During the insurgency in Aceh, there were many outposts created by Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka/GAM) to support their guerilla tactics. It’s said that Mount Goh Leumo was one of them. Located in Aceh Besar, this mountain, although not too high (only 800 metres above sea level), provided natural hideout for the rebels. On top of the mountain, Banda Aceh is highly visible making it a perfect reconnaissance post. The name “Goh leumo” itself means “Cow Montain”, because the shape of the mountain resembles a cow’s hump.
There are certain rules if you’re willing to hike Goh Leumo mountain: First, permission from Keuchik (head of the village) is mandatory. Second, due to the strict sharia law, mixed-gender climbing group isn’t allowed, it’s either all men or all women. El and I take three local guys who often hike the mountain as guides and porter, we start at 2 PM, taking the fastest but toughest route. The early path is easy, there are concrete stairs about 200 metres leading to the initial climbing path. At the end of the stairs, the challenge begins.
The first hour is easy as pie, we’re walking through various plantations, mostly durian trees, but the next two hours is the real deal, the terrain has many slippery slopes around 45-60 degrees, I must grab rattan stems that have been put deliberately in certain spots to reach higher terrain. Otherwise, it’s just not possible to climb up, even if I were scrambling on the branches or rocks. Rattan vines have thorns, it’s expected to have some scars along the climbing path, luckily I wear cargo pants, but my hands cannot escape some of the thorns. Ouch!
3 hours trekking is finally worth the trouble when I reach the top, looking at the whole Banda Aceh below. As El and I are photographing the view from the top, the others are preparing a shelter and set a campfire, it’d dark in less than one hour. When the night slowly creeps over Goh Leumo Mountain, I can see the city lights of Banda Aceh begin to illuminate one by one until the whole city is radiating with lights. To see such moment from the top of Goh Leumo is an unforgettable experience.
Around the campfire, we exchange stories while having our humble dinner (rice with sardines and some vegetables) until late night. Tired and exhausted, I crawl into the tent and placing myself with the most comfortable position to sleep. I close my eyes then slowly enter the dreamland.
It’s a bright sunny day on top of the mountain as I watch my surrounding. Not only I can see the whole Banda Aceh below, I can also hear the sound of the city echoes to the mountain. From the mosque towers’ sound of adzan all over the city to the honking cars on the busy streets. Today’s breakfast is instant noodle with scrambled eggs, a classic Indonesian breakfast. It’s crucial to have a full stomach to climb down the heavy terrain today.
On our way down, I slipped several times, got many scratch marks from the thorny rattan vines, and one puncture wound from a strange thorny tree. It stings real bad and almost make me lose my grip. It seems that this forest has an affection for thorns. After 2 hours of tough and slippery descent, the terrain is becoming relatively flat so my knees have some time to rest. I arrive at the village in the next ½ hour and drink my remaining water supply. At last!!
We rest for an hour and going back to Banda Aceh. After saying many thanks to our friends for their help, El and I head back to our “guest house”, packing our stuffs and take a bath. We leave the “guest house” at noon when the sun is high, having lunch, after that, buying some souvenirs and ride to the airport.
Although El and I are on different planes, both of our flights are delayed for one hour, I observe the waiting room and it seems that we’re the only local tourists among some foreign ones, the others are regular passengers such as businessmen and women, and expats.
The airline seems to keep its delay on time, my plane arrives in an hour. Right after I’m told by the crew to board on the plane, I shake El’s hand and say goodbye. He’s been a good traveling partner and I learn lots of traveling tricks from him in ten days.
I watch Banda Aceh slowly disappears from above as the plane ascends into the clouds. It’s been an exceptional journey, many stories to share, many photographs to enjoy. I close my eyes, replaying all my 10-day trip’s highlights then silently whisper: “Goodbye North Sumatra, goodbye Aceh, it’s been a great adventure. A real adventure.”