Going into a long travel day with a Bintang belly isn’t the best idea. Theres not much worse than being on public transportation in Asia when you’re hungover. My mission was to get to Pulau Weh, a small island off the very northern tip of Sumatra. The hop off point is Banda Aceh. This is where the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami hit hardest, and was the closest major city to the earthquake epicentre. About 150,000 people were killed. Here’s more of the tragic history. Sumatra is a massive island, and I knew it was going to be a long trip. I set off from Liberta Homestay at about noon to get off of Samosir and back to Parapot, on the mainland. You just catch the same ferry as when you came over. Even in the low season there is a boat leaving about every hour. After getting dominated at some dominoes by the local guys, I set off slowly leaving the island behind. It was a little sad to leave, and know that I no longer had the option of drinking Bintang, taking mushrooms, and playing on the puddle boats.
It felt like half the island was on mushrooms sometimes.
From Parapot you have to head to Medan. To get there you can either catch the big local bus that stops everywhere and gets packed for three bucks, or you can get a shared taxi mini van for six dollars. I already did the bus and wasn’t in a hurry for round two, and the hangover was kicking my ass. After you walk off the ferry, up to the right is the little shop that sells the tickets. They use little seven seater mini vans. After about an hour wait we loaded up. Got super lucky, and it was only a girl in front, and a Swiss guy and I had both back seats. Was able to lay down and pass out for a bit. It was just a quick nap though. The driver decided to blast the most painfully torturous CD I’ve ever heard. Pretty sure it was comedy skits and music in between. The skits sounded like drunk raspy voiced old Indonesian ladies screaming at each other and making strange noises. If it could get any worse, the music sounded like a group of people on a meth and coke binge had broken into your kitchen and were banging on everything in there as fast as they could. You could hear the pots and pans, the knives, the cheese grater, the glasses, the wooden cutting board, all mixed with nails on a chalk board screeching.
The swiss guy and I were looking at each other, on the verge of insanity. He started chain smoking, and when the CD started over again for the third time, he snapped. I owe my sanity to him because he asked the driver to shut it off. The one and only problem with this is that our driver was a whistler. I’m pretty sure he had a form of terets where he couldn’t stop whistling. Whistling is one of those things that is kind of nice to do by yourself, as you stroll through the woods, as you sit fishing on a river bank, or drive by yourself. Sometimes people think their whistling is really something special and subject everyone to it. It’s a five hour trip from Parapot to Medan, and the final two were enchanted by his whistling, switching between different sounding whistles. When you make it to Medan, the biggest relief is that you’re alive. If you have ever ridden in minivans in this part of the world you understand. Two lane roads are turned into six wide mangles of semi-trucks, scooters, buses, and vehicles all seemingly being driven by crazed zombies. Every moment is a near accident. From Medan there is a night bus that leaves at 9PM to Banda Aceh. There are a few bus companies and some leave a bit earlier. You find them all on Jalan Gajah Mada. They’re really nice comfortable buses with reclining seats, blankets, pillows, A/C, and a dorky little snack box. Fifteen dollars and ten hours later, you arrive in Band Aceh. From the bus station its a Becak ride down to the ferry terminal, either catch the slow or fast ferry out to Pulau Weh, then catch another Becak to wherever you heading. Iboih beach is a good place to head, which is about 30km form the harbour. I bumped into an Austrian couple I knew getting on the ferry, and we convinced/haggled one of the becak drivers into taking all three of us on one. There are some steep hills along the way that we just barely made it up. Twenty-four hours after setting off from Lake Toba I arrived. As usual, once it’s over and you arrive to a place like this, it’s all well worth it. That short period of misery is all worth the beauty you’ve found, and easily forgotten, like it never happened.