Beaches and Circumcisions

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Mar 01, 2011

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Flag of Indonesia  , Sumatra,
Monday, February 14, 2011

As is usual in Indonesia our 6am pick up arrived at 7.30am, we no longer expect anyone to arrive when they say they will! Panut took us back to his home to pick up everyone who was coming on the trip.
By 9am we were ready to go and Panut, Dian, Kancer, Naufal, Naufals friend, And Panuts brother, mother and Nephew along with us were all in the car and on our way.

Naufals school had an outing to the beach so we decided to go and join them on the way so Naufal didn't miss out. It took around 2hrs to get to the beach, and can't remember what it was called but it was on the East coast and was really dirty. The water was horrible and the beach was covered in litter. There wasn't really anything there just a couple of shacks to sit in but nowhere to eat or buy anything from. When the kids arrived they all had there lunch which the teachers brought with them along with the customary megaphone. They then played games and built sandcastles for a couple of hours Naufal seemed to really enjoy it. We set off again around lunch time and for what we thought was Lake Toba but after around 30mins we stopped again this time at a circumcision ceremony. We were surprised as it's Monday and most ceremonies are usually at the weekend but apparently in rural areas it's common to hold them in the week as they are all farmers any way so the day makes little difference to them. The setting was no different really to a wedding only that rather than a couple in their 20s sitting on a throne it's a 12 year old boy! The boy was some distance relative of Panuts mother which was why we had stopped and they seemed very excited that westerners had attended. We were served the usual food steamed rice, cold vegetables and fermented rice. After we had eaten we were asked if we would have our photo taken with the boy, Dans face was a picture he thought they wanted him to watch the circumcision and was relieved when he was told the operation had already been done. 

We didn't stay long and gave the boy 20000 rupiah as a gift which he seemed pleased with when we left.
It was a long way to Lake Toba and we didn't arrive until 5pm, we had planned to stay on the island in the middle of the lake but the next ferry wasn't until 5.45pm and it is an hours journey and being Indonesia in reality that probably means 6.45pm so as we had no accommodation booked we decided to stay on the mainland tonight and go to the island tomorrow. 

We had a look around for somewhere to stay Panut was looking for a family room and the first place we went in wouldn't let him  have the family room until all the rooms on the the top two floors had been taken even though it was 6pm and that was clearly not going to happen tonight- crazy! The second place we went tried to increase their prices for the public holiday even though the holiday wasn't until the next day but as that seemed to be the best place we ended up paying it and staying there. 

Lake Toba reminded us a bit of Pangkor Island in Malaysia it was like going on someone elses holiday. There is virtually no western tourism there and as it is an Indonesian holiday resort there are lots of food and souvenir stalls and it's much cooler than Medan about 17 degrees so it's really refreshing. You can hire pedalos and boats and swim in lake which is very popular with the locals.

We were up early and went for the traditional Nasi Goreng with a fried egg on top for breakfast. Panut and his family bought some more food to take out with them for lunch as it was a Muslim restaurant and they were concerned that they wouldn't be able to get Halal food on the island as it's mainly christian. Halal obviously sawed of no concern of ours and the thought of more cold food didn't really appeal so we decided not to bother.
The ferry over to the island is a car ferry the cars are very tightly packed in and you can either stay in your car or sit in the room on top. We sat upstairs listening to the kids who were busking, the crossing took around an hour and when we arrived we headed to a small village on the island where a friend of 
Panuts had recently set up a new NGO.

The village was really isolated, the house are traditiona Batak style built on stilts with large pitched roofs. They still have communal washrooms for the villagers and there livelihoods are based on farming. We met Panuts friend Togu who showed us around his project, he has set up a learning centre in an old rice store in the village where they have lots of books and are trying to educate the local community as most of them can't read or write Bahasa. He also teaches English to the children. The aim of the project is to have a learning centre in every village on the island with the idea being that he will educate the community so that they don't have to rely solely on farming and fish farming which is destroying the lake and hopefully  educate them to clean up the water in the lake and encourage tourism to the area. He currently also has a motorbike library which visits other villages and he would like to have a learning center on a boat which will allow him to visit villages which are inaccessible by road. We stayed for a couple of hours chatting and learning more about the project. We were joined by the head of the village who brought with him some really nice fresh mangoes for us to try. There was an English class at the project at 3.30pm but unfortunately we couldn't stay long enough to be involved as we had to get back to Medan that night. 

After leaving Togus we drove across the island, it's really beautiful and completely undeveloped, with it being Christian there are gravestones everywhere they are huge and really ornate apparently people spend more on their gravestones than they do on their houses

We didn't need to get the ferry back as there is a bridge to the mainland on the other side of the island. We planned to go to the hot springs and walk around but when we arrived there was a huge storm so unfortunately we just had lunch and carried on, it was a shame as it would have been nice to see them. 

It was a long journey back to Medan, we got lost a couple of times trying to take a short cut as it was getting late but the road we took was really bad probably the worst road we have been on so far with massive pot holes which covered most of the road and the odd landslide so it was 8pm by the time we got to the other side of the lake as we were still a good 3hrs from Medan we stopped for food at a road side cafe for more Nasi goreng, it was really nice but it was our 4th in the last 24hrs, I could feel a trip to Mcdonalds coming up in the next day or so!!
Just as we were hoping we may get back to Medan for 11pm we hit a traffic jam and eventually made it back for 1.30am!!
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