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Tuk-Tuk and Lake Toba

Written on: Wednesday May 7th, 2008

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

If we thought the Sumatran landscape was stunning already, it was nothing compared to the oasis of Lake Toba. We had climbed to over a thousand metres on the bus before catching view of the volcanic island of Samosir that has over the years been climbing out of the centre of the biggest freshwater lake in Asia and the biggest volcanic lake in the world. The lake itself was formed over 80,000 years ago in what scientists have estimated was the single biggest volcanic explosion in the history of the Earth. After the volcano exploded the caldera fell into itself and the basin that remained filled up with the water that you can swim in and boat across today. Wes and I hitchhiked across the island to the tiny tourist town of Tuk-Tuk and the Bagus Bay Homestay. This area of Sumatra is occupied by a mainly Christian tribe known as the Batak people, whose villages and homes are extremely unique. At Bagus Bay for just 30,000 rupiah each (approx ?1.80) Wes and I stayed in a gorgeous, comfortable and spacious wooden Batak house, with its towering timber framed roof and a balcony overlooking the lake itself. I had planned to stay just two days, but on arriving simply knew that this was not going to be possible. What?s more they had a basketball court! Wes and I spent most of our time whiling away the days, socialising with the local people and engaging in their culture (although we drew the line at eating one family?s dog). On our one main day of activity we were joined by an English guy called Richard from Tonbridge in Kent and the three of us walked first to the nearby town of Amburita and then from there tackled the crazy steep walk up to the very top of the island to the hill-top village of Partukongan. A far tougher walk than Gunung Sibayak took its toll on me, and at one point I was glad of the rest that a herd of water-buffalo bathing in a mud-pit blocking our way provided us with. Upon reaching the summit we were rewarded with sublime views of the lake and thankfully a relatively flat walk to the guesthouse of Jenny. Unfortunately Jenny wasn?t home (nor hasty) so the feast we were looking forward to we had to do without and instead make our way back down the hillside the way we had just come. Being so steep though at points the three of us simply ran straight down, unable to stop and praying that at each tight turn we wouldn?t go straight over the edge or lose our footing on a rock somewhere. We arrived back at the bottom in less than half the time it had taken us to get up. We took the lakeside walk back to Tuk-Tuk where a lady asked me as many villagers do ask of tourists ?Where you going?? I?ve learnt to say in reply ?Jalen jalen?, which means ?just walking? but this time I told her we were going back to Tuk-Tuk. ?You help me carry rice? she said. I didn?t see why not thinking that she must just want a bag of rice carried somewhere. She walked me back from the direction we had come and proceeded to tell me how she had hurt our foot and also how happy she was that I had agreed to help her. We reached the house of a neighbour and she beckoned me in to a big lawn covered in matting that in turn was covered in rice. This wasn?t what I expected, but considering there was nothing else to do I shouted up the road to Wes and Richard who were taking pictures to come and join me and for the next hour we heaped all the rice into sacks and then carried the bags back to her house for her. It was actually back-breaking work and to think that the local people, many of them aged do this every day for their livelihoods is quite incredible. As a reward the elderly lady insisted we join her and many of the giggling villagers on her porch for some extremely tasty, sweet coffee. Lake Toba was an extremely difficult place to tear myself away from, especially as Bert and Rachel had just arrived and Ben and Denis were on their way, but time was ticking and I knew I had to push on, so with regret I packed up my bag, left all the others behind and took the boat over to Parapet on the mainland ready for the long drive overnight down to Bukittingi.