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Here, there, everywhere... A modest attempt at chronicling my around the world adventure over the next year (or so).

lakeside living...

INDONESIA | Wednesday, 12 November 2008 | Views [777]

view outside my room! 10ft from the lake, mostly going down the stairs!

view outside my room! 10ft from the lake, mostly going down the stairs!

It was a rough ride coming out of the jungle but I made it to Medan at the northern bus station and quickly caught the minibus to the southern bus station about 6k away. I had no idea if there was a night bus to Parapat my next destintation and it was 6:15pm but I was going to try. On the way I met three Indonesian angels (they were all christians not muslims, interesting in the largest muslim country in the world)I call them who talked to me and helped me find the bus. The first woman named Mely was from Danua Toba where I was eventually headed and told me all about it and how wonderful a place it is. The second person named Angi was a seminary student who invited me to stay with his teacher for the night since it was getting late and I was not sure about the bus. ( I declined wanting to push ahead instead but what an awesome offer). And finally the third and most amazing and helping person was Mary. Mary had been listening to me talk with Mely and Angi during the ride and when it was just us and a huge traffic jam 5 minutes from the bus station she introduced herself and sprang into action. The minivan driver decided he did not want to go through the traffic jam so told me to get out and walk. She was worried about me so said she would come with me. As we stood in the middle of a traffic jam at 7:00pm wondering how to cross she found us another van that was braving the jam and we hoped on board. 5 minutes later we were out of the jam and as we turned the final corner towards the bus station she yelled something in Indonesian out the window to a bus going the opposite direction across the road. Turns out it was the last bus to Parapat so she jumped out with me and we ran across the road to the awaiting bus touts. They grabbed me and my bag and I had just enough time to thank her and hear her tell me to have a safe journey. It was an inspiring example of human genorosity that still makes me feel good typing it almost a week later. I just hope some day I can be the same for some wayward traveller in the US or elsewhere.

After settling onto the bus (it said public but who knows?) with the Indonesian pop blasting and half the bus chain smoking I realized I had not gone the bathroom in six hours and eaten in eight but damn I felt good. I was hot, hungry, dirty, had not shaved in a week, stinky  and had to pee but life could not be better. So we motored down the road after haggling on a price with the bus driver passing everything in sight going Mach 3.0. 30 minutes later we pulled over for "change" and I quickly used the toilet. 1 hour later we pulled over for food and I had some chips and a Sprite. 3 hours later we pulled over for a brake job and I...wait brake job?? Yes that's right we did a brake job at 10:30pm on the side of the road. I thought I had seen everything with roadside repairs until now. They were five guys running the show on the bus, one big guy in charge and all his helper guys of various rank all taking turns with the right front brakes. They were able to wake an autoparts store guy up to get someparts and fluid and about 30 minutes into it as the passengers were all smoking and observing, I noticed they had this pissy little flash light for this job. I happen to have my headlamp handy so I brought it out and put it on the head of the guy under the bus. I got a rousing round of thumbs up from the bus guys and passengers and the work resumed. 1 hour later they were bleeding the brakes and we were off. Another hour later we stopped for food again and they changed an inside rear tire with what appeared to me to be a tire in worse condition but who am I to judge?! At about 1:30am we rounded a corner and the bus stopped at the edge of Parapat, my final destintation for the night. I said my goodbyes and began walking towards to the harbor through a completely shut down town. I did see a few guys hanging out who provided some direction to the pier. I found the pier and a place where I was going to stay for the night having arrived earlier but did not like the looks of it at 2:00am. So I found a park instead and decided to make my bed for the next few hours under a shelter. While walking down the road to the entrance I came across a nice hammock right inside the park fence, it looked sturdy enough so I decided this would be my bed for the evening. The stars were out and the evening was nice with a little chill in the air. I brushed my teeth, unrolled my sleep sack, put my sarong over my head to keep out mossies and went to bed. I was awoken with the call to prayer at 5:00am and then by the daylight at 6:30am when I got up and said a nice hello to the ladies waving from the hotel across the street. Not bad for a few hours a sleep! I have had and paid for worse.

I walked to the ferry pier which did not leave until 8:30am or 9 depending on who you talked to. I met a hotel tout who wanted me to see his place at Tuk-tuk when I crossed the lake I agreed with no obligations. I sat on the deck in the wonderful morning sunshine for the 8k crossing to Tuk-tuk on Samosir Island. We arrived at the hotel on the lake shore, I got off and the guide helped me find a room at his hotel that he worked for. I saw the room with only a cold shower and decided to stash my bag and look elsewhere. I had read that fewer tourists visit Danua Toba so there are bargains to be had and I had time to kill. I ate a pancake for breakfast and walked around. I found some nice people and room with a hot shower (something I had not had for almost two weeks) for the same price so I moved locations. It was right down the road so an easy walk with my pack. I settled in and went to explore this little town on the lake but not before admiring my amazing room 10 feet from the lake shore. You could swim almost right outside your room and the lake was in pretty good shape. This place was in an extinct volcano caldera and a lake was formed around it. It was so peaceful and quiet compared to all the places I had travelled and I was prepared to spend the next four days resting and relaxing before heading back to the ferry for Malaysia.

Turns out resting and relaxing is pretty much what is done here, not much else going on in Tuk-tuk. There are some bordering towns that are a little bigger that I walked to on different days but not nearly has nice and quiet at Tuk-tuk. This little town was a great place to launch explorations from. One day I had an aborted hike to find a village in the hills, each day I swam in the lake everyday and tried to eat at a different restaurant for every meal to spread the much needed money the Batak people needed in Tuk-tuk. I did end up eating dinner in the same restaurant every night because I found this place my first night in Tuk-tuk and liked the family so much I came back. The mother who I met first was also a great cook, it was her hobby and her dishes were tasty! She would make me meals with special touches like the avacado salad I had twice that were from her tree right outside the restaurant. The second night I had this very tasty and spicey tofu curry with rice, it was so good I could not stop talking about it. Sometimes I was the only customer they would have all day and I was happy to visit them and talk about the day and watch some bad Indonesian TV. Ita, Tomb, Hanri, Dicki and Jose treated me like family and I enjoyed seeing them every evening. They also watched the Indonesian news every night which was all about the execution of the Bali bombers from 2002. I almost went to Bali during this week probably a good thing I didn't at least that was what the Australian government was telling their citizens since many of the people who died were from Australia.

While walking I also met several groups of Indonesian students who wanted to practice their English. They were shy at first but warmed up and took lots of pictures. I also met an American couple traveling for a year. They were from California and were headed to New Zealand and South American in December. They were traveling with some other couples and decided to order a BBQ pig for dinner. I happend to see B the next morning when they brought the pig from the farm. He wanted to watch them kill the pig and get it ready. The piggy was squeeling so much I just could not watch so I left and said I wouild return that evening to see them eat. I spent my last dinner with Ita and her family and she convinced me to come for my last pancake breakfast the next morning before catching the ferry.

I got up early and headed to the restaurant. Ita was Tom were up and the kids were off to school. She made me my last banana pancake and put some chocolate sprinkles inside and made me some tea. It was a sweet gesture for my last meal in Tuk-tuk and Danua Toba, and left me full and happy off to catch the ferry. I caught the ferry at 9:00am to Parapat then the public bus with two Korean women I met at my guesthouse. We rode the long 6 hours back to Medan to stay the night before catching the ferry back to Malaysia. All I can say about Medan is it is a dirty, noisy town and I stayed in one of the worse guesthouse I have been in. I was afraid to leave food out(fear of rats, saw a few mice) and did not lay on the sheets. I caught the bus to the ferry the next morning and we left about two hours late which meant I was short on time to get into Malaysia and catch the night bus to Singapore.

My final thoughts on Indonesia: the people are warm and friendly, the country is great and I will be back with Jessica, she would love it. Probably the only negative part is that 98% of the men between 15-60 smoke and this is not an exaggeration. They smoke everywhere, restaurants, buses, etc. It is sad to think that in 30-40 years so many wonderful people will have lung cancer.

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