The trip went as follows, a nice half an hour walk to the bus station of which we saw the sunrise over the farmers fields. A three hour bus journey to Medan shared with the local kids in a very beat up with a lot of character. A trip across town by Bemo from the north to the south terminal which took us back through the sweaty centre with this time my thoughts being mainly on our bags which had been placed on the roof of litle rascal van with no straps of which had been throw on in the flippant no worries nature that is Indonesia
. Then a lift on the back of a scooter from a local at the bus station with some random to get some more cash as we heard there would be no ATMS on the island... Medan from the back of a bike gets no better especially without a helmet but these people are born with one between their legs. This was followed by a quick bite from the street vendor and a 3 and a half hour ride in a bus which was a little more luxurious with air con and with extra luxury of a little tv mounted at the front. However instead of the latest pirated blockbuster we had the extra treat whole back catalogue of a local group whose music which which would have been bad in any occasion but the visuals only enhanced the tourture. Eventful but cheap! As we arrived at the port we rushed to get the last ferry which was about to depart, in where met the girls who had just arrived 30 mins before looking all fresh... bitches!
Lake Toba is formed by what was the largest recorded volcanic eruption, in fact a super-volcano. Its one big bad boy which whilst unfortunate for the locals back in the day, has formed a spectacular sight in its 100 km width which at its deepest point sinks down past 500 metres . As the ferry pulled away from the shore the views of the old Dutch colonial buildings against the rugged mountains behind in the late sunshine all reflected by the water was quite something. So as Indonesian guy strummed some Bob Marley on his guitar i sat back and enjoyed one of those "travel moments"
The island in the middle is called Pangururan, and has an even smaller penitential jutting our of the east side which has been taken over as the home of the hotels and resorts. We had been handed a little card from a guy on the boat of a great budget place with which even for the price we got a balcony with lake views from our very retro furniture which was almost quite kitch. From the little dock at the bottom where we were dropped we saw the old school diving spring board in the gardens below which promised to show us a good time in following days to come. The day had been long though with too much travelling to have the energy to do much else. So after putting some well needed laundry in we hit the little family restaurant next door and ate some much missed fish from the lake and marvelled at the amount of hash and magic mushrooms that were being touted on what seemed every menu in town, perhaps that explained the Bob Marley fan earlier.
The next day in the morning i had a little walk around our new village. The peninsular is about 3 miles in width and after a couple of hours i think i managed to have a look in at just about everything it had to offer. Its a mix of resorts, hotels and bungalows to suit all tastes and wallets along with little local stores, bars and restaurants crammed into the rest of the real estate
. You could just have a little glimpse of what island life would be like for the locals with the few houses that had not been eaten up by the resorts, a very unique wooden structire with sharp inclined roofs to a strong point was the design. They were raised up in stilts and had some very tribal carvings with reminded me a lot of the Maoris in New Zealand. At least there had been some kind of height restrictions on the holiday digs and most of the bungalows were in fact built to resemble this traditional design but there was no illusion to say that we weren't very much in with the tourists. However today that was just what we wanted as we needed to get some things sorted which involved some internet time, the wifi in our place was broke but we could use that of the sister place a km which was very more upmarket. We ended up spending much more time there than expected but as we watched the sunset over the lake next to the pool from our little tourist haven complete with fat ignorant tourist who cant seem to fathom "why there is so much foreign muck on the menu". Regardless we managed to book a flight to Malaysia and Bangkok to meet Elena´s mum, who would be coming out to join us in Thailand. That evening we dined again with the our new group of friends and were joine by a the dutch couple as well who had been on our trip and had just arrived at the lake after stopping somewhere else en route. The most traditional thing we saw today, even if you can call it that, were the local band made up of, or more likely dressed up as, the Batak Tob Tribes people who did the rounds in the hotels to showcase some traditional music
. They seemed familiar and as they reached there climatic hit “maria” i reognised them as the group that had been played in the bus on the way down. It became apparent that perhap thier music video directer would have had a big task on his hand with this lot as i have seen more energy in a old peoples home. The girls swayed to their own beat, which looke more like a bored bus que than backing singers as the guys sidelined tone for facial expression. The main guy was clearly carrying the rest, as the other two must have just joined the band that day, if not picked up randomly on the way and both tried to emulate the chirisma of the main man in their own way, one focusing mainly on the words which seemed to take up all of his though process and the other just making boy band faces to the big notes of which he obly joined in on. The master though stole the show,a tashed ventran, every bit the showman belted out the hits not only with a foracious passion but enhanced the expderince wiht panomine like actions. On ¨maria” the bands natinal hit, he pouder his heat to her name and with a local favorite which was in fact a song about drinking he staggered around the floor in a theatrical way as he slurred his words causing panic to his two diciples who looked even most lost than before. Entertaining but for all the wrong reasons.
On the last day we needed to escape the “prison camp” as Cecilia called it. The obvious option seemed to rent a bike and try to explore the rest of the island. We started off by heading west out of the peninsular and following the road around that hugged the coast line. It didn't take us long before we began to get a glimpse into some real island lift. The neighbouring village was strictly for the fisherman of the place with boats moored up to the pier to cast out on the to the water which also made a handy little platform for anyone else who wanted to dip there rods, as there was plenty of fish to be caught
. The villages were made up in the traditional way using the high pointed roofs and had the occasional little guest house mixed in with them for anyone who wanted a more rural stay, but for us it was too late, and besides would they be getting the "maria" played for them at night!!. The people as ever were as friendly as we had seen them but being so close to the tourist magnet of the peninsular we were didnt have quite the novelty factor that we had experienced in other such types of places. We continued on, passing through other such places that were separated by a couple of kilometres. The roads around here we quite flat which made the ride easy but as ever the heat was a factor that could not be ignored. There was a spot on the island, more inland, that was said to have great views. I was keen to find it and we took a little dirt path into the jungle like growth hoping to reach the vantage sight, this proved however to be too much as the road became quite difficult to ride along especially as began to severely incline, after a while we decided to give it a miss, prompted by a couple of wild dogs that were far too eager to tell us that we were on their turf. We did managed to see an historical point as well with a famous site which was for an old tribe that now abandoned has been preserved to explore. On this part of the island there is a strong Christian influence and around the sacred circle of stone chairs that were used for town meetings and apparently human sacrifices sat a little white church that over looked the action
. We pushed on down the track but after another steady incline to an unknown bend and knowing that we were never going to do the full 73 km circumference we decided to turn back a few villages on to head to a local marker that was to the east of the “prison camp”. The rural areas that we biked through in-between the little townships were full of crops, from rice to vegetable and were being harvested by the villages. It was a nice ride with the lake on one side and the mountains to the other in which every time we stopped to take in the vista we would hear the familiar cry of “hello mr”, i think this saying may be starting to repeat in my sleep!
The marker was where most of the life of the island was, lots of arts and crafts for the tourist but also there was a buzz of local life as well as they shopped around for produce or other such fancies from the vendors. We walked through the stalls and ended up at a little museum which depicted the history of the island tribes. It was set in the familiar traditional building made of wood on stilts which also gave us a chance to look at the distribution inside. It was surprisingly big with strong wooden floors and bold beams that held the thing in place. The spacious roof made for another room that i imagine most places would have a couple of beds in there with the window providing a crows nest view for the inhabitant
. The collection that was housed inside was well interesting for the amounts of artefacts that were on display, however not cased behind a stuffy glass window but rested on tables so you were truly able to admire them. The carvings were the best with tribal masks that looked like demons and some other instruments which would not have looked out of place on a torture table. After heading down to the adorning docks to check out the harbour traffic and fight off some kids who wanted their pictures taking with us it was back to the base.
The ride back was not fun as out little detour to the marker had left us with a big hill to scale to get back. By the time we reached out place again the dip in the lake was only viable option to feel human again. The spring board down at the waters edge was as old school as you could get, a solid plank of wood that had to be treated with respect as the thing blasted you into the air, i was a little eager on my first hit and almost managed to show off an impressive back slap. The water in the lake was as warm as a bath with the earth below still cooling from the almighty eruption which as the day drew to an end we found that the water was actually warmer to be in then beside it, which was fine by me as my head was beginning to hurt from the mini diving contest that had kicked off and felt that i was going to end badly for someone, generally me. And than that was it, it was our last night in the hotel, in fact we had no choice in the matter with it being Chinese new year the day after all the rooms had been booked out for months by the Chinese residents of Medan and we had to move on. We went to a restaurant which we had passed on the little bike trip which was run by an Indonesian hippy and had the advantage of being right next to the fishing village so there was no point in even looking at the menu. After a massive trout, following an even bigger wait as the hippy slowly tended to the ulurious bbq that was tending to (although i am sure other smoke was involved) we said our farewells to out new found friends and got our first taste of having to say goodbye to people you really like when travelling... its a double edged sword! Tomorrow we will say goodbye to Indonesia as well, which has gone all but to fast, but we shall be back one day as there is far too much to see here in a month and she had definitely left us wanting more.
We met cecile at 6am next to the river to get the bus. Lana and Elly had decided to take the chartered mini van down there so they stayed in bed, us on the other had were going to do it local style to save on the pennies. Doing a trip of this size it had to be a necessity, well at least for us as what you pay for the mini bus can pay for 4 nights accommodation, when we do the maths for the two of us, whilst local is generally a quarter of the prize, the only thing yoy loose is time but if there is no rush, as there is not, then it makes sense... on a shoe string right.