the nearby shop to buy some noodles, eggs and tomatoes, which Julia would cook for lunch - or possibly walking to the far end of the beach to a cafe that was sometimes open. Exceptions were rare, but occassionally involved the cooking of pancakes and spaghetti blognaise!
Our afternoons were filled with playing chess and backgammon or possibly going snorkelling.
The evening was what i was really looking forward to though and believe it or not, there wasn't a drop of alcohol in site. Due to the strict Muslim laws, it was prohibited to sell alcohol on the island and what little of it was available was subsequently expensive, thus a complete healthy lifestyle was achieved! Instead, the entertainment was provided through poker, with Erick having his own set of chips. Some nights saw as many as 7 of us gathered together and playing for small stakes.
Right, lets get on to the diving then! Im not sure that words can really do any of it justice, i guess that my pictures will explain the story a lot better :) Ash and I did 4 dives each and Julia did 2 and on each dive there was always something completely spectacular that made you desperate to get straight back in the water again. On Dive 1 i saw my first ever octopus, which was amazing, as it changed colours and kept hiding in between rocks whenever i got too close to try and take photos.
The second day of diving was just Ash and I and first stop was to the canyon, which had some unbelievably strong currents, but also some colourful fish and corals.
On Friday the 3 of us took motorbikes to the port town of Sabang, which was also the only place to have a cash machine on the island.
Whilst on our journey across the island, we came across the macaques again and decided to stop, so as i could take some photos. They didn't seem particularly friendly so we kept our distance, but this was supposedly not good enough for one of the little buggers. It came slowly at first to the opposite side of the road and then began to run at us. I twisted the throttle and tried to accelerate away, not realising that Julia wasn't even on the bike properly and nearly caused a very nasty accident, with her half on, half off the bike and trying to run aswell! Thankfully it turned out ok and the second she was back fully on the bike, we were getting the hell away from these demonic creatures!
As we had the bikes until 7pm, we decided to drive to km0, which i'm guessing gets the name as the most northern point in Indonesia, but i may be wrong.
So 9 days of peace and bliss had passed us by on the island and it was with great regret that we eventually packed our bags and left. If our visas were not running out, i'm sure we would still be there now! It was not only the scenery above and below the water, but the people that make this place a little bit special. If anyone is reading this and is thinking of going, then stay at Ericks and you will get to know what the word hospitality and friendship means. A true superstar.