I decided to go to Lake Toba for my August days off based totally on the recommendation of A, whose Indonesian friends had told her of the area’s natural beauty. To be honest, the new guy who works here had suggested it before but I don’t know him like that so I had no idea what his recommendation was worth.
When A suggested it, I did a little research and decided that we had a winner. I made my arrangements a week before I would leave and I was all set.
Lake Toba is located in the north of the island of Sumatra – that’s the same island where Aceh is located. Actually, technically Aceh is located in the northernmost section of the island but since they basically consider themselves separate and independent from Indonesia, Aceh is Aceh and the area below it is north Sumatra. Go figure.
Anyway, Lake Toba is located in north Sumatra. In the middle of the lake, there’s an island called Pulau Samosir. Yes, you read that right – there’s an honest-to-goodness island in the middle of another island. Samosir isn’t a small island like 1 of the Maiden Keys off the Jamaican coast – it’s no sandbar or rocky outcrop. It’s a properly large island with mountains and everything. The entire area was formed by the eruption of a supervolcano tens of thousands of years ago. Lake Toba is actually filling up the volcano’s caldera and the volcanic activity pushed Samosir up out of the caldera and formed an island. Seriously, isn’t nature amazing?
So this area was where I would spend my 4 days off. Getting to Samosir would require a 2 and a half hour plane ride, a 4 hour drive and a 1 hour ferry trip so I decided to leave on Sunday morning instead of my usual Saturday night after classes were done. I booked a 5 am flight to Medan on the last Sunday of August. To get to the airport on time, I left the centre at 2 am. Of course that meant I barely dozed for an hour before I got up again, worried that I’d sleep through my alarm and miss my flight. After a thankfully incident-free ride to the airport (the cabbie drifted off once and I had to wake him up and eye-drive the car from the back seat for the rest of the way), I was off to Medan on time, exhausted after being up for almost 24 hours but happy to be on the way. I slept for the entire 2 and a half hour flight.
When I arrived in Medan, I spent 30 minutes trying to find my driver, who would be my chauffeur and guide for the next 4 days – I’ll call him Pak, which is actually what I called him for the duration of our relationship, since he’s an older gentleman. Eventually we found each other and, after a quick stop for a cup of tea, we set off for the long drive to Lake Toba. I slept for the first 3 hours of the drive but I woke up for the best part – when we got near to the lake and the views started getting beautiful. By the time we got to the ferry, I had found my second wind. Since the car had to go with us across the lake, we would be taking the car ferry, and this would be my first time by that method of transport. As usual, I was excited to experience it.
Still, we had an hour to wait before the ferry left, so I wandered over to a warung by the dock and ordered a nasi goreng to go, which I ate in the car. Afterwards, Pak and I walked around the dock a little, with him telling me things about the lake in Indonesian and me Google translating a good portion of what he was saying. I’m proud to say, though, that I was able to independently understand quite a bit of what he said. After an hour of waiting, the ferry came and we drove aboard, along with other cars, buses and trucks. Then we went to the seating deck at the top of the vessel and spent the ride there. There were 2 sets of kids working a singing hustle and I won’t hesitate to say that eventually their extremely loud singing started getting on my nerves a little but that may have been because I was still pretty tired.
Before I knew it, the hour had passed and we were driving off the ferry and onto Pulau Samosir. By this time, it was just after 3 pm so Pak dropped me off at my hotel with instructions for what time he would pick me up in the morning. I had planned to wander around the area a bit but a heavy tiredness came down on me so I had some gado-gado at my hotel (it was loaded with lettuce and was pretty good) and went to bed at the ridiculously early time of 5:30 pm. I didn’t feel too silly about that, though, since by that time I had been up for about 36 hours.
The day had been long but I had enjoyed my travel process and I was happy with where I was. I was surrounded by beautiful views, I was on an island in the middle of another island, my bed was comfy, my room was clean and my food was rice-free. I had absolutely no complaints.