The Ring of Fire


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Asia » Indonesia » Sumatra
March 1st 2014
Published: June 21st 2017
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Lake TobaLake TobaLake Toba

My view when I wake up
Geo: 2.60835, 98.9346



The ferry from Melaka was straight forward and an extremely calm journey, very smooth which I was relieved about, maybe I'm finally getting more used to the ferries. On arrival I found a local shop and bought an Indonesian sim card for my phone so I had some maps and was welcomed by my warm shower host at the shop.

I followed him out to my accommodation which turned out to be a room at the back of an English school, and despite the long day it became apparent that I would be expected to join in with classes as a native English speaker which isn't strictly 'warm showers' purpose. Thankfully I just took it in my stride and I ended up participating in 5 or 6 classes with the kids plus a couple of one on one scenarios and even enjoyed the experience.

They would introduce themselves with me correcting any errors, then they would ask me about myself and family, my traveling and home. They're all delighted to ask questions about Scotland, about castles and lochs, about weather and the seasons, our food, my family and more personal questions which includes the usual, are you married? Do you
have any children? No? Why not? How old are you? etc.etc. I then turn the tables and get information from them on Indonesia, which foods I should try, what places to visit etc. and I have them showing me on a map their favorite areas or where they would like to visit. Lake Toba seems to be a unanimous favorite as well as Banda Aceh, Jakarta, Bali, Surabiya and Yogakarta as well as getting to Papua New Guinea.

The owner of the school Muchsin showed me around Dumai but the city of full of smoke from the fires south in the Riau area, apparently they burn the old palm oil plantations before planting new and the smog can last for months. I'm not going to cycle from here and make my first decision of getting a bus up to Lake Toba which was the right move for me. I book my ticket and although my luggage is stored underneath in the hold of the bus, my bike is lifted and tied onto the roof with me crossing my fingers that it would survive the journey.

The bus was overnight and ended up taking around 13 hours, thankfully I did manage to sleep part of the way but it was rough and bumpy in a fairly old bus and hard going. On arrival at Permatangsiantar I then got a minibus to Parapat and the ferry over to Samosir Island in the middle of Lake Toba, then cycled onto Tuk Tuk which is the tourist area. Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world, created after a super volcano many years ago, it is estimated at 1,666ft deep and spans around 100km by 30km and was apparently created by the largest known explosive eruption on earth!!! It even has another lake on the island which means there's a lake on an island on a lake on an island... following me?

Only around 6 weeks ago a nearby volcano erupted Mt Singabung tragically leaving around 15 people dead... Indonesia is not called the ‘Ring of Fire' for nothing! And since then another volcano has erupted at Mt Rokentenda on the island of Java which is south of here, with 6 people lost, scary stuff and I'm praying for a safe passage through.

Lake Toba is beautiful though with the Batak style housing and the clear lake and mountains, it's warm too which means
Traditional ladyTraditional ladyTraditional lady

Red mouth from chewing beetle
its ideal for swimming which I've enjoyed although potentially it's too hot to stay outside for too long without seeking shade from the sun. It's a large island and I end up sharing a motorbike to tour around with my new friend Haydar which was fun, we visited nearby towns, a fabulous local market where many of the women were in traditional local dress, and on the way saw many traditional Batak style houses, one in particular was more like the size of a large church. The island is full of churches which I somehow didn't expect with many tomb like graves in the nearby fields, houses or roadside.

There is a small lake (within the island on the lake) which is surprising large and the road up to it provides a stunning panoramic view over the lake and village below where we found the market. There's a route back onto the mainland which we cross which takes us out to the hot springs, on arrival we walked up to the pool area although when I walked in a couple of men were bathing only with underwear on, it became apparent there was a separate pool for ladies although as no-one else was around they allowed Haydar to join me. The water was lovely and warm, in fact hot, it was like having a soak in a tub which I've not done for a long time and I thoroughly enjoyed having a dip then out for a cool off and back in, it was so hot.

Haydar and I have dinner at a nearby restaurant "Jenny's' most nights and the food is always excellent, if you visit I can highly recommend it and the prices are great for really good food and has a great atmosphere. I love the sweet and sour fish from the lake (neela) and in particular the beef rendang which is popular all over Indonesia. The currency is Indonesian Rupiah which is all notes and the accommodation can be as cheap as 40,000IDR a night which is only £2 with dinner being around the same.
I met lovely people here, Steve and Maggie who have traveled and lived in many countries while raising their seven children, Pete and Generva who are fun company and traveling too, and of course Hayder who has been a calm individual and great company, I love when you make good connections with people and I'm sure we'll stay in touch.

Sumatra is my introduction to Indonesia which is huge with around 70,000 islands, the main tourist areas are Bali, the Gili Isles and Lombok and the photographs I've seen just look incredible. So now that I'm here I've decided I can't bus it to Banda Aceh, it was tough enough putting my bike on a bus to Lake Toba but the thick smoke in Dumai made that decision for me, and instead I'll will cycle from here via Medan to Bukit Lawang initially before heading north on the east coast road to Banda Aceh which took the brunt of the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. I've heard great reports about Bukit Lawang which has the largest animal sanctuary for Sumatran orangutans and apparently has around 5,000 of them in the area, here's hoping I'll be safe enough on the bike!

Samoisir is a very peaceful place and has a good energy about it, I would definitely recommend visiting and I am glad to have experienced here as a first introduction to Indonesia.




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10th March 2014

Hi Clare,You are looking really well! Thank you for the lovely birthday message. Missing you missus xxxx

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