Sunday, May 20, 2012

TIME OUT IN TOBA- Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia


As we left Aceh province, and entered North Sumatra, the churches took over the mosques in number, headscarves disappeared, and charming, old, wooden cottages lined the road. The journey was long to Samosir Island (the island in the middle of the huge Lake Toba), and on arriving in the rain and dark, we learnt the mini buses were no longer running. So close, yet so far! So we stayed in Pangururan for the night (the eastern side of Samosir Island), and legged it the next day to the backpacker haunt of Tuk Tuk.

We knew this had been a popular place for travelers to rest up on long journeys for years, but we had no idea how many hotels/guesthouse/restaurants/shops there are here. If they ever all fill up, it must be a crazy place. Luckily we were here during off season, and it was very quiet and relaxed. Despite all the facilities, it is somehow a still low-key village, with the only downside the desperation of the locals to sell travelers services- one restaurant owner telling us “I have to be friendly to the foreigners, because there are so many restaurants for them to choose from”. Interesting attitude. After one atmospheric, but potentially uncomfortable night in a traditional Batak house, we found the wonderfully tranquil Liberta Guesthouse, and scored the best room with views over the lake for around AU$6 a night.


Our first house, Tuk Tuk



Our first house, Tuk Tuk




Our Liberta hut, Tuk Tuk



View from Liberta hut, Tuk Tuk



Friendly Indonesian tourists



Love the camera!



Local boys guarding their buffalo



75,000 years ago Mount Toba erupted in a colossal explosion that was apparently the biggest event in the history of mankind. One of the results was Danau (Lake) Toba- the world’s largest and deepest crater lake. Tuk Tuk is a large peninsula on the massive Singapore-sized Samosir Island in the middle of the lake.



Dramatic sky, Tuk Tuk



View of Danau Toba with Tuk Tuk in background

Local cutie

Steps, Tuk Tuk




Link to a video of a rare double rainbow around the sun:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUYvcmPUJ-Q&list=UUtLzLjhEbKtTXtrnQfhtTQw&index=2&feature=plcp


North Sumatra is inhabited by the tuak (palm wine) drinking, pork-loving Batak people, and Lake Toba is their heartland, with a very large population. There are gory stories of the Bataks being cannibals in the past, when enemies were rubbed down with garlic, before their flesh was eaten raw and their blood drunk. Obviously, this practice finished when they converted to Christianity 150 years ago. Although churches are ever-present in the North Sumatra area, and every Sunday, everyone dresses up to go to the service, the Bataks still practice their traditional faith and beliefs, including black magic. I love the story, that after Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic powers tried to convert the strongly proud Bataks, they finally accepted Christianity, because it meant they would be able to eat pork, and because the Christians brought lots of big, fat pigs with them!



 Sunday church-goers


Tomb mixing Christian and traditional elements


Stone carving, Ambarita

Ambarita


Ancient tomb site, Tomok



Egyptian influence? King's tomb, Tomok


Stone carvings, Tomok


Old tomb site, Ambarita


Love those pigs!


We alternated between hanging out in the guesthouse garden taking in the sun and the glorious lake view, eating copious amounts of great food (the avocado and chocolate shakes quickly became a firm favorite),and exploring different areas on the island by foot and motorbike- the south road being by far the most scenically stunning. We found the various ancient ruins scattered around the island interesting- many of them related to the king's tombs, meeting places and sites of grisly executions and cannibalism. The village architecture of North Sumatra has strong influence from other parts of Asia- we were particularly surprised at the similarity to the traditional buildings in Sulawesi.



Traditional village, Pulau Samosir




Easy rider



Beautiful scenery around Pulau Samosir




Rice fields, Pulau Samosir

Beautiful scenery around Pulau Samosir



Colorful shawls at market



Curious, Parapat


The time came for us to tear ourselves away from our comfortable abode at Liberta Guesthouse in Tuk Tuk, Lake Toba, and get back on the road. We will be back!

1 comment:

  1. Great report, as always, and very emotional photos. Many thanks, with love from Taipei, Konni & Matt.

    ReplyDelete