14th-19th December, 2014
During my time on Pulau Weh I stayed at Yulia’s Guest House. It may not have had a sandy beach but its restaurant area balanced over the water, and the background sound of waves breaking against the rocks, more than made up for that.
I was a little tired from my jungle trek and my bus journey through the Gayo Highlands, so I didn’t do much at first. I rested, slept, and the next day I woke up with enough energy to jump into the sea and swim over to the nearby Rubiah Island for some snorkelling. There wasn’t much coral – much of it had been swept away by the tsunami in 2004 – but there was lots of fish, and I even spotted a moray. There are some efforts currently underway to create an artificial reef, and on the day I was there I witnessed some divers busily attaching corals to concrete objects which had been dropped to bottom of the seabed, to help encourage more to grow on them.
When I swam back to Yulia, Dominique had arrived and was sat in the restaurant area. For those of you who haven’t read my other blogs; Dominique is a Canadian girl I keep bumping into because we are taking similar routes through Sumatra. The last time I saw her was at Lake Toba, but we already knew when we parted back then that our paths would cross again. She had a new friend with her; Oleg, a young German man she met on the boat.
After a quick catch up over breakfast, the three of us wandered over to Iboih Dive Centre: Dominique was interested in getting her PADI Open Water Diver certificate, and Oleg and I were just interested in general diving. The prices we were quoted were remarkably cheap (probably the cheapest I have come across in Asia so far) and the outfit seemed quite professional, so I told them I would be going under with them the next morning.
Over the two days which followed, I ended up blowing the last of the funds that I had put aside for diving. I saw barracudas, turtles, several mimic octopi which we watched for a while as they shifted their shapes to impersonate the corals around them, dozens of morays, and countless of other species that I cannot even name. Most rewarding though, for me, was the underwater landscapes of dramatic canyons, caves and ocean walls – all covered in beautiful coral, and teeming with schools of fish.
I spent the rest of my time on Pulau Weh relaxing: I read books while lazing in my hammock, wandered around Iboih, I made a few friends, and in the evenings I ate at Oongs Restaurant, where Oong herself a cooked up a delicious family style buffet dinner of vegetables and fish every night.
On my final day there it was raining but I knew that, despite this, there was one last thing I needed to do before I left: a motorcycle tour.
I still had not got back behind the wheel since my little accident on Lake Toba, and it felt like something I needed to do soon to regain my confidence. Pulau Weh was an ideal place for this because the roads are good and there are some attractions around the island which I wanted to check out, so, I packed my raincoat, snorkel and a bottle of water into my daypack, and set off.
I drove quite slowly and carefully at first, but I soon got the hang of it again and within a few minutes I was roaming around with confidence. Aneuk Laot Lake and the volcano near Jaboi village were both quite disappointing, to be honest – the lake was not very pretty and surrounded by sludgy banks and houses, and the volcano didn’t have a crater and was just a sulphurous gash in the mountain – the coastal road, however, was great.
What I did find very interesting was the underwater volcano which is just off the shore from a beach near Gapang. It didn’t take long to find it; I just swam out and suddenly found myself surrounded by bubbles escaping from a series of fumaroles. They were only about 10 meters down, so it was very easy to duck dive and get a closer look at the volcanic cracks on the ocean floor.
More photos from Pulau Weh can be found on my Flickr.