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Published: January 16th 2009
Horray for Air Asia! Our second attempt at catching an evening flight into Jakarta airport, and once again we were delayed until a 1am take-off. After a 2am arrival, with our transfer flight taking off at 7am, we were once again looking for a place to spend the night at the airport.
Having learned that there's nowhere to sleep outside, we stretched out on a row of seats in the baggage claim hall. An hour later we were woken by a security guard telling us that arrivals closes at 3am, we need to be out. Groggily we dragged our bags over to the departures hall. Guess what, it only opens at 4am. An hour outside, then an hour inside, because check-in only opens at 5am, and and hour later, the security check opens at 6am! Sheesh!
After arriving on time in Medan, Sumatra, we squeezed into a bus for the very rainy drive down to Lake Toba. The lack of sleep had not exactly helped Cathy's recovery from her bout of food poisoning, so you can imagine her excitement to find out that the bus' boot had leaked, soaking her bag and neatly washing clean the pages of her
dive log book.
With the rain still drizzling around us, we boarded the boat at the lake's edge in Parapat for the island-within-an-island, Samosir. As we walked off the boat and into Liberta guesthouse we knew that we had come to the right place. The hugely hospitable Mr Moon showed us to a house built in the local Batak-stlye with pointed roof and overlooking the lake, and made us feel at home from the very beginning.
Although most of the weather during our stay was miserable, the service at Liberta was brilliant and their food was the best on the island. There's nothing like working your way through a good book and enjoying brilliant meals (at the best prices of our whole trip) to lift your spirits. After travelling every day for several months, it's amazing how much you sometimes just need to stop and take a break.
But within a couple of days we were getting itchy feet again, and when there appeared to be a break in the weather, we donned egg-helmets and went out in search of adventure on Mr Moon's 125cc bike. It didn't take long for adventure to find us, when I
hit a patch of mud left by the rain and the bike slid out from beneath us. Fontunately we were going pretty slowly, so we got up with only grazed elbows and a very muddy bike.
We continued winding along the scenic banks of the lake enjoying the warm sun and dodging potholes. It was all going very well until we passed a carwash. Foolishly we pulled in and had the guy there soap and polish Mr Moon's bike until it shined like new. Of course we had barely been back on the bike for another half hour when the clouds closed over us and the rain returned. Soon the dusty roads were once again flinging mud speckles across us and the shiny bike.
Since avoiding the rain seemed impossible during the Sumatran rainy season, we pressed on towards the sights circled on Mr Moon's hand-drawn map. The first, the hot springs, turned out to be a place where function had triumphed over aesthetic appeal. The trickle of warm water was dominated by women washing clothes. We continued to coax our trusty bike up ever deteriorating roads until we were bouncing along rocky paths to the top of
The route we followed on our little bike
the mountains overlooking the lake. While the going was tough (with Cath having to walk at times 😊) we were rewarded with awesome views of the spectacular lake and the escarpment that rings its shores.
On the way back to our homestay, we stopped for lunch at a local shop where many other bikes were parked outside. The owner managed to translate his menu by making the sounds of the animals we could consume. We chose a dish that he described with very enthusiastic "oinking" and received a yummy pork noodle dish.
Back on the bike we still had about an hour's ride when the heavens really opened up. The rest of the journey was done in torrential rain at snail's pace, splashing through puddles as we went. All the locals had pulled off the road to wait out the rain, but because we had a hot shower waiting for us we rode on, drenched to the skin and shiverring, until we were able to deliver Mr Moons well-washed bike back to him and jump into the steamy shower.
After another delicious dinner we headed down the road to where a local group of men was singing
Makes you want to spent the whole day just watching that view
traditional folk songs. The language was foreign, but the atmosphere was jolly and it became readily apparent which were the right spots to laugh at by the mens' acting.
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