Padang Sidepuan – Bukittinggi

Friday morning three weeks ago after some breakfast I walked to the bus station of one company which was operating buses to the south, as the guy from my hotel was not yet awake. In the end the bus departed one hour later, so I needed to wait at that bus stop. The road was the same as the day before, winding from one valley to the next with some potholes in between. Even as this was now a large bus, it wasn’t driving any slower. It also does overtaking at every stage of the road, regardless of the traffic can be seen behind the curve. Sure, they try to use the horn, but due to the loud EDM music in all cars, I doubt that the other car will hear that at all. Even the bus was large, the distance between the seats was short again. I was really happy that I’ve done the majority of my journey in the train. I couldn’t imagine how to survive in the bus for the whole trip.

I dropped of at the bus stop the equator. It was my first time that I crossed the equator by foot. After a short period of spring I go directly back, just with one step, to autumn and eventually to winter. My best friend also reminded me to check the direction of rotation of the swirl in the sink. I’ll do that, once again I got a sink. Here in Sumatra the bath rooms consists mainly of a big open water storage and a ladle. With that cold water you’re doing your “shower” and the toilet. Except the equator line there’s no longer any special at that place. The museum is closed and the amusement park seems also to be defunct. Nevertheless, they charge an entrance fee for the whole area, but I guess only for foreigners. I walked a few metres further south and grabbed a mango juice while waiting for a next bus to flag down to got to Bukittinggi. Now the south pole is actually closer to me than the north pole. And at noon the sun is now definitely in the north, not to speak about the star signs in the night.

Tin roofed houses in front of mountains
We followed several rivers and crossed some ridges into another valley
Landslides of the streets are just common here
Getting off just infront…
…of the equator.
Getting from spring directly back to autumn 😉
The surrounding looks a bit dreary…the abandoned ferris wheel reminds me to Chernobyl
Finally at 0° latitude
The last minibus was really packed with people, and I couldn’t image to have done all the way like that. I’m always happy to get out of such vehicles.
The entrance ticket to the equator area
My bus ticket

Porsea – Tarutung – Padang Sidempuan

Thursday morning two weeks ago Johanes tried to get a direct bus to Padang Sidempuan for me. But he realised that this bus will arrive not before 13 o’clock. Therefore, I opted to exchange the bus at Tarutung. So we stopped the next white minivan and he told the driver to drop me off in Tarutung for the next small minivan to Padang Sidempuan. After about two hours driving we arrived at the bus terminal of Tarutung. I got some lunch there, while I was waiting for about 30 minutes, until the next minivan departs. In the next minivan the women entering it gradually changing, as they started again to wear their hijab. So we were moving away from the area of Christianity back to Islam. In the end it doesn’t change anything, as the people are still as friendly as before. It’s only the exterior appearance and definitely a good approach to protect the skin from hard UV rays. In Padang Sidempuan I stayed for just one night in a local cheap hotel, not the three star thing, which was 5 tiles more expensive. As I arrived at the early afternoon I went to the nice Qtime Café as they provided free WiFi and yummy fruit shakes. In the evening I had lunch at one of the several small street restaurants, and a nice conversation with the owner. He told me, that he’s originally from Bogor in Java, but just relocated here since a few years. His oldest daughter, out of 5 children, is still living in Bogor.

Leaving the region around lake toba…
…in a small shared minivan
No, it’s not suddenly right hand traffic, just onw of several overtakings
The national oil & gas company is everywhere
Yes that’s called highway in Sumatra. Yeah there’re potholes, but come on it’s paved 😅
A local street hawker with open fire at the bus station of Tarutung
The next minivan
Going South all along the mountain ridge
My bus ticket

Lake Toba

One week ago Johanes and me had some basic breakfast together. It wasn’t clear, if he needs to work at that day. But in the late morning he got the confirmation to do so. Hence, I went to the Samosir peninsula by my own. The Samosir peninsula is almost as large as Singapore. But at that day, I got a really save driver. Instead of 40 minutes to Parapat it took twice the time, but it was a blue minivan and not a white one. From the bus station it’s about 20 minutes walk to the ferry pier. The ferry is with 15k IDR very cheap. At Samosir peninsula I got out in Tuk Tuk village. That’s the major tourist destination with all the guesthouses and bars at lake toba. Lake toba is the largest lake of South-East-Asia. It was created by three different craters, and eventually filled with rain water. But luckily they were mainly empty, and I saw only saw some local tourists. At the pier I negotiated to rent a scooter. He wanted the price of the full day, but I explained him I only stay for less than 4 hours until the last ferry. After some forth and back he agreed on 50k plus 10k fuel, instead of 100k. Therefore I got a new scooter with less than 6,000 kilometres…and the speedometer was still working. First I headed to the stones chairs of Siallagan. Here they tried to scam me, and asked for 10k IDR entrance fee. As I thought it’s only 3k I was sceptical from the beginning, and then she wanted to sell me two tickets of 5k each. But she could not explain me the difference of them. In the end she was OK, with only 5k. Johanes later told me, that I only got a ticket for “cleaning up” the area, and that I was already scammed. Afterwards I headed to Tomok to the graves of the Batak King. Officially this tombs are free of charge, but as a local guide gave me some explanation, I gave a small donation. The alley near the graves are full of souvenir shops, and also some tourists from Saxony where there. I couldn’t say I missed the dialect. But once I listened to them it was ridiculous. What do you expect if you come to South-East-Asia and leave your tourist bubble. The same things and standards, as back home in your tiny small conservative exclave. Most of the local houses here, doesn’t even have a water connection, and you expect a full featured public WC. Maybe you’ve to go to Tokio the next time. Anyway, I just stepped on my scooter and drove the mountains up to lake Aek Natonang. This is a very nice and calm place, even if the lake seems to be an artificial dammed river. There is also lake Sidihoni, but it’s further away and I skipped it, due to my time restrictions of the last ferry. I spent there almost one hour. Just relaxing in the sun and looking to the clouds. Due to the pine trees, it remembered me somehow to Sweden. Nearby the lake there’s also a nice lookout with a beautiful view to lake toba. Hence, it was definitely worth to go there. My information about the last ferry were a bit ambiguous. The first said 18:30 o’clock, tze second 18:00 o’clock and the guy I rented the scooter from said 17:45 o’clock. Hence, I guessed, if I’m at 17:45 back at the pier, it should be nice. In essence, I was at 17:43 at the pier and thought I still have plenty of time…but that wasn’t the case. The ferry really left 2 minutes later, and I even needed to wave it, to pick me up at the pier. But there is a second pier in Tuk Tuk, where the ferry left at 18 o’clock. So in the worst case, you’ll need to get there somehow. In Parapat I got again a white minivan back to Porsea, which operate typically around the clock. In the evening I saw any children, maybe 4-5 years old, walking just with a torch back home in the night at the roadside. And the horrible traffic is just passing along them in a few centimetres distance. That would be unbelievable in Germany, but it’s quit normal here.

Finally approaching Samosir Island with the ferry
Traditional Batak houses next to the stone chairs…
…with punishing and execution stone (the small one)
The tombs of the first three Batak Kings which converted to Christianity
Two princess infront of a traditional house
Calm and peaceful lake Aek Natonang
Local community lives still under basic conditions in their wooden houses
Beautiful view to lake toba…
…as well as Tuk Tuk at the tiny peninsula
There was a nearby thunderstorm, which brought some wind and eventually waves onto the lake. With those boats you never know how seaworthy they are.

Berastagi – Kabanjahe – Merek – Sipiso-piso – Pematang Siantar- Porsea

One week ago I left Berastagi. At that day I opted for public transport. Hence, I took an opolet, a small shared minivan, to Kabanjahe (5k IDR). There I wanted to take another one which headed directly to Tongging. But after waiting for about 40 minutes, I opted for one which ends in Merek (7k IDR). In Merek there are a lot of bejak drivers, which are happy to drive you one way to the Sipiso-piso waterfall…for 50k IDR. No thank you, that’s not gonna to happen. And they always tell you, that there is no opolot going to Tongging. That’s as always not true, there are white opolet from the “Siantar Star” which are going there. But I didn’t want to wait again too long. Hence, in the end I found a private scooter driver, he was an English speaker and an Airbnb owner, and was willing to drive me for 20k IDR to the Sipiso-piso waterfall. Unfortunately, he made a lot of pressure when we were there. So I only had less than 20 minutes, instead of the agreed 30 minutes. If you don’t want to go down the waterfall, it’s also OK. And with my large backpack there was no necessity to do so. In the end it turned out he directly lived at the junction from the main road to the waterfall, and made enough money just by driving home with a short detour. But he was nice, as he helped me to stop a bus to Pematang Siantar for only 18k IDR. In the end, this 2 hours bus ride was cheaper than the 5 minutes scooter ride to the waterfall. There seem to exist direct buses to Parapat, but nobody could tell me, when and where they leave. They always said it’s easier to go via Pematang Siantar. And indeed there are small white shared minivans, with really crazy drivers – I never had such an experience before, which take you for 35k IDR directly to Porsea, via Parapat. Even the drive felt pretty crazy and scary, as he overtook at each impossible location. At the top speed you feel the minivan will break in the next second, but once I checked the speed with the GPS I realised that it’s typically not faster than 70 km/h. It’s just the bad, narrow and winding roads, which makes you feel the speed like that. If you would detect such a slow car in Germany on a ordinary road outside of the village, you would think: oohh what a slow car, come speed up a bit. Here’s the other way around. Even taking so much different kinds of transport, I didn’t got a single ticket during the whole day. You always pay cash to the driver. I arrived much earlier in Porsea than expected. When I was walking along the main road I found a tailor. They were very welcoming and fixed one of my trousers. He was just wondering about the length of my legs, as he had never seen such a measure before. They even helped me to find a Café which had some WiFi. There I waited for my host Johanes. He is, as everybody else around lake toba, part of the Batak tribe. The Batak people lived very isolated until 200 years ago, and typically killed and eat every stranger who tried to enter their land, and put the skulls on some poles. But somehow a German guy could convert the king to Christianity. That’s why the people around lake toba are now Christians.

My first opelet / angkot for that day
Didn’t expect to find a PISO loop her 😉
Nice view to Lake Toba
Fully packed bus to Pematang Siantar
Now there is at least one church in each village
Pupils at their way home along the roadside
That was for sure the craziest driver I’ve ever had up until now
The tailor who fixed my pair of trousers
My host Johanes and me

Mount Sibayak

Monday morning one week ago I went to the base of Mount Sibayak at Semangat Gunung. In this small village there are a lot of hot springs and it’s somehow a major attraction for local children to go swimming in these several swimming pools. There ir even a geothermal power plant in order to produce electricity from the hot water underneath. I started my hiking directly next to the parking space of this. The entry point of the actual path leading uphill is a bit hidden behind a wall of another parking space. You’ve to go through a gate without door. Mainly the people using this way to go down, but as it’s the harder one, I preferred to do the other way around. In the beginning the path lead through bamboo forest, which sometimes end in very small bamboo “tunnels”. Almost the whole path up, through the forest, there are old stairs. They are no longer maintained, but give you a good indication, of where to go. Once you left the forest, there’s a very beautiful view to the plains below. After about 90 minutes I reached the crater rim. In order to reach the peak I decided for going up the eastern ridge. From the bottom it looked more steep than it actually was. To reach the somehow twin peak, it seems pretty exposed from the crater rim. But on top it’s an easy rock climbing (maybe 3-) for just 3 metres down and up again. The view from there is spectacular. Nevertheless, the real peak seems to be 50 metres away, also just reachable with a short, but not exposed, climb. I followed the western ridge for going down, which was much easier and also the way to the official entrance was not difficult. I walked along a small road back to the village.

The geothermal power plant at the base of Mount Sibayak
In the beginning the way leads through bamboo forest and is marked with red-white tape
After leaving the forest you’ve a nice view to the highlands and the other volcanoes around
The “twin peaks” are a bit exposed…
…but actually the highest point seem to be 50 metres away from the edge
After some easy rock climbing to the left peak…
…you can enjoy the view down the crater lake
The soil is warm, and there are several locations where hot steam and sulphur jets out with some noise
A waste-to-fuel plant would be more suitable here, instead just badly burning the waste
The way down was easy along the road and in between several fields
GPX track