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Published: November 29th 2019
Tanjung Pinang to Dumai
Along the way from Bintan Island to Dumai
Indonesia has a bit of a plastic problem. I don't normally talk about it in my blogs, and if you would look at my pictures you might not expect it. But plastic is literally chocking up the rivers, polluting the jungles, and clogging the seas of this country. And every now and again I get confronted with this fact. Mostly I try to ignore it. I try to ignore the people throwing their plastic bags, bottles, cups and whatever else out of the bus, car or boat. I try to look the other way when seeing the side of the roads littered with plastic, I frame my pictures in such a way that you don't see all that I see! But that doesn't mean it isn't there!! It is, always, everywhere.
I cycled around Samosir Island on grand old Toba lake, and I saw it, I swam in its waters and I saw it, I looked at the green paddie fields and I even saw it there.
Toba Lake is beautiful and Tuk Tuk is a laid back village and the people friendly, as all over Indonesia. I stayed there for five days, and I didn't think about plastic
Tanjung Pinang to Dumai
And more pictures from the boat
once. I ignored it as I usually do. Instead I thought about the time I was here before, 30 years ago as a 14 year old lad, on a holiday with my parents. To be honest, not much has changed. Except that there are less! tourists these days. Yes less! That's unusual, normally popular tourist spots just get more popular, and Toba was certainly very popular 30 years ago. But then came the attacks on Bali, the consequences of which reverberated all over Indonesia, and tourist numbers dropped, followed by a fierce fighting in Aceh between the Indonesian army and Aceh independence fighters, and finally to top it all off came the boxing day tsunami. Poor old Toba lost its allure and now thirty years later it is still trying to recover.
The upside for me is of course that I had the lake more or less to myself. There were a few tourists around, but you could count them on one hand, well maybe two hands, but not much more. And so, I relaxed, and I cycled, and I tried not to get annoyed about the plastic. I visited old stone chairs, and old renovated royal houses, a
few old tombs and many new tombs, I went to a beach and waded into the water to cool of from all that cycling, and what do I see floating around? Plastic! I quickly looked the other way and pretended I didn't see it, left the beach and continued my bicycle trip, only to get cramp in my legs, causing them to stretch awkwardly and resulting in me falling of my bike because I couldn't bend my legs, a rather necessary action when cycling. That's what you get from ignoring the problems of the world, or ignoring the warning signs of your body! Either way, I survived.
Having recovered from my cramps I decided to move on to Pulau Banyak, which means Many Islands, an apt name for the 99 islands that make up Many Islands. Along the way down to the coast I saw a lot of plastic, and my fellow passengers happily added more to an already crowded field. I boarded a small cargo boat and we set sail for the islands. If you want an island for yourself but you are not as wealthy as Bill Gates, you might want to visit Banyak Islands off season.
Parapat to Tuk Tuk
Crossing the lake to Samosir Island
It is very likely you will find an island all for yourself there. Just you and the people who are running the guesthouse on whatever island you choose to stay on. Just don't expect an infinity pool, or a bar, or a fancy room. A simple hut on a white sandy beach with swaying palms and turquoise waters, with three meals a day is all you can expect.... Doesn't sound bad, does it?
I found myself, just such an island, Tailana Island, a small dot, you can walk around it in ten minutes. I had it all too myself for... half a day, and then a Belgian girl decides to dash my dreams. What are the chances!? There probably were only the two of us in the entire archipelago and she chooses my island to stay! Luckily she was nice. And there was room for both of us on Tailana. I relaxed, I snorkelled, I kayaked to a nearby uninhabited island, and I visited some more such islands on an island hopping trip. And I cleaned our beach after the strong winds and currents washed up all that plastic I had tried to ignore right onto my picture perfect
View from my guesthouse in Tuk Tuk
beach! So, I went out and helped our friendly manager rake up all those single use plastic water cups, all those straws, a lot of syringes, toothbrushes, plastic bottles, and flip flops! Speaking of flip flops, on my kayaking adventure I found a new pair floating around in the waters and fished them up. They shall be my spare flip flops! But back to the plastic. Plastic is not so fantastic, when it destroys the environment. And when it washes up on your own little paradise you cannot ignore the problem anymore.
We cleaned our beach, but in reality we simply changed the form of the pollution from a solid state to a gaseous state, as all that trash that we collected simply gets burned! And anyway, the next time the wind and the currents conspire to pollute our beach it will look exactly the same. Island hopping showed me the scale of the problem, as all those uninhabited islands were littered with the same crap that we had diligently turned into atmospheric pollution. I fear nothing will change for the time being as plastic doesn't seem to be a priority in this country. As for me, I am
back to ignoring it. If I wouldn't, I would get very depressed indeed. I'll start by showing you all my plastic free pictures...
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