lake toba

I doubt I could ever be a Bali boy - but what about a Lake Toba lad?!

I don't remember how I first became aware of Lake Toba. It may have been while I drooled over the 'postcards' that used to be in the back of the SilkAir magazine. Petite, pictorial descriptions of places in SE Asia to which this regional airlines hopped, skipped, and jumped from Singapore. Some years ago I hopped to Kota Kinabalu with my son, Martin - and since then a skip with Barby to Medan (and on up to Lake Toba) has filled my imagination.

First, some geography. If New Zealand is two major islands, boringly named, appearing as a comma on the bottom of the global page, then Indonesia is dozens of major islands, intriguingly named, in the middle of that page - with an asterix and a bracket over here, and a bunch of fullstops and even some underlinings over there. While Bali is part of that underlining in the south, Sumatra is the bracket to the west. And in northern Sumatra we find Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world (twice the size of Lake Taupo), surrounded by solid, steep, green mountains. This is why I have more chance of being a Lake Toba lad. Lakes speak to me of the serenity found in the Creator, while mountains direct me towards His security. I need both at the start of a new year.

Back to Toba. After exchanging a couple of hundred dollars for a couple of million rupiahs, we are on our way. Out of Medan, the tollway empty of cars is soon followed by narrow roads filled with cars. It feels like we are back in Jakarta! But all the more time to enjoy rural Indonesia as we travel through rice paddies, palm oil forests and (Bridgestone) rubber plantations.  We climb up and then descend down into Parapat (the photo above looks up the coastline from Parapat) - and straight onto the ferry. Because inside the lake ('danau' Toba) on this island ('pulau' Sumatra), is another island. Pulau Samosir. This is where we are headed - to the little peninsula of Tuk Tuk.

A little T-shirt geography helps us get the picture...

We wait for 45 minutes on the ferry until it fills. There are sounds - and sights - to enjoy as we wait. A boy band shows up for an impromptu concert of indigenous music, before the hat is passed around. The generosity they provoke is due more to the entrepreneurial spirit than the musicianship.

Then it is 45 minutes across to Tuk Tuk. The peninsula is a succession of little hotels, each with their own pier, and the ferry stops at each and every pier required by its passengers. Our hotel comes into view quickly and soon our leaden, jet-lagged feet are crawling up the steep steps to our room on the top floor. We have a verandah with a view. Watching the ferries come and go, about every hour, becomes one of the week's fascinations.

We are there to rest and to walk and this is what we do, delighting in the way the tiny roads wind up and down and around. Each day we set off in a different direction (after early mornings in the book selected for the week - Philip Jenkins' Jesus Wars, the story of the horrid conflicts in the early centuries that tried to settle the debates around the humanity and divinity of Jesus ... making a rest and a walk each day even more of a necessity).

The people in the area are Batak, a surprisingly large number of whom are Christian and so there are numerous churches in the area. One day we crossed back to Parapat to enjoy the local markets and a walk along the coastline.


red hot chili (and) peppers

Just 200 meters from our hotel there is a little restaurant. The daughter of the owner shares a name with our daughter. This attracts us for a first visit - but the second visit is due to the quality of the fresh fish grilled in front of us. It is the only opportunity I ever get to practice my surgical skills, as flesh is separated neatly from bone in the manner which my surgeon father taught me.

Eventually, the time comes to say goodbye as we head back to work and the full year ahead - trying to look as cool as we possibly can, as we do so.

nice chatting


PS: Can anyone else claim to have swum in both Lake Taupo and Lake Toba within one month of each other (only just, as I think it was exactly one month apart)?


Frank Gray said…
Visited there 48 years ago this week and was impressed by its beauty and vastness. The poinsettias were in bloom and the sky blue. Idyllic!
Paul Windsor said…
Wow - 48 years is a long time ago, Frank.
Glad to stir the memories for you.
A beautiful place... Blessings, Paul

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