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Aceh Besar

A weekend adventure in South Nias (1 of 3)

(Net access has been more limited than usual owing to some satellite issues. I’m now posting a swag of entries to catch up. This one is a bit long, too, so I will post in three instalments.)

On Saturday morning, Vasco and I set off on a weekend trip. Armed with a full tank of fuel, itchy feet, and an appalling sense of direction, we mounted Penny and headed south from Gunung Sitoli with our eyes set on the south of Nias Island. We both learnt a lot across the next day and a half. I’ll try to capture some of it here.

The winding road south of Gunung Sitoli

The road south of Gunung Sitoli took us past the airport and the Pertamina depot, through several villages, and along the coast line. The road is in decent condition in relative terms, but is quite a schizophrenic affair – some stretches of new bitumen are lovely while other decaying sections are pot-holed, rocky, and littered with loose rocks. The locals are adept at weaving between the various obstacles, although for us it presented something of a challenge.

We cruised through two villages where Saturday markets where in full swing. The road was blocked by people for a few hundred metres. Stalls and food sellers lined each side of the road, and the side streets were likewise throbbing with noise, colour, and movement. We stopped to stock up on pancakes – travellers’ food, you see – and said a hundred hellos as we walked through the crowd. Not too many foreigners stop at these markets, I guess.

Rice country and sea views

One of the highlights of the ride south came when we entered the rice-growing flatlands. The road was good – flat and straight – and the views were stunning. To either side we could see vibrant green fields of young plants that extended back to the nearby hills and mountains. Little walkways and huts dotted the fields. It was idyllic. We stopped to drink in the scene. In Cambodia and Laos I had seen fields of rice and wondered how they would look in the wet season. Now I know.

The road more or less followed the coast line, particularly as we travelled across a small mountain range on our approach to the port town of Teluk Dalam. Quite abruptly we found ourselves on a very high stretch of road overlooking the ocean and the rocky beach hundreds of feet below. Again, we felt compelled to stop and take it all in.
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Aceh Besar

December 2006

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