Peaceful Volcanic Lake

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Where I stayed
Yosolina guesthouse

Flag of Indonesia  , North Sumatra,
Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day 0 – Transit, Chillies and Around the Island
Had an early start and a long day in the minibus to Lake Toba. Originally had considered stopping in Berastagi first (like the slovinian couple) but decided to do the lake first and Berastagi on the way back. In the end a good thing if for no other reason than the Slovinian couple ended up not being able to get a shuttle to Lake Toba and spent a day doing it by bus.

Had some nice views along the way. Also stopped at berastagi where we could see the volcano in the distance which looked interesting enough to go up. Had lunch here by a roadside stall and it seemed to me that the prices were more than normal. Guessing that this might have to do with the fact that its a public holiday and so many people are out and about in the area.

As we got closer to the lake and started to desend down inside the crater (containing the lake) the views started to get even better. Had some nice views of the lake from up here. at one point we also stopped when the driver needed to have a short break to give his hands a break from the shaking steering wheel.

Once down at the lake we jumped onto the ferry across to the little bit of land (Tuk Tuk) poking out from the island. On the way had one guy come up and talk to me and from previous experience was waiting for him to sell me something, which he did. Basically he wanted me to come along to his guesthouse but I personally dont like being touted like this especially when I just want to relax and take in the views.

Upon getting to the island decided not to follow him and went off looking for a place ourselves. Unfortunatley it was the second day of the two public holidays for ending of Ramadan and the place seemed to be filled with Indonesians on vacation. Am guessing that this is the one time of the year the place is pact.

Tried a couple of place but they were full. Wereoffered to be taken to another place but found this full as well and the one room offered on the other side of the island was unacceptable to the girls. Could also see the guys mind ticking over about how much he could ask for it when he told us the price.

In the end walked to Chillies which was the place the guy touting on the boat was trying to sell. Were originally given a price of 75,000 per person and wanted 75,000 per room which he didnt want to give. In the ned though he gave us a single room for 75,000 for the three of us. Not sure how this was better for him then two rooms for 75,000 but maybe it was something to do with the fact that the room was normally his storeroom and all he had done was put some mattresses down on the floor. While it was comfortable enough found it a bit short since it had been made out of two mattresses place lengthways rather than longways.

It was getting late in the day and for one night this was more than enough for me and the girls were happy enough to let me decide. Besides, could always find another better place the following day even if it meant wasting a morning.

After getting the room headed out for a walk and just missed what look like a really nice sunset. While walking to get something to eat ran into the german couple from Lawang Bukit and found they had manged ot get a decent cheap room but it had taken them a bit of walking around. Something the girls hadnt really wanted to do. Kept walking around the island until we found a place to eat. After a drink and dinner decided to continuing on around the island thinking it was about as far to walk in one direction as the other.

Hadnt really expected the island to be quite so big looking at the map but found it was a bit of a walk back. Interesting enough though with many of the restaurants empty but also a fair few number with a fair few people. Also lots of cars and bikes driving around the island full of indonesians.

Once back at chillies had another beer but barely touched it after having a smoke. Given how tired I was to start with having a smoke with the beer I had with dinner was enough to put me to sleep. Feeling very drowsy. Also at this point he started talk about things to do on the island and possible tours like sailing or biking. Unfortunately, at least for me, he might have gotten a more positive response and interest in what he was saying if my mind was in a better state to think straight.

At Chilies the guy basically had invited some friends over and they were playing guitar and having a sing along. Its just a pity I really have no musical talent or sing and the girls didnt like to sing along either. Was nice to listen too them play and sing though probably would have been better if we had joined in more. On top of that, as I said, I was feeling half alseep.

Interestingly also found it very cold. So cold that I had to get a jumper. Guess that this must be cause of the altitude and all the water. Found that for once I even had a decent blanket on the bed. Remembered Emma complaining about not having a fan in the room when looking at a previous room. She basically had said that a fan, at teh very least, is standard in any indonesian room. Found out that night that this place is probably one of the few exceptional places you really dont need a fan

Ended up calling it a night around 12am which given the long day seemed a lot later than it was.

Day 1 – Lounging Around and Swimming
Had decided to look for a new place to stay which was hopefully closer to the water. After getting up and having a breakfast of avocado on brown bread and coffee headed out to look for a place. Went back to Yosolina's and were lucky enough to find a couple of bungalows there at 60,000 a night. Nice rooms with onsuite and supposedly hot water. Later found that the heater was broken but because of this ended up getting the rooms for 50,000/night.

Had our welcome drink in the bar (passionfruit juice) and then went back to Chilies to get our bags and pay our bill which wasnt all that much. Ended up paying a little more (not taking change) since he had provided a friendly welcome the day before and we wouldnt be staying or planning to spend any money with him on tours or anything else in the following days.

Both I and the girls had decided on a quite day if for no other reason than half the day was already gone due to the need to change rooms. I certainly needed a quite day with all the late nights and nights with poor or little sleep. Definately needed to just veg a day or two. Something I had kept meaning to do but but also something which had never seemed to eventuate.

After getting back to our new rooms the girls went for a swim while I headed out for some internet first since by now had pretty much decided to stay in Indonesia longer before its wet session hit it. Went online to check if changing my flight was an option (based on availability and cost) since 21 days wouldnt give me much time to do anything outside Sumatra. At $30 to change my flight to Vietnam decided to extend my stay in Indonesia. Also decided to cut out Berastagi since I planned to now visit Bromo in Java. Besides time management, decided against Berastagi due to the shuttle price between Berastagi and Lake Toba being double the shuttle price between Berastagi and Medan.

Headed back to the guesthouse where I decided to go for a bit of a swim. Getting in the water was definately a weird experience since unlike most places I swim there was no shock to the body getting in. Normally it takes the body a few minutes to adjust to the change in temperature when I jump in the water. Here it was like a luke warm bath and there was no need to the body to adjust. No shock factor when getting in which was a bit strange.

After making my way past all the weeds near the shore by the landing out to the deep water headed out to a platform which looked like it was used for fishing. Basically it have 4 sides and a hole in the middle with a light. am guuesing the light attracts the fish and a net is used to scoop them up.

From here ended up doing quite a long swim. Swam towards another pontoon near the dock and then went the other way and headed towards the main island before swimming parral to it for a bit toward another dock. At this point turned around to head back through the choppy water. Am guessing it was at least a good 2km swim if not a bit more.

Made it back to shore and spent some time reading my book and just vegging out by the lake. Place gave me a very calm and peaceful vibe.

Also looked at getting bikes to tour round the island the next day but since no one had there license with them we needed 3 guides. Seems the owner was having trouble finding these and so we agreed on a car. Besides it was possible that it might be raining the next day anyway. I am sure bikes would have been more fun and looking back we probably should have walked back to Chillies and seen if he could have found us 3 bike drivers since he had suggested that this would be possible the night before. Guess I was just being lazy and taking the easier option.

By the time sunset was coming around the sky opened up and the rain came pouring down. Ended up waiting for the rain to stop before heading out for dinner. Found that the town seemed a lot quiter than on our previous nights sorjourn and that we had to navigate around some large puddles (lakes) on the road.

Ended the day chatting with the girls over dinner and drinks. Headed back just before midnight but didnt feel like sleeping so for some reason decided to do some reading before calling it a night.

One interesting thing Emma previously mentioned, and which I forgot to, was the fact that Indonesia has only been a country for 60 years. Seems that before that time it was just a collection of island kingdoms with no common language and with each island pretty much having its own language and unique cultural aspects. As a result, Indonesian as a language has also only been around for 60 years or so and is for the most part deirectly derived from the Malaysian language.

Day 2 – Island Tour
Had breakfast at the guesthouse before finding our driver for the day. Very strange fellow. Kept talking about a number of weird things and just seemed a bit weird in general.

Started the day heading to the museum with the king stone table. Seems that at some point in the past someone thought that making a western style stone table with chairs would be a good idea. This museum had a number of traditional houses, the stone table, carvings and some christian tombs located in it. Also had a small museum with a few things and art in the form of egg shells attached to the end of spiky leaves (see photo).

After the museum headed back to the car but the driver had wandered off so I quickly headed down through some markets to the river. Found another crypt and had some nice views towards the lake. Had to hurry along though since the driver was likely to show up soon and I didnt want to keep the girls waiting.

From here continued onto the next stop. Along the way saw quite a few water bufalo and what I assume were christian tombs (assuming land owners family) scattered among the rice fields. Assume they were tombs since they looked similar to the ones on the museum grounds. Also seemed that these little christian tombs/buildings were everywhere.

Arrived at the place with the Batik dancing but it was still to early to get tickets so headed down to the lake. Here we saw a number of people bathing, washing and fishing. After watcing this for a while we wandered back to the little museum outside the dance area which had a few small things in it and one large boat. Once again found some tombs inside.

By now could get a ticket so headed in and checked out the buildings (one with a buffalo) surrounding the dance area. Found the buildings to have some interesting carvings and paintings on them and was wandering what the buffalo was doing there until I read the dance program. Seemed it was to be slaughtered as part of one of the dances. Given that the dance happened daily, three times a day I was assuming this meant figuratively not liturally.

After wandering around a bit sat down and waited for the Batik dance show to start. This performance had a number of dances that were very simple (mostly bopping) and very similar. Also the performers looked bored and were looking around at the crowd or each other and not concentrating very much on the performance or getting involved in it. Guess its to be expected since they perform 3 times a day and are doing it for the few tourists that show up. Best part about the whole show was the music which I though was great. Pity it wasnt possible to get a recording of any of it.

Using the brochure that was given describing the dance I eventually could work out which one they were up to but completely missed identifying the one where they were suppose (at least pretend) to kill the water bufalo. At one point the crowd was invited to join in, which the girls did, but which I declined. Decided to take some photos instead. At the end was also the dance of petition. That is a dance where they were asking the crowd to donate some money to them, which some people (not us) did. They also kept saying Horus which we found out meant many different things such as thank you, good bye and welcome.

From here we continued driving around the island towards the hotspring. Had some nice views of the countryside and lake along the way. Also noted a lot Horus signs around the place now that we were aware of the word.

At the hot springs had a tourist only spring which I think was to give privacy to foriegners in their skimpy bathing suites. Pool was nice enough and hot. As for the privacy, found that we (girls mostly) had an audience on the road above the pool. Could see the mobile phone cameras coming out on occassion.

After an hour our time was up and we headed towards the beach which the driver kept trying to disuade us from. On the wasy stopped at a small roadside restaurant for some nice (if small serve) of BBQ pork. This is a christian area after all so lots of pork around.

Made it down to the beach which was nice enough and full of musluems. As a result the girls couldnt go swimming since they would get stared at (were anyways) in their bathing suites but were kind enough to sit for a while while I did go for a quick swim. After my swim dried off a bit before getting back into the car and heading back to town. Had originally been suppose to go to some markets as well but didnt push it.

After getting back I waited for my laptop to recharge and Emma went for a swim before we both went to use internet. Ended up with a email from Maria about uni so called her to find out what was going on and was told about fathers day so  organised a video call for the day (made sure they had my netbook) if I had time to make one.Headed back to the room from here and then went out for dinner and drinks with the girls and slovinian couple from the orangatun tour who gave me some ideas for the rest of my Indonesia trip. Given it was Emmas last night ended up not calling it a night til about 2am.

Day 3 – Around Island, Not much Around Town
Had a really lovely blue sky morning so headed down to the lake to take in the view and get a few shots.

After the girls got up headed to the bar for breakfast before seeing Emma off to the boat. Had originally said by at the rooms but she managed to just miss the boat due to the time taken to sort out the bill and so she had to wait for the next boat.

After that I had to look at flights, chase up changing degrees and go through the psyc honours handbook to start thinking if this was what I wanted to do next year (ie find a thesis I might be interested in). Decide to wanderback to the restaurant I had previously been frequenting for WIFI (since it was quite) to get this sorted out.

After finishing all that stuff decided to wander into the restaurants garden to have something to eat and to check out the view from the cliff top. Also saw what I think was a humming bird (maybe not) going around the nearby flower bush. Found it a nice quite and peaceful place to just chill.

Had planned to head straight back to my room from here but ended up heading the other way and making my way around the island instead. Along the way had a few people say hello or a quick chat. Also had a few people try to sell me something but in a good natured way. Just felt like taking in the peaceful atmosphere of the place and checking out the locals which included a number of people coming in on boats at different points around the island.

While walking found that there were lots of places to stay around the different parts of the island. Also quite a few indonesian tourists still seemed to be around, though it was a lot quiter than the day we arrived on the island. Am guessing that this place must be really quite during most parts of the year and that I just happened to show up during the few days that it isnt. The surprising thing though is the number of tourist facilities (restaurants, guesthouses) that are around. Either it was once a popular destination or the locals find that even having a few customers a week/month makes it worthwhile for them to keep open a shop front.

While the had started out with blue skies, these had turned grey soon after lunch. By the time I had made my way 3 quarters of the way around it started to rain. Thankfully it was only a dribble since I didnt really want to get caught in another downpour and it stopped soon after starting.

On the last part of the walk headed past some rice paddies where I could see the locals working in the field. Seems like hard work planting all those stalks into the mud.

Once back at the guesthouse decided to try some mushroom tea which was part of the reason for the quite morning. Normally would have had a good nights rest and no alcohol before doing this but unfortunately not to be the case this time.

Found it to be an interesting enough experience. Very much like the San Pedro experience with my awareness seeming to be more intense. Unlike that time though the experience only lasted 3 or so hours unlike the san pedro which was a good 18hrs. This of course may of in part of had something to do with the fact that I only had 2/3 of the tes (smaller dose).

Basically sat by the lake letting my mind wander, watching a guy doing some fishing and just watching the environment around me. Also did a bit of kata and after a couple of hours was feeling a bit more straight. Well maybe. Some of the guys who worked there came down to the river to fish and use it as a bathroom to wash. This showed me I wasnt as straight as I thought since the experience was more intense then normal.

Sat around another 40min before heading back to my room to get rid of something out of my pocket before heading back for a sunset swim. After a short swim through the weeds walked the wall out to the deeper water and swam for a bit as I watched the sun setting. Started to head back just before dark but then the sky opened up and it started to pour. Very interesting experience since the rain hitting my head was colder then the lake water (warm bath temp) I was swimming in. Also found it cool watching the rain hit the lake as I was in it since the a lump of water (like in the science flicks) popped up out of the lake after the rain dropped popped into it and this was happening all around me.

After a while jumped out since my head was getting cold and it was getting darker and went to dry off and hide under the nearby shelter. Here waited watched the rain while waiting for it to ease up. Had the rain causing streamers of water to come running off the roof. Found that the light from the lights was getting trapped in these ribbons and that they looked like neon lights.

Rain didnt seem to be easing much so head back to the room in the rain and waited there. Caught up with Silke and went to help her buy a flight since the web site wouldnt accept her card but unfortunately the airline required the card to be presented at checking so it was a no go. Finished the day off having dinner with Silke and found that having a beer made the mushrooms kick in a little bit one more time. Not no to much though but suggests a shot of vodka with the tea might have been interesting.

Day 4 – Around Island
Was originally considering heading up the hillside of the island but wasnt to sure where the start of the trail was and was just being lazy. Besides, had talked to Maria a couple of days earlier and since everyone was going to be at her place for fathers day she had planned to set up a video conference call. Something I had been trying to Mike to do for a while but had had no luck in getting it done.

After breakfast wandered back to the restaurant where I had been doing WIFI and starting looking at some uni stuff and at flights to get me from Sumatra to Jakarta then onto Kulala Lumpar for my flight to Hanoi. Given the change in plans it was a good thing that I didnt book my flight from Sumatra back to Kuala Lumpar otherwise my plans in Indonesia would have been fixed.

Chatted with the guy there since I had been coming here a fair number of times and found out he was visiting family for the holidays. Seems that he normally works in Medan in IT which was why he was showing so much interest in my bigger then travel size laptop.

Sorted my flights out and found Mike was online so made a video call. Whole family there with my sisters inlaws so chatted for a while. Found Connor was once again asking about whether I would be home for his birthday which didnt seem likely. Also watched him play some guitar which he has started to learn. Chatted for over 30min before ending the call.

From here decided to head to another restaurant where I had lunch and spent a couple of hours blogging. Also considered going for a kayak but would have wanted to go for 2-4hrs and the hourly rate was a bit to high for me.

Didnt do much else for the rest of the day and headed back to the room to crash out for a little bit of the afternoon. Woke up a bit before sunset and wandered down to the water to watch it. Finished of the day going out for dinner with Silke to a nearby restaurant before calling it a night.

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