A friendly island where we found huge bats, hunting
sea eagles, and beautiful fishing boats
As we sailed into Sabang Bay on the island of Poulo Weh, a ten foot long
Marlin cruised across our bows - the area is rich in sealife.
The local officials were very friendly although they told us that we
were not allowed into harbour for 36 hours, as the President of Indonesia
was arriving in town the next day and security would be tight to prevent
any violence. The north of Sumatera is rather volatile at the moment ...
We anchored behind a nearby island during the President's visit, and returned
to Sabang for three days once he had left.
Ma Huan's description of Poulo Weh is ...
"In the sea to the north west of Sumatera, there is a large
flat-topped, steep mountain, which can be reached in half a day; its name
is Mao mountain. On the west of this mountain is a great sea ... ships
coming across this ocean from the est take in sail here, and use this
mountain as a guiding mark.
In the shallow water, about twenty feet deep, at the side of the
mountain there grows a marine tree. The people recover it and sell it
as a valuable commodity. The largest trees are two feet high. At the top
of the roots, there is a single large root as big as one's thumb; it is
deep black like ink, and has a soft sheen like jade-stone. A little higher
up it forks out into attractive fluttering branches. The large piece at
the top of the roots can be cut into hat buttons and other such articles.
At the foot of this Mao mountain there is a resident population of
twenty or thirty families. Each man styles himself a king; if you ask
his name, he replies 'A-ku la-ch'a', 'i am in truth a king'. If you ask
the next man, he says the same thing - it is most laughable."