In the foreground you can see our RC vehicle, a Toyota Landcruiser, not the smoothest riding transportation in the world but it does the job. Glen and I are taking turns riding in the front seat to enjoy the better view and the better ride.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The Road to Lhokseumawe (Lock-sue-ma-way)
Today Glen and I started out first road trip to visit radio sites on the east coast of Aceh. Accompanying us is Alex, the Sr. IT/Telecom Officer for the IFRC in Banda Aceh and Jumari, one of our interpreters. We had planned to get on the road shortly after seven but various delays had us finally underway by 8:45.
The road down along the east coast, mainly inland although there were a few times when we could see the Straights of Malacca, provided a wide range of experiences and scenery: rice paddies everywhere, palm trees, pine trees, monkeys (two), water buffaloes (a lot), hundreds of motorcycles and scooters, small villages, more rice paddies, loads of people, two Red Cross chapters (see below), one car accident, did I mention rice paddies, one golf course, and finally, Lhokseumawe, the second largest city in Aceh.
Our first stop after a couple of hours was in the town of Sigli to visit the Red Cross chapter at Cabang Pidie. Not too bad but we has a few things to fix that I will get back to later in my stay.
After our visit to the chapter it was lunch time. Our travelling companions took us to a local restaurant and as you can see we had no trouble finding something to eat. In this type of restaurant they load up the table with about 30 different dishes and you just pay for the ones that you eat. The others go back in the display cabinet for the next guests.
We saw many children coming from and going to school. Most wore uniforms, some did not. The color of this girls head scarf and the contrast to her tunic caught my eye.
Our second stop after another two hours was the Red Cross in Bireuen. They used to be located downtown but last year the Canadian Red Cross built them this wonderful new building just outside of town on some land surrounded by rice fields. This was the best installation todate. The PMI in Bireuen run two ambulances for the town and they staff the building 24x7.
The American Red Cross was also very generous to this branch by donating three pickup motorcycles (one of them seen here) and 10 scooters. The gentleman in the red shirt is the head of the Bireuen branch.
Speaking of scooters we asked Jumari how hard it was to get a driver's license for a motorcycle. "Not hard at all." he said. You go to the local bureau and pay $15 and that's it. No wonder you see them everywhere driven by people of all ages.
And in case I didn't mention it there were a lot of rice paddies. Jumari told us that they can produce two crops a year which I can well believe with the tropical climate. The fields were in various states of the growth cycle. Most of the plots in this photo are being prepared but you can see one patch in the middle where the rice is well on it's way. Sometimes from road to tree-line are solid green. I'll try to get a better picture.
Overall the road was very good. It's only two-laned and very busy. The surface was fairly smooth with a few rough patches here and there. They told me the road on the west coast isn't as good.
We finally arrived in Lhokseumawe around 5:30 and checked into our hotel. It's a bit older and a little run down but it will do the job for the night. One frustration I haven't solved yet is that all of the electricity (lights, TV, A/C, etc) is operated by one switch by the door. If you turn off the lights you also turn off the A/C! Hmmmmm - I'll have to work on this one.