Waking up on the shores of the largest lake in South East Asia, I was looking for an adventure. My fellow backpackers told me the scooter, or moto, was the only way to get around the island of Samosir without perpetually waiting for public transportation and despite my desire to take a 'local ' route from point A to point B, this was the way the locals traveled as well. My hands were tied and I was secretly thrilled to test my skills on the Moto: the most notoriously dangerous yet widely used form of transport in Asia.
The woman across the street gave me a crash course on the fundamentals of the Moto, having me drive up and down the street once before she let me take her bike. Thankfully she was distracted by another customer when I gently ran the bike into the curb (whoops). Having a total of ten seconds of riding under my belt, I was ready for the streets of Samosir. The woman reminded me that there was no insurance , ie, I'm responsible for all damages and encouraged me to buy magic mushrooms from her after I returned the bike. Don't be too surprised; magic mushrooms are on the pizzas, in the shakes and are readily available everywhere on Lake Toba. Maybe that's why the people are always singing and dancing . . . I digress .
With my overconfident attitude and uninsured bike, I was on my way. Cruising along a well maintained and straight road, I was on cloud nine. To my left, the hillside of Samosir replete with the shrines of the Batak people. To my right, small villages and fields nestled in snuggly before the shoreline. With the wind in my hair, no set destination in mind and two of my favorite French backpackers sharing the moto in front of me, it was a pure moment of absolute freedom and happiness. This was what all the fuss was about.
Samosir Island, or technically the peninsula, is roughly the size of Singapore and is home to the Batak people. According to Lonely Planet, 'The Bataks were among the most warlike people in Sumatra. . . They were so mistrustful that they did not build or maintain natural paths between villages, or construct bridges.' Cannibalism was practiced until 1816, although it was combined with the Christian faith thanks to German missionaries. Today the Batak people still incorporate animistic beliefs with their Protestant faith and shrines and elaborate graves are found throughout the island. This 'proud, debaucherous Christian people who love a drink' are fascinating to engage in conversation and even more fun to sing along with.
Finding a few of the locals along the side of the road, the French girls and I stopped for a spicy lunch of fish and cola. We came for the food, but stayed for the large groups of older men who were fascinated by our height, blond hair and love of riding fast bikes around their home. Sitting down to lunch with the foreigners, they asked standard questions about why we came to Toba, where we're from and what we think of their country. Stomachs full, we jumped on the bikes and continued toward our final destination - the hot springs.
Two hours later, we hadn't found the hot springs and had run out of gas. Happily we found ourselves on a gravel road just a few kilometers from the nearest gas station and exactly where we wanted to be. In a few short kilometers, the views changed from urban Sumatra to the land before time. Drastic cliffs rising from the lake set the scene. Some were foraged by local woman, others were just on fire. A few weeks before the beginning of the rainy season, these cliffs caught on fire daily and burned until the rains began. Waiting for the liter of gas, we exchanged stories of travel and discussed our hopes for the future. Hopes to see more, to experience the world in a richer way, and to never settle for lives that didn't fit us. Astonished by the natural, harsh beauty surrounding us, we were thankful for the road that brought us here.
All too soon, our motos were refilled and we continued off the hillside. Finally locating the hot springs, we took a quick dip before speeding back to our side of the massive peninsula. We returned to the hostel without incident, and I didn't even wreck my motorbike until the following morning. That's a story for another blog. That afternoon on Lake Toba, we let the day choose our path and were delighted with the outcome. Another reminder that the destination is just that, a destination after a rewarding journey.