We left late. I blame the Spanish that were with us because they don't read this blog and you know how they are with time. At least, that's the excuse I'm sticking with. So, it wasn't until after three that we finally headed out of town in three white Toyota pickups piled with camping gear and headed toward the Gayo Highlands - more commonly referred to by us coastal lowlanders as, 'those mountains over there.'
We were attempting to reach Lake Tawar before nightfall but with a five hour drive this idea was quickly abandoned as we wound up steep hairpin turns hour after hour. It was not a drive for the faint-hearted (or stomached). The scenery gorgeous but a wrong move could send a truck of hurtling thousands of feet to the canyons below...a fact that I liked to remind those I was driving every time we ground to a halt at a 45 degree angle to shift into four wheel drive or went around a particularly precarious turn. It was calm, and cool winding through the mountains passing quiet villages clustered along the road, a few other travellers, and the illegal logging camps.
(You can almost hear them thinking: '1 hectacre down, 3 million to go...')
Lake Tawar sits at 3,000 feet above sea level in a the remains of an ancient volcano. They grow a lot of coffee and, according to the International Carnivorous Plant Society, it is home to one of the most recently discovered carnivorous plants - the Nepenthaceae. Not that we identified any - I wouldn't have known a Nepenthaceae from a wild fern, from the wild ginger, or miscellany of other thorny, stinging overgrowth and undergrowth. The lake was surrounded by scenery with an identity disorder. It couldn't decide if it was jungle or forest but either way it was beautiful.
Our campsite was at the edge of the lake up against a cliff about 10 meters from the lake.
Nothing I write will do the place justice so I will show you some pictures instead. Try to ignore the sombraro that turns up intermittently on just about everyone's head.
Proof that I can, and do at times, cook. Even over a fire. That fishing boat you see in the background is the one reaping the benefit of my having lulled the fish into a false sense of security by my ineptitude.
Marcela wandering about the rice paddies looking lovely.
Iwan, not even attempting.
There is a line in the Black Crowes song, 'Soul Singing' that I think describes Takengon. 'Look around. Show me holy places not yet found'. The sense of the place, like many places on earth, was quiet and mystical and calm. And to be able to have seen so many of them...well, in the words of Velvet Elvis: Sometimes I can't believe I get to live this life.