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cabbages and volcanoes

INDONESIA | Friday, 3 July 2009 | Views [339]

After spending a week in Tuk Tuk on the island of Samosir it was time to move on. Despite the fact that I never got to fly here I really did enjoy my time.

The 1st bus I was on left from Tomok 5kms away and I was getting a lift there but I didn’t realise that it would be on the back of a scooter. With my fat arse perched on the back seat, my 20 kilo bag was hanging out over the end. On my right shoulder was my day bag loaded down with laptop and cameras. Making me nicely balanced…not! Needless to say the front wheel was very light and the young chap doing the steering looked relived when we finally stopped.

20 minutes later the minibus left and we headed to Pangururan, the capital city of the island, on the other coast. Once there I changed minibuses and it headed off to Berastagi. I, along with 2 other adults and 2 small kids, was on the rear bench seat that was built for three. After 30 minutes or so my arse finally found a position of tolerance on the thinly padded seat that nestled between the two metal bars that kept the seat up. As the bus climbed up the side of the ridge every bump or jolt produced short painful spasms at the base of my ribcage on the right hand side. By the time we reached the main road my tailbone was numb, my right leg that rested half folded up on the wheel arch was starting to ache. Two hours later the numbness and aching was starting to turn into outright pain. Thankfully at that precise moment we stopped for a break….thank F**K for that!

Smoking a fag and trying to walk off my discomfort I heard another shout of “hello mister”. Once again I had to pose for a picture with a young lady; she held on tightly to my waist and rested her head on my shoulder…this never happened to me in England you know! Back on the road and I now had the bench seat to myself. So I was able to get comfy and enjoy the scenery, an hour later I was in Berastagi.

My 1st impression of Berastagi was that it was a “shithole of a town”. Never one to go on 1st impressions I had another look and changed my mind. It was a “f**king shithole of a town!” The reason I came here was to get up close and personal with a volcano or two and I should be able to do that tomorrow and then bugger off anywhere else.

The next day

I woke up early (06:30...I know!!!!) and had to lounge around in the hotel till the people that worked in the travel agents downstairs came in and opened up. Yep, all the doors leading to the outside were locked! I was going to pass some of the time by having a shower, even if it was a cold one (I haven’ had a hot shower since Banting). Sadly the shower didn’t work so I went “Victorian” and poured bucket after bucket of cold water over my head. It was strangely enjoyable! Once the hotel was open I rented a scooter (100,000 rupiahs this time “because the roads go up and down” was the reason given when I asked why it was so much but I am lazy…) and headed to the nearby café for a coffee or two.

There are two volcanoes nearby, both of which are active. I went to the furthest one first.

Passing through villages and cabbage fields (cabbages are Berastagi’s claim to fame. So much so that they have a large sculpture of a cabbage at the end of the main drag in town) the volcano appeared through a large gap in the trees. It looked how all volcanoes should, impressively shaped with clouds of steam rising from the crater at the top. You can walk up and down it in 10 ten hours, allegedly! I meandered along various roads passing monkeys in the trees, coming to a halt whenever I saw the volcano from a differing angle. After a while I looked down and saw the fuel gauge. I had already used up ¾ of a tank. Well lots of time screaming uphill in 2nd gear does tend to use up the petrol a tad. I then decided to head back to Berastagi; I reached the petrol station in the nick of time!

Now with a full tank of gas I headed out of town on the Medan road. Several kilometres later (when DID I stop using miles?) a left turn and a signpost caught my eye and I thought, why not. So I turned left and headed up a small valley towards the hot springs and the second volcano. Four MILES later I passed the hot springs and kept on climbing. To my right loomed the volcano, its serrated edge cut into the blue sky whilst sulphur laden steam belched from a white gash on its green side as if it came from the nostrils of a sleeping dragon. I arrived at a “T” junction and turned right uphill. I saw a gringo couple walking the small road, sweaty from the steep incline. The look on the guys face as I rode by smiling was a keeper. The road was tarmaced all the way and flicking between 1st and 2nd gear I arrived at the “car park”. From there it was a very easy 20 minute walk (and I am a slow walker) up a series of steps and pathways to the crater.


As the path left the scrub behind the desolation of the place took hold. In the distance across a rock strewn barren landscape steam erupted from sulphur covered holes, the smell of which was caught on the wind. As I climbed higher I reached the small crater. Only one side remained intact, the stones coloured in places a yellowish green, whilst at the bottom of the shallow crater water had collected covering half of the sandy bottom. The other half was covered in peoples names made from small rocks and pebbles. People sometimes really do have too much time on their hands!

Walking further uphill I reached the edge and looked out over the countryside. From here I could see another four volcanoes off in the distance. The steam belched forth from the nostril of the dragon close by and I caught the taste of the primeval in my mouth. The walk back down to the car park was refreshing as the wind had picked up. I spent several minutes watching the clouds develop on the peak of the volcano across the valley.

Berastagi is no longer considered a “f**king shit hole of a town”. It has been upgraded to a “complete dump of a place”. However once you leave the city limits its beautiful…

Tomorrow I’ll be off to a place that doesn’t have roads and I may even get to see my long lost brother!

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