My trip through the central highlands of Aceh province has ended. Friday night was spent in the mountain town of Berastagi at almost 4800', last night we slept in the west coast town of Singkil at 15'.
Berastagi felt wonderfully cool after the heat of the lower ranges, it's a town where people from the biggest city on Sumatra, Medan, go to get away. It's a busy market town and small tourist center with many hotels and small B&B's. There are two active volcanoes nearby, Sibayak and Sinabung, unfortunately I didn't get to see the smoke as the peaks were hidden by clouds. It's a reminder that I'm sitting on the "Ring of Fire" as this volcanic area of the world is known.
The road from the river valley, south of Kutacane up to Berastagi, could perhaps be the worst road I have ever travelled over, if not, it's in the bottom two. The pot holes along this mountain highway weren't just big, they could swallow a VW Beetle, and some of them were filled with water making it an adventure to drive in and "test" the depth and what we might hit beneath the water. I can definitely certify that my spine has been completely realigned and my left arm, after long hours hanging onto the handle above the window, is now stronger than my right. We did find some well-paved sections, and some sections that were old but still in good condition, but these were far and few.
On one section we passed through an area filled with oranges groves. We stopped at a stall being run by one of the local farmers to try some, I think we ended up purchasing about 20 lbs between us.
Yesterday we traveled from Berastagi to Singkil, mostly downhill, but we still had some passes to cross over. More beautiful views and one good waterfall helped the trip go by. We got in late so I haven't seen much of Singkil but it's very flat and barely above sea level. I believe Singkil's main claim to fame is being the ferry port for trips to Simeulue Island.
Today we'll be working on the radios here at the Singkil Chapter and on Monday we'll begin the journey NW back to Banda Aceh.