Diving and Lounging in a Hammock by the Sea

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Flag of Indonesia  , Aceh,
Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Decided to leave Lake Toba earlier than I really needed to since I was worried about getting a ticket to Banda Aches since it is the end of Ramadan at the moment which would be equivalent to our christmas, new year period. Lots of people out and about travelling and since its traditional to head home at this time of year, lots of people either heading back to or from where the live to there homes.

Got the 8am ferry and 9am shuttle bus. Unlike the previous buses this was more of a taxi with the car full of locals rather than tourists. Guess thats why the price from anywhere to Medan is so much cheaper then the tickets between places since there is a regular local traffic for these routes. On the otherhand cant see much demand for the Bukit Lawang, Berastagi, Lake Toba run except from foreign tourists.

Made it back to Medan and expected to be dropped off at the bus station but found that this was not the case. Rather I had been dropped off at one of the offices of the bus company that runs the bus to Bandas Arches. Was lucky enough to find a girl in the ticket office who spoke english and could help me out with getting a ticket and getting to the bus station.

Buses were available at different prices (classes) and the class I wanted was pretty much full. Only seats left were those in the part of the bus seal away for smoking. Didnt want to get stuck in Medan overnight so decided to take the seat.

Was running low an money and wanted some food so left my bag in the ticket office and wandered down the street. Found an ATM and my first great big Wharehouse supermarket. In many cases prices here seemed to be close to half the prices I had seen in other stores. Also lots of people buying boxes of stuff and hundreds of items at a time. Since the first ATM didnt give out much cash (only a million) decided to try the ATM next door but found it didnt want to process my card. At one point had a nervous 1-2 minute wait as the machine did some processing and I started to wander if the card was going to be swallowed. Thankfully not.

Headed back to the ticket office got my bag and while the bus would have been cheaper decided to fork out the money for a bivoc to save myself the hassle of having to find the station. Given the time it took the price wasnt so bad and it just showed how far from the station I had been dropped. Guess the driver from Lake Toba didnt want to go to far out of his way but at least he left me somewhere I could arrange a ticket.

Checked in at the bus station and sat down for my long 5 hr wait. Catted with one guy who had good english and was heading back to work after visiting his family near Jakarta. Seems he manages the local community markets and had been for a course in brisbane (sponsored by green peace) when he was managing something for the environmental department. Also chatted with a family heading to Jakarta who wanted to practice their english.

Unfortunately also got stuck with some weird guy who was saying he had no money and wanted me to give him money, food, water, my large backpack or a job with the job being sex. He also kept going on about following me and travelling with me. Couldnt get rid of him for over half an hour but at least the other guys I was chatting with were around. After he left he still kept wandering back and staring at me for the next 20min or so.

Worst thing though was the fact that 1 hr before my bus was to leave he returned (looking drunk) and kept staring at my bag. Given what he had said earlier about wanting my bag I made sure that it stayed in the bus luggage compartment until the bus was just about to leave and I boarded.

Didnt have to pleasant a ride being crampt between two people on a 3 person seat located in the smoking area with the second driver sleeping in the space behind us. Guess its better than being one of those people who were standing or sitting on stools in the aisle and definitely better than being stranded in Medan for a night though I did find that there were still tickets on a direct bus but this was 50% more than the price of my ticket.

In the end ended up with maybe 4 hours of sleep here and there over the course of the night. Better than none though was still feeling a bit tired in the morning. Guess I would have gotten more sleep if I had been able to play my music. Unfortunatley I was listening to it on the bus to Medan and failed to turn off the ishuffle and so had a flat battery by the time the overnight bus arrived.

Day 1 – Arriving in Puala Weh, Snorkle and Swim
Once at the bus station managed to negotiate a price of 30,000R (from 50) for a ride on a bivoc to the ferry terminal. While the bus was late it was still there in plenty of time for the fast ferry. Caught this to the island but unfortunately had no views outside since the whole thing is encased and the windows are small and dirty.

Once arriving at the island managed to share a car with another couple that had arrived and got taken to Iboa where I planned to stay and dive.

In Iboa found a small village where I found a trail that lead past the dive shop and onto an area full of bugalow guesthouses and restuarants. Even found that WIFI was available all around the place. Ended up taking the cheapest option (40,000R) which was a small but nice bungalow on the hill overlooking the ocean. While it had no bathroom it did have a balcony with a hammock. If I had been willing to pay 100,000R I could have got a large one with a bathroom right on the waterfront.

After dropping my bags off headed to the dive shop to register but decided to not do the afternoon dive on offer. Instead headed back to the guesthouse and hired a mask. Once again when I went swimming there was no shock to the body, which given I was swimming in the ocean rather than a lake, seemed even stranged. Guess its a result of all the fairly constant year round temperatures and the sun heating it up even more in the dry season.

I then swam across the channel to the small island on the other side and started to swim part of the way around it. Here I found the coral, at first to be mostly white but there was lots and lots of fish swimming about in large schools. Also saw some spiral sponges, nudibanks, and a large moray eel swimming about before it retreated into some rocks. This is definitely one place where my old underwater camera would come in handy.

After my swim didnt do to much except head to the nearby cafe which had Wifi. Basically I found I could get a weak signal in my bungalow from the cafe and needed the password to connect. Ended the day with a nice curry before calling it an early night.

Day 2 – Diving and lounging in a hammock
Had to get to the dive shop by 9am so that I could get kitted up for the morning dive. Had considered taking my camera but decided to wait and see just how wet the boat got before deciding to do it. Fairly painless getting my gear after which had some tea and biskits and jumped onto the boat out to the dive site.

The dive site was basically an underwater island with a few small wall and lots of sloping slopes. While there was coral on the slopes there wasnt anything particulary (maybe one or two exceptions) to see. Main thing at this dive site though is the marine life. Once again lots of large schools of fish and other marine life. Saw moray eels, stone fish, scorpion fish, cuttlefish, and blue spotted eel. Among other things. Also saw a large anemone (nemo hides in it) that had like two sheets and a purple skin on the back of it.

While the dive was nice it was shallowish and close to the dive shop. For me this would have been a great second dive rather than a first one. Would have been better if the first dive had gone out a bit further to the other side of the island.

Headed back from the dive site and after returning the gear decided to give the afternoon dive a miss since it was in the same area and Im sure it would have been a similar dive. In the end decided to do the night dive instead.

Wandered off to eat something then crashed out for a bit in my bungalo and lounged around in my hammock. Felt like I needed to catch up on some sleep.

Headed back to the dive shop just before dark where we headed out to the island not to far across the bay. Here we jumped in and given the moon was over half full it was fairly light underwater even when the torch was off. Would be interesting to do a night dive under the full moon especially in a clear fresh water lake like Mount Gambir.

While diving turned the torch off a couple of time to see the plankton luminesance. During the dive saw lots of spiral sponges and other soft sponges pop out of the coral they normally hide in. Also saw lots of fish once again. This time the most interesting things to be spotted were the two cuttlefish and 4 octopus. One of these octopi was not hiding in the rocks and could see it change colours as it moved across the coral.

After getting back to the dive headed to the cafe which was full due to them having a special of pizza. I though had curry instead because Im never to sure about what people consider pizza to be. Pretty much called it a night after eating.

Day 3 – Diving and lounging in a hammock
Again had to get to the dive shop by 9am so that I could get kitted up for the morning dive. This morning we were heading out to the canyon which was on the other side of the island, a deeper dive site and one I wanted to do.

Found the canyon was a little way off shore and we made our way out to it from near the shore. Unlike the dive and snorkel I had previously done I found that the coral here was actually quite nice and lively with some nice large formations and some colour.

Swam out to the canyon which had one fairly large wall you could swim under even if the top of it was a fair way under the water and most of the canyon had sloping walls. Unkike the day before found some nice coral here and lots of fish. Guess the main thing I remember spotting here was the turtle that was feeding from the reef and some lionfish which dont seem to be a plentiful as in Central America.

Another interesting part of the canyon was the part where you could swim between two walls between to reef islands. While the gap between them wasnt two narrow for the most part it did narrow off a bit a one point. Also tried floating on my back under the walls but found the slope to great or the walls to small to really get the most out of it.

Headed back to shore where I decided I would do only one more dive and it would be the one on the following morning rather than the afternoon one. Was hoping that they would go out to the other side of the island again or possibly the wreck.

Spent the afternoon lounging in the hammock reading and on the laptop and before dark decided to wander around town one more time to get some photos. Didnt really do much else since not much else to do but dive, swim or veg out in the hammock. Given how much I have been running around lately it made for a nice change to do so little. Especially since I didnt have much choice in the matter. Unlike bumming around on a beach doing nothing (couldnt standI I think I could survive a week of lounge in a hammock by the ocean with a book, swimming and diving to keep me amused.

Day 4 – No Diving. Just Lounging and Transiting
Had found the previous evening I wouldnt be able to dive today and was a bit disappointed I hadnt gone in the afternoon on the day before. Seems that Friday morning is a holiday for the locals every week of the year though Im not sure why.

Would have liked to have had a least one more dive to get a better appreciation of the dive sites in the area. Especially around the other side of the island which seems to have both fish and some nicer coral. Guess I would have to be like one guy I met diving who was staying to dive in Puala Weh for 3 whole weeks.

Spent the morning lounging in bed thinking about the possibility of uni next year and playing on the laptop. Had originally considered going for a swim to get some photos but it was cloudy and I was lazy first thing in the morning. In the end headed towards the dive shop around 10:30am to settle my account but had to wait around a while (had breakfast/lunch) before I could find anyone. Also found that the sun had decided to come out, but that it was to late to go for a swim, so took a few more photos of the nearby beach and ocean.

After settling my account headed back to the cafe to have a coffee and try to sort out a few things before heading back to my room and packing. After this headed to the village to get a taxi to the ferry. Shops were closed and not a lot of people around, also no taxis. Eventually someone offered me a ride for 100,000R (going rate is 50,000) but decided to decline. The next offer was 70,000R and while I didnt take it straight away I decided that with only one of me in the Taxi I wasnt going to the the normal 50,000R rate and that this was likely the best prices I was going to get.

Told the guy I would go and then he disappeared on his bike to pick up his car before driving me to the ferry terminal where I had a 1hr wait for the ferry to arrive. Given all the stuffing around ot get the taxi it was a good thing I left as early as I did rather than trying to cut it to the last minute like I normally do.

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