Ride Overland With Kanchan & Nick

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May 24, 2012

Bad luck begins…Lake Toba

Lake Toba is a huge volcanic crater lake that almost seems like an ocean.  It’s really huge—you can’t see the end of it.  The next day we recovered a bit had a breakfast of banana pancake which would be a staple in Indonesia.  The place we stayed at was cheap and a good surprise from Malaysia, how long would it last?  We decided to go with Sascha and Kerstin for a ride around the Lake and around Tuk-Tuk.  Within 15 minutes of starting, we hit a pothole and eventually looked back to find our back tool tube open with our tools gone!  Then a minute later we realized that our precious I-phone had gone missing as well!  I had sworn that I had seen something that could’ve been the phone on the side of the dirt track so I got off the bike and started hiking down the slope.  I did find the phone on my way down…*whew*….but no sign of the tools.  After 10 minutes or so, Nick made his way down on the bike and I told him to keep going since I was so stressed.  I got down to the road and started to ask the shopkeepers and other locals along the way we had come.  I had the phone with me so I translated into Bahasa Indonesia that we had lost our blue bag of tools.  A few people pointed towards a bike mechanic’s down the street.  Nick ended up at the same place as people had directed him there too.  I’m not sure if those guys had it…I dunno if people thought we needed tools or what.  But after talking to the mechanic guys, they seemed a bit shady even after we offered a reward for the tools.  Eventually some men and women started fighting amongst themselves and we decided we’d better get back to the guesthouse and talk to the owner.  The owner and his son tried to help us but after spending 5 days in Tuk-Tuk, we had no luck.  Someone had to have picked them up…either the mechanics or some random dude.  The same day our damned rear mudguard broke, the next day our air compressor broke as well as both of our sunglasses.  Everyday something seemed to fall apart.  How and why was this happening?  At that point it had been 6 months, so maybe stuff was bound to fall apart now?  Whatever it was bad vibes…bad luck…wear & tear…it drove us crazy!  But we did manage to get in some of the sights.  Driving around Lake Toba was beautiful.  The cool weather, blue sky and beautiful cloud formations made the green mountains seem even more endless and imposing.  The lake itself was like a mirror but seemed to be neverending like the ocean.  It seriously felt like we were on an island surrounded by sea.  The people that live in the Lake Toba area are Batak and are Christians but originally came from Myanmar and were head-hunting tribes.  The culture is different from the other parts of Sumatera including the architecture, like Minangkabau style roofs that soar above the landscape.  The architecture and culture reminded us of Nagaland!

Without any tools or compressor etc, we decided it’d be better for us to head to Medan to see if we could at least get the basics.  On the way our mudguard broke and got caught in rear tire, so we pulled over and strapped it on to one of our bags…we were still not ready to let go of a piece of our bike!  We met up with a friend of a friend that helped us find some tools at some local shops…but on our way we saw an ACE Hardware…it was one of those God moments…beams of light through the rain clouds like a spotlight on the ACE sign, angels singing etc etc…as soon as we walked in we felt waves of familiarity.  Ahh America!  Nick was in tool heaven.  We spent hours upon hours replacing our tool kit.  We had been without tools and air compressor before when we did Ladakh (they were in the service car that was ahead of us by a day or two) but we felt odd without the tools this time.  In Ladakh we were goin with fresh optimism and the bike was absolutely new.  Now we felt hindered, if we saw a dirt road, what if we get a puncture, what if we need to decrease air and then refill?  It was no good, we had to get what we could now so we could do Indonesia without a care.  We found almost everything at ACE and then took our friend  Avi Cheng ho out to dinner.

The next day we headed out to Berastagi.  It was supposed to be a cool, hilly town.  On the way we got absolutely soaked.  Usually when it starts to rain, we pull over and wait it out a bit.  This time we decided to don our never-used ponchos…what a mistake.  It was a crazy downpour.  Eventually we just had to pull over and wait it out.  We waited for about an hour and it started to drizzle so we decided to get back on since it was hitting close to 4pm.  Not only was it raining, but the traffic was decently heavy…if this was the case in Sumatera…what was waiting for us in Java?  As we approached Berastagi, we saw loads of roasted corn vendors and restaurants along the edge of mountains.  It was foggy and chilly, it immediately reminded us of a hill station in India. One of the amazing things about all the islands of Indonesia is the presence of volcanos.  Riding around you’ll randomly find a huge cone of rock or a rainforest covered peak jutting out of the scenery in front of you.  It never gets old!  Berastagi did not disappoint.  We dried off, ate some Italian food (random), and planned the next day.  When it came to volcanos, Berastagi did not disappoint!  We wanted to trek up a bit to Sibayak but found ourselves up against a landslide and bad weather.  Instead we headed back down and took an offroad rocky track past the geothermal plant and found ourselves with great views of the steaming crater.

The next day we rode around to the base of a couple more volcanos, to an awesome waterfall that emptied out into the other side of Lake Toba (it’s really that big!)

We had left a bit late so we had to call it a night in a small, sleepy town.  The accommodation was overpriced for ratty bads and grimy bucket baths.  Finally we decided on one guest house that was giving us a discount.  We wondered why the guest houses were so damn pricey compared to others we had stayed at.  It had become dark so we didn’t notice all the steam coming from behind the losmen (guest houses), shops, and aluminium sided houses along the main road.  Little did we know that at the back was a huge hill of white limestone with hot springs.  Water poured down and filtered into a large pool.  There were also smaller baths where women could bathe in the natural hot spring.  There was a restaurant at the back of our losmen where families came to bathe in and have a nice evening out.  It was also our anniversary, again Nick figured out a bottle of brandy and we raised our glasses.  This time last year, we had celebrated our 1st anniversary and had expected to start our trip that day.  Unfortunately Nick had broken his wrist a few months before.  Everything happens for a reason though and we felt extremely greatful to be in freakin Sumatera together!

The next morning we hiked up the limestone hot spring monstrosity in the back and then headed out.  The day’s drive was a beautiful one, winding through rainforest, green rice paddies, excited school kids waving from their school buildings perched on hills, pomegranate trees, and villages full of bushels of huge cinnamon sticks for sale.  It seems that in Indonesia kids at the age of 8 or 9 learn how to ride scooters.  These little kids are annoying as hell!  They see a big bike and feel their 100cc scooty will be able to outrun us.  Most of the time we let them win…let them feel happy for a day and tell their friends how they outraced this big foreign bike, but sometimes they come too close and it gets too annoying.  So Nick decided to scare the living shit out of them.  As soon as they would get along side and inch up a bit, we’d speed up and get next to them and Nick would yell at them to STOP!  They’d stop behind us, get scared and turn around and speed off in the way they came, looking behind them to make sure we weren’t following.  Mean, we know but after a while, these cheeky little boys will get on your last nerve.  But the cheekiness did not begin and end with little 10 yr old boys…grown men, just actin crazy, wanting to see how their machine held up to a foreign machine would not let off either.  Eventually we arrived at our night halt at Lake Meninjau, another crater lake.  There’s supposed to be a crazy amount of loops(45) down to the lake, thank God we’re on the bike.  After doing Manali and Rohtang Pass on the bike, the second time we went in the car, I was seriously going to get sick.  We ended up staying at a charming Minangkabau style cottage on the shores of the lake.  There was an open aired bathroom and shower which had to be one of the most freedom-inducing feelings ever!

We ended up staying at the lake for a couple of nights and each night we could see the mosque lights twinkling across the lake and the call of Namaz.  It was haunting and definitely one of those sounds that I miss hearing (although most people can’t stand it)

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