Following my first 3 days at Lake Toba, I stayed another 3 days to round out the perfect lakeside retreat. These past few days were filled with more scootering around Samsosir Island (island within Lake Toba), learning more of local Batak living, and lots of relaxing by the lake.
Day 13: scooter adventure day 3
My morning started off on the chill side. I hung out at the hotel, caught up with Joe, and worked on blog stuff.
In the afternoon, I decided to go out for another ride. I didn’t really have a destination this time, but just wanted to explore more of the scenery. Within the first 10 minutes of my ride, my tire blew out. Fortunately, I was close to town and got it fixed quickly. 🙂
After getting my tire fixed, I drove to a part of the island I hadn’t seen before up Mount Toba. The mountain scenery was an interesting change from the coastline. I was surprised by how quickly the temperature dropped. The area I drove through was very remote, with some family farms sprinkled here and there – all of them living without electricity or running water. Although there wasn’t much civilization, the effects of human life were noticeable with the constant smell of burning trash in the air. It was interesting to see how differently these mountain farmers lived.
After about an hour’s drive, I made it to the top of the mountain where there was a nice viewpoint. My hotel was on that peninsula down below. 🙂
By the time I drove back down, it was sunset hour. The mountain looked like heaven.
My evening ended with a nice hearty meal in town and Netflix in my room. I’ve been enjoying my schedule of waking up early and doing things during the day and having “me time” in the evenings, although it does mean I miss out on parties at night. That’s just how I’ve enjoyed traveling this whole year. 🙂
Day 14: scooter adventure day 4 with a guide
The next day started off with an early morning walk around town – there’s a 3 km loop that I’ve enjoyed doing. I stopped by a lakeside restaurant for some breakfast and caught up with my mom.
After 3 days on the scooter, I felt like I had seen all the sites that I could find on my own, so I decided to go with a guide today to get a local’s help. One of the staff members of my hotel offered to take me around, so we hopped on our bikes and took off!
First, we went up another mountain, which was a new part of the island I hadn’t seen yet. Similar to yesterday, there was ample farmland and especially coffee plants everywhere. As a coffee fanatic, I was excited to see the famous Sumatra coffee plants, and I certainly enjoyed drinking it every morning. 🙂
Then, we reached our first site, a small farm that grew Batak peppers. It took ~2.5 hours to get here, and not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed. If this were my first day on the scooter, I would probably be more excited, but since I was already tired of driving, I didn’t think such a long (and bumpy) drive was worth it for these peppers. I snapped some photos and kindly asked if we could find some lunch.
Oh, how food can cure anything! The tour picked up from here after I got over my hangry episode. We had the classic dish of this part of Indonesia – roast pork with pig’s blood sauce. I already tried this in Berastagi, but this one was even tastier!
After lunch, we went to a shop that made and sold handmade traditional Batak garments. I saw people wearing these all over town, and from a glance, they didn’t look that special; but once I saw how they were made, I certainly appreciated them more.
Behind the shop was where all the workers made these garments, all young men and women. They had wooden mechanical machines to help them, but it was still a very manual process. I watched as they stitched line by line of thread on these pieces – so meticulous. They produced 1 garment per day and got paid ~$10 for each garment. Everyone was sweating from working with the heavy machines with no A/C or fan.
One nice girl gave me a weaving tutorial. I learned the basics of the machine and added a few lines to her garment. I usually have a penchant for sewing/knitting/etc, but I have to say, this was really difficult! The designs they produced were intricate, and the machine was a full-body task (including foot pedals). After my lesson, I better appreciated these handmade garments and their price tag.
After my weaving lesson, I told my guide that I wanted to see traditional Batak dancing, and so he did something unconventional…he brought me to a wedding! I double-checked with him that it was ok if I crashed, and he insisted that everyone would be happy to see me. So different from American weddings where you would be crucified for crashing a wedding. 😛
The wedding was full of people from the village – I even saw the owner of my hotel there. Most of the adults were standing around in a circle participating in the rituals, while the children ran around and sat on plastic chairs. Everyone was wearing nice Batak garments like the ones from the weaving shop; those wearing the head crowns meant that they were the family of the bride/groom. The wedding seemed to be organized with one ritual after another.
There was a live band playing traditional Batak music. The music was upbeat and seemed to be centered around the flute, as everyone followed his lead.
We stayed at the wedding for a bit and then headed back to the hotel. After another full day on the bike, I was exhausted. I chilled in the evening and got a wonderful night’s sleep.
Day 15: chill day + island soccer match
My last day at Lake Toba! I wanted nothing more than to relax today. I was driving for 4 days straight on my motorbike and I didn’t really have a chance to relax and do “nothing” yet. And so, that’s what I did all day. I took a walk, hung out with the cats at my hotel, had a long brunch, and chilled by the lake…just what I needed.
In the afternoon, I found out there was a soccer tournament for the whole island, and today was the semi-final match. The village I was staying at was one of the teams, so it was nice to have a team to cheer for. This game was a big deal as it felt like everyone on the island came out – the stands were completely full!
My favorite was this family of chickens who roamed around the field the entire time, with no regard for the soccer players on the field. 😉
In the end, our village team won 2-0! I wish I was around to see the finals next week. What a fun time and unique activity to end my time at Lake Toba.
Day 16: travel day to Medan
The next morning, it was time to say goodbye to the nice family who ran the hotel as well as my furry friends. 6 days at the lake were just blissful, but I felt ready to move on.
I then took the 4.5-hour tourist bus back to Medan (the capital city of Sumatra). I checked into my hotel near the airport and then headed to the airport to buy my plane ticket for tomorrow. I felt like I was in the 80’s buying my plane ticket at the counter. 😛 I just felt more comfortable doing this in person as I always get confused on these budget Asian airline websites. My family always jokes about how I act like an elderly person when it comes to technology.
Then, it was a relaxing evening back at the hotel before my flight tomorrow! Now for some reflection…
As much as I loved my time at Lake Toba, I feel ready to move on. I hyped up Lake Toba in my mind for so long, and while it was amazing in many ways, I was a little disappointed that the island didn’t have many people to interact with. In the end, I spent a lot of time alone. In general, I haven’t met many backpackers in Indonesia yet – most tourists I’ve met in Sumatra have been couples or families, while it seems the backpacker crowd is in Bali. I knew that getting off the backpacker’s trail would mean meeting fewer people, but after 2 weeks, I am starting to feel the effects of spending all this time alone (more than any other country so far).
This whole gap year is about personal growth, and one thing I’m trying to be is more flexible. So with that, I’ve changed my plans for the next few weeks to get back “on the trail.” More on this in a later post. 😉
In the end, I’ll still remember Lake Toba with lots of love. I’ll always remember feeling free on the motorbike, my solo walks around the village, and more. This was such a unique place, unlike anywhere I’ve visited in Southeast Asia based on the scenery and culture. I would consider this a must-do in Sumatra, and I hope more tourists visit to bring the town back to life!