DAY TWO: TAKENGON – BELUTUNG ATEUH – MEULABOH (Approx. 245Km) Mesmerised by Aceh (part3)
Waking up to a glorious sunrise over the lake, we proceeded to climb again along narrow roads into the highlands to the west of Takengon. The views were fabulous, and we hit a maximum elevation of just under 2,000metres ASL, crossing the crest of the main Bukit Barisanrange mountains. It is when faced with these kinds of sights that you realise how vast Sumatra really is. And this is just Aceh, less than 20 percent of the whole island.The mountains reach as far as the eye can see, endless kilometres of jungles, as yet untouched – a testament to the administration’s efforts to preserve this important water catchment area. Some of the nature in the hinterland is quite nice and cool – like seeing monkeys roaming about on the main roads.
The single-lane road wound on and on, with many hairpin bends and sometimes hitting gradients of up to 1 in 3. Finally we began our descent down to the west coast, and due to its volcano nature, the hill slopes are steep and rugged. Even from high up, we could look over the western coastal plateau all the way to the blue vista of the Indian Ocean.
After some delays due to landslides and lost vehicles, we had a tea stop (coffee break) arranged by the local officials and proceeded into the town of Meulaboh. Thus began Tsunami country. Meulaboh alone lost 40,000 people in the catastrophe, being just 150km from the epicentre of the earthquake.
To the casual observer, the town appears entirely rebuilt after it was almost completely wiped off the face of the earth. The wounds left by the disaster surely run deep here and throughout Aceh. It is amazing to see how quickly the community has recovered from the Tsunami damage.