We set off for the island of Pulau Weh in the province of Banda Aceh very early one morning (I think it was about 4:30). With a certain amount of trepidation I must say, as Banda Aceh is the place where Sharia Law rules the roost. So trousers and shirts all round. After the flight and a one hours ferry ride we reached Pulau Weh, an island just off the northern coast of Banda Aceh. We got into what can only be described as a sharabang and made for ‘Freddie’s’ (one of only a handful of places to stay on the island. It was great, from the balcony we had a fabulous view of clear blue sea and palm trees.
Our view from Freddies
Mum and dad did plenty of relaxing, as did I as couldn’t get my finger wet due to the stitches. Paul went snorkelling at least 3 times a day with or without one or more of the Minis. The sea was as clear as clear could be, it was amazing, never seen water like it. Just beautiful. Lots of new fish too. I rigged up a waterproof dressing for my finger after a couple of days as it was driving me mad not being able to go into the sea. Saw a turtle on my first venture out with Paul, Scarlett and Sam. Sam went out almost as often as Paul and putting in the time paid off as they saw some beautiful stuff.
Dog faced puffer
We had to move residence after 6 days so we went next door to Casa Nemo where we spent the rest of our stay. It was lovely: had a big sandy beach, huge rooms, all with a balcony and an even better view of paradise than Freddie’s. And then there were the people………run by a young local woman who goes against the strict laws and traditions of the province. She also employs mainly women that are either young widows or have/had husbands that are complete losers. Most of them are bringing up their kids on their own too. They are the friendliest bunch ever (I know we have written this many times but this lot are the “top banana”).
Some of the gang.
We hired a local fishing boat for the day (along with a local fisherman – The Captain) with the view of the 7 of us going round the island a bit and doing some snorkelling and island viewing. That day started with a lot of rain, wind and big waves. It continued for a good couple of hours. Tropical storms; don’t ya just love em when you’re in a rickety rackety rusty little boat. Mum and dad gracefully bowed out of the trip which was probably for the best as we had a long, extremely bumpy, cramped, wet and stormy trip. I kept checking how far from the shore we were and working out whether we could all swim there. The little fishing boat was a bit past it’s best – held together with rubber bands and nylon fishing line. It had a few leaks here and there but nothing a bucket and a bit of bailing out couldn’t handle. The”Captain” was a man of few words but knew his boat inside out, adjusting the rubber bands and bungs as needed. He did some fishing on the way which was a experience for us to see. A line of at least 70 metres was put out and controlled by his big toe!!! He’d wrap the end of the line round it a few times and wait for the tell tale tug? We kept thinking ” what if he hooks the sea bed or a whopping big fish?” It’d shred his toe! That thought made Paul and my toes curl. He came away unscathed. “FISH ON” Scarlett, Sam and Joe all helped pull the beast in. We ate well that night.
A couple of days later while we were sitting having breakfast we heard the engine of the Captains boat in the distance , eventually he was in sight and came to shore and anchored up. We assumed he had been out fishing all night again which was a regular occurrence, normally arriving empty handed. This time it was different. He got off the boat, waist high in water with something like a big wet black sack on his back. It reminded me of when the coal man use to deliver coal to our house years ago. From where we were sitting we could see he was struggling but with what we didn’t know. As he got nearer my mouth dropped – it was the biggest fish I have ever seen caught and by a hand line/toe. We all ran down to see him, OMG that fish was enormous !!!!!!!!
Part of our dinner, caught by the Mini’s
The CAPTAIN with what you call a fish !!!!!!
Mum and dad left on the 9th October for their own mini adventure in Penang, Malaysia and then a train journey to Bangkok and home. I think they had a great time. Just what they needed after a couple of very stressful years.
Mum and Dad
Idul Adha is a religious holiday where, apart from 2 bank holidays, cows are ceremoniously slaughtered and the meat given to the poor and needy. All households cook beef rendang and have treats on offer to passing guests.
We were invited to at least 6 people’s homes (mostly staff of Casa Nemo). This was a very humbling experience and neither Paul or I could really find the words to describe how we felt. These women have nothing, literally nothing and they made such a huge effort to invite us into their homes and share their food with us. Bare floors, bare walls, bare beds or mats. Bathrooms – no, chairs and tables- no. One or two gas rings in the kitchens. Delicious food! We felt honoured to have been invited into their homes. Haven’t ever eaten so much in 2 days. The Captain also invited us round for cake and drinks which was great. “Anyone for fresh coconut juice?” “Yes”. With that he rolled his trouser legs up, rolled his sleeves up and shinnied up an outrageously high coconut tree. WHAT THE?? No rope to help, just bare feet and strength. Machete stuffed in back of trousers. We all just stood and stared in amazement. And the coconut tasted delicious.
Joe and I both celebrated our birthdays on Pulau Weh, and they were great. Paul had planned and helped do dinner for mine to which most of the staff came back for in the evening. That was really touching, and they brought little gifts too. After our fish feast we had a right old knees up, everyone dancing and being very silly. Great fun! Paul and got all emotional and both made little speeches about how wonderful the people are. Tears all round. The owner, Balqis, had bought a massive birthday cake with candles and everything. I felt very special. Paul made me a beautiful necklace out of bits he had gathered on our travels. A turquoise bead from India, a seed he found washed up on the beach at the Tip of Borneo (covered in gold leaf retrieved from the floors of temples in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos), coconut shell from Bali and shaped into a heart, a “lucky” Thai coin bracelet found in a plant pot? a brass inner tube valve from Bukit Lawang on Sumatra. It is beautiful! Needless to say I got all “emotional” again. One of my best birthdays ever!
Made from pieces found on our travels.
For Joe’s birthday we took him for his first dive. He was so excited and he absolutely loved it! Went down to 5 metres too which is very naughty but great. Now we are all divers. That evening we had yet another banquet of freshly caught fish. Yum! The women from Casa Nemo turned out again to celebrate and this time bought their kids along which was really lovely. Joe was showered with gifts. There must have been at least 20 children running around. This meal was topped off with ice cream and a big birthday cake.
Joe’s 8th birthday.
Joe’s birthday present.
The people at Casa Nemo moved Paul and I far more than we had realised or expected. We both felt a real pull to these women and their families and they seemed to be drawn to us too. We had such a laugh with them although they couldn’t speak English and our grasp of Indonesian was limited to almost nothing. Another person we laughed a lot with was Clo, or Mama Lula as she was affectionately known. A fabulous woman from the French island of Reunion. Mad as a bleedin Hatter she was, but great fun and lovely. She was travelling too, with her daughter, Lula,aged 10.
Clo and Lula xx
The snorkelling off the beach was remarkable not for the numbers of fish but for the variety. We were going out 2/3 times a day and, for literally a week we found different species every day . My camera worked over- time but I did get some really impressive snaps. Patience does reward you in the end!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sam and I went for a short stroll one morning and there on the rocks was a Banded Sea Krait snake laying warming itself in the sun before going hunting in the water. It was the same species that we had been swimming with the previous day. Sam was desperate to hold it so, carefully he got a stick under it and picked it up by its tail. He was really chuffed with himself as was I. I must admit if I’d have known it is one of the most venomous snakes in the world I might have been slightly more apprehensive !!!!!!!!!!! During our stay at Casa Nemo we were fortunate enough to be able to hire the services of the Captain and his boat a few times for snorkelling trips. During one such trip I was ambling my way over the reef scanning every inch as I do, when, out of the corner of my eye, in the distance, I thought I spotted a different species of trigger fish, one that i had been looking for ever since I was a child (I first saw one in an aquarium over 35 years ago !!!!!!). It had disappeared under some rocks before I could properly identify it, I quickly lifted my head above water and called to the others to come over and help with the search. I described what I had seen and pointed them in the area to look, we were all staring at the bottom when suddenly there it was right in-front of my eyes a CLOWN TRIGGER I was ecstatic, the others were pretty impresed too.
First Clown Trigger I have ever seen in the wild !!!!!!!!
First we snorkelled with it.
Then we found one on the rocks, Banded Krait snake a very VENOMOUS SNAKE !!!!!!!
Cuttlefish, absolutely beautiful.
Banded Coral Shrimps
The best photo of a Star puffer I have taken.
After nearly 3 weeks on Pulah Weh (paradise) it was now time for the last part of our epic, year long journey.
Banda Ache, one of the most devastated areas of the tsunami on 26 th December 2004.