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Published: January 26th 2011
view from our bungalow
Sumatera has been a dream of ours for some time and to finally be here is wonderful. This place has delivered far more of the adventure than we expected to find and yet my spine is in quite some pain. There is a trans-sumatera highway that runs an incredibly zig-zaged path from Banda Aceh (north tip) to Banderlampung (south tip). There are few stretches where the road travels straight in any direction, you are always crawling uphill or hurtling downward at unsafe speeds and angles.
From lake Toba we reached the unimpressive capital Medan with our one goal of obtaining Iron Maiden tickets. This goal was easily completed as the mall where they were sold was 2 km from our mini-hotel. In a stark juxtaposition the grand mosque of sumatera is across the street from where all the foreign-oriented bars and somewhat seedy hotels are. There are so many megaphones on this massive building that we can't count them and they crank the volume at prayer call. We were under the false impression that all mosques (here mesjid) played the call for an hour or more but it turns out that this is a more indonesian thing, not islam. Apparently
can't complain about the scenery here
when arabs come to Indo they complain about the poor pronunciation of the script of the prayer call and that the lengthy repeating interrupts their clairity while praying. I am not sure if is the presence of other religions or an effort to be more pious but whatever the cause it gets annoying. With 5 prayer calls, the first at 5 am and the last at around 9:30pm, thats over 5 hours of shrill and mispronounced religious noise everyday. Thankfully in Toba and here in lake Maninjau folks are more laid back and the barely-loud am calls only stir us from our slumber slightly. (whereas the city prayer calls are at times deafening) In Medan we would here up to 10 mosques at once and with all the timings of their calls being different it fills the air with a halluncinatory, precussive and distorted squelch that ragged the part of our brains that handle sound.
Yes, another volcanic lake, this one smaller, warmer, and less religiously motivated. The christian stronghold of Toba had obscenely loud daily prayer hymns singing in public which sounds sweet... but nothing is sweet at 7am when its that loud. They drowned out the roosters.
Kopi telur, or coffee with whipped egg and sugar. It's weird as heck but damned tasty.
There is still a large mix of islam and christianity here but the dividing lines are less present and folks just all live in the same areas, with churches nextdoor to mosques. Maninjau in the younger cousin to toba in many respects but it is no small player. The beauty here is as impressive and everpresent as anywhere. Clouds caress and roll smoothly over the surrounding mountains, rainstorms engulf the west coast of the lake then change direction in front of us, and turn south on a dime. Then there is the continued agriculture that dots the landscape. It started in north Sumatera where we first saw the massive fields of cabbage next to coffee and tomatoes. Gardens aplenty with most households growing greenly and all along the spikey spine of the central mountain ranges of Sumatera the veggies are in full force. The daily temperature barely scrapes 30 celcius and the cloudiness provides the necessary shade from intense sunlight.
Here we are getting much refuge from the mr. noodles with boiled meat and crusty old fried fish that stays in the sun all day. Muslim food can be damn tasty but in the back roads restaurants leave food
out all day and cover it with a lace cloth to keep flies away. This of course is horrible food safety practice but the safety police don't live in Sumatera.
We have been pretty lazy here but after our trip from Medan we were in much pain. Refreshed and refueled we are going to take avail of the free canoe that our guesthouse has as long as the rains keep at bay. Once we are relaxed enough we can pack up and plunge into the southern Bukit Barisan valleys. We have 30 hours of bussing between here and jakarta so we have a few stopovers along the way that we've chosen to make the passage reasonable and avoid back injuries from chronic sitting. It's mountains all the way to Banderlampung where we can get a boat to Java so out stomaches are hopefully up to the challenge of being rocked to and fro for hours. We heard that 10 days ago Krakatau erupted and many had to be evactuated from mainland cities and villages. This of course was nothing compared to the late 19-th century explosion that both put the volcano on the map and blew it off in
one fell swoop. Our first stop over on the route south, a volcano i wanted to climb and the highest peak in Sumatera just began to erupt so i need to find some other masochistic hike to undertake. I wish things would stop exploding over here!
The mix of sago palms and banana plants mixed with pine and other conifers makes for quite a lovely forest and for now nothing is exploding here. Hope the january thaw is a good one for y'all!
So long for now from the barely-southern-hemisphere
Brian and Jenna
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