Sunday, August 4, 2013

A night in the mysteriously beautiful Takengon - Central Aceh, Indonesia

As we drove along an elevated road we saw this amazingly gorgeous, mysterious landscape surrounding us!
Buffaloes grazing grassland by the lakeside
A village on the shore of Lake Lut Tawar
No way we could returned to Banda Aceh after visiting the earthquake sites in Ketol and Blang Mancung. It was getting late and the rough road to Banda Aceh would take another 7 to 8 hours and we had an exhausting day. Although, most of the landslides after the quakes and its aftermath have been cleared, still, it is extremely dangerous on a rainy day and at night. We had to put up a night in Takengon in Central Aceh, a town on the edge of Danau Lut Tawar (tectonic lake) and tomorrow we will be visiting another earthquake site in Tritit on our way back to Banda Aceh.

Though not severely hit by the quake, few houses and a hospital in Takengon are affected. The villagers are afraid that the quake might trigger Tsunami on the lake but their fears are unfounded and lives get on pretty normal in this area dotted with picturesque fishing villages.

We relied on the advice of Misbah, the Aceh girl who has volunteered to guide us and the driver, Salahudin who has been to this part of Aceh umpteen times. It was about 3 pm and we hurriedly left the earthquake sites and after slightly more than an hour drive we arrived in Takengon safely. The weather was cold and though we first thought of staying in a hotel in Renggali, a resort at the edge of the lake, we changed our mind looking at the eerie and spooky environment. We got back to Takengon and decided to stay in town, closer to the restaurants for iftar and the central mosque for terawih.

Basic hotel in the town of Takengon
We opted for Hotel Mahara, a basic "starless" hotel but conveniently located in the middle of the town. No hot water, no fan, no heater and the weather was about 15 degrees at night, the water was freezing cold! To fully occupy our time, Salahudin drove us around the 30 km periphery of this beautiful Danau Lut Tawar sitting at about 3,000 feet above sea level. Two active volcanic mountains in the north and south of Takengon remain another threat to this area. 

We had iftar at one of the local restaurant and then performed terawih in the central mosque.  Unlike Malaysia, having iftar in the mosque is not the culture here and even in Banda Aceh....everybody only flocked to the mosques for isyaq and terawih. After terawih, we decided to have the famous Gayo Coffee at one of the cafe in town. The menu caught our attention and with the name "Shake and Rock Iced Coffee" it tempted us...ahaaa what a drink after the earthquake! Everybody in the cafe was in their sweaters sipping steaming coffee. Salahudin and Misbah smiled when we ordered two tall glasses of Shake and Rock Iced Coffee and later one more.  Indeed, the cold coffee tasted rockingly excellent! We took home 5 bags (1.25 kilogram) of this famous Gayo coffee. I wished I had more time here.  
The curves and the volcanic rocks formed the natural shape of the lake
Horses at the backyard of the villagers
A Gayo lady harvesting her field
The golden paddy fields are ready for harvesting
Diligently working on the field
A young Gayo lad looking after a heard of buffaloes'
The boys are watching closely their buffaloes
The area is full of baffaloes
A mosque at the far edge of the lake
Not only Riau but also Aceh is experiencing open burning
Paddy field stretches across the flatland
The plump buffaloes busy grazing

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