We spent 4 very relaxing days on Lake Toba. One day, five of us rented a large boat and went “rowing”. The next day, we rented bicycles and rode to the northern end of the island through Batak villages and saying hello to every single child that saw us pass by. Indonesia has to be on of the most smiley and friendly countries I’ve ever been to. Everyone says hello when I pass. Oftentimes, I/we will get stopped dead in our tracks for an English conversation. The majority of conversations go like this:
“Hello miss! My friends and I would like to practice our English with you.”
“Of course; no problem. Hello!”
“What is your name?
“My name is Erin. Your name is? … Nice to meet you.”
“Where are you from miss?”
“I am from America.”
“What are your hobbies?”
“I like to travel, ski and cook.”
“OK miss, thank you! Can you please sign my book? May I have a picture with you?”
And that’s literally every conversation, although now I can say my name and where I’m from in Indonesian, so I do that.
After our long day of bike riding (we probably rode for 25 or 30 miles), we had dinner, watched a local Batak dance performance. Niki’s birthday was the next day, so we ended up celebrating it a day earlier and went to the one bar on the island with a bunch of local guys from our guesthouse, where I probably smoked about 3 cigarettes worth of second-hand smoke and listened to 90s rap.
While in Lake Toba, we added another guy to our group, Koos. He’s really cool – also Dutch and is on his way back to Holland after spending 5.5 years living in Papua doing water projects. It’s really interesting chatting with him about his experiences working for a NGO. Our nightly routine has been playing cards or the game Mafia – we’re always looking to recruit a few more people to make the game more interesting. And the locals every night play songs on the guitar and we all sing along. Their ability to pick up western songs and so quickly is really amazing.
After Lake Toba, we headed to the jungle, to Bukit Lwang. We’re staying right on a river, the other side of the river is a national park. The major activity to do on the river is tubing. So, the first day we got here, we rented tubes and floated down the river for nearly 3 hours. It was a perfect mix of rapids and calm stretches, but just stunningly beautiful and really, really fun. It was my favorite activity that I’ve done thus far. The next day, we went on a full-day trek through the jungle in hopes of seeing orangutans in the wild, as orangutans are now only native to the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. We saw some spiky-haired gray monkeys immediately who got very close to us – at one point I was bending over trying to take a photo and a monkey jumped over my back! About an hour later, we spotted a mother and baby orangutan. And after lunch, yet another mother and baby. It was really, really cool! It was great being so close to them and seeing them in their nature environment. Plus, any sort of monkey or ape is my favorite animal to watch, so I was really happy with our experience.
The next day, we decided to go tubing again – it was so much fun the first day. Tubing is fantastic – you float along and pass water buffalo and women doing laundry and children playing. At one point, 3 buck naked boys come running towards the river and jump in and swim alongside us for a bit. We really got local and starting bathing in the river too. The “shower” in our guesthouse left a lot to be desired and the bathroom constantly reeked, so we took to bathing in the river like the locals. It’s a very efficient, if public, way to bathe. And after a few days playing in the jungle, we headed to a hill town, Berastagi, where tomorrow, we’re going to climb a volcano! Hopefully we’ll actually make it up this time…