We checked out of the hostel and walked down to the bus office. We were headed to Lake Toba. This is the largest and deepest volcanic lake in the world. Formed around 75,000 years ago. Its last eruption put the area into an ice age as the dust cloud blocked the sun. Fortunately its only mildly active producing hot springs on the island.
Bus travel is always an issue. What will the vehicle be like, how many people will be on it, what sort of driver? Today we were in luck. We had a nearly new people carrier with only four of us and a fairly restrained driver. It was at least 7 hours to Danau Toba.
We arrived safe and sound and had a 45 minute wait for the 6pm ferry to the island. Danau Toba is the island and we were staying in Tuk Tuk which is a small peninsula. It was dark when we started the 35 minute crossing. How will we know where to go we thought? No problem the ferry dropped everyone off at individual landing jetties for the hotels.
We were soon settled in our room which was on a small hill overlooking the lake. We had eaten a big lunch on the bus journey so we just popped out and had a couple of beers. Next day we decided on a walk around the peninsula. It was a lovely sunny day and a very pleasant walk. Tuk Tuk has a very small town feel to it. As we walked we bumped into a guy who had been on the ferry. The hotel and restaurant owners ride the ferry and tout for business. This guy had given us a card for his Reggae restaurant. He was sat outside reading a paper as we walked past. 'Something to eat?' he called as we past. 'Not right now' I replied. 'Maybe some weed for later' he retorted. 'Love to, but I understand Indonesian prisons are not the best' I said. He smiled knowingly and we walked on.
We had a beer the night before in a local restaurant. The young lad in there had excitedly shown us his university dissertation on Shakespeare as we were proper English (not like Australians and Americans). We decided to eat there.
On this trip we have been places and seen things which would warrant a trade description inquiry. Not tonight. We both ordered the number one speciality on the specials board, Fish Curry. When it arrived Jill and I looked at each other. On one plate was a pile of rice. On the other a whole fish in a curry sauce. This fish was no athlete. It was skin and bone. Try as we would there was no meat. It did however attract the attention of a local cat which tried every way possible to get on the table to eat it. We smiled sweetly told our host it was lovely and went to the shop for some crisps.
Next day and we decided to head to Tomuk another local village. It was a strange mix. Lots of souvenir stalls next to a local market selling fish and fruit. As we arrived back in Tuk Tuk we were surrounded by 6 local school girls. They wanted us to fill out questionnaires and grade their English. Then they wanted us to go to their hotel to meet their teacher. They kept telling Jill she was the most beautiful woman they had seen. They were very vague about where the hotel was but they persisted and followed us to ours. Along the way they insisted we sing a song. There is something slightly surreal about being surrounded by 6 young girls singing Neil Sedaka's Oh Carol in an Indonesian accent.
That evening we decided against fish curry and went for a rice dish. Next day and another ferry trip back to the main land then a bus trip to Medan. We had booked the same hotel in Medan as our previous visit. The people carrier was full but not too bad. It was only one night in Medan before we flew out the next morning to Penang, Malaysia.
We arrived in Medan in the afternoon. We went for a little walk and stocked up on a few essentials. We needed a new travel plug. Try doing the charades for that in an Indonesian B&Q. The hotel room has a lovely bed and a fab shower. We decided to eat in the hotel and have a relaxing night. We had a beer in the bar before getting changed. The barman remembered us from our last stay. He told us there was an end of Ramadan party in the restaurant tonight but we could still eat there. While we were sat at the bar chatting with him a TV report showing a demonstration in Jakarta came on. 500 people were protesting about the 'Innocence of Muslims' video. Our barman who was about 20 tutted. 'What do you think about that?' I asked. 'It's always the same' he said. 'They are always protesting about something in Jakarta. It will be the same 500 unemployed people. I don't have time for it. I have to work' We think Islam is on the march. More and more I'm thinking it's on the retreat like most organised religions.
We came down to dinner as people were arriving and sat quietly in a corner. There was a buffet meal and a live duo. The women were all middle aged and dressed in bright suits with headscarves on. The men were dressed very western. Just like home the men sat together while the women danced and chatted. It soon became apparent that this was a semi Karaoke night. The ladies kept grabbing the mike off the girl singer and singing their own songs.
We had just finished our dinner when two ladies came over and pulled us up to dance. Time to put away stereotypes. These were a bunch of game girls. They were soon dancing very provocatively jiggling their t*** and thrusting their hips. Next things I've had a microphone put in my hand and been shoved on the stage. Sing a song was the instruction. Oh well there's no one here I know. I did Honky Tonk Woman, Just Seventeen and Unchained Melody including an encore. We were in countless photos. A good night with a very sociable bunch.
In the morning we went to Medan International airport to fly to Penang. Some things are the same the world over. We were flying with Air Asia 'Budget airline of the year' 2010,2011. They won't get our vote for 2012. The on line fare was ok but at check in they wanted another payment for our luggage. That was nearly 30% of the original fare. Not impressed. For the first time on our trip the flight took off early. It only lasted 30 minutes instead of the scheduled 45. So here we are in Malaysia.