We had planned to spend a week in Sumatra with Antonella, a good friend of Vs from Germany that lives in Madrid and her friend Altera from Cologne. To ensure we had enough clean clothes for the time, we went to the laundry in Medan in the morning where we had to go through a lengthy process of weighing, counting and naming our pieces of wash to make sure both parties knew what was going to be laundered. Shortly afterwards the girls arrived and after some joyous hellos and hurrays we spent the afternoon organizing our next day bus ticket and shopping for necessities. After picking up our laundry in the evening and checking everything in the hotel, I noticed that not one, but two of my Triumph bras were missing. How could that be after all that big process in the morning?? Not knowing when the laundry closes and being aware we would not have enough time in the morning to go back, I hurried through the hot, humid night air hoping the shop would still be open. When I entered  the place I didn’t say a word. I just watched the young employee behind the desk. She looked up at me, hesitated for a moment, nodded knowingly and reached under her desk. She handed me my two bras and mumbled some kind of apology. I was too annoyed to say anything, but I think my eyes spoke volumes. I just took my underwear and left. The first thing I did afterwards was cut off the Triumph label from my bras.

The next day we had a hot bus ride to lake Toba, a beautiful lake as large as 1700 sq km. We checked in to a very rustic, but charming guesthouse run by Kathi, a weird German lady and her Indonesian boyfriend Iwan. After our first day at the lake was spent mostly indoors due to heavy rains, we took advantage of the morning sun the next day and rented two scooters. And that proved so worth it! We had a fantastic ride on the bumby roads along lush green hills on the one side and deep blue lake on the other. We even came upon a traditional funeral ceremony. The Christian Batak people combine the religion brought to them by the missionaries with old customs and beliefs. Our reception by the locals was awesome. We decided it was time to go though when we were offered to take part in the funeral feast and have some raw meat.

Bus trip to Toba

Boat to Tuk Tuk Toba Lake

Arrival Tuk Tuk Toba Lake

Merlyn guest house Tuk Tuk Toba 2

Merlyn guest house Tuk Tuk Toba 2

Merlyn guest house Tuk Tuk Toba

Merlyn guest house Tuk Tuk Toba

Danau Toba

Danau Toba

Danau Toba

05 Scooter day Toba Lake

Traditional funeral ritual Danau Toba

Traditional funeral ritual Danau Toba

Traditional funeral ritual Danau Toba

Traditional funeral ritual Danau Toba

Traditional funeral ritual Danau Toba

Traditional funeral ritual Danau Toba

Traditional funeral ritual Danau Toba

Traditional funeral ritual Danau Toba

When we got back to our guesthouse it started raining again and we noticed that in our bungalow part of the ceiling was coming down and some dirt had already settled on the floor. Kathi and Iwan said they would have a look at it the following day. They prepared a very tasty fish bbq for us and some guests from Austria and we enjoyed a lovely evening together.

Merlyn guest house Danau Toba

Merlyn guest house Tuk Tuk Danau Toba

It rained all night and when I woke from a crash and a thump in the early morning hours, I knew our ceiling had broken through. When I heard a rustling, I decided to turn on the light and carefully peeked out of our mosquito net, fearing a rat might have snuck in. It took me a moment to understand what I was seeing. A tiny kitten was sitting there on the floor of our bungalow, slightly shaken by her fall from the roof. My eyes wandered up and down between the baby cat and the hole in the ceiling, when suddenly a small foot started pressing through the crack trying to enter our bedroom. I realized it was time to wake Kathi and Iwan. When they came they were not much help at first. While Kathi was just staring at the hole, petting the kitty, Iwan had disappeared. “Uh! This Iwan”, she said. “Whenever one needs him, he is on the toilet!” Poor Iwan was actually fetching a broom, as the two of them didn’t own a ladder and started poking the hole, making it larger and frightening the other cats away at the same time. Suddenly Kathi giggled and mumbled “That’s what they mean in the UK when they say it’s raining cats and dogs.” We spent the rest of the night hoping no other animals would take advantage of the entry to our bungalow.

04 Merlyn guest house Tuk Tuk Toba 6

The next day we wanted to take a local bus to Ketambe, a small village that is the entry point to the lesser developed part of Gunung Leuser Nationalpark, a rainforest with chances of seeing wild orangutans. Already at the bus stop we became aware that the lady at the tourist office that had sold us the bus tickets had given us the wrong information. Instead of just having to change busses once it turned out to be twice and instead of 7 hours it would probably be more. As we had no choice, we took our first transport at 10 o’clock to Kabanjahe were we needed to catch the public bus originating in Medan. We were told we had an hour until the next bus to Kutancane would come and we should have lunch until then. There we would have to take another local transport for an hour to reach our goal. At one thirty, we paid our bill and got ready for the bus, when the guys from the bus company told us the bus was already full and we had to wait another hour for the next bus. Oh, great! But again, what choice did we have…so we waited. Another hour later the next bus was also full and we started getting nervous now. As the girls didn’t have much time, we needed to arrive in Ketambe that night if we wanted to hike the next day. We pleaded with the guys, we complained, we sweet talked, we tried everything. We asked if they could arrange a private transport for us and after a call they came up with a ridiculous price of 1 million rupees. We declined and decided to take matters in our own hands. We thought we would do it the European way and with laughing locals watching us, drew a sign stating we were willing to pay 500.000 rupees for someome to take us to Ketambe. We took turns standing at the side of the road in the rain, holding up our sign and trying to look pleasant and persuasive. Many cars slowed down to have a look at the sign and the weird girls at the curb, but no one was ready to take us. Either our active efforts or Antonella’s bonding with one of the guys had effect in the end and they organized a private car that would take us to Kutancane for 600.000. We accepted right away and left around 3:30 p.m.

07 Kabanjahe lunch

07 Kabanjahe bus station

If you thought our adventure for the day was over, you were wrong. Altera, tending to become motion sick, sat in front next to our very corpulent driver and the three of us sat behind him. After only ten minutes our driver stopped and picked up another guy to join us. The other guy took the driver seat and our heavy guy motioned for Altera to move to the third row of the van. I told Altera to stay right there were she was, after all we were the paying customers, and showed Mr. Big that he was very welcome to take the seat behind us.

I am not sure if our driver was annoyed about that or was just simply out of his mind by nature. We have had bad and reckless bus drivers before, but this guy drove like a lunatic. Very soon behind town the roads got really bad, full of potholes, twisting narrowly up the mountains….and as I mentioned, it was raining heavily. The crazy guy didn’t slow down in a single curve. He just raced around every bend honking. He roled through huge potholes that had filled up with the rain creating little pools. He slapped his forehead sometimes in disbelief of the road conditions, but that didn’t make him use his breaks. In between he started turning up the volume of his music again and again, the windshield wipers going crazy in the rain. The whole scene climaxed when someone on the other side of the rode came towards us and couldn’t pass, because the road was so narrow. Electronic music was pumping from the speakers, it was impossible to hear anything and our driver did not move an inch to let the oncoming car pass. The other car squeezed by us, the furious driver let down his window and I was sure a fist fight was about to start. But luckily the driver couldn’t hear the cusses of our lunatic on account of the blearing music. All of us just prayed for the entire drive.

07 Kabanjahe to Kutacane

At shortly before seven the owner of “Friendship” guesthouse, our accommodation in Ketambe, called. He wanted to know when we were arriving as there was no more local transport after seven p.m. from Kutancane. This was turning into a nightmare! Luckily Ahmed, the owner, offered to drive the one hour to pick us up. After five hours  driving with the crazy man, we finally arrived. In Kutancane we understood that Ahmed didn’t have a car but was waiting for us with local transport, a covered pick-up with goods loaded in boxes. We hopped on the back of the pick-up and rode through the night, watching the rain pour through the sides of the vehicle. For a moment we had the illusion of being on the back of an army truck heading out for combat in the rain, like in one of those Vietnam war movies. When we arrived, soaking wet from the rain beating in through the openings of the pick-up, we were a bit surprised to be greated by a whole bunch of men sitting around at “Friendship” guesthouse. Not a single woman seemed to be there. We learned later on that Ahmed was divorced, had custody of his son and was raising him together with his entirely male staff. We felt a bit like in a commune.

07 Kabanjahe to Kutancane 2

07 Kabanjahe to Kutancane 3

At breakfast the next morning we became aware of the pretty setting of the very simple guesthouse. The colorfully painted bungalows were placed in a lovely garden, surrounded by green rolling hills.

Friendship guesthouse Ketambe

Our hike through pristine rainforest was one of the best of our trip. There were hardly any real trails, some were overgrown and had to be cleared by our guide and his bush knife. The forest was amazingly dense and one expected Tarzan to come around the corner, swinging on a liane at any moment. There was an abundance of leeches and we were happy that we had gotten gaiters from Pindra, our guide, a guy blessed with amazing charism. Despite protection and being careful two of us still got up close with the parasites. We learned though that leeches only suck bad blood and were relieved.

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking

Gunung Leuser Nationalpark trekking - guide Pindra

We saw all kinds of weird insects and some small monkeys, but unfortunately didn’t encounter any orangutans. We did have a great time with the girls though and were sad to see them leave.

Friendship guesthouse Ketambe

 

3 Comments

 

  1. 18/04/2014  14:32 by Antonella Reply

    Dear friends! It was my first experience of traveling outside of Europe and in this week I´ve learned so much of both. It was a great experience. Memories that will remain forever. Violeta, my great friend of so many years, it touched my heart to have been a part of your trip and thanks for the precious moments of NMRK! Eine ganz liebevolle Umarmung an Euch beide. Toll zusammen gefasst Sonja. Frohe Ostern! Frage mich, welche Ostereier Euren Weg kreuzen werden ;).

    • 21/04/2014  12:57 by V Reply

      Liebe Anto, unsere gemeinsame Reise war voller Lachen, Abenteuer, Natur und Begegnungen. Dafür danke ich dir, euch beiden. Es bedeutet mir viel, dass du gekommen bist, um uns zu treffen! Vielen Dank für alles! <3

  2. 21/04/2014  14:13 by Altera Reply

    Mädels, war das schön auf Sumatra!
    Euer Blog ist ein hervorragender Tagebuch-Ersatz...
    Wünsche Euch noch eine großartige Reise und freue mich auf weitere Berichte
    Ganz liebe Grüße Altera.

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