Monday, July 9, 2012

Toba express

We had only been to Sumatra once before (See orang utans post), and last time we had spent a night in Medan. We have learnt from our mistake, this WE, our driver picked us up directly at the airport and we drive for 4h to reach Parapat, a town on the shore of Lake Toba. No fun evening in Medan!!! (according to a home made survey accross the expat population of Singapore, Medan is officially the worst city of Asia!)

At 8.30 am on Saturday morning, after a rough night in the car and in a sort of a hotel, we were in the boat crossing to Samosir island.
Now is time for a quick geography lesson. Lake Toba is actually a caldera now filled with fresh water, in the middle of it stands an island which is quite considerable in size.
It's actually the largest volcanic lake in the world.

Crossing the lake to the island is quite a pleasant trip, it barely takes 30min but we are going to the last stop (at least that's what we have understood) and the boat is also being used for delivery so each stop sees dozens of eggs, piles of herbs and various bags of tofu and tomatoes being unloaded.


Anyway, it's more like 10am when we make it to our hotel and what we need is a big breakfast, bacon (beef bacon, it's Indonesia!), eggs, pancakes!
After that we are ready to tackle the tour of the island on a motorbike. There was an initial debate between automatic/semi automatic and chrome/glitter, we finally all get on our bikes (4 of us this WE as N and D have joined us)
We have been informed that the tour should take 4 to 5 h (we will find out later that this is a lie! The lonely planet says 9h and we will never know...)
It's indeed quite pretty, it feels really remote, more like the Philippines than Indonesia actually, it's not crowded, there are buffaloes, chicken and kids everywhere.

We stop frequently to see Batak houses with their famous pointy roofs.

There is also an incredible concentration of churches, sometimes even 2 built next to each other.

After a couple of hours driving we realise where we are and conclude that there is no way we will make it around the island in 4h. We still continue our tour and head towards the dry patch on the mountain that we assume (rightly) are the hot springs.


Sulfur seems to have killed local vegetation. We have a dip in hot water at a specially made "foreign pool" (meaning ladies and gents in the same bath)
After a swim, we have to go back as it is really obvious that we will never go around the island. Going back the same way seems boring so we decide to cut through the centre. According to our map (given by the hotel), the roads seem ok, they are not even dotted line!
So we start going up the hill, the views are beautiful, enjoy them, they are the last photos we have of that day...

From going up, the road then becomes quite bumpy, luckily D and R are very good pilots so despite N and I being shaken constantly and quite worried we continue. We soon reach the internal lake (that's the story of the lake on the island on the lake on the island;-). It's the end of the day, just before dinner, all families are outside, waving at us and saying hello(and probably thinking stupid foreigners!)
Continuing our way, the road splits in 2, we ask 4 different people (not our first visit to indonesia!) and they all agree on the fact we should go right and that's when the real fun begins ( the rocks until now were just warm up!)
First, it starts raining, then we realise that the road is getting greener and greener, meaning we are in the middle of the forest and we feel really lonely...
It's now quite flat and with the rain, some serious swimming pool are starting to form. R and D are carefully avoiding them (for now...)
D has serious doubts about his jumper colour choice... Isn't white suitable for motor crossing in the jungle?
And that's when the best announcement comes, N and D are short of petrol (or benzen as they call it overthere)...
The only human we meet tells us we are 20km away from the town, I nearly fell off my bike hearing that, but the good news is that we only have 7km left of this nightmare!
The next 7km will be done with D pushing with his feet to get the bike going, free wheel as soon as there is a bit of slope and by the end everyone had put his feet in the water, R and I had visited the ditch once and the white jumper had 1 spot (miraculously!)
Finally the road!!!!!
At the 3rd stop, we even find petrol! We also wash the bikes as we do not think the owner will appreciate our decoration job...
The road is now nice and flat, like a dream and suddently out of nowhere back to rocks! It's like they do the road by sections: 5km done, 5km rocks, 5 done 5 rocks!
The bikes are dirty again by the time we get to the main circular loop around the island. The road is nearly normal but that's when we have our second accident of the day! Nothing major, a bruise, a cut and a burnt! (special note for C: I now have a matching mark to yours on my calf... Why are exhaust pipe so hot????)
By 7pm we are back to the hotel, we are pretty much in one piece, the bikes are pretty much in one piece (the clutch doesn't want to change gear on the way down anymore but R found a way...) and more importantly the white jumper has 1 tiny little brown spot!
The evening is more relaxing, drinks, food and local music.
We only have Sunday morning on the island so we spend it in the lake enjoying the diving platform.


PS: you only got the lake/island story correctly if you understood the last island was Sumatra


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