Home

 

News

Overview

Diary

Statistics

In Deutsch

 

MAIL

 

Pictures and report of our Indonesia trip 2010
(West Sumatra)
 
     
      
       Indonesia Map               Sumatra Map
                 
 
                Map of Southeast Asia
 
   
 
 
More websites from Indonesia and Timor-Leste:
 
latest picture taken: May 23, 2010
  • click a picture to see details
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 76  On the way from Tarutung to
Padangsidempuan we cross
this “steaming” jungle river
 77  Our LandCruiser accelerates
to tackle the steep ascent towards
Sipirok, where stranded lorries
wait to be winched up
78  Mist is spreading through the
rainforest along the Sibolga bypass,
giving it a mystical appearance
 
According to the general weather chart, a huge depression is approaching Sumatra on May 1st, 2010. It is the day when we finally hit the road after 33 relaxed days at Lake Toba in Northern Sumatra and take the ferry at 10am from Samosir Island back to Parapat on the mainland. Unavoidably, we are heading straight into the heavy downpour. The rain pounds ceaselessly against the windscreen, and despite of having fixed some leaking spots only last week, we get wet feet. It seems that the rubber on both sides of the windscreen is damaged. But we could not postpone our trip Southwards any longer, as we already booked our flights with Air Asia to Kuala Lumpur from Padang for May 6th. And there are still 300 miles with unknown road conditions to go. In Malaysia, we need to apply for a new Indonesian two-months visa (it is easier than the one-monthly extensions done within the country) and to get our teeth problems further under control: Emil his gums and I my tooth canal treatment.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 79  View from the hill of the Torsibohi
Resort in Sipirok over the fertile valley
 80  This splendid mosque stands
in the otherwise characterless
village of Kotanopan
81  Lush green paddy fields
turn up at every corner
 
In the village of Tarutung, we divert from the Trans Sumatra Highway to an inland shortcut that bypasses the coastal town of Sibolga. According to Annette from Tabo Cottages in TukTuk and a truck driver we just questioned at the gasoline station, the road condition of this by-pass is better than on the main road. A car driver from Medan with whom we talked about it on the ferry ride however told us just the opposite. Who is right? What we want to avoid by all means is the infamous stretch where apparently trucks have to be winched up one by one. Memories of Guyana and Congo (ex-Zaire) come alive! We had gone only a few miles on the windy, narrow road with little traffic, when we meet our truck driver again – unfortunately stuck at the scene of an accident: He just collided with an oncoming lorry. Luckily, there seem to be no injuries, but we notice that the fronts of both trucks are badly smashed when we squeeze past them. Apropos good road: Soon afterwards, the pavement ends. Then a steep descent follows, it gets muddier and muddier and suddenly a huge mud hole, not to be underestimated, lies in front of us. Due to our weight, quagmire has always been and will always be one of our biggest nightmares. And the one here it is no exception.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Wedding of the Minangkabau people near Padangsidempuan. The Minangkabau form one of the few still existing matrilineal
societies on earth. i.e. where property and land is passing down the female line from mother to daughter
 82  The bridal couple is sitting on the
throne adorned in gold and red .....
 83  ..... the wedding guests –
strongly devoted to Islam – listen
to the words of the Imam …..
84  ..... a student and a little girl
spontaneously embrace Liliana in
front of the car before saying good-bye
 
We engage our 4x4, take a big breath and ..... yes, we make it! We are happy but not yet relaxed. Immediately after, a pretty steep ascent is ahead of us, where trucks are stranded waiting to be winched up one by one. Isn’t it exactly this passage we wanted to avoid by all means? Well, now there is only one way to go anyway: Forward! But amazingly, it is a piece of cake for our old LandCruiser. Before we really realize it, we are already “over the mountain”! In the mean time dusk is sitting in, and camping alongside the road is out of question – there is no possibility to pull out anyway. Therefore, we want to reach Sipirok – apparently the only place with an accommodation along this route. It is already night when the gate to the “Torsibohi Resort” opens and we drive up the hill to the parking lot. The big disappointment comes at the reception: All rooms are booked out. Actually, we should have known it. Sitting at an altitude of 300ft, this region attracts crowds of lowland people at weekends who want to escape the scorching heat. And today is a Saturday! The only accommodation available is a villa with two bedrooms, three bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen for four people, to a promotion rate of 1,12 Mio Rp. (= US$125), including a welcome drink, dinner and breakfast for four people! Our heads are spinning.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 85  Dreamy landscape: A lonely
mosque perched between rice field
and the rainforest near Kotanopan
 86  Incredible how this scooter
manages to keep his balance on the
winding mountain road to Bukittinggi
87  Freshly planted rice fields are
always eye catching – there is a
lot of hard work behind it
 
The next village with a hotel seems to be 24 miles further. But being already night when all the highly loaded heavy trucks are on the road as well (they mostly drive at night), and not trusting anymore anyone saying that the road is “good”, we do not want to take the risk to meet more mud in the dark. Not being allowed to camp on the hotel premises, we persistently try to get a discount, but the concierge sticks firmly to the tariff. We hang around for about an hour until the manager appears, but fall on deaf ears too. “OK, we take the villa”, we finally tell him quite upset, insisting however that we definitely want to have the four welcome drinks, four dinners (even if we never eat at night!!) and four breakfasts that are included in the price. He looks at us a bit puzzled and is silent for a while. “OK, I offer you the villa for one million, but without dinner and only two breakfasts”, he decides. The deal is made, but it is hard to lose so much money for one single night, where we only use one bed and one bathroom anyway. Well, at least we can say that in Indonesia we slept in a “one-million-hotel”!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 88  In Bonjol, lying in the hot plain
between Lubuksikaping and Bukittinggi,
we cross the Equator for the 27th time.
Reason enough to celebrate this special
moment with a Gin-Tonic drink
 89  Bukittinggi, 3’050ft. above sea
level, has many buildings with the
distinctive architecture of the Minang-
kabau highland people. Already the
city gate has the upswept gables,
inspired by the form of buffalo horns
90  The main square in Bukittinggi
teems with life on Ascension Day
 
A sunny morning is greeting us when we get up. By daylight, we take a closer look at the already fading beauty of this hill resort. Tennis courts, a tiny wooden mosque, two ponds with flowering white water lilies, each one with an adjoining decaying pavilion, are part of the place. The rooms are in Batak-style architecture with traditional thatched roofs. There are walkways; one leads to the Antenna. At breakfast, we are served jus, pineapple slices, omelet and Indonesian style coffee, i.e. freshly grounded and mixed with sugar which needs to settle before it is ready to drink. There is no bread. Luckily, we stocked up sufficiently at Annette’s German Bakery in TukTuk before we left. Well, for one million you cannot expect everything, can you? At 9.30am we are back on the road, and one hour later, at the village of Padangsidempuan, we rejoin the Trans Sumatra-“Highway”. Shortly afterwards, the road becomes single-lane. A construction site, we guess. No, to my big joy there is a wedding taking place and of course I ask Emil to stop. Contrary to the two previous Christian Batak weddings further North, this one is of Moslem religion. The bridal couple is sitting on the richly decorated throne and relatives and friends have just finished submitting their good wishes. May I possibly take a picture of them? Nobody objects.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 91  Jam Gadang, the Clock Tower, is
Bukittinggi’s landmark. It was built 1926
– a gift from the Dutch Queen. After
Indonesia’s independence, the roof has
been adapted to the Minangkabau culture
 92  Where ever we look, the
distinctive Minangkabau roofs
are never far away in Bukittinggi
93  Two distinctive architectures:
The Moorish arcade of the
Hills Hotel in Bukittinggi and the
gabled Minangkabau roofs
 
Suddenly a young girl is on my side, embracing me spontaneously. “Are you alone” she asks. When I explain that I am visiting with my husband who is waiting in the car, she insists she wants to meet him. She and a crowd of youngsters follow me back to the LandCruiser. There, we take a remembrance photo, say good-bye and, enriched by another great experience, we drive on. The day is sunny, the road condition surprisingly good in most parts and the landscape beautiful with its lush rice fields, palm groves and mountain views in the back. One village follows the other and all are built along the noisy highway. Early afternoon we reach Panyabungan and spot two hotels that make a good impression. But it is still too early to call it a day. Therefore, we decide to continue to the next village of Kotanopan, showing the same size on our map. Far wrong! There is only one sleazy hostel, and it is directly along the busy and noisy road. The next village is too far away to be reached during daytime. As unsatisfactory as it is, we have no choice and stay. The nicest of this otherwise unattractive place is the nearby rushing river. And surprisingly, we find a little spot where we can sit on our camping chairs under a tree with wide branches, enjoying the shade and without curious faces around us.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 94  Three girlfriends smile somehow
shyly when we take a picture
 95  Dried food is plentiful at Pasar Atas,
the big market in Bukittinggi …..
96  .... and the tiny market stalls are
crammed with Islamic headscarves
 
We admire the bunched green “grapes” growing directly off the trunk. On the other side, two youngsters are taking advantage of the strong current and are speeding downriver with inflated truck tubes. Obviously, they are having fun. When the birds are settling on the trees with their unmistakable chirping, it is time to return to our hostel. Since a very long time, we carry our own bedding into the room. Who knows when it was changed the last time? It does look very filthy anyway. Being a bit airier, we sit on the common veranda and watch the never ending traffic. But the noise is so tremendous, that I often have to press my fingers into both ears not to go bananas. The worst are the three wheelers with side car and the scooters without any exhaust. At some point, we return to our sticky room with no fan and doze in and out of sleep until the morning dawns. What a difference to our yesterdays “one million rupee-villa!” Well, here we paid only Rp. 80’000 (US$ 9) but found out that we still overpaid it when a local put a fifty thousand rupee bill (US$ 6) over the counter.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 97  Nostalgic horse drawn carriages
are waiting for customers at
Bukittinggi’s main square
 98  A cute looking house in a
narrow side road of Bukittinggi
99  View from the balcony of our
Hotel Benteng in Bukittinggi during an
interesting evening ambiance, with the
distinctive mosque in the for- and the 9’484ft.
high Merpati volcano in the background
 
At 6.30am we are up and shortly before 8am we are on our way to the last stretch to Bukittinggi. There are still 95 miles to go for which normally seven to eight hours are needed. Also today, rice fields are the main attraction. The road condition is acceptable, the course very windy. Right before the village of Rao we reach the boundary of West Sumatra, and in Bonjol, in the hot plain, we cross the Equator – for the 27th time – reason enough to toast with a gin tonic drink and to retrace: Emil, the born statistician, can easily name each one by heart: 3 times in Indonesia, 3 times in Ecuador, once in Brazil, 3 times in Gabon, 7 times in Uganda and 4 times in Kenya. The remaining 6 happened for the LandCruiser on a ship, while we sat 4 times in a plane and attended only twice a line-crossing ceremony. In West Sumatra, everything seems to be tidier. The houses look neater, there is less garbage lying around. Around 3pm, we are driving into Bukittinggi, the heart of the Minangkabau culture. Situated at an altitude of 3.050ft., we are able to breathe fresh air again. Following his intuition, Emil takes the Panorama Road which leads to the highest point of the city, where on the top we discover the Benteng Hotel that not only offers safe parking, but also a bright, airy room with balcony, overlooking the city and the 9’484ft high Merpati volcano, which is greeting us shrouded in clouds. There is also WiFi connection, but only in the lobby. The price of Rp. 225’000, US$25, including breakfast, is OK for us.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 100  From the Panorama Park in
the West of Bukittinggi we enjoy
the view to the Sianok Canyon .....
 101  ..... with its bizarre
rock formations .....
102  ..... and the peaceful monkey
families that are living there
 
“Allahu Akbar” it suddenly blares ear deafening from the loudspeaker of the opposite green mosque, which dominates the cityscape. Little did we know that there is more to it than the five times call of the muezzin for prayer, that the entire religious sermon (or whatever it might be) will be broadcasted in the same incredible loudness – and this several times a day. There are not many moments where it remains silent. Regularly, at 4am, our deep sleep is abruptly interrupted. Escaping isn’t possible, no matter where the lodge might be situated in the city. Simply incredible! There is no doubt: We are in a more fundamentalist place. In the many years of traveling, we visited many Islamic states, but nowhere else we experienced something like that. On the other hand, when we sit on our balcony watching the skies turning red over Gunung Merapi and the muezzin’s call echoes from near and far, it is such a tremendous, intense and exotic feeling that we will never forget.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 103  Liliana is sitting in front of the city
museum that was built in the Minangkabau
style in 1934. Left and right are rice barns …..
 104  ….. an elderly lady is
sitting on the steps leading into
the interior of the museum
105  Minangkabau roofs
tower towards stormy skies
 
Despite the interrupted sleep, we keep staying at the Benteng Hotel. Here we are allowed to park our LandCruiser in safety when on May 6th, we fly from Padang, 55 miles further South, to Kuala Lumpur for a visa run and a dentist visit. Who would have imagined that in Malaysia’s capital we will enjoy an evening with same-minded car travelers: With the Swiss Karin and Jan, Carmen and Martin, and the Germans Silvie and Wim. With all parties, we had already contact by email before. Getting to know them now personally, is really nice. We all share the same taste of adventure and the same desire to walk away from the conventional lifestyle. Beer is flowing in abundance in Chinatown while swapping stories – and it just happens to be also our 41st wedding anniversary! Five days later, we are back in Sumatra with a new two months Indonesian visa. We are happy to find our precious LandCruiser untouched at the parking of the Benteng Hotel, when we descend from the minibus, which took us for Rp. 35’000 each (= US$ 4) – in a two hours ride from the airport of Padang up to Bukittinggi.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 106  A vertical cliff, a lush rice field, majestic
palm trees and a traditional Minangkabau
house – one of the most beautiful spots in
Harau Canyon, 35 miles East of Bukittinggi
 107  A waterfall drops over
a vertical, 330ft. high cliff of
the Harau Canyon down
to the valley
108  Two guys walk across a rice
field to the “Lembah Harau Echo
Homestay” that is situated
right under a cliff
 
The hotel itself is a good choice: Separated by a few steps only is the city center with its busy life, with the nostalgic horse drawn carriages on the streets, the exotic market crammed with all kind of different goods, and the clock tower – Bukittinggi’s landmark. Even the impressive Sianok Canyon at the Southern end is not far away, where at its panorama park peaceful monkeys keep us company. There is also no lack of cozy cafes that spoil us for little money with traditional, but also Western food. We change between the Canyon, the Bedudal, the Apache and the Turret restaurants. In the average we pay between 8 and 11 US Dollars for two meals, including two big bottles of local Bintang beer. One bottle costs between Rp. 24’000 and Rp. 30’000 (= US$ 2.60-3.30) what is actually more expensive than a complete menu. Occasionally, after ordering, a guy jumps on his scooter and speeds away to buy some groceries. He returns with a bag of potatoes, or a pineapple, or some vegetables – things that he needs to prepare our meals. Therefore it can easily happen that we have to wait for almost one hour. Well, aren’t we on holiday?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 109  A paddy farmer lady makes
a well deserved break .....
 110  ..... another peasant woman
pushes her barrow to the paddy field .....
111  ..... another woman sells
“energy cracker” in front of her house
 
The Minangkabau highland people are strongly devoted Muslims and well known for their high intellect. They form one of the few still existing matrilineal societies on earth where property and land is passing down the female line, i.e. from mother to daughter. Their traditional houses are built from wood and roofs have several turned up gables, inspired by the horns of buffaloes that play a major role in their culture. We admire them at homes, mosques, yes even at gasoline stations. The most intriguing sight however is the incredibly beautiful wood carving that adorns entire houses in finest details. Bukittinggi’s museum, built in Minangkabau style in 1934, gives us a good example of this cultural treasure, which we are able to explore next day in the Minang Highlands. The roads are undulating peacefully, up and down the hills, past the omnipresent lush carpets of paddy fields. They are in surprisingly good condition – up to now the best ones we encountered in Sumatra. Everywhere rice, nuts and cloves is laid out on mats to dry in the sun; the aromatic scent of cloves saturates the air. Some rice fields are in full harvest, others are about to be ploughed the ancient way with water buffaloes. Now and then, we encounter a woman walking home with a basket or a bucket on her head, reviving memories of Africa.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 112  Between the village of Harau
and the city of Payakumbuh, this building
like a palace attracts our attention
between palm trees and paddy fields
 113  East of Bukittinggi Cassava
is growing and is laid out to
dry along the road
114  Also this mosque in
Payakumbuh has a touch of
the Minangkabau architecture,
at least with its “dome”
 
It is not always easy to find the villages mentioned in the Lonely Planet guidebook. With missing road signs, it can happen that we take a wrong turn, but at the end, we always are standing full of admiration in front of these unique cultural buildings. In Silinduang Bulan there is unfortunately not much left  to admire from the Royal Palaces – only the new Kings Palace that is still under construction. It replaces the original one caught by lightening in February 27th, 2007. Incredibly, on March 21st, 2010, also the Palace of the Queen burnt down; only the ruins remain, but the two surviving rice barns are still silent witnesses of its former glory. We find a handful of other small jewels - the most attractive ones – in different villages hidden between conventional houses. Even Emil, who is not as easily overwhelmed as myself and who does not overrate everything like I do (according to Emil!) is busy taking pictures! It is finally also him, who still insists to visit also the village of Belimbing, situated halfway between Batusangkar and Lake Singkarak. According to Lonely Planet, this place offers the biggest concentration of over 300 years old houses, though regrettably in different stages of decay. If we thought to find them as richly decorated as before, we are completely disillusioned. What remains are modest, undecorated wooden structures, which however convey a kind of tranquility in their simplicity and rural environment, together with grazing cows and calves.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 115  The traditional “Surau Nagari” –
an Islamic men’s house – is built entirely
of wood and sits in the village of Batipuh,
South of Bukittinggi, near Padangpanjang
 116  A beautifully decorated traditional
Minangkabau home in Batusangkar, the
capital of the ancient kingdom of Minang-
kabau in the Tanah Datar region …..
117  ….. Close-up view –
a real splendor!
 
It is the most beautiful and clearest day since we made Bukittinggi our base to explore the region of the Minangkabau people, when we take the 24 miles of road to Danau Maninjau, a perfectly formed crater lake. On our map we find a viewpoint not mentioned in any travel guide book. It is called “Puncak Lawang” and is situated 4 miles north of the village of Matur. This is the place we are heading to, but at some point we have to ask for directions again. Being apparently a well known paragliding hill, for once we get directed straightaway to the right road, what is not always the case. It is after 10am, when we park our LandCuiser at 3’280 ft. altitude at the tiny forest parking and walk the couple of steps to the viewpoint. What an exciting sight: The surface of the water is calm as a mirror reflecting the crater rim and white clouds in bizarre formations. We sit down on the grass and absorb the serenity and beauty of this wonderful lake. A feeling of complete peace takes over. To make the moment even more special, yellow dragonflies perform a dance right above our heads. Can life be more beautiful?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 118  The ruins of the „Queens Palace“
(Pagaruyung) in Silinduang Bulan near
Batusangkar that was demolished by a
fire on 3/21/2010. The two beautiful rice
barns survived. The “Kings Palace” (Basa
Pagaruyung), which lies just a few hundred
yards away, burnt down on 2/27/2007
by lightning and is currently rebuilt
 119  Traditional and modern
architecture in Silinduang
Bulan near Batusangkar
120  The new monumental
“Kings Palace” in Silinduang Bulan
near Batusangkar is still under
construction after the old one was
hit by lightening on 2/27/2007
and burnt to the ground
 
44 switchbacks, monitored by curious monkeys alongside, lead us down to the lake at 1’500 ft. above sea level and to the charming village of Maninjau, where fish farming is conducted. At the beginning of 2007, 7’000 metric tons of fish died. Some blame escaping sulfide gas from hot underwater springs, some attribute it to the overproduction of the 15’000 fish farms around the 38 sq.mi. sized lake. The road circling the lake is a narrow single-lane track and crossing another vehicle is always a delicate matter. Emil knows how wide our car is, but does the other driver know this from his vehicle too? The heat is increasing steadily and we are ready for our picnic, but find not one trace leading to the lake shore, at least not with a car. Footpaths through rice fields that cover big areas are plentiful though. Like the village of TukTuk at Lake Toba, it is evident also here that the tourist business is lying idle. Apart from two backpackers walking through a field towards a homestead, there is no sign of tourism.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 121  In small villages, we discover
now and then further jewels of the
Minangkabau culture …..
 122  ..... lovely detail of
the traditional home
123  Emil poses for a picture in front
of another traditional Minangkabau
house, again near Batusangkar
 
We start our way back already in the afternoon as we didn’t find any suitable picnic spot. This means taking the same 44 sharp hairpins uphill, what doesn’t go so smoothly. Short before a hairpin turn, our LandCruiser begins to stutter, and then the engine dies – of course at the most inconvenient place. Already some time ago we noticed that the fuel pumps flown in from the United States to American Samoa and installed there – actually they are meant for aircrafts – now and then are working like mad. Are they too weak? Not in the best mood, Emil lies underneath the car to check the fuel lines and electrical cables. “The filter is empty, no fuel is running”, he shouts. After all the air from the fuel lines was bled and the carburetor cooled down the engine runs again, but only for a few more bends. Then we go through the same painful procedure once more. Therefore we are more than happy when we finally manage to reach the top. We find easily a good spot opposite the Hotel Nuansa, where we finally can enjoy our late picnic.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 124  Another example of a
Minangkabau house in Batusangkar
with its elaborately carved exterior
 125  Who is taking whom for a ride?
126  The village of Belimbing, which
lies about halfway between Batu-
sangkar and Lake Singkarak, has the
biggest concentration of Minangkabau
buildings that survived “more or less”
 
After all the excitement, the cold beer from our car refrigerator flows like champagne down our dry throats, and the chicken sausage and bread, coated with spicy mayonnaise, helps to make us feel better. A black dog with a blind eye sits patiently in front of our open door, watching each bite. Who would have the heart not to share a bit? A tropical downpour finally chases it away, and for us it is a welcome drop of temperature. On our way back to Bukittinggi, the second mishap of the day occurs: When giving way to an oncoming car, we end up in the too soft shoulder and are hopelessly stuck! Despite of engaging our 4x4, nothing moves. In no time a crowd of people surrounds us, mopeds stop – exactly like in India! But our entertainment is of a short nature. We grab our shovel – no one of us remembers when we last used it, but it seems eternities away – and we easily manage to free us ourselves. Then we just are longing for one thing: A refreshing shower.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 127  Lake shore at peaceful Danau
(= lake) Singkarak in Ombilin,
where we make our lunch break
 128  The smoke of the harvested paddy
field fires rise everywhere towards
the sky and leaves everything in haze
129  Mountain village of Sungai Landia
between Bukittinggi and Manijau, where –
like everywhere – the mosque dominates
 
Next day, we head with great expectations to the Harau Canyon – 35 miles East of Bukittinggi. We are eager to escape the eternal noise of the city for a while and to be surrounded by nature’s beauty. Already at the canyon’s entry, we are in awe: A reddish cliff as high as 330ft rises into the blue sky with gentle waterfalls cascading down to the fertile valley covered with paddy fields and majestic coconut trees. The deeper we drive into the canyon, the more impressive it gets. In the morning we checked out at our city hotel and are now planning to book into the canyon’s “Lembah Harau Echo Homestay” for a couple of days. It is sitting on a hill behind a peacefully running river and hidden by trees. And the bungalows are right at the foot of the vertical wall. They fit so perfectly into the surrounding that we promptly miss them first and drive past, their access being by a small foot bridge only. Yes, and it is exactly this bridge that is messing up all our beautiful plans. Where are we parking our LandCruiser? To leave it for several nights at the unguarded small river parking along the road is far too risky. And there is no other possibility. It is such a shame as we were so longing for it. However when we later discover that a student’s seminar is just taking place at the hotel, we take it as a small consolation that we end up with a day trip only. It might not have been as quiet as we hoped for. Disappointed, we return to our noisy city hotel opposite of the mosque.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 130  Peaceful image of the village
Sungai Landia, surrounded by rice
fields and forest. It’s along the road
from Bukittinggi to Lake Maninjau
 131  Hard work for farmer and
water buffalo: Plowing a rice paddy
132  Also in the countryside,
mosques are monumental: On the
way from Matur to Danau Maninjau
(= Lake Maninjau)
 
One day, eating at the Canyon Cafe chicken steak and vegetable taco for lunch, we watch a marquee being erected just opposite. We learn that a traditional Minangkabau wedding is taking place tomorrow. Being right down the road from our hotel, I try to get a glance of the festivities next day. While taking a picture of the lovely tent, a gentleman introduces himself as the brother of the groom (or is it the bride?) and welcomes me inside. A bit shy, I follow him. He directs me to a splendidly decorated room where different dishes cover the middle part of the floor. At the head of it, right underneath the throne, sits the groom, joined by male family members on both sides. They are praying and then start eating. It seems to be a merely men’s ceremony. When might the bride appear? “In about an hour” says the girl, who is keeping me company. She introduces me to her mother, sisters, uncles and cousins. When I return one hour later, the newlyweds are already sitting on the golden throne. I can hardly take my eyes off them.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 133  From the viewpoint “Puncak
Lawang“, 4 miles North of the village of
Matur, we absorb the serenity and beauty
of the beautiful crater lake Maninjau.
The hill is also known for paragliding
 134  From the viewpoint „Puncak
Lawang“we spot on the
Northeastern slope of Danau
Maninjau this idyllic
mosque between paddies
135  Liliana is enjoying the tranquility
that surrounds Danau Maninjau –
for once no speeding and
ear-deafening scooters
 
The bride wears a golden crown and looks really like a queen, reviving memories of the 1001-Night-Wedding of a princess in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. They are just receiving the first group of well-wishers with the usual photo session. I am encouraged to do so too, after I have been introduced to them. Later, it is impossible to refuse the invitation to eat, and I am also touched when I even receive a gift: A blue face towel neatly folded and nicely wrapped in a transparent little box. When the music starts in the Indonesian ear-deafening way – it will last until midnight – I leave full of joy for the great friendliness extended to me. Emil, who never feels comfortable with too much attention, stayed behind at the hotel. Being back, we discuss how contradictory things are in this country: On one side, a couple of days ago, a terrorist plot was uncovered in Jakarta where on Independence Day in August not only the President should be killed, but also as many “infidel” whites as possible. On the other hand, I have been invited by the same people so generously to a wedding just because I am a “Westerner”.
 
 
 
 
 
 136  Maninjau is situated picturesquely
at Lake Maninjau’s Eastern shore
 137  Gives us a kind of a Far East
sensation: View from one of the 44
switchbacks leading to Danau Maninjau
138  Fish farming at Lake Maninjau.
Beginning of 2007, 7’000 tons of fish
died; some believe due to escaping
sulphur from hot underwater springs,
others due to an overproduction from
the 15’000 fish farms around the
38 sq.mi. 'big' lake
 
The days in Bukittinggi spin away. Soon there is only one month left before our second visa expires and we still do not know what next, whether our planned land border crossing from Indonesian Papua to Papua New Guinea will be approved or not. Day by day we are waiting for the crucial answer, and day by day we are disappointed. It is therefore very important for us to follow it constantly and be connected to the internet. Why then not stay in this comfortable mountain climate with all the hotel amenities until we get green light? And since we discovered that on the same street there is a little place selling wonderful cakes, among others black forest and Sacher, our decision is made: We are waiting here. We are told that the development of our application is typical of PNG: Since we started with our inquiry last December at the PNG Ministry of Tourism, we received 15 emails from its CEO, 8 of them with the assurance that all the original permits are in his hands and that he will send us the respective copies. But day after day and week after week passed and we are still empty-handed.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 139  Twiners are covering entire
palm leaves in the tropical forest in
the Sianok Canyon near Bukittinggi
 140  A curious monkey, which
is often seen sitting alongside
a road: Macaques
141  Nature at its loveliest
 
What are we going to do? But when CEO Peter Vincent mentions in one of his emails that he even might fly to the Jayapura/Vanimo border to assist us with customs formalities, we trust his reiterated assurances and start happily with our shipping investigations from North Sulawesi to West Papua. Unfortunately it shows that this freight would exceed by far our budget. We find only two vessels running this route regularly: The government owned Pelni charging US$2’700, and a freighter for only US$600 less. Both accept only containers. In addition, we would have to count with US$900 from West Papua either to Madang or Lae in Papua New Guinea. Therefore, there is only one solution for us: To change our route and ship from Jakarta directly to Lae. We inform the PNG’s Ministry of Tourism accordingly, which appreciates this easier port of entry. Hence we book our container for July 7th, and our flights to Port Moresby via Malaysia and Singapore for July 8th, – a bit overhasty, as it shows in retrospect. Because despite of all the assurances, the situation still remains unclear on June 1st, 2010.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 142  This beautiful adorned Minangkabau
house is situated in Koto Gadang, a silver-
smith village 6 miles outside of Bukittinggi
 143  “Hello! – Hello Mister!”
sounds persistently from a window
144  Mural along the Eastern shore
of lake Maninjau depicting the
culture of the Minangkabau people
 
Slowly we start giving it a second speculation: Are the permits eventually not issued at all, or are we finally expected to bribe. Or even worse: Is this the end of our PNG-dream? All kind of worrying thoughts run through our heads. But we are not yet giving up! Acting according to the saying “You don’t quit trying when you lose, you lose because you quit trying!” we write email after email, grasp each possibility and each straw. Then, finally a flicker of hope pops up: “We are happy to help you”, the agency of the Swire shipping line based in PNG’s capital Port Moresby writes us. The following week, we anxiously check every day our emails for a positive answer. On June 11th, there is an answer, but not what we hoped to hear, and our moral drops almost to zero. Strangely, the agency could not make any contact with the CEO of the Ministry of Tourism. But what put us most over the edge are their words: “The difficulties are blown out of proportion”. What now? At least, they promise to continue to find a solution. This is the current situation on June 12th, exactly 25 days before we plan to containerize our LandCruiser. But mankind is living of hope! Therefore, despite of the incertitude of our next destination, we close our camp in Bukittinggi – the heart of the Minangkabau culture – and start heading towards Southern Sumatra and on to Java and Jakarta.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 145  A marquee has been erected
alongside the street next to the „Orchid“
Hotel in Bukittinggi, where a traditional
Minangkabau wedding is taking place …..
 146  ..... where Liliana is introduced
to the bridal couple in their traditional
“royal” outfit and may
join for a picture …..
147  ..... and where beforehand a
traditional men’s gathering took
place. At the top is sitting the groom,
his relatives joined on both sides
 
To the previous website: Pictures from our 2010-Indonesian trip in North Sumatra in April and March 2010
To the continuation: Pictures from our 2010-Indonesian trip in Southern Sumatra in June 2010
More websites from Borneo – before we arrived the 1st time in 2006 in Indonesia: