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Pictures and report of our Indonesia trip 2010
(North Sumatra)
 
 
     
      
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latest picture taken: April 23, 2010
  • click a picture to see details
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 01  “Istana Maimoon“, Medan’s Sultan’s
Palace, was built 1888. Parts of the 30
rooms are still occupied by members of
the Sultan’s family. The Sultan himself
resides currently on the island of Sulawesi
 02  The General Post Office
on Merdeka Square in Medan
is testimony of its colonial past
03  “Mesjid Raya“, the imposing
Grand Mosque, built in rococo style,
is the largest mosque in Medan
 
“If it continues like this, I’ll do a U-turn” exclaims a frustrated Emil. We are crawling from South Sumatra northwards with a 6 mile-speed per hour behind a steady stream of diesel-powered trucks, discharging thick black clouds of smoke, leaving no opportunity to overtake. But he doesn’t have to endure this strain much longer, because shortly after Bandung Lampung, our LandCruiser makes its own decision: The differential breaks and we have to return to Jakarta on Java. This was on December 1st, 2006. Three years, three months and four days later, we are nonetheless back in Sumatra. The main reason: We are planning to travel through partly familiar ground, but also into uncharted “waters” after Central Sulawesi to Indonesian (West) Papua and proceed from there over the land border to Vanimo in Papua New Guinea’s province of Sandaun (West Sepik), as the 167th country. Flying in from Malaysia on board AirAsia, we land in the city of Medan in North Sumatra on March 8th, 2010. With our “Sosial Budaya” visa that the Indonesian Consulate in Kuala Lumpur kindly issued without asking for a sponsor, we at least do not need an extension during the first two months and have the possibility to extend for four additional months without having to leave the country.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 04  The lovely Ahmad Yani Park with
its stately trees in the “aristocratic”
part of Medan is a favorite place for
families and students to chill out
 05  The face of this grandmother
reflects the serenity
distinctive to Indonesia
06  Children enjoying a ride
 
Immediately, we feel “at home” again, everything sounds and looks familiar: The “Hello Mister” calls around every corner; the horrendous traffic with the many scooters and motor trikes without mufflers squeezing in from all sides at breakneck speed; the thick clouds of cigarette smoke of this heavy smoker nation, but especially the omnipresent smiling faces of the people. Mr. Lim of Benline – the agent of Swire Shipping with which our LandCruiser was transported in a container from Tonga via Kaoshiung on Taiwan and Port Kelang in Malaysia to Belawan – sends one of his staff to fetch us at the airport. After having settled the bill in his office (totally US$150), he kindly gives us a lift to Belawan, Medan’s port city – about 18 miles away – where we check in at the Hotel Danau Toba International Cottage. The communication in Indonesia being difficult without the knowledge of the local Bahasa language, he makes also contact with Mr. Alan (Cell: +62 (0)81265070575), whose name we kept in mind from the internet out of another travelers’ blog. Working somewhere at Belawan’s customs he knows exactly all the necessary bureaucracy regarding the release of a tourist vehicle. His first question is: “Do you have a Carnet?” When we confirm, he is happy and ready to guide us through the red tape for around 20-30 US$.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 07  Sunset behind the 8’070ft. high
„Gunung Sinabung“ in Berastagi
 08  The fertile volcanic soil of the
Karo Highlands on 4’300ft. altitude
favors the growth of vegetables
and fruits – here near Berastagi
09  A mosque rises above
the modest village dwellings
on Berastagi’s outskirts
 
Exactly at 9am next morning, Emil hops on the back of his Ojek (scooter), and Alan takes off with him to the container port 3 miles farther out. It is our 18th container clearance and the first one, where I am not present. I am totally surprised when Emil is back at noon already, wet like a fish from sweating, but without our car. “Is there any problem?” I anxiously ask. “No and yes”, he explains. “The good news is that the customs formalities are already done – another US$190 of port fees are paid, but the bad news is that our LandCruiser refuses to move at all”. He figured out that all the fuel drained off completely due to a small leak along the fuel lines during the long sea journey from Tonga (luckily there was anyway not much left in the tank). On Alan’s scooter, he drove to the gasoline station and bought 5 gallons with one of our jerry cans. But still, it didn’t work. He will have to deal with it in the afternoon again. What a pain: Customs formalities were done so smoothly within three hours, and then our “travel mate” goes on strike!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 10  Nostalgic horse-drawn carriages
are waiting in Berastagi for weekend
guests coming from smoldering
Medan …..
 11  ..... and bunnies for a new home
12  The Church St. Fransiskus Asisi
is built in the traditional Karo Batak
style. In North Sumatra the percentage
of Christian and Moslem is 50:50
 
Being lunch time, we head to the air-conditioned hotel restaurant and cheer up with a really tasty ‘Chicken Maryland’. Meanwhile ‘Breaking News’ in Bahasa – the Indonesian language – with headlines mentioning terrorists flicker constantly on the TV screen from the local channel. What happened? Dulmatin – Indonesia’s most wanted terrorist and mastermind behind the 2002 Bali bombing – was shot dead today by the police in an internet cafe in the Jakarta area. And in Bandar Aceh – our first planned destination – there is a widespread manhunt going on since February 22nd, 2010, when police eradicated a terrorist training camp connected to Al-Qaeda. The terrorists are now hiding in the dense jungle of Northern Sumatra and try to move South on the island’s Westside, the most scenic part of Bandar Aceh. Are we taking a too big risk to run into them and get kidnapped for ransom should we decide to do the trip? We still have to consider it. Early afternoon, Emil returns to the port to solve the LandCruiser’s fuel problem, which he found finally in the carburetor’s air supply. Immediately he is surrounded by a crowd of around two dozen wharfies, each one with his own advice at hand. Therefore, he is more than happy when after bleeding all the air from the fuel lines and fixing lose screws, our “buddy” is revived again.
 
 
 
 
 
 
A wedding of the Karo Batak tribe in Kampung Peceren at the outskirts of Berastagi
 13  The wedding hosts approach
another group of guests with
ceremonial hand movements …..
 14  ..... bride and groom in their
traditional wedding outfits …..
15  …..Bride and groom pose with
close family members for a picture
 
Long before the LandCruiser appears around the corner of our cottage, I hear its “sound of music”, how we affectionately named its particular engine sound. What a joy to be reunited and be mobile again. All we have to do now before starting our new adventure is to integrate our considerable pile of luggage into the car we had taken by plane. But tomorrow is another day – that is what also the locals say! However exactly next morning, it starts to pour. Mid morning, luckily, the sky clears up, and at noon we are checking out and driving through a lot of greenery to Medan, the third largest town in Indonesia and a congested three million mega city. Because we both are still battered from the bronchitis we both caught in Singapore – mine having developed once more into a pneumonia – we spontaneously decide to take a rest in a good hotel and book into the ‘Polonia’, where a lovely room with breakfast and dinner is offered at a promotion rate of 380’000 Rupiahs, around US$42. Across is the St. Elizabeth Hospital where, after having done an X-ray, I get “antibiotic bombs” prescribed. Day by day I am starting to feel better. We really hope that the rest of the year we will be free of dog bites, bronchitises and pneumonias – enough is enough!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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 17  
18   
Traditional headdress of the Karo Batak tribe. The Batak people consist of six different tribes. They originate from Northern Thailand and Myanmar
 
In downtown Medan we encounter the typical chaos of an Asian major city. However in the “aristocratic” part with its stately trees, wide avenues and parks, where also our hotel is situated, the atmosphere is more relaxed. Actually, there are only three sights in town we are eager to visit: The “Istana Maimoon” – the ocher Sultan’s Palace, built in 1888 and recently restored, with the throne exhibited in the only room open to the public. The 30 chambers are still housing members of the Sultan’s family. The Sultan himself resides currently on the island of Sulawesi. Then the “Grand Mosque Mesjid Raya”, built in beautiful rococo-style, and the Chinese “Vihara Gunung Timor” temple – said to be one of the biggest in Asia. Compared with the richness of the temples in Taiwan however, it looks rather modest.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 19  Traditional and new architectural
style in the village of Lingga,
10 miles South of Berastagi
 20  A beautiful example of a restored
traditional Karo Batak clan house in
Lingga. Traditional Batak houses are
built on stilts and have thatched
roofs resembling a boat
21  This restored Karo
Batak Clan House in Lingga is
occupied. 10 to 12 families fit in
 
Since we knew that we were returning to Indonesia, we had the firm intention to buy a set of new tires here in Medan, thinking that in Indonesia they are cheap. But after days of visiting tediously one tire shop after the other, where all these guys assured previously by phone that they do have “Radials” on stock, it turns always up that they don’t have. They only sell “Nylon” ones, which don’t suit us at all. Frustrated, we give up. It seems that the steel belted tire 7.50R16 is not being produced in Indonesia and imports are extremely expensive (around US$200/piece). Let’s hope that our really worn-out tires will at least last to Jakarta, where we might have a better chance to get new ones.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 22  Mosaics of mystical
patterns decorate the ends
of the gable of the traditional
Karo Batak houses
 23  An ancient and a bit more modern
mean of transport meet in Lingga
24  One of the three – unfortunately –
decaying traditional houses in
Kampung Peceren near Berastagi.
The government does not take care
of them, and the villagers do not
have the money for restoration
 
It is overcast outside and Emil has been coughing badly during the whole night – actually not the best timing to leave behind all the comfort of the Polonia Hotel with the rich breakfast and dinner buffet and wi-fi connection. Despite that we skipped dinner long time ago, I enjoy each evening very much picking in all the exotic, mostly very spicy and strange food. Not so Emil: He sticks to the good old home-style cooking, especially mine! But regardless of all the amenities, at noon we hit the road. Listening to local advice, we drop Bandar Aceh for the time being (who wants to risk his head!) and drive the 40 miles to the cooler Karo Batak Highlands, to Berastagi, situated at 4’300ft. altitude. After an hour of meandering through the chaotic and polluted traffic of Medan, finally it gets more rural and greener and then the mountains appear. And one hour later, driving over a windy mountain road with small shops and eateries alongside and two monkeys nibbling at a papaya hull, we reach the mountain resort.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 25  There is always the
opportunity for a lift
on Sumatra’s roads!
 26  View over Lake Toba (Danau
Toba) with the village of Tongging.
Lake Toba with its 440 sq.mi. is
considered as one of the big
fresh water lakes in the world
27  15 miles South of Kabanjahe,
at the Northern tip of Lake Toba,
the 400ft. high Sipisopiso waterfall
is a major tourist attraction
 
Based on our Indonesian experiences back in 2007 we know that in this heavily populated country it is practically impossible to find a nice spot to camp for the night, and the accommodations being inexpensive, we do not even try. We drive directly to the Sibayak Multinational Resthouse that from the setting and price seems to be OK. The lady in charge is having lunch and the guy aside instructs us to wait until she has finished eating. A bit strange, we think! Then there is much fuzz where we are allowed to park and where not. And when Emil turns on the water tab at the sink in our room, there is no water. When he tries a bit harder, the tap comes off and the water starts sputtering and inundating the floor. We call for the caretaker. But instead of turning off immediately the main switch, she and her guard start to blame us and get abusive. It is when the guy threatens Emil with his fist that we are fed up, ask for refund of the money already paid and leave. Shortly afterwards we check into the bit more expensive but far friendlier Danau Toba International Cottages.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 28  An unusual sight: A building built
in form of a fish on the edge of the
forest near Parapat along the
Eastern shore of Lake Toba
 29  View over Lake Toba and the
Tuktuk-Peninsula on Samosir Island,
shot from the hill above the
car ferry terminal of Tomok
30  Our LandCruiser is driving
through the “entrance gate” to the
Tuktuk Peninsula on Samosir Island
that has almost the size of Singapore
 
In the evening, when we are sitting on the porch of our bungalow having a drink and admiring the fertile Karo Batak valley and the volcanoes Gunung Sinabung and Sibayak, and when behind the 8’070ft. high Gunung Sinabung the sunset begins, we are at one with the world again. Next morning, we visit the close by Karo Batak village Kampung Peceren with its three remaining traditional houses, but unfortunately, all three are decaying. The government does not care to restore its history and the villagers have no money to do it. The houses of the Karo Bataks are built on stilts and have thatched roofs resembling a bit to a boat. This highland people are one of the six different Batak tribes, each one with its own language, custom and culture.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 31  Traditional Toba Batak houses
in Ambarita village,
2 miles North of Tuktuk .....
 32  ..... smiling Toba Batak
woman at the window of
her traditional house .....
33  ..... judgement place with stone
chairs in Ambarita village. Here the
fate of the prisoners was decided
 
Leaving the village, we spot a decorated hall with people in festive outfits. More and more guests arrive – the ladies in wonderful dresses with laces and gold ornaments and their particular traditional headdress. A High School English teacher tells us that a traditional Karo Batak wedding is taking place and that it is their tradition to welcome guests. This is how we unexpectedly are able to enjoy an exceptional ceremony. The reception starts with a procession. To the sound of music, two groups of the wedding party walk towards each other with little steps and slow hand movements. This is repeated several times until the groom and the bride arrive and guide the procession into the reception hall. In their wedding finery and with their special golden pectoral and head attire, they present a wonderful exotic image. When the photo session of the bridal couple with family and friends drags on, we wave good-bye.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 34  Rice field and a picturesque
Toba Batak village on a hill of
Samosir Island near Tomok
 35  A huge and impressive example
of a Toba Batak house near Tomok
on Lake Toba’s Samosir Island
36  Timbul Peninsula Bungalows, North
of Tuktuk. Here the accommodation
in an own traditional Toba Batak
house is available for 40’000 Rupees
the night = around US$5!
 
On the following day, we owe the calmness and the peace we encounter in Lingga – approximately 10 miles South of Berastagi – to the early morning hour and the day being a Sunday. Most people are preparing for church – the majority of the Karo Bataks are Christians (like later the Toba Bataks too). After having registered in the guest book in the small wooden shed and given a donation (instead of buying a souvenir), we are free to roam around the entire village. Two of their traditional houses are lovingly restored and people are living in it again. Especially beautiful are the mosaics of mystical patterns that decorate the ends of the gables. Village life is awakening bit by bit. A woman is spreading out rice on a pandanus mat, a mother is feeding her child at the doorsteps, behind the house an ox is tightened to an archaic wooden cart. This old-fashioned mean of transport is still widely used in rural areas what is confirmed also by the numerous bamboo enclosures with oxen seen in the back yards. Life seems to be unchanged since centuries.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 37  Passenger ferry landing in
Tuktuk, where locals are also
washing dishes and clothes
 38  The village of Tomok on Samosir
Island of Danau Toba is the terminal for
the car ferry coming 5 times daily from
Parapat, which lies on the East coast
39  The many passenger ferries
between Samosir Island and Parapat
on the East coast are running every
hour. A trip lasts about half an hour
 
After three days of chilling out in the freshness of the mountains, we move from 4’300ft. to 2’970ft, i.e. from Berastagi to Lake Toba. No wonder that people indicate us that the driving time for the 75 miles will be five hours. After Kabanjahe, the road conditions get worse. Most of the deep potholes are impossible to by-pass. We have to stop and balance through them. At least, 15 miles after Kabanjahe, we are rewarded by the 400ft. high Sipisopiso waterfall that tumbles from the Karo Highland down to Lake Toba, and the view of the beautiful lake itself, currently unfortunately showing a hazy image. Lake Toba with its 440 sq.mi. is considered to be one of the world’s big freshwater lakes. Past mandarin and coffee plantations, wheat, cabbage and tomato fields and shabby houses with garbage lying around everywhere, we reach Merek at the Northern end of the lake, where we take the road along the Eastern side. From there, its condition improves considerably and the drive through the narrow, twisting road along the volcano’s caldera through a lovely forest is enjoyable. Now and then, we catch a glimpse of the lake. Then it happens so fast that only afterwards I realize how narrowly we escaped a disaster and how once more, some angels must have been watching over us! In a narrow curve, a yellow light truck appears on our side of the road and drives straight towards us. With an incredible presence of mind, Emil pulls into the scrub, hence avoiding a head-on collision. What if it would have gone down a slope? Inconceivable!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 40  Parapat at the East shore of
Lake Toba is a famous tourist
resort since colonial times .....
 41  ..... the Saturday market
is a colorful event .....
42  ..... indefinable stuff in
big buckets is for sale
 
In Parapat, a popular weekend tourist destination from Medan, we reach Danau Toba, i.e. Lake Toba. It is 2.30pm and the car ferry running to Samosir Island – an island almost as big as Singapore, situated in the middle of the volcano crater lake – already left. The next one is scheduled for 5.45pm – enough time for our late lunch break. On the lake shore we spot picnic tables and – miraculously – we are left alone, which is normally not the case in Indonesia, where people’s interest and curiosity for strangers is huge. For 95'000 Rupiahs (= US$10.40) for our LandCruiser including the driver and 3’500 Rupiahs (=US$0.40) for the co-driver we sail for 45 minutes across the glassy calm lake and reach the island’s ferry terminal of Tomok at dusk. Again and again we are amazed how extremely cheap life can be, starting from the gasoline that costs 4’500 Rupiahs per liter (= US$1.87/gallon). And where else in the world is an entry fee for a tourist attraction only US$0.22, renting a scooter per day US$7.65, or US$0.75 for a half-hour-ride on a passenger ferry, like here at Lake Toba? Incredible is also the rent of a traditional Batak house on Samosir Island. Though modestly furnished, but still with a toilet and hot shower, it is already available for around US$5.50/day. Advantage of this price structure take also some retired Germans who are eager to escape the European winter climate and spend these months in this warm climate instead.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 43  The „Tabo Cottages“ in Tuktuk on
the island of Samosir at Lake Toba are just
how we like it: Lovely setting, immaculately
clean, with a „homey“ and personal touch .....
 44  ..... Emil is enjoying the
lovely view from the balcony
of our spacious room .....
45  ..... Liliana is sitting at the
breakfast table. The buffet leaves
nothing to be desired. There is even
cheese, a rarity in Southeast Asia!
 
We pay a bit more and are perfectly happy with the choice of our accommodation. The Tabo Cottages in the tourist village of Tuktuk, lying on the small peninsula attached to Samosir Island, are exactly what we are looking for. A really nice room with warm shower, fridge, wi-fi and porch with hammock on the upper level of a Toba Batak house. The cottages are in a lovely setting at the lake shore, are immaculately clean, and the atmosphere is homey and personal. Especially beautiful is a pond with the huge pink water lilies that unfold every morning in an incredible beauty. And the breakfast buffet – unfortunately starting only from 8am; for early birds like us a bit late – is another reason to smile: There is also cheese – a rarity in Asia! No wonder, the hotel is managed by Annette, a German lady, and Anto, her Indonesian husband. She knows what her guests, the majority being Germans, appreciate. Over Easter time, also families from the German Embassy in Jakarta arrived to enjoy a couple of days at this idyllic place.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 46  Simarmata – a traditional Toba
Batak village in the North of Samosir
Island on Lake Toba. Sadly, the once
thatched roofs have been replaced by
low-maintenance corrugated iron
 47  Children peer through the
window of a typical small village shop
48  At Lake Toba, many of the
Toba Batak are still living in
traditional villages. Here along
the road from Tomok to Lontung
 
Yes, so it happens as it always does when we feel comfortable: From one day it becomes two, then four, then eight, then sixteen, yes – and then thirty-two. Another reason that we are not in a hurry is that contrary to the earlier confirmation of the CEO of the Tourist Ministry in Papua New Guinea, not all of the required car permits for our entry from Indonesian West Papua are issued yet. Therefore, we just enjoy our relaxing days. If Tuktuk was known 15 years ago as one of the most popular destination on the backpacker and hippie scene, now foreign tourist life is very little. How can businesses even survive – we ask ourselves, because the competition is huge: Tuktuk is packed with hotels and guesthouses, cafes and restaurants still offering “magic mushrooms”, bicycle and scooter rentals, money changers, internet cafes and souvenir shops. We compare it with Koh Samui in Thailand.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 49  
 50  
51  
Monumental tombs are widespread on Samosir Island at Lake Toba. Often they sit lonely in the countryside, but sometimes also besides a house
 
Apparently all locals own a piece of land where they grow mainly rice, but also wheat, coffee, chili, tomatoes, cabbage, salad, avocado and other vegetables, which allows the extended families to survive. The lady who pushes every day her pushcart packed with vegetables through the streets to earn some money has become already a familiar sight. Life is simple. Most of the locals still wash laundry, dishes and their hair and clean their teeth in the lake, as they always did. In the evenings and mornings, they show up equipped with soap, shampoo and toothbrush. But whether they do it in the lake or at home, it does not make any difference anyway, because there is no public water supply. The grey water from the housing is flowing also untreated into the lake. We just wonder how long it will take until this jewel will be polluted too. The first sign is the already considerable amount of too much algae. Scooters are the popular mean of transport on the roads, and some of them are really noisy: Muffler removed, possibly to be recognized easier and to be a little bit faster. How lucky we are to have sent after us only recently ten boxes of our favorite ear plugs “Ohropax” from Switzerland!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 52  Wisma Sinur, a huge hotel complex
North of Pangururan, built in Toba Batak
architecture, nestles between a rice field
and a mountain backdrop in the
North of Samosir Island at Lake Toba
 53  Near the village of Pangururan
on the Southwestern side of Lake
Toba, we pull out for lunch .....
54  ..... and enjoy this charming
sea view. In the background
Samosir Island
 
In the night of April 5th, to April 6th, 2010, something different than scooter noise and barking dogs stirs up our blood: Suddenly, our bed shakes fiercely – an earthquake, there is no doubt. Our watch shows 5.15am and it is still pitch dark. We press the light switch, but the electricity is already cut. Emil grabs his torch that is always in his reach, then the laptop and still drowsy, we rush outside. Annette, the hotel lady, and her family are coming also outside and around other bungalows there is nervous action too. With tense nerves, we are sitting outside for more than an hour until we faintheartedly return to our beds while still fully alert. Fortunately no aftershocks occur. The first news we get from Annette via her Blackberry cell phone: A quake, magnitude 7.7, occurred in Aceh. A tsunami warning has been triggered along the West coast. The seaquake happened at the same place as the one on Christmas 2004 that killed 170’000 people in Sumatra. Little by little more reports trickle in. There was no Tsunami, but people were injured and there is considerable destruction of housing. Luckily there was no loss of lives. The earthquake prone Indonesian archipelago is located on a belt of tectonic activity girdling the Pacific Ocean, called the “Pacific Ring of Fire”. We experienced ourselves within only four months already the second quake. The first one, a weaker one (6.8), was on November 24th, 2009, in Tonga.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 55  On the rugged highland of Samosir
Island in Lake Toba, in the Southern
part every inch is used for the cultivation
of rice. Rice is planted in former lava
flows and on terraces
 56  A sow is roaming around with
her offspring. There is enough room
to let off steam
57  This tree with all its flowering
beauty catches our eye while driving
towards the South on Samosir
Island in Lake Toba
 
Next day, in historic Ambarita with its row of traditional houses North of Tuktuk, there is another chilling site: The village looks now very peaceful; but when cannibalism reigned, it was a different story. In the old courtyard, the village elders were sitting 300 years ago on stone chairs in a circle under an old tree and held council over the convicts. If the death penalty was spoken, they would be dragged to the execution yard, 150ft. further on, where they were tortured, beheaded, cut in pieces, cooked and eaten. Today, instead of humans, dogs are on the menu plan. We always asked ourselves why all the puppies are brought up. Now we know it: They are fattened and then slaughtered. Dog meat is sold well, two pounds (1 kilo) for 30‘000 Rupiahs (= US$3.00) – tempting at an average daily income of US$6 to 7. The thought of it alone is upturning our stomachs.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 58  Peaceful picture: waterfall
and church at the Eastern
crater wall of Danau Toba
 59  Lake Toba is meandering through
the high crater walls for miles. From
each view point, it shows a different face
60  A heron is on the
lookout for a catch
 
From every corner around Lake Toba, the traditional Batak houses catch our eyes. Although they are not that traditional with their tin roofs anymore, at least their shape is still original. As those of the Toraja people in Sulawesi, they are inspired by the horns of the water buffalo. Opposite to the Karo-Batak tribe further North, the Toba-Batak highland people still live widely in traditional villages. The Bataks migrated from the foothills of Myanmar and Thailand over l’500 years ago and they chose the fertile Northern volcanic plateau to build their new homes, which stretches 300 miles North-South and 90 miles East-West around Lake Toba. They are farming and own many water buffaloes; we see them everywhere, either tied to poles or wallowing freely in the mud. It is a quiet and idyllic scenery.
 
 
 
 
 
 
A wedding of the Toba Batak tribe in Tuktuk on Samosir Island in Lake Toba
 61  Women in their finest wedding
outfit are dancing in a circle around
the newly-weds, clapping their hands
 62  The happy newly weds pose
for pictures in one of the Catholic
Churches in Tuktuk. Most
Bataks are Christians
63  Also men wear a fine woven
shawl on their shoulder. While dancing,
they touch with it family members and
friends – an expression of good wishes
 
When after a heavy tropical rain the grey sky finally changes into deep blue, complemented by dramatic billowing white clouds, we hop into our car and drive westwards along the lake shore. Though the distance is only 27 miles from Tuktuk to Pangururan, it takes us the whole day to return. The picturesque villages, the monumental, often multi-storey tombs that sit either in lush rice fields or on a lonely hill or sometimes also near a house are always worth a photo stop. The shapes differ too: They may be flanked by two boats, resemble a pyramid or built in the Toba-Batak house style. In Pangururan, we fill our tank at the only fuel station. Here the island is connected by a small bridge to the mainland. Actually, the bridge was needed only since 1906, when the Dutch dug a channel. This separated the previous peninsula from the main land to form an island. We cross the bridge and continue for some time along the lovely lake shore towards Tele before returning back to Tuktuk.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 64  The wedding band: All the
instruments are made of wood:
flutes, the marimba-like “Garantung”
and the small drums covered by
drum skin at each end
 65  The whole village gathers to watch
the wedding ceremonies. They include
traditional dances, speeches, distributing
money and presenting the gifts to the
newly-wed. Traditionally, they consist of beautiful mats. Each one is put around
the shoulders of the newly-weds
66  Special congratulations are
expressed for each event by a
huge and colorful board, which is
put along the street. It is made
from artificial flowers and
always looks attractive
 
A couple of days later, we enjoy a new, but not less attractive scenery when we explore the rugged plateau of the Southern part of Samosir Island. Lush rice fields greet us everywhere, be it in the fertile soil of former lava flows or on accurately laid out terraces. Apart from a white duck family swimming between the green reeds in a pond colored by the red soil, a grey heron holding out motionless for a catch, and a sow roaming around with her cute offspring, we hardly encounter a creature – which is really a rarity in Indonesia. This is just how we like it. And when the views open to the pale blue Lake Toba that is meandering for miles through the steep crater walls below us, we are glad having made the effort of the potholed road ascent to the plateau for a third time.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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69  
Faces that warm our hearts!
 
The days are spinning away. Soon we are already two months in Northern Sumatra and are still waiting day by day to receive the long promised car permits from the Ministry of Tourism to enter Papua New Guinea from Jayapura in Indonesian West Papua. But we are put off day by day. Slowly we doubt ever getting the papers as in the meantime we heard that between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea no mutual agreement exists allowing the border crossing by vehicles. But we still keep hoping. Meanwhile, we dedicate some of our time to our good old LandCruiser, which, despite of its “Rejuvenation” in Malaysian Sarawak on the island of Borneo four years ago, restarts to put on rust. With Epoxy and fiber glass we fill the holes. There is no doubt that the salty sea spray of our two year’s stay in the South Pacific accelerated it, though it was sometimes wonderful to stay directly at the beach.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Markets are always a center of attraction
 70  Two lads sell dried fish
along the road in Tomok
on the island of Samosir
 71  There is no market hall in
Tomok. The merchandise
is displayed on the floor
72  An incredible variety of goods:
In Parabat’s market hall on Lake
Toba’s Eastern shore, we discover
this crammed shop
 
On May 1st, 2010, a dull and rainy day, we leave behind one of the most beautiful lakes and with it also the land of the Batak highland people. We are heading South towards West Sumatra, the 27th Equator-Crossing and new adventures.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 73  The traditional Batak house
on the seashore of the “Tabo
Cottages” on Samosir Island
is a lovely place to relax .....
 74  ..... and the pink water lilies
that unfold each morning in the
pond are a beautiful sight
75  The beautifully adorned gate in
Batak style in Tomok, where
Tuktuk’s car ferry terminal on Samosir
Island in Lake Toba is situated
 
To the continuation: Pictures from our 2010-Indonesian trip in West Sumatra in May and June 2010
More websites from Borneo – before we arrived the 1st time in 2006 in Indonesia: