Indonesia - Sumatra & Nias

Trip Start Oct 01, 2011
Trip End Dec 22, 2011

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hello again,

After 2 days in Hong Kong we put our heads down for 2 long days of travel to Northern Sumatra, Indonesia. This included a flight from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur, a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Medan (the capital of Sumatra), a brief overnighter in Medan, a 6 hour mini bus to Parapat on the coast of Lake Toba, and an hour boat ride to Tuk Tuk on the island of Samosir. The mini bus ride was particularly fun (sarcasm) as it was our first experience with the infamous trans-Sumatran highway. The Trans-Sumatran highway is a long, bumpy and winding highway down the island most often navigated by small mini buses excessively packed with locals and in our case, a smelly driver. 

Lake Toba and Palau Samosir are the remains of Mount Toba, a volcano that erupted 75,000 years ago plummeting the world into the last ice age. The lake, island and surrounding mountains were a spectacular area to spend a few days exploring. Lake Toba highlights included exploring the traditional Batak villages, the long journey to the village of Tele overlooking the lake and just relaxing in the village of Tuk Tuk. We also stumbled upon a fantastic western style brunch that we frequented at an adjacent guest house for the wifi, crepes and banana balls (deep fried banana dough....mmhhh).

After Lake Toba in North Sumatra, we loaded another public minibus headed for Sibolga on the west coast of Sumatra on route to Palau Nias. After our last experience with the Trans-Sumatran highway, we were less than enthused for this journey. Although the scenery was beautiful and took us through some of Indonesia's thickest rainforest, the 6 hr drive turned out to be an even more winding, bumpy drive, filled with many nauseous corner accelerations. 

Sibolga is mainly just a jump off point for Nias and doesn't see a lot of westerners. We had not heard great things about the place and were just planning on getting on the first boat to Nias. When we arrived we were greeted by a nice becak (bicycle rickshaw) driver who brought us to the ferry terminal and sat down for diner with us. This slow ride was a hilariously embarrassing experience with a 50+ year old small asian man cycling both of us and our large backpacks at about 5 km/hr all the while half the city watched

We had a great diner with our driver and Tony, a university student who has started an English school in the town. Over diner we learnt all about Tony's school and life in Sumatra. Tony invited us to speak at his class that night but unfortunately we didn't have a chance as we had to board the boat to Nias. Our short time in Sibolga much exceeded our expectations as we had the chance to meet some awesome people. 

An overnight boat ride, 5 hr bus ride, flat tire, and short moto ride later, we were finally at the infamous right hand surf break of Pantai Sorake / Lagundri. (Indonesia is not an easy place to travel over land)

The bay at Lagundri is lined with beautiful beaches and palms with all of the losman (guest houses) directly off the break. This break attracts surfers from around the world and until recently was a stop on the world professional surfing circuit. 

The accommodation setup here is one of the best styles we have ever experienced. Each loseman have their home in the front with a separate two story building out back facing the reef. These waterfront buildings usually have 4-8 rooms with a big outdoor patio equipped with tables, hammocks, books, magazines and a front row seat to world class surfing. Fantastic meals are served right up on the patio on request or to change things up, you can head to one of the many waterfront restaurants. All of this (for two) comes at the steep price of about 350,000 rupia ($40 CAD) per day.

Our first few days at Nias were fairly laid back recovering from the hours of mini bus, moto, plane and boat travel required to get there. We took some time to get to know the surrounding area, lounged on the beach (which we had all 2 km to ourselves), watched some incredible surfing at the main break and practiced our abilities at the smaller beach break. I even paddled out one evening to the main break with one of our Australia friends. Didn't catch any waves on this first paddle but the sunset was spectacular and I got a great view of a few barrels.

On our 4th day, the swells were down a bit (although for beginners were still pretty big!) and we decided to split a day lesson on the main reef break with our host Kristov. Audrey went first and after a few tries, stood up on her first wave. I went second and managed to get a few nice waves throughout the rest of the afternoon. It was Audreys first week ever surfing and my first time on a coral break and we both had an awesome time! 

On our last full day, we took a day trip to the traditional village of Bawomataluo and the surrounding countryside. Most of the day was spend lounging at the refreshing waterfall / swimming hole a short trek from the village. 

Today is our last day in Indo and we are currently on route to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Indonesia remains one of the most beautiful countries we have ever visited. Each village/town/city we visited, we were greeted by friendly faces as curious to learn about us as we were of them. The diverse scenery of mountains, volcanos, islands, beaches and jungles is truly unique.

A few cultural observations from our time in Indonesia:
- No matter where you go, no matter what time of the day, there always seems to be kids walking to or from school.
- Indonesians drive fast. What we don't really understand is what the rush is. Every other aspect of life seems extremely laid back. 
- 'Rubber Time' is a way of life in Indonesia. In essence it means that everything is flexible and susceptible to change. Stops are added, stopes are skipped, unexpected detours take place, boats leave when full. The country travels at it's own pace and it's pointless the resist. If you can't beat them, join them!
- As with much of Asia, technology seems to have been introduced backwards in Indonesia. It is not uncommon to see rural rice growers listening to music or chatting on their mobile phone (lots of blackberry's) while they still live in small huts with no running water and limited access to many basic services.

We are sad to say goodbye to Indonesia and all the friends made along the way, but it is now time to make our way to Malaysia. The amazing people and incredible scenery of Indonesia make it one of the most beautiful countries we have ever traveled. With so much more of the country still to see, I am sure it will not be long before we return.

For a full set of photos from Indonesia, click HERE or copy the link below.

More updates to come soon,
Steve and Audrey
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Alex on

mmm... deep fried bananas....!!!

Dawn on

Beautiful pics guys...sounds like quite the adventure. Paul is trying to figure out how we can drag three kids there. See you this weekend in Penang!

Eric on

So you are headed to a tropical wonderland, while Toronto gets colder and colder. Then you send reminder emails to my work email, to let me know how awesome everything is and you claim to be a "Friend" makes no sense.

What I'm trying to say is TAKE ME WITH YOU.

Chris Frederix on


I lived on Nias on the island ASU for 17 years,had a 5 bungalow losmen on the island near by the surf ,near by pulau Bawa and Hinako. Left after the big quacke (8.4) in 2005. You can always contact me on Facebook. Chris Frederix is the name and my profile pic is the one with 2 cold beers in my hand on a concert ;-)) Bintang ;-)) some nice pics from ASU on it;)) seems that nothing is changed over there on Nias concerning busses,boats ans waiting time....indeed stil "jam karret"...rubbertime bey for now Chris Frederix Hasselt/Belgium/Europ yahowü..

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