Sumatra road-trip, part 3

Once again we are happy to report we didn’t suffer longterm damage from the arduous volcano climb, and after a very rainy evening in Berastagi the next day dawned dry and sunny.

There’s not a whole lot more to do here but to walk up Gundaling Hill for the view of the two nearby volcanos.

The hill is steep but the road to the top slopes gently with long shallow switchbacks, so different from the brutal climb up Mount Sibayak. It was so gentle, in fact, that when we spotted a possible shortcut to the top we took it. I guess we’re getting impatient in our old age.

Near the top we found a good view of Mount Sinabung to the west, a 2475 meter volcano that last erupted in 2014. It’s still considered active and several alerts have been issued more recently. The villages surrounding the volcano have been abandoned. We are, I remind you, in the middle of the Ring of Fire.

To the north is Mount Sibayak, the one we climbed the day before, but we had difficulty finding an unobstructed view.

Jack found an abandoned cafe with a cantilevered patio marginally supported by a liberal use of very long bamboo poles. By leaning way out over the steep slope we could just about get a clear shot of the cleft in the volcano we’d climbed in the dark. My palms sweat even typing this. It’s a height thing.

The top of Gundaling hill is an odd place with three or four vignettes we presumed are for Instagramming your selfies, and dozens of small platforms of various individual designs.

I’m not really sure what it was all about and there were only a couple of other people around. We expected a cafe with a view or an ice cream vendor at the very least but there was none of that. After a few minutes we started back down again, this time taking the long switchback road all the way.

We left Berastagi with Uncle Mike, our driver for the volcano climb, his new car all cleaned up again. The private transport people try to make your drive into a “tour” but we were just interested in getting to our next destination as quickly as possible. The total journey takes most of a day anyway and we didn’t want to prolong it. We did stop for a quick photo op at Sipisopiso Waterfall, a 120-meter single drop and one of Indonesia’s tallest.

The 4-hour drive took us through the mountains, up and down again and again. My stomach flipflopped all day even though I’d taken a Dramamine before we left. I believe I suffered more motion sickness on Sumatra’s roads than I did on ocean passages on the boat.

Finally we got a glimpse of Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world and a welcome sight after a long and uncomfortable drive. The lake is 100 km long, 30 km wide and up to 500 m deep. We’re headed for Samosir Island, which means we’ll be on an island in a lake on an island, or what’s called a recursive island. It’s a thing and you can read more about that here.

It still took a long time to descend from the mountains that ring the lake to the shoreline and the ferry that will take us to the island. The lake is so big that the ferry ride is about 45 minutes to the town of Tuktuk, a tiny peninsula jutting into the lake from the very large Samosir Island.

We couldn’t book our preferred lodging for that night so we grabbed what we could, a rundown, slightly dirty place set back a bit from the lakeshore, but good enough for a long night’s sleep to recover from the journey.

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One Response to Sumatra road-trip, part 3

  1. Jackie

    I have a feeling that this Trip Experience in your life has made Jack more handsome and interesting and YOU are more beautiful as time and traveling goes by..your eternal smile has captivated my love for you…this note is from COUSIN JACKIE from the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico

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