Our journey began yesterday in Medan after school which finished early due to Hari Raya Idul Adha starting a day earlier for the Mohomedian Muslims. We got away from school after lunch around 11:30 which was a bonus. We dropped by Pak Pahot’s house so he & his wife could pick up their bag, have a mandi and collect their adored son, Michael. Definitely not in that order! Michael is 18 months old and the apple of their eyes. It is so lovely watching them savouring every minute with him and in particular, his very close relationship with his father.
We left their house around 2pm and from there began our very long drive to Danau Toba. We stopped briefly at a warung close to Pak Pahot’s house to meet a friend of his who would be our driver. Being a very long and demanding drive, it was an excellent decision. The traffic out of Medan was quite congested with the beginning of Idul Adha, the second most important date in the Islamic calendar. It involves animal sacrificing and over the last week we have seen many people selling goats and cows along the side of the road. Today as we drove, we passed many mosques with temporary butchering sites set up out the front.Men were squatting around large tarpaulins cutting up lumps of meat into 1kg portions which will then be distributed to the needy who were sitting on chairs under marquees waiting patiently.
Once we cleared Medan, the traffic improved , yet the roads didn’t. It seemed the closer we got to Danau Toba the narrower and deeper the potholes in the roads! We stopped at various places along the way to enjoy the view. Our first stop was soon after we started the climb up to the edge of the crater in which Danau Toba is situated. There were a bunch of warungs clinging to the side of the cliff looking out over uncleared jungle. Absolutely beautiful yet freezing cold with a brisk wind blowing. Such a shock after the heat of Medan!! Our next stop was Berastagi known as the fuit and vegetable bowl. We dropped into the market briefly and bought a selection of fruit including salak, oranges, mango and mangosteen. With the drop in temperature, while we were buying fruit, Ibu bought Michael a gorgeous red jacket!
Soon after leaving Berastagi, the police presence along the road increased because Jokowi was visiting the area today to visit Mt Sinubung, the volcano that has been erupting and was responsible for the cancelled Bali flights. Suddenly a police car with lights flashing overtook us and waved us off the road. Following behind him was a convoy of vehicles, half police and half government, all with lights flashing or hazard lights on, and that was as close as I got to Jokowi yesterday! How exciting!
Our penultimate stop was again to a bunch of warungs clinging to the side of a cliff. This stop was especially welcome because it was 6pm and my backside was feeling quite numb after the many hours of sitting. It was a beautiful sight looking out over the trees and seeing Danau Toba for the first time while enjoying a hot cup of tea!
No sooner had we resumed driving, it was dusk and within minutes it was pitch black. In some ways this made driving easier because the lights of oncoming vehicles could be seen from afar yet that assumed all vehicles had working lights! The road was so narrow in parts that it was barely wide enough for 2 cars to pass each other. Therefore our driver upon seeing an oncoming vehicle would put his left indicator on to tell themto move over to their left as far as they could. I’m glad I wasn’t driving because I flinched each time we passed trucks and large cars.
What an epic drive! There are two ways to get to Samosir isalnd – by ferry or across a small bridge. Pak Pahot chose the later in case the ferry was held up with Idul Adha committments. Also his sister lives close to the bridge and she had been ringing since mid afternoon tracking our progress. She was cooking dinner for us. Can you imagine in Australia arriving at your sisters home at 11pm and being greeted warmly and then being provided with a meal, even though she has been waiting for over 5 hours? His sister is a year 6 teacher and filmed us eating and chatting so that she could share the experience of hosting us both with her class! Funnily enough, Marg was taking photos for her class! The meal she provided for us was absolutley delicious! Deep fried fish cutlets fresh from Lake Toba and the yummiest sambal and rice. Quite bizarre to be eating so late at night and even though by that time we weren’t hungry, we each had about 3-4 servings! Enak sekali.