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blue waters

INDONESIA | Saturday, 27 June 2009 | Views [496]

After spending 1.5 million on Batik paintings, Jake from Café Bagoes said he would drive me to the bus depot in Bukittinggi. Following lunch (I had fried buffalo jerky and rice…nice!) he dropped me of at 4pm. Three hours later the bus finally turned up.
I had an isle seat, a very special isle seat. The thing that kept the reclining seat in a certain position was broken. Whenever the bus accelerated or went up a hill the seat would lean backwards. Therefore whenever the bus went downhill or braked, yep that’s right, the seat went forward! The narrow roads in west Sumatra are a slave to the terrain. Lots of steep hills and narrow valleys. After two hours of going forwards and backwards in the chair the guy behind me “finally realised” that I wasn’t doing it for his amusement or mine and so stopped forcibly pushing my chair upright every time it went back. I could have told him it was broken but this was much more fun! At 5am, ten hours into the journey we stopped for breakfast (three fags and a yawn!) and it took a few minutes for my legs to remember how to operate.

Arriving at 10am in a deserted bus yard in the town of Parapat on the shores of Lake Toba, a mini van appeared and took me to the ferry 2kms away. Once on board the ferry the whiteys were me, two German lads and a young English couple. Jake from Maninjau had already recommended a place to stay (Samosir Cottages) so I just chatted to the guy from there who was touting for business. He got the Germans to come along but the English couple made it quite clear that they weren’t getting involved with touts and would find there own place to stay thank you very much!

The place to stay on the (almost) island of Samosir is Tuk Tuk, a small village completely covering a kidney shaped piece of land protruding out into the waters of Lake Toba. All the hotels on the shore have their own jetties so it was 45 minutes till I reached my destination.

After being shown the nicest room available (100,000 rupiahs or £5.88) we slowly got down to my price per night, which is 50,000 (that evening I was starting to wonder if “saving” 90p a night by not having hot water was worth it!) I dropped the bags on the floor and made my way to the “shrine of coffee” that was the restaurant.

Back in my room I made use of the solitary plug socket (the place in Maninjau didn’t have one) and with my laptop on, music playing I lied down on the bed and dozed the rest of the day away. Come the evening, came my appetite and I had a few beers as well.

The next morning I woke up, yawned whilst looking at my watch and said to myself “7am is far too early to get out of bed” so I went back to sleep. A couple of hours later it was 9am, now that is a better time for breakfast.

An hour later I was on a scooter heading up the slope to take off. No, I wasn’t flying but I wanted to check it out. That and check out places to land as well. Turns out its sweet, lots of places to land along the length of the ridge even during the rice growing season. Now all I needed was the wind to arrive…

As I had the scooter for the entire day I decided to ride around the island. I made my way upwards along the road passing the work crew and the last of the freshly laid tarmac! The road leading to the end of the island was a good lesson in road construction. After the tarmac came compacted hardcore followed by compacted soil. This was followed by un-compacted or loose hardcore…that bit was fun! All the while as I travelled along the “road” if I looked to my left I would see the blue waters of Lake Toba and to my right paddy fields, open pasture and woodland. Several kilometres later I was back on tarmac, well kind of. Imagine a road of potholes linked together by slivers of tarmac! Eventually I reached the end of the road and the southernmost point of the island. The high ridge had given way to flat land.

Continuing on my circular route I slowly passed people “dressed to the nines”. I was wondering why this was until I passed a church and remembered it was a Sunday morning. It also explains why I was able to have fried pig for breakfast. Now, you can say what you like about the Christian faith but at least they let you have bacon with your fried eggs!

As I turned right and headed up the west coast, the road became more tarmac than pothole. Passing through small villages with traditional style houses (although nearly all of them had an extension built onto the back), lazy dogs and suicidal chickens. The softly sloping landscape was in complete contrast to the east coast and the dominating high ridge.

The north of the island has the best road, it is also twisty…

When I got back to the hotel I was chatting away to one of the staff about flying. For some reason the take off site I saw didn’t look like the one on the internet. Turns out there are two take off sites…Doh!


Two coffees and four fags! Now that’s a breakfast for the legally dependant drug addict!

For the third day the weather was no good for flying, you do need some wind to take off. Instead I decided that I would once again hire a scooter and go up to take off, this time the one on top of the ridge! Once on the ridge I was trying to find the right road, you would think that with only two roads to choose from and the fact that I was on one of them it would be easy. Turns out the dirt track I had gone passed was the “road”! Going along the track the dirt soon gave way to misplaced cobbles and mud. Juggling speed, sideways movement and puddles of unknown depth I came to a fork in the road, I went left (in hindsight going right may of taken me to the take off site…Doh!). Passing through woodland the road condition unbelievably deteriorated! Several kilometres later the wonder of tarmac appeared around a corner and I was able to stop the bike and get off without getting my feet stuck in the mud. The once clean bike wasn’t anymore, the exhaust was covered in mud and the frame hinted at the colour it was.

In the middle of the island is a small lake. I saw three of them…???

Somewhere in the middle of the island on a once tarmac covered road I stopped and watched a raptor circling in an impossibly small thermal only metres wide. By the time I had taken my camera out it had plummeted to the ground hidden by the long grass before taking off again with a small mammal in its claws.

A couple of hours later I had traversed the interior of the island and had made it to the other side. Crossing over the bridge I left the island behind and travelled a few miles to the hot springs…why?

Back on the island I opened up the throttle and sped along the road I had already travelled the day before. This time I knew what was around the corners! Coming around the northern shore I noticed that not only was the wind blowing a gale it was also coming from the north. NO, NO, NO!!! I want a medium strength consistent wind coming from the east, is that too much to ask for!


Woke up and accepted the fact that there wasn’t a breath in the sky…




Throughout the night it rained whilst lightening streaked across the dark sky. As I drifted off to sleep I dreamt of taking off

I awoke to clear blue skies and once again no wind. After a long and lazy break of fast the wind picked up, perfect conditions for flying but only if the wind would stop blowing from the north and move around by 90 degrees and come from the east…it never did!

Following yesterday’s lounge act I thought that once again I would do “something”. So once again I was back on a scooter (75000 rupiahs with a full tank of gas) and headed north to the other side of the island. I went over the bridge and headed south leaving the island of Samosir behind. Riding along the headland the road turned inland. Five or six kilometres later I had a choice. Carry on with the main road and the dirt or turn right and go uphill on tarmac. Tough choice….not!

The smaller side road wound its way uphill passing through a few small villages until I came to a stop. The road was blocked by a small landslide and a JCB that was removing it. After a 15 minute wait chatting with the locals the build up of traffic was finally allowed to pass. Over the rise I saw an even smaller road leading off upwards, sweet!

This road was narrow and under used. It was also a very long time ago that it had been tarmaced. Around several corners the bike was screaming in 1st gear as I bounced off rocks and rubble, the back tyre jumping around as I weaved a course that was the least damaging to the bike and me! (My ribs no longer hurt but I am still getting painful muscle spasms in between the ribs on occasion. A lesser man would be in hospital to recover but I try to be brave and not go on and on about it)The road became narrower and narrower as the plants on either side encroached. The views, however, were wide and majestic.

An hour later I was back in the valley, riding along paddy fields and through hamlets and villages with the usual shouts of “hello mister” as I passed by.


I brought a bus ticket to somewhere else and I’m leaving Tuk Tuk in the morning. Hopefully I will be able to sit on the roof!

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