Tag Archives: Mountains

Another attempt at the secret secret beach

On Sunday Marcus, Simone and I set out to find the elusive secret secret beach. We had REAL directions this time which buoyed our confidence no end.

But before the walk started we had a relaxed and delicious breakfast on Marcus and Simone’s back veranda and had coconuts from the tree that their security guard, the kind hearted Jumadin collected and cut open for us. An excellent way to start a day of rare physical activity to be sure. Jumadin said that coconut water cleans your blood. That sounds like a pretty good thing to happen to your blood right?

We headed out to the same beach we started from last time but this time we were entering the forest from a completely different spot. The beginning of the walk followed a road that was wide enough for cars, and even as it narrowed further up the mountain there was still enough of a track to take a motorbike along.

Simone crossing a bridge

Simone crossing a bridge

Eventually the vehicle track ended and it was time to enter the forest for real.

Marcus entering the forest

Marcus entering the forest

Just prior to this we met a man who had some property along the track and he told us the way to the beach but insisted that it was much further than we thought. The seed of doubt was planted. According to his times we would be struggling to get to the beach and back before dark.

We continued along for a little while until we hit a narrow track on a steep edge that was so dense with vegetation we had to push ourselves through it. At this point our doubts were increasing and enthusiasm waning and eventually we turned back.

On our way back we stopped in for a longer chat with the man who had given us direction.

Directions man

Directions man

On his property he has fruit trees, tomato plants and some other things I couldn’t identify. He didn’t live on this property permanently, but I think he said he spent a few weeks here and there staying over tending to the farm. He had cacao trees (the seeds/beans of which make cocoa/chocolate)

Fruit from the cacao tree

Seed pod from the cacao tree

And puppies! It’s been too long since this blog has featured baby animals.



We headed back and ended up spending a few hours at the regular secret beach. The secret beach isn’t a secret at all and there are usually groups of young men hanging around (sometimes swimming and sometimes just sitting on the rocks watching the world below). There were lots of guys out that day but miraculously, at one point, we had the beach to ourselves for about half and hour or more.

Our plan next was to return to Joel’s to eat pizza but it was CLOSED! That was a real blow to morale, but we soon found some team building activities to cheer everyone up again.

Simone and Sarah cooperating!

Simone and Sarah cooperating!

And look who else we met! (that’s Joel’s Restaurant in the background)

Wan, our friend from our previous attempt at the secret secret beach

Wan, our friend from our previous attempt at the secret secret beach

You may recall Wan from our last walk. He was just about as pleased to see us as we were to see him. We chatted to Wan and some other locals while we waited for our car which arrived as the sun went down. I didn’t do a very good job capturing this, but it gives you a hint.

Sunset over Lampuuk

Sunset over Lampuuk

Want to have a super weekend in Banda Aceh?! Here’s how!

It was a busy weekend in Banda Aceh this weekend. And like the best weekends it lasted for three days. Sunday was Indonesian Independence Day so a public holiday was observed on Monday.

Friday was the 3rd anniversary of the cessation of conflict between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement. There were public events all day and I quickly dropped in on one in the afternoon to see one of our NGO partners perform (they have a band). All I found was the Deputy Governor giving a ratherlong speech…and a sign telling me where I could stand.

Pria (men) to the left and wanita (women) to the right. Sex segregation in the middle of the day? Really? When I first saw the sign I hoped it was directions to the bathroom…

Later that night at the same location there was a concert with the very popular and very awesome Acehnese performer, Rafly. The segregation plan failed and there were boys and girls sitting wherever they felt like it. Standing was strictly forbidden though. I guess it might have led to…dancing! Gasp! Rafly really knows how to rock your socks off so it was a killer to remain seated when the music was telling you to shake your bootie. Occasionally some boys lost control and jumped up to dance…but they were very quickly reminded by crowd control to sit down (crowd control=military so you actually have to listen to them).

On Sunday, Independence Day, there were all kinds of festivities around town, including panjat pinang where groups of men from the local area climb a slippery pole to grab the loot at the top (the loot consisted of electrical appliances at the one we saw). A few of us headed to a local park to watch as groups of men tried with varying levels of success to reach the top of the pole. There were two poles, each was smeared in grease and was the height of maybe 6 or 7 men.

Here are some men at the base of one of the poles.

This group have almost made it to the top.

And this guy was the first to reach the top.

He proceeded to detach the boxes and throw them down to the ground. Fortunately the boxes were symbolic. The appliances had been removed before being attached to the pole. A friend of mine saw one of these competitions in which the victor threw down a blender from the top of the pole and it smashed.

On Monday a few of us decided to go for a walk to the secret secret beach. I call it the secret secret beach to distinguish it from the regular secret beach, which is not a secret at all because everyone knows where it is and it’s easy to get there. The secret secret beach actually deserves its name….we walked for a few hours and couldn’t find it.

Here is the wholesome hiking troupe making our way along the track. At this point we were pretty sure we were on the right track because our GPS told us so (that’s right…we even had a GPS and we still didn’t make it!)

We continued along the track but eventually arrived at a cliff that was very clearly a dead end. Fortunately this was the view at the dead end:

Can’t be too sad about finding a view like that.

At this point we were low on drinking water and it was very hot, so like sensible little hikers we turned back. We had received some guidance (relating to both navigation and life) along the way from an old man who stayed in a hut along the track. On our way back we stopped in at the hut for a chat. He was deaf so our communication was limited, but he did give us some life lessons (because what else is an old man in the forest going to do?)

Life lessons from the old man.
1. get married
2. have babies
3. getting married and having babies is good
4. Hedgehog is tasty and good for virility

I was pretty much ready to sign up for marriage and babies by the end of the hike.

Here, Simone and Marcus are sitting in the man’s hut.

Here, Cat is talking to the old man.

A little further on from the old man’s house is a natural well he collects water from. It’s salty so you can’t drink it but it’s perfect for pouring over your head, as demonstrated so beautifully by Simone.

After making it out of the forest we stopped in at the easy-to-find-secret-beach for a quick swim and then headed to Joel’s for drinks and pizza. Marcus ordered our drinks while Simone and I used the showers.

We came back to the table to find (each):
1 big bottle of water
1 pocari sweat (isotonic drink)
1 coke
1 pineapple juice

We were pretty thirsty.

This weekend was probably as good as they get… I reflected on this as I had a hot shower (it was truly glorious) at Marcus, Simone and Cat’s place after returning from the beach. How can you beat that?

Dropped the ball

I’ve haven’t updated for a week even though there has been plenty of adventure. I’ll give a quick round-up and catch up on details over the next few days.

  1. Greg is visiting this week. We met in Medan, stayed in the fanciest hotel I’ve ever stayed in (for around $60 per room per night), and eventually made it to Bukit Lawang to see orang utans. It was hard to drag ourselves away from the fancy hotel breakfast and the fancy chairs in the lobby and the fancy blankets they had (in the deluxe suite we were upgraded to because we wanted twin beds)….
  2. but the orang utans made it worth the effort. We only stayed one night and set out early in the morning of our second day for a 4-5 hour hike. We saw a peacock that defied gravity and lots of orang utans…then bolted back to Medan to catch a plane to Banda Aceh…
  3. …That was booked for the wrong night. When we checked in for flight they kindly let us know that our tickets were for the previous night and that there were no more seats on the last flight for the evening. So we went back to the fancy hotel who booked the tickets for us and let them know of our dilemma. After a bit of fussing about we had seats on a flight the following day and a free room for the night.
  4. My wisdom tooth is infected! I have taken a steady stream of panadol for about a week. Is that dangerous?
  5. Standing in the rain waiting for a taxi in Medan, I was helping a nice man move a hardwood bench that had tipped over but he dropped it on my finger and my fingernail is now gross. But it seems like it won’t fall off, so worst nightmare no.1 averted.
  6. Going to KL again this weekend, for yet another visa run…