Tuesday, November 8, 2011

BIKE IN 5 TOWNS OF EXOTIC SUMATRA ISLAND



When I was in a business trip and family wedding in Sumatra island in October 2011,  then I set a plan to covered 5 towns in 3 Provinces along with my beloved bike. This bike is helpful in every town  I visited, to make me  independent to the host, where I will stay for a while or independent from the public transportation not familiar with me, a new comer in town.

A day before the depart time, I packed my bike by unscrewed the tires, pedals and the saddle. make it easier to put in a taxi to Airport Bus station at Rawamangun, East Jakarta. Pay Rp.20.000 for the taxi and another Rp. 20.000 for airport Bus to Soekarno Hatta International airport of Jakarta. I pushed the cart  to carry my belonging  directly to the ticket counter.

This year a new regulation issued  that the sharp things  should be covered well, not  to jeopardized other bags in the plane. My bike, 2 big parts wrapped automatically by plastic device to be one, pay Rp.35.000,- and made the pack more compact and look nice. A year before, in 2010 the device not yet available. After paid  for another Rp.30.000 for airport service charge, then entered the waiting room full house of passengers of 2 (two) planes fly to Pekanbaru, almost in the same time. 

My next destination is Duri town took another 3 hour drive from Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau province, where the wedding taken place at October 1, 2011. This town well known as the center of Caltex oil company, now own by CPI/Chevron.


The next day, October 30, I set the bike and ready to  pedal to family house and also going to down town at night using blinking lamps,  behind and in front of the bike with  my helm, always ready for safety.

Staying in town for a week with my sick sister, everyday I pedaled  my bike in to the safe compound of oil company housing belong to Chevron/Caltex, just next door to my sister house. Once in a while I went to the main road for internet, ATM and swimming in a Hotel and went to buy a Bus ticket for the next destination, Sibolga town, North Sumatra.

Again, repacking using just 3 keys, 2 L  keys and 1 fixed key carried along the way made packing relatively easy to do and fast, less than an hour.The bike saved in the bottom left side of the Bus Bintang Utara, locked well, along with the bigger bags belong to 50  passengers, fully book. 
Drive around 600 kilometer away  toward west side of Sumatra,  took 11 hours. Aircon Bus start at 9 pm from Duri and reached Sibolga at 8 am. I could take a rest and sleep on the way,  not too exhausted when arrived at destination town.


Step down the Bus at Sibolga town station, drive a motor becak  in a short distance just for Rp. 5.000 to bike shop to set it right for half an hour before going to my own old house pedal the bike, but bags carry by the becak. After took a rest and shower than ready to bike to have lunch and drive to the near beach of nice spots for hunting the sunset in the afternoon

Spend one more days here in the municipality Sibolga town, every movement mostly going by bike before forward to a dream place, Samosir island, Lake Toba.

By design, I preferred to spend the weekend in the island, in the middle of the Lake,  drive a new Mini Bus along the bike over the Bus without additional cost. Not necessarily repacking, but just lay it down up the Bus and tied up tight. Start from Sibolga early morning at 9 am and reach Parapat town, Lake Toba early afternoon, about 1.30 pm after long drive for about 160 km away.

The Bus then forward to Medan, 200 km more from Parapat.The driver advised me to take a short cut before enter Parapat town and poor me, I have to step down the bike, push the bike up the hill road with a heavy back pack in my shoulder,  one kilometer away before going down again toward Ferry harbor at Ajibata. Unfortunately the Ferry just left few meters from the harbor, so clear leaved the harbor slowly. So, I have to wait for the last schedule at 5.15 pm another 3 more hours.

Unfortunately, I got a wrong information in the net and from my friend who visit  Parapat town many times, lived at Medan city, advised me to go to Ferry harbor, that carry passengers with a vehicle. I went to the wrong harbor. Without vehicle I should sail by a regular boats at the other side of the harbor.

Took a rest and coffee for a while after sweating climbing the uphill road, thinking what  to be done  while waiting the last schedule of the Ferry. A man with a bike who sell snack, told me to go to the next harbor 500 meters away, that leaved hourly basis to the island. 

So I pedaled back to the road I am coming, entered the harbor and see 2 boats waiting for the passengers. While I am standing in the bike, a man asking :"Where are you going?", he said."To Tuktuk Siadong", I answered confidently. "Take another boat", he said pointing to the North. "You must go to Tigaraja", a special harbor to Tuktuk in Samosir island. "This boat is going to Tomok", another place in the island.


I climb my bike again in a hot sun until to the bottom of the hill road, pushed the bike slowly with a hevay back pack in my back, sweating. Walking about 5 minutes push the bike up, before drive down the road till to the right harbor, Tigaraja. 

The captain welcomed me aboard,  push my bike alone over the boat without any help from the crews and then saved it  in the lower level, no one passengers seated over there. All  passengers occupied the chairs in upper deck, under the roof or under the blue sky, open space in the back side of the boat facing two side of the blue crystal lake. The passengers dominated by foreign tourists, few local tourists and the the island's citizen.

Step off the boat in the public harbor at Tuktuk Siadong, where women rinsed their shirts and took a bath in open air, in the side of the harbor. Walked along a young couple from Medan for a while, before pedal my bike for about half an hour to find Jek Hotel, I was surfed in the net previously, in lake Toba side.



Along the way passed many restaurants, guest houses and medium Hotels with rate varies  from Rp.75.000,- for 2-3 to Rp. 300.000,- . I preferred the Hotel room at lake side for Rp. 150.000,- (US$15) for 2 beds with hot water. The Hotel also had a special harbor for the boat and a leisure chairs for guests to take a swim in the lake. 

It was a nice spot for hunting sun set and sun rise as well. Travel beyond big holidays, the Hotels almost empty, so we could negotiate. But if we booked by internet, we stick to the rate offer in the net. Don't worry come without booking in advance beyond big holidays.


On Sunday, I joined morning Church service at 10 am, pedal my bike for 3 kilometers in the village. No one coming by bike but by motor bikes or walking. After the service is over, have lunch in a simple shop with local menu, chatted with 3 girls just leaving Sunday service at the same Church, HKBP, in Batak, local  language at Tuktuk Siadong village.

I try another 3 kind of menus in the island, Hotel menu, a restaurant menus and in the Moslem restaurant too, including a Padang restaurant at Pangururan town, capital of Samosir district, 90 minutes by car. The food price relatively very cheap compare to Jakarta, even more for foreign tourists.


Before back to Hotel, with my red bike tour to the west along the big road and stop in several Hotels to compare the rates including  HORAS family Home. He offer Rp.400.000 - Rp. 500.000 equivalent to US$ 40 - 50 for family room for 3 persons. The owner saw me in the morning service in the same church.


I intend to stay longer than 3 nights as planned, but I change my mind, since in the day two, me and a young couple from Medan rent a car to visit most of interesting sites and finished just  in a single day. We visited a traditional house and posed pictures in traditional Batak's custom just like a King. We saw a lots of dance performances where before the last performance, they invited 12 tourists join the dance including me and 3 other Indonesians

Spend 3 nights more than enough to enjoy the environment and knew local people as well, including joint a Sunday service in local language, origin dialogue of Batak Toba that I long to know more. One think special come to my attention, when the rain pour down in the middle of the night, waves hit the rock back and forth in front of my hotel room, felt in a silent mode, turn off the TV set, so peaceful.


By design I longing for  hunting sun set and sun rise, just take a seat under the colorful  umbrella in Lake side. took several shoots. Fortunately, even in a rainy season, still cloud hang over, able catches the best color, using pocket camera 8 mega pixel only.  If  we come in the dry season, April - September, could shoot the best pictures


The time to say good bye to this peaceful island, ready early for the 1st boat waiting in the edge of the harbor of the Hotel, a girl of Hotel staff come down at 8.30 am waved hand to a boat passing by. Easily push my bike over the boat. Slowly move not too far from the shore where Hotels resided and see the passengers waves hand and turn to picked them up in several spots. Then sailed slowly in cool morning air blowing softly, seated in the chair under the blue sky at the back deck of the boat, enjoy spectacular Batak's style building across the shore

Pedal the bike to the main road for 2 kilometers through a little high slope until a Bus station in a restaurant at Parapat town, a town of Lake Toba. It took me more than an hour waiting to catch a mini Bus to the next town, Tarutung, 100 km away to the South.

Late afternoon step down from the Bus and the bike overhead, asking the Hotel location I got the name previously. The Bus driver gave me the wrong direction to the west, to down town. Before going to Hotel, its the right time to fill my empty stomach, enjoyed a plate of spicy fried Kwetiaw noodle in the cross road of down town Tarutung. The noodle shop owner answered my question and pointing out The Hotel I mentioned the name to them

Pedal back to the east of Bus station again, in front of the Hotel a man wonder to see me come with a bike, asking strange question :"What do you want?", he said. "A room", I replied clearly in exhausted condition after long drive and pedal bike. "No more room", he said and pointed another Hotel location more expensive one.


I decided to return to down town where a lots of Hotel available, again pedaled  more than 1 kilometer, where I just eat noodle. Worrisome for my security, I approached a police in duty in a post beside a bridge in the middle of town. "Would you please tell me the save Hotel around ?", I said. He gave me 2 options and I preferred not in downtown but farther away in river side, Bali Hotel. After took a shower and fresh shirt, I am looking for internet house, not too far away to updated my status in Facebook and posted some pictures of Toba lake for the 1st time, to inform my family  the location where I am about.

Spent overnight and wake up early in order to catch up afternoon Bus on my way to the next destination, Sibolga town, expected arrive before night fall. My aim this morning is wish to climb a mountain, designed for prayer, known as Prayer mountain "Salib Kasih", 7 kilometers to the North. 

See the road signs and asking just once in 5 kilometer bike ride, reach the gate.... "Welcome to Salib Kasih".
Before forward up hill, stopped under the gate, a coffee shop owner, Mr.Simanungkalit asked :"Where are you going so early, he said. Before I say something, a young man in motor bike stopped by the coffee shop owner and introduced me. "Situmeang", I said. He extend his hand said :"Situmeang", his face surprised. "Take him up hill", Simanungkalit told him. After locked my bike in the shop, without say a word, we drive at once until the foot hill. I intend to pushed my bike up hill walking the high slope road, but the consequences is, impossible for me forward my journey to the next destination town that day.

He stayed in the foot hill, where he was one of the staff in Salib Kasih fundation, the only one from Situmeang clan, whose our origin ancestors is in Tarutung too.
I climbed up alone up to 550 meters slowly without using iron railing or stopped in the fixed chairs built in the side of the path way. The cool morning under fog around, prevented me from sweating when reach an open Chapel and many tiny Prayer room buildings separated each other far enough not to hear the prayer.

At 10 am come down to the foot hill, felt relieved after say my prayer alone, no one visitor coming. A family  coming before me had left before I climb up. Situmeang drove me back down to the coffee shop. 
After treated him coffee and snacks, after say thanks, say good bye for their kindness. My last year dream come true to visit this Mountain prayer, I could pedal my bike faster 5 km to catch up a Mini Bus to next destination, my home town, Sibolga, in the West coast of Sumatra, in North Sumatra..




Two more towns to go to continue Bike in Exotic Sumatra island, written in two separated Titles in this Blog :
1. Minang Hospitality
2. Met The Angel
Unexpectedly, many comments coming from the friends, friends of friends to appreciated, to praised how nice to have the opportunities spend the long holiday in my senior ages and take bike along. I told them that I didn't bike along the way, but planes, Buses carry my bike around and set them back then pedal wherever the towns I stayed for few days each.

Thanks so much to spend the time to read this unforgotten nice stories.






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