Day 3 & 4: The Road to Samosir & Lake Toba

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July 20th 2015
Published: October 11th 2015
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The Road to Samosir & Lake Toba

Medan - Samosir Island (TukTuk). The next day: Daytour, including Huta Bolon Simanindo, Ambarita and Tobak.

Small childSmall childSmall child

This child is living in a town, which is at Lake Toba, at the mainland side.
It was time to leave Medan, and the end destination of Lake Toba should be reached in the beginning of the evening after sunset. In Lake Toba, you can find a huge Island called Samosir where you can meet some traditions of the Toba Batak people. And, it is a very popular holiday place for the Indonesian locals. They are quite surprised that we Western tourist, mostly Dutch, are also visiting Lake Toba. To meet the Toba Batak people, a great way is to set sail over the Lake and go by boat to some small towns. I did a small cruise (excursion) to discover 3 of these small towns on the Samosir Island. I danced in a ceremony with the Batak people around an ox , I found out what the Batak people did with criminals and traitors – which is not pretty nice, and I visit some old grave tombs of the Old Kings. But first, this part starts in Medan where the bus was waiting and the jungle was lurking us.

At 10, our buss left Medan. I really liked that I had the opportunity to saw something from Medan, but via a small ride of 5
Nasi Goreng @ Selemat DatangNasi Goreng @ Selemat DatangNasi Goreng @ Selemat Datang

One of the best I had
hours (yes, that is small in Indonesia), we arrived at the harbour of Lake Toba. O, you know me, why I do not tell everything about the journey? Because, I want to keep a little – little secret. For the next blogpost, where I shall tell everything about travelling by bus in Sumatra, the landscape, the traffic. Because, at the 5th and the 6th day of the trip, I mostly spend in the bus. Is this a punishment? If you do not like bus travelling and a far distance travelling, yes than it is a punishment. If that is so, you probably would not like to visit 3 Indonesian Islands in 3 weeks, or visiting Sumatra at all. But, if you do not mind long travel days or simply accept that you need long travel routes and travel days, it is not a punishment. Sumatra is a beautiful island, covered with a lot of jungle, which will welcome you. To me personal, I do understand that travelling is also sitting a lot of time in the bus. Enjoying the nature, the landscape, taking a nap, read something, etc. In my opinion, you cannot travel that much distances and country’s far
Lake Toba/Samosir IslandLake Toba/Samosir IslandLake Toba/Samosir Island

Samosir Island, view from Mainland.
away without sitting days in the bus. It is how it is, and travelling itself in a bus, is also travelling. But, this trip it was a little bit different. I end up sick after the first week and I did not recover quite good. Sitting a whole day in a bus, especially at bad roads where you get shaked as a fruit shake, is not quite a remediation.

Our end destination of today was Lake Toba. Lake Toba is laying quite in the middle of the jungle. So, during our first drive – of the many that shall follow – was from the City of Medan to the jungle. Before we entered the jungle, we had to pass the city and some towns close by. Here, we found a lot of coconut and tobacco plantations, before we vanished in the jungle. The road at Sumatra was from asphalt, so it was not a mud road. I did not had the feeling we were quite in the jungle, this route is still quite popular. We passed a lot of towns. Here, the local people are living at the road, in small houses where some people have a poor life.

This monkey is living close by the humans, in the same town as I photographed the small child.
However, there are enough places to eat and drink. Aside of the road, or a small restaurant. And, they do have good restaurants everywhere! How do you find them? Where always a lot of people gather and enjoy the food. First, we made a stop to drink a fruit juice at a small local restaurant and pub called Simpang Tiga. It was some days after the Ramadan, so the national holiday week began. A lot of people hat their holiday, which led to the fact that a lot of transportations did not function. The (small) distribution centres and the stores did not received a lot of fresh products and stocks. For example, cola. When sold out, they could not sell it to the restaurants and pubs, which meant that also the cola was sold out. We found it quite often, especially in the first week that the waiters had to say “finished”. I must give some compliments to the local people, the waiters do speak good English, at least one of them working here. We stopped quite late for lunch, by a small restaurant at the side of the road called Selamat Datang. A lot of dishes were “finished”, just
Boat tripBoat tripBoat trip

Sail ahoy! The only way to reach the Island of Samosir is by boat.
like the cola. But, there is always one dish that is never finished. Nasi Goreng. Nasi is riced, or known as “steamed riced”. Goreng means “baked” or “fried’. Nasi Goreng is just fried rice. Ayam is chicken. Ikan is fish, Daging is beef, Panas is hot, Sate is saté and Babi is pork (Sumatra is mostly Islamatic, finding Pork is quite hard on Indonesia, but for some good dishes with “Babi”, you should go to Bali. Also by the Toba-Batak you have changes to find pork). And that is the most important to know if you want to order a dish in Indonesia. So, now I am going to tell you what I orderd, and when I payed attention, you know what I orderd. Nasi Goreng Ayam. The most famous dish in Indonesia is Nasi Goreng, so fried riced. It is served a lot, and I choice with a small upgrade, which was Ayam (Chicken), but you find it with Daging (Beef) and Ikan (fish) as wel. In Bali, you might find it with Babi (Pork). In most cases, when you order Nasi Goren Ayam, you find some small blocks of chicken in your rice, but now we had some
Lake TobaLake TobaLake Toba

chicken legs served at our dish. And those were delicious! Wow, I really would like to give a compliment for such good lunch. The chicken flesh was good, you could taste that the flesh was fresh and the animal was threaded good. In Europe, when you order chicken leg or drumsticks, you get quite much flesh, because the leg is quite big. In most of Europe, those animals never come out of the stable, they get overfed and go to the slaughter so fast as possible. In Indonesia, it is different. You can taste it on the flesh, because it taste better! The flesh is fresh, and everywhere you see chickens walking around. Peacefully, scarring around, walking around. They are not very big, and they are defiantly not overfed. Not only the chicken was good, also the Nasi Goreng was spiced very good! Again, here I had a good meal.

We arrived by Lake Toba, where the bus driver found a great stop to make some great pictures of Lake Toba. We also could fast go to the toilet. The people here are curious. They want to know everything about you. Where are you coming from, o Holland? They always have family in Holland. In Amsterdam...or they have friends in Amsterdam. But the people here are really friendly. Of course, I made some pictures. Everywhere, you see the kids playing. They are quite cute. But, it did not took that long before we had to get in the bus again to drive to the harbour. The only way to reach the island is by boat, which takes 45 minutes up to one hour. The island does have a connection on the main land, but there you are not able to drive though via the road. We went on board when it still was light, but slowly the sunset started. Because we were close by the equator, it becomes quite fast dark after sunset. The boat will go to the small town called TukTuk on the island. It is the most popular and well known town on Samosir, a lot of resorts are laying here. TukTuk is also a great backpackers place, but also local (Indonesian) tourists are well-known guests. A lot of the local Indonesian tourist were quite surprised that some Western tourist visited this place as well. Lake Toba is the biggest sweet water lake in South-East Asia and the largest volcanic lake of the world. It is the 5th greatest lake in the world. This lake is caused by a massive (super)volcanic eruption, which is known as a crater lake. A crater lake is a lake, which is formed that water (via rain) can entry in the huge gap that was formed after an eruption, or an meteorite. Lake Toba is around 100 km long, 30 km wide and probably up to 500 meters deep. The huge eruption, caused by a super volcano, had a lot of impact on this area, which occurred in-between 70.000 to 80.000 years back. This eruption killed a lot of vegetation, animals and even humans that lived in this area during that time. Genetic scientist even believe this occurred a population bottleneck in South-east Asia and eve up to India, leading to the genetic make-up of the human worldwide population! In fact, this represented a climate changing effect! How? This eruption let to, as it is called a “Volcanic Winter”, due the fact that the volcanic ash and droplets of sulphuric acid are obscuring the sun. In short: here, the temperature of the sun cannot reach the earth, leading to
Lake Toba/Samosir IslandLake Toba/Samosir IslandLake Toba/Samosir Island

Sailing at the boat, we have a great sight on the island.
a decrease in temperature and causing a “Winter”. However, this eruption led to a temperature in between 3 to 5 °C (5.4 to 9.0 °F), and up to 15 °C (27 °F) worldwide! Not only Lake Toba was raised like this, also the Lake Malawi in Malawi (East Africa). With this information, it is sure, this eruption is the heaviest and largest (known) explosive eruption on the earth, in the last 25 million years. There is a different between volcano’s and a supervolcano. Which is in fact physics, a supervolcano is able to produce a volcano eruption with an ejecta (volcano particles) mass greater than 10^15 kg. The magna, in the mantle rises into the crust from a hotspot, but is not able to break through the crust. A huge pressure is formed until the crust is not able to held the pressure, until it explodes with all the mass inside, which will be exploding and launched outside. Everywhere, you see Volcano’s and their consequences in Indonesia. And of course, in Lake Toba/Samosir, I will lead you later in this report also to temples (grave tombs), and the jungle is lurking as well. And again, Samosir is a story of
Huta Bolon SimanindoHuta Bolon SimanindoHuta Bolon Simanindo

At this museum, you can find some small Batak houses. These houses are the rice barns “Sopos”
jungle, volcano’s and temples.

We arrived after sunset, so we had an eye of the huge hotel we were staying! I simply can say, wow! This place, his resort hotel, is pretty awesome! We have “chamber” 11. However, you share – modern – Toba Batak house with two people. Just look at the picture, and you probably would understand what I mean. That is awesome. Everywhere in the resort hotel, you see some quite nice houses, some with sight of the Toba Lake. Other build against a small hill. O, I love this place! The hotel was the “Hotel Toledo Inn”, at TukTuk in Samosir Island. I like our room, it was quite nice. The service was also quite nice and the wifi was working. Not always quite good, however, I was surprised it worked over here. We went into the small backpackers town of TukTuk, where some nice restaurants are. Because we were with some huge group, we decided to split each others in two groups. The next day, we switched. So, I end up in “the Orari Restaurant & Home Stay”. Where I ordered a Pizza Margarita. With a lot of cheese, and cheese! The Tomato sauce
Huta Bolon SimanindoHuta Bolon SimanindoHuta Bolon Simanindo

This art that the Tobo Batak are using, is also know as the Batak Art. Every house has it's unique part and paintings.
hereunder was quite sweet, it looked like a little bit of sweet chilli sauce mixed with tomato sauce. A weird combination. I really do not know if I really liked it. It did not taste bad, but it was not a real pizza.

The nest day, it was free what we could do. Samosir is a quite large island, in fact it is an volcanic island. After the eruption of the supervolcano, a piece of land was connected to the main land, when the water was forming a lake. The connection to the main land continued, however, it was cut though by the Dutch, so it was possible to sail around the complete island with boats. A small connection is still there with the main land, however, it is not possible to drive with car from the main land to the island. Also, this island contains two small lakes inside, the Lake Aek Natonang and the Lake Sidihoni. Samsoir island, and the Lake Toba is home to the Toba Batak people. To meet these people, you can take a bike and ride though the hilly mountains of the west-coast to the many harbour towns. Or, try to do a
Huta Bolon SimanindoHuta Bolon SimanindoHuta Bolon Simanindo

Musicians during the ritual dance
tour, as I did, where we combined three small towns, where we sailed by boat from town to town. Here, we will see a traditional ritual dance, an original Batak town and the grave tombs. If you really would like to see much as possible, book this tour. However, it is booked a lot, also by local people, so it can be busy. If you do not like this, you can take the bike and visit the first two towns, because, especially the last is quite crowded. Some of our group members did that. Or, try a scooter! There are also some small trails you can do here, for example to a beautiful waterfall. Samsosir is a island with jungle, and it is also a popular tourist place, so there is choice enough! Our boat would leave at 9, so I joined breakfast at 8. An Indonesian breakfast was served, with nasi goring with egg, a small salad with cucumber and tomato and Krupuk.

The first sailing was up north. We sailed nearby the island, enjoying some houses and small towns, hidden in the hills and the jungle. Easy going, a nice trip. Around 10.10 we arrived by our first town the town “Simanido Batak”. Here, you find the “Huta Bolon Simanindo”, museum. “Huta” means town, and “Bolon”, a plaza where around the bamboo is growing. We did not came for the bamboo, but for the small museum and of course the ritual dance. The town exist out of three groups, the “Margas”, the group of the founder of the town, “Boru”, the group which husband belongs to the Margas and the “Hula-hula”, the group where the wife is family of the Margas. A group of houses on the lower side of the plaza is right in front of a huge mountain – where man say the God is living in the huge mountain . A big house, – the Ruma Bolon – is the house of the king and is the biggest house you can find here. Also, have an eye out for a row of rice barns “Sopos” at that side. In the middle of the town, you can find the “Borotan” slaughter pole, which you easy can recognize because it is ornate with different kind of leaves and flowers, which is in fact a “three of live”. The Borotan is standing before three houses, and here,
Huta Bolon SimanindoHuta Bolon SimanindoHuta Bolon Simanindo

We are able to joing the Ritual dancing at Huta Bolon Simanindo.
the ritual dance will take place. The museum was very small, but nice to see. However, it was a little bit touristic, but that is known if you do the tour. You can see the beautiful Batak art on each Batak house; every house has it unique art. You can go in one house as well, where you see some other craft arts. In the next town, we got some explanation by the guide how these houses were used, so I will explain this a little bit later. But first, it was time to chat up the ritual dance. This ritual dance is not super spectacular, and not very enthusiasm. They do use a buffalo, and normally in the real ritual, they kill the buffalo. However, when performing for tourist, they do not. And we were able to join the dancing as well. That was quite nice to do. The people here say “Horas”. You can say that as hello, thank you for example. Also in the dance they scream “Horas”, and when they greeting each other in the dance, you use “Horas” as well. They perform the dance before some houses and in one house, in the upper part
Huta Bolon SimanindoHuta Bolon SimanindoHuta Bolon Simanindo

The Harbor of Huta Bolon Simanindo. It is time to say goodbye, to sail to the Toba Batak town of Amporita.
by the roof, a band is playing. This traditional dance, consist out of 11 small dances and takes around 45 minutes. Here, in the dance and the description, you can see that the Toba Batak are officially Christians, however, they still do have their traditional, ceremonies and dances they do with the ox. In fact, the Toba Batak people had their own religion. When the Dutch people came here, they took over the Christianity, however, they still kept some old traditions of their old religion and since then, they are combine it with Christianity. In the dance, the ox and God are standing central. There are also some other Batak people, which you still can find in for example Malaysia and other parts of Sumatra. Some are now Muslim, other are Christianity. However, some old traditions from the old past are still used. The dance consist out of 11 small dances, which I will explain to you:

1. Gondrang Lea-lea: This is a prayer to the God, where the o – only with a good behaviour – will brought to the Borotan. The Toba Batak people do believes that every deed of the buffalo (right or wrong) is symbolising
Lake Toba/Samosir IslandLake Toba/Samosir IslandLake Toba/Samosir Island

View from the boat.
for them who will join this ceremony.

2. Godang Mula/mula: A prayer to the heaven, to the earth and to God that all the precipitations and their children may receive a good health and love.

3. Gondang Mulajadi: A dance where they will show their thanksgiving at God which heard their prayers.

4. Godang Sahata Mangaliat: Here, precipitations will dance around the buffalo, bound at the Borotan. The buffalo will be slaughter, and his meat will be shared which has traditional right on the buffalo.

5. Gondang Marioslopan: The people are wishing each other happiness and welfare, and they screeming “Horas!”.

6. Godang Siboru: This dance is performed by the woman’s, which hopes that during the dance a young man will come and ask one of the woman their hands for marriage.

7. Gondang Sidoli: A young man will go to the woman which he loves and is offering her money as sign that he loves here.

8. Godang Pangurason: The ghost of an ancestor will go in to the body of the dancer and is bless them with holy water.

9. “Joint dance”. All the guest are asked to join the
Amporita Amporita Amporita

Toba Batak houses in the town of Amporita.
dance by the ceremony master, and they will receive an “Ulos”. (via “Horas”)

10. Tortor Tunggal Panaluan. This dance will be performed by the wizards where the dance will be used to talk with God. They talk about God with giving the children success and welfare in their lives.

11. Gondang Sigale-gale: Once, there was a king which had just one son. The son became sick and died. The king was sad, because he hoped his son would be able to continue his reign. To deal with his los, he made a wooden statue, which looked like his son. When the king looked at this statue of his son, heinvite his own people to dance around it.

After the dance, which I joined in part 9, it was time to catch the boat. I really enjoyed the dance and the culture here. We sailed for 30 minutes, before reaching the next harbour and the town “Amporita”. I enjoyed the last dance, the town, so I hoped this town was also nice and some great things to discover. I though the previous town was touristic, but this town was even more touristic. And the next town,
Amporita Amporita Amporita

Look at the small arts they decorated their houses with. Beautiful!
that was Walhalla. In this town, some souvenir shops where popping up. We were able to do a little bit shopping, however, first we had to do the program. Bob, our tour leader was able to book a guide – named Berti - and the guide was waiting. Berti, was an great guide which was able to explain a lot of the Toba Batak people, how they were living, about the executions and his heart was laying by the Toba Batak people. I really can recommend this guide when you visit “Amporita” and you want to have a guide. A guide here is a plus, because without the guide, you are not able to understand the complete executing process. You can do this tour also with children, there is no blood or something used. The story might be a little bit brutal. However, guide Berti is able to tell it that it is not really feeling heavy, and his demonstrations are good. He also ask people to join. But first, he told us about the traditional way of living here. You probably can see at the pictures how the houses are looking, and to be honest, they look great! The
Amporita Amporita Amporita

The house has beautiful art at the front of the house.
houses are quite large, around 6 to 7 meters high. Inside you probably have 20 to 30 square meters. The animals, are living down, on the ground, underneath the house. The place of the people is above. The reason is, that animals are lower in range than humans. That is why the humans are living in the upper part, closer by heaven and by God. You can enter, via an stair at the upper part. Whole families were living here, up to more than 10. They do live here, they sleep here, they cook here. They almost do everything here. In the middle, you have a small kitchen. They can cook for hours, and they have special techniques that the house will burn if they catch fire from the fire. They do throw their thrash directly down, so the animals down beneath are able to eat it directly. Also, the stool of the animals are used, but I do not remember for what. They sleep on small mattresses, made from the leaves of palm trees and banana leaves. They are quite strong, but easily made, and still comfort for sleeping. It is amazing to see how those people lived –
Amporita Amporita Amporita

The house of the King has a special kind of art: here, you see the skull of an ox.
and some still do – in their houses. You are not able to enter with your shoes on. The roof is quite authentic. Only the Batak people, and only in Indonesia, you are able to find these kind of houses. Guide Berti told us a lot about the king and the role of the king. A lot of people, where back than some kind of traitors, which were in fact working for another king. It was a high risk – but paid well – but if you were caught, it was not an happy end. In fact, it was a horrible deed, which had just one kind of punishment: torture and dead. Berti gave us a little bit an demonstration. The first, when a traitor was caught, he was put in “jail”, and bound with hands and feet so he could not escape. They placed him... by the animals. Because, his behaviour was like a beast, it was not human, so the only place he should get was by the animals, and not by the humans. He also did not receive food and water, up to several days. From here, a trial was made, where the people which joined were

this is in fact the "kitchen", in one of the Toba Batak houses. In the middle of the house, they do cook. They mostly use these handmade cooking materials.
seating on the stone chairs. The king had the biggest chair. When, he was found guilty, he was able to be executed. He was able to drink, and then he was tortured. Some parts of his body where cut of, his eyes were taking out (living) before he was beheaded. Here after, cannibalism found place, where even the blood was drunk and some body parts where eaten. Of course, the king had “dinner” first. Berti showed us some ways did some demonstrations (without hurting or killing). As told, he was a good guide and able to tell it even with some tiny of humor. But, the story was not so peaceful. Not only the traitor, but also his family was found guilty and killed. Probably, a lot of innocent people were also killed this way. It was time for lunch, but we first had to sail 30 minutes to reach our hotel. Before reaching the hotel, we had to sail back for 30 minutes. We were quite hungry and waiting for the lunch.

Finally, we arrived for the lunch at our Hotel. It was quite late, already 2 pm, and I was quite hungry. Bob ordered a buffet lunch,
Amporita Amporita Amporita

This is the "jail", or "Schand blok" in Dutch. where traitors where kept, at the same levels as the animals, because their behavior was like beasts.
so it would go faster than a regular lunch, and also, we still have to visit the 3rd town. A buffet goes faster, and when we arrived, the buffet was almost finished. We orderd some drinks and we started with some soup. Hereafter, we were free to choice something from the buffet what we would have. The buffet was not quite large (much options), but the quality was good and I like it. It contained: Nasi Goreng (of course), Sate with sweet sauce, fish in sweet-and-sour, coleslaw with small shrimps and a carrot-vegetable mix served with a peanut sauce. I liked the lunch. And, we were quite fast ready with the lunch, and it was time to go the 3rd town. Let’s sail, ahoy! During all sails, especially the first two, we had a great sight. Also on the mainland, where, since we left it was probably raining. Yesterday night we saw some thunder from the mainland, and by us, it was dry! And, even today, at the mainland it looked not so great. Also, by us, it was cloudy, but it stayed dry. From here, we could have a good luck to the mainland and
Amporita Amporita Amporita

Our Guide Berti explains the execution methods they used on criminals and traitors.
the jungle and the mountains we saw, but also on the island. The island also contains jungle, and from TukTuk you might find some tours that leading you into the jungle, with some trails. However, I did not book these kind of trails, because I would like to meet the culture of the Toba Batak people. If you do like jungle and nature, especially a trail to a waterfall, you have several options here. Also, with the boat, we sailed by the coast, enjoying the Lake and have great sights of the island. Now, we were sailing southwards, where we mostly sailed nearby the resorts. Many local people where performing water sports, for example, speedboats or banana boats. You are not able to surf here, but there are some places in Sumatra, which are good to surf. After 20 minutes of sailing, we arrived around 3 pm in “Tabak”. Tabak is very touristic. You need to cross all souvenir shops before you reach the museum or the tombs of the kings, and there are a lot of them! I think, we had to walk around 15 minutes though all the souvenir shops. People were trying to sell their stuff, but
Lake Toba/Samosir IslandLake Toba/Samosir IslandLake Toba/Samosir Island

We sail away back to TukTuk.
Bob, our travel guide, told us we should first go to the museum and to the grave tombs. It was easy to get lost in here and to get each other out of eye. It was hectic, a lot of local tourist, which all want to have a picture with us. And, than the people of the souvenir shops which all want to sell their souvenirs to us. So, hectic! Oh, I was so happy when I finally was though and we could go to the museum. I must say that this town was a little bit disappointing. Was it because of the hectic and the busy people? A little bit. It was quite touristic, however, I must say, the people were still nice and not aggressive or obtrusive. At the museum, we were able to find a little bit of rest. The museum was not that great, I must say. It only contained some craft arts, Toba Batak crafts art, which only the Batak people are making. Nice souvenirs, and in the museum everything was for sale. But, the price was over the top. I would not buy it here. And mostly of the arts, we already saw in

TukTuk is really a populair place by local, Indonesian locals to travel. You can find here al ot of resorts and a lot of watersports (except surfing)
the museum “Hula Bolon Simanindo”. I hoped to expect a lot of the grave tombs from the old kings, but however, it was a little bit disappointing as well. I expected a little more like art, more statues, but in fact it was only sarcophagi. However, the story behind, told by the guide is very interesting and I will shortly explain it to you, about the death rituals from the Toba Batak. The Batak people believe that, at the death, the “Life-soul” “Tendi”, leaves the human body when it vanishes after a human is death, and here by the “death-soul” “Begu” is set free. The Batak believe that the “Begu” is still continue to live, but is not immortal: a “Begu” lives seven times before it is changed into a straw and comes back to earth. And during the time of the Begu, they are nearby their previous dwelling and it still has contact with their descendants. For example, if you having bad dreams or misfortune, the Toba Batak people believe that this is a sign that a “Begu” or an ancient ancestor which is not satisfied with the behaviour from you – because you are his descendants. To satisfy

The souvenier markt in Tabak
a “Begu”, is by offering food and drinks during the prayers. If it is not working, you need help from a “datu” or a “guru”. To make it even more complicated, there are three forms of “Begu”. Shortly, the “Bicara Guru”, are stillborn or young lived babies. “Mata sada-uari”, victims of murders, suicides, accidents but mostly contains people with a sudden death and “tungkup”, the dead of a virgin. This is already complicated, but the burial rituals are also complex. After the death of the person, directly and immediately diverse rituals are performed. The purpose therefore is that the “Begu” starts to understand that his world is now separate from the one he had before. In most cases, this ritual is done by reversing the mat on which the corpse is laid out. Hereby, the body lies with his head at the food at the mat, and also a important detail is that the thumbs and toes are tied together. The body should be rubbed all over with camphor and its orifices stopped with camphor. As last, it is wrapped in a white cotton cloth. Families which have a huge wealth have coffins, mostly made of wood. All coffins are shaped in a shape of a boat, and it’s bow is decorated with the carbed head of a hornbill, a signa (mythical beast) or a horse. The lid is sealed and the coffin is placed in a special location near the family’s house until the reburial ritual finds place. Families without much money or wealth just have to do it with a straw mat. Then, the corpse is carried a few times round the house, mostly performed by the woman’s and than brought to the cemetery with musical accompaniment. In some cases, gun firing will be performed. At any crossroad, the corpse is put down for a small ritual in hope that the “Begu” will not be able to find his way back to the village. Therefore, 11 people go around the corpse for times to confuse the “Bugu”, so they hope he get’s simply lost. During the last ritual, the corpse arrives and a grave is been dug, where the corpse is laid in, placed flat on his back. However, his head should lies towards the village, and this is be done that, when an unexpected events takes place, the body should be able to get up, he will

Grave Tombs. As you can see here, the Toba Batak are official Christians. However, they still perform rituals and ceremonies coming out the ancient times.
not look in the direction of the village. There is a small exception, victims who died here from striking of the lighting are buried sitting up with their hands tied together, where a betel is placed in-between them. When the reburial “Mangongkal holi” finds place, mostly after several years after death, the bones of the “Begu” are reinterred. This ritual takes place over several days, where the bones are exhumed and cleaned and in the end, put to the final rest again, in a bone house known as “Tugu” or “Tambak”. In very old times, these “Tugu” were carved out of stone. And, in fact, the grave tombs of the Old kings, were looking at, were one of the ancient Stone “Tugu” of the Old Kings. It is nice to see, you can see it is very old, where some are bad condition. The most interesting is the story behind, how the Toba Batak people are dealing with the death, the story of the “Begu” and the (re)burial rituals the people perform. Still, the “Tugu” is not very spectacular. It does sound very spectacular as grave tombs of the Old King, but in fact it is nothing more than some

The Toba Batak have impressing (re)burial ceremonies. First, the dead person, will be buried in a coffin. After years, the bones that are left will be cleaned and put in stone coffins. These coffins are the from the Old Kings, which bones are still inside.
sarcophagi. I really like the story, the rituals behind it, so if you are interested in the complete story, you might check it out. And, yes, the guide told us that the bones of the Kings are still inside the tombs he showed us. At the way back, there was no escape of the souvenir shops, and in the end I bought some things. After 20 minutes of sailing back, it was time to relax a little bit.

It was time for dinner, but we choice to have an early dinner, because dinner can take a lot of time over here. Serving dishes can take up to one hour, and especially in a group, just going out of dinner can take the complete evening. The next day, we have to catch the boat very early, so most of us want to lay in bed on time. So, the best option was, to split up again and now we went to the other restaurant. So, this time it was time to go to “Jenny’s Restaurant”. Here, I had a steak beef steak with French fries. I really liked the food, it was nice. Bob even was able to get us
Tabak Tabak Tabak

Many of these old Tomb Graves are quite old, however some are good kept, for example this one.
some “palm wine”. Palm wine is in fact no wine, and it contains no alcohol. This wine is the juice from a palm tree, I guess. Anyway, they do cut open the bark of the three, and the juice is coming out, is the palm wine. However, it contains no alcohol, you can get drunk of it after a good glass. I tried a little bit, and I did not like it. It has a really weird taste. I cannot describe it. I do not like it, but I also not find it is not tasty. In the end, I must say I had a nice evening, and it even went better. With some locals and some people of the group, I decided to join some pooling in a small pub. It was nice to play against some local people and have some contact with the local people, and drink one beer. Like, having the backpackers live. I was the only girl trying to play against the guys. We played in total 3 games, and we have a good time, but we stayed probably one hour. It was really time to go to bed. The next day, it was time
Playing PoolPlaying PoolPlaying Pool

Playing pool is a good way to make contact with the local people, living at TukTuk. This small town is home to several resorts and hotels, and it is a nice place for backpackers as well.
to leave so early: at 6 we have to catch our boat, and it will take us back at the main land. Then, we head out south, and the jungle roads will await us in Sumatra.

In conclusion: I must say that Lake Toba and Samosir is a really great place to hang out, for any type of tourist and traveller. There are great pubs for backpackers, you are able to do some (short) trails, you can relax here at the resorts (however, in Bali you can find better quality resorts), and it is a great place to meet the Toba Batak culture. If you are interested in this culture, you should do the tour that I did. Of course, it is quite touristic, but however, I must say I enjoyed it a lot. It was quite busy and hectic, due the fact I travelled in the “National holiday week”, after the Ramadan, so it was crowded with a lot of local, Indonesian travellers. That was sometimes funny, because they all want to have a picture with you, but it makes it also quite touristic and hectic and busy everywhere. If you are not travelling during this week, you probably have more rest, which makes the tour probably a little bit better. The Toba Batak people are really nice people, hugely welcoming but sometimes a little bit subdued. They do have a interesting culture, which they do try to protect until today. The culture is still living, and they do find a way to keep it, even when the modern days are coming. If you are travelling in Sumatra, I agree you should have here a stopover and enjoy one or two days at this island. I must say, that it is a pity I did not have longer time to stay on this island, but I must say I was happy that I was able to stay one day.


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