Friday, January 14, 2011


What do you have in mind when hear the exotic Sumatra island, especially North Sumatra ? Understandable if your imagination tend to an isolated area, dusty road through the thick jungle ,inhabitant by wild animals, wide rivers as what we imagine about South America or Africa’s countries. Those wrong imagination make the visitors included bikers scare to plan a trip to Sumatra.
                     The writer
 North Sumatra province located in Pacific ocean, bordered with Aceh province that hit and destroyed by the Tsunami at the December 2004 ago. Across the ocean is Nias island, well-known as a paradise for the surfers. And in the west coast, you will find the best area and challenging road for bikers competition. The road is curving and up hill between Sibolga – Tarutung for 66 km length. The road relatively narrow, 2 lines. In the sharp bending location the vehicles have to stop aside to let other cars to pass safely. The Bus or long trucks have to back off in the sharp bending road.

                                                                                     Sibolga sunset

In December 2010 I have an opportunity to spend more than 2 weeks on Christmas holiday, set a plan of biking trip from Sibolga in the west coast of Sumatra through up hill, curving road passing two tunnels, built in Dutch era before 1945

Drive through curving road like a snake, up hill road, deep slope down hill in left side, cliff wall on the right side of the road. The road itself was in a relatively good asphalt since Dutch era, relatively narrow. But lately, the Government gave less attention for maintenance.

My first goal in this trip is to show the people in the area or in the Indonesia as well that senior citizen or veterans are not incapable to do the tough, challenge works, just like biking  66 km through up hill roads, like myself. The second goals is to know more about my root, Situmeang family, my ancestor's origin coming from Tarutung, the destination town.
The last purpose is to kept a legend, a special memory. tale to tell the people in my birth place for the rest of their life that a senior 66 years of age, still capable to bike that far.

        Two solid rock tunnels in Dutch era

Since no rent a bike in Sibolga town, I decide to take my bike along with me by air. My mountain bike just 12 kg, so I had 13 kg spare for other kinds to carry along without overweight charges. But I had to unbolt and pack the bike properly.

The schedule set on Monday, Dec 27, 2010 at 9.30 on cloudy sky after heavy rain the night  before till dawn. That was why I start late morning. Eager to pedal faster, but in the first 2 km are extremely sharp hill, forced me to step down the saddle, walk slowly. And  in every nice locations, nice panoramas, I spent a while to shot the pictures with blue sea panorama or a genuine, thick green forest as a background.
In this trip, my back pack carry in motor bike by my friend, Mr.Simbolon to lighting my burden.

We had to stop for a while to let several Buses, trucks up and down passed 2 solid rock tunnels. The tunnels built by Dutch colonial before 2nd WW and continue by Japan. A lots of local workers died, forced them to work too hard. Many descendants of  the workers still alive as a witness of Dutch and Japan soldiers brutality.

      The tunnels nowadays

After up hill 10 kilometer is over, then facing down hill to speed up the bike before stop for a while in my village, 23 km out of Sibolga town. The villagers knew me well, most of them were my close  relatives, and I was born here. Surely this biking will kept in their memory for the rest of their life and become a legend  tale to tell my descendants when they visit this village someday.

A fruit seller, sweet duku called me "Mr.Hutabarat", who coming from Barat (Westerners), since a lot of white bikers passed this challenge road. I pay Rp. 10.000,- equivalent US$ 11 for a bag of sweet dukuh. My father had the trees when I was a kid. While pedaling I eat directly  on to my mouth, not necessarily to cut or washing it before.

Almost half a way, we stop by for late lunch. Unfortunately we have to wait for sometime , almost an hour to cook the meal just for both of us. While waiting for cook done, luckily, in front of the shop I meet the same family name with me “Situmeang”. You wouldn’t believe it when a man 80 years said :” I know your father well and know about your history”, he said in amusing tone. Then he continue :”We trade rubber  here and your father  well-known as a sincere in trading, differ from other businessman”, he said seriously. Of course I agree with  his statement

Late lunch and talking finished at 2.30 pm and my escort return to starting point Sibolga. Now I am on my own with additional back pack burden, make my feet slower to reach next stop, Adiankoting. Unfortunately, the rain drop lightly, indicate that will last longer. True, the rain almost stop 2 hours later, when I start at 6.30 pm after have a meal at an old Padang restaurant, I was accustomed stop by here when I was a kid. The village is 41 kilometers now or 25 kilometer to go.

Along the way many children shouting loudly say :"Good morning Sir" even it is late in the afternoon. Some say :"Inggris" or British man. A women called me "Mr.Hutabarat, means man from Barat or westenrer. Occasionally many westerners passed this challenging road with a special/multicolor shirts, helms, sun glasses, gloves and others attractive thinks. It seem no Indonesian dare to try this kind of tour.

They call me the similar callings, since I used multicolor shirt, sun glasses, gloves, helm and  a back pack. Some of the children run along my side with shout out loud. They didn't notice that I am originally coming from this area as well.

It was cold and tired, I can’t think clearly, I neglected that I had no light to go forward when the dark coming  down so soon. No anticipation, suddenly I faced a dark after the rain. I plow the bike slowly too. The only light available is a white line in the middle of the asphalt road. But in some places the lines disappeared and I have to step down walking slowly. Another light available are two hand phones light just able to lighting few meters forward. A left hand hold the light and the right hand ready for brake in downhill road ahead.

My mind still to concentrated, committed on my destination not too far away, just 15 km and determinate my mind and soul to reach it tonight. Never in my life facing dark night in the middle of the jungle alone, I determine to reach it in whatever condition is. Sometime I step down to muddy water in the side of the road to let the cars pass me by.

When the vehicle passed me, I took the opportunities to pedal faster, but its not long then dark come down again. When the road up hill,  I have to step down and put my back pack over the stir handle to lighting the burden.

Enter Lobupining village, the places well known as Christian Germany assassination, I met two boys and asking help :”May I pay your flash light”, I said. Hesitately a boy answered: “I am so sorry, this is belong to other people”, he said and pointing to a small shop who sell gas lighters included flash light. He said “If this is mine I will give it to you for free” and told me :”Just tied up 3 lighters and will shine your way", they said. “Thanks so much”, I said to these honest young villagers.

Just few minutes I entered a tiny shop and a lots of men look amazed to see me using a helm just like an alien out of the shop, curiously asking :"Where do yo going?". "To Tarutung", I said politely, a town that 15 kilo
meters away. They said in unison :"Why don't you stay overnight". It was surprised to me to hear the kind offer from a villager. "Where do I supposed to stay", I asked in confusing. "In my house", one of them without hesitate offer his house.

This attitude wondered me, how kind the villagers are differ from what I think about villagers so far. But amazingly, they prefer not to decide something before asking other families that closer to my family name by saying :"Please take a walk few meters to Situmeang family house" they said pointing to the north. They let me go to a house belong to Situmeang too.Let them consider the best for me, stay or let me continue my journey, 15 kilometers ahead.

To make the story short, the Situmeang family advice me to kept the bike at their home and stop me a Bus to town to have a rest and come back in the morning to pick up the bike.
I owe 15 kilometers before the destination town, Tarutung. But reach 51 kilometers of 66 kilometers mean  77% of my commitment, make my heart satisfied and Praised God He allow me, a senior man pedaled a hard road. I dream one day I will return and spend few days at Tarutung and Sidikkalang for interesting destinations to see. Hopefully.

After exhausted  a day pedal, I return to the start point  Sibolga  by a small Bus just for Rp. 20.000 or US$ 20  for 66 kilometers and put the bike overhead without additional costs except the token tip to the driver.
Along the way, I had a crazy idea, dreaming that one day the bending and up/down road would be arrange to be bike championship area as TOUR de PARIS and shot from the air by CNN to saw the word the beautiful Sibolga panoramas that local citizen always called Sibolga as Sibolga Nauli or Tapian Nauli. Nauli means beautiful.

Fortunately to say at the end of year 2010 was a last period of Regent  head of Sibolga district and early 2011 will election for a new Region head. My family, Bonaran Situmeang, a Jakarta lawyer, elected as a new regent head.He called me grandfather from our Family tree point of view. Hopefully this plan will execute when he is in the office next June 2011.

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