August 2001

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August, 7     TOP
Written at July, 25 and sent by   Air Mail

after writing the last entry, rebecca and i went to have some late lunch. at the end I had her lunch as well, she didn't like it that much.
later on rebecca, sam and i went to the kek lok si temple close to penang hill. it's a very interesting temple and we spent quite a while there, climbing up the pagoda and having a look round. at the end we skipped the idea going up penang hill. it was just too misty. i think there is something about me and hills....
that evening lisa, rebecca, sam and i went for dinner. i only had my teh susu (tea with milk), still too stuffed from the late lunch i had. it was an early night because lisa, rebecca and i had to get up early next morning to catch the ferry to medan.

god, this aircon was just fucking cold. i mean, you are sitting on this ferry and feel like you're in the middle of winter. so getting outside was the best idea and getting some hot tea as well. on the ferry we met edith and konstanz, mother and son from switzerland. they are on their way to bukit lawang to work there as volunteers at the orang utan rehabilitation centre. so i might meet up with them again in bukit lawang.
rebecca and lisa were going to lake toba, so medan was our last night together. although there was the plan to meet up again in bukit lawang after a week.
arriving late afternoon in medan the first thing to do after finding a place to stay was getting some money. uuuh, i'm the bad one. i had to negotiate the exchange rate and the money changer didn't like me for that. we got a fair price but i was the bad one for him, telling rebecca and lisa how nice and beautiful they were and ignoring me! but who cares.
later on, having dinner, i met ali again whom i've met before in koh kong, cambidia. it was a late night, sitting up with a bunch of people. i was really looking forward to a good sleep. i mean it started alright. but about 3.30am i was woken up by lisa screaming. there were heaps of cockroaches actually diving for her.
at the end lee got up starting to squash them. it took some time to get rid of them. but then after it just went quiet again for 15 min the praying started from the minarett. the mosque was just across the street - great. i mean, i don't mind people praying but do they have to do it at 4.30am and so loud?! anyway, there was not a lot of sleep left for that night.

next morning abe, lee, rebecca and lisa left for lake toba. i tried to do some e-mailing but was not very lucky with it.
so in the afternoon i left for bukit lawang. i had a look at a lot of guesthouses but either they looked quite rotten or were too expensive. at the end two girls told me that there was another guesthouse out of the village, a bit of a hike to get there, but set in the jungle close to the bohorok river. that sounded good to me.
during my walk through the village i met edith and konstanz again and we agreed to meet up later again. at the end i figured out there was no way doing it that evening. it was really a bit of a hike on a very small path and i just thought i got lost when ivona and amin come and told me to walk on. i didn'n get to the place the two girls mentioned but i found a wonderful place to stay. there were only two bungalows or i might better say huts and a small restaurant. it definitely looked like the place i would love to stay for a bit longer. so i got my hut with my own mandi (bathroom), using the toilet you could watch the sky, from the bed you looked out of the windows (actually without glass or anything else) into trees...... and you didn't even had to miss company - there were always some ants, mossies, spiders or frogs around (sometimes on the bed as well). sometimes during the time i stayed there i was thinking of putting up a sign - out of insects! anyway i didn't want to walk back to the village and on the other end it's not so big so there would be a chance to meet edith and konstanz again the next day.
that evening i met pavel and his friend who do a documentary about ivonas work and the wildlife in indonesia. "like all czech people" they like their drinks. so i had my first kamput, a kind of papaya brandy (would be something for karsten - quite sweet).

the next morning (july 14th) i decided to go and see the gua kamput (batcave). on the way i met edith and konstanz, as i thought bukit lawang is not very big. we had tea together and then decided that i would take konstanz with me to the cave. at the end it was three of us going. antol, one of the locals, edith and konstanz had met a couple of years ago, came with us as a guide. it was a nice walk up there, through rubber plantations and banana plantations and the cave was worth going. it's not a tricky cave but with someone knowing the way to walk through is much better. there were a lot of bats and swallows inside and we spent about three hours there. afterwards antol showed me his shop. he's doing coconut carving and offered me to come around and try myself.
that afternoon i tried to have a conversation with pavel. very tricky. he doesn't speak english but speaks fluently spanish. at the end it was a mix out of czech, spanish, english and german. as ivona told me later, his friend had left that morning without a translator. he got completely pissed that afternoon and i was the only one around he could talk to. i actually felt really sorry for him.
later that evening ivona, the boys (all the guys working at tengger) and i went to ariko (ariko inn). funny bunch of people around there, gerrit, veronica, martin... it was really nice but after having a few beers during the afternoon i was really tired and left early.

on sunday there was a market in bohorok, about half an hour by bus from bukit lawang. i asked edith to come along but she didn't want to leave konstanz alone. so i went on my own.
it was a very small market and i couldn't get what i was looking for - new sandals. mine were broken off everywhere and i really needed new ones. the only thing i got was a sarong (malaysian national dress, piece of fabric wound around the body) for edith. the way back was a bit weird. i was sitting in the front, half on the drivers seat, the gearstick between my legs. just to be on the safe side (i'm not trusting men) i put my bag between my legs - i think that was a good idea because the way the driver was shifting gears was a bit different then usual, a bit touchy.
in the afternoon acen (one of the boys) and i had one of our indonesian/english lessons. my indonesian is getting better but still very far away from having conversation.
later i went over to ariko to meet the others and have something for dinner. of course it started raining on my way back and i was nearly soaked. but who cares....

on monday i went down to the village to meet up with antol. of course he wasn't around but he left me a message where to find him. so we had a cup of tea first with edith and konstanz and then went back including konstanz who wanted to built a marimba out of bamboo.
antol explained me what to do with my piece of coconut and after three hours sawing, filing and carving i had a new necklace. it's a bit more tricky than working with wood, but i enjoyed sitting there working on my piece, chatting with people and at the end i was quite proud of myself.
meanwhile antol and konstanz went to get some bamboo. at the end we had a big session with bongos, bamboos and an instrument antol had built out of one bamboostick. a lot of people were joining in, locals and tourists. that day edith and i started negotiating prices with rolan, antol's brother, over three of his paintings. i nearly forgot the time, having a great time in the village, so i had to hurry to get back before it got too dark and started raining again. i just made it right in time. for dinner we had fish, grilled over open fire - jummy! and kamput again.

tuesday 17th i went for breakfast to ariko. gerrit, veronica, martin, will and jenny wanted to climb up to the panorama view with the boys and asked me to join in. of course with such a big group it always takes ages till you get started. so we climbed up around lunchtime, in the main heat. god, what a climb, bloody steep - i should give up smoking. the view was nice but not as fascinating as i expected. but it still was worth climbing up then. i'm never sure what is more difficult, the ascent or the descent. i mean you're very exhausted climbing up, sometimes loosing the grip and sliding back, but getting down you have to watch every step more carefully, otherwise you're sliding down too fast.
later that afternoon i went down to the village, waiting at the busstation for lisa and rebecca to arrive. i was glad i had taken my book with me, the bus was a bit late. both of them were not in the best mood, lisa had some bad experience with the police at lake toba and rebecca had burned her leg on a motorbike and was limping. it took us a bit to find the right place to stay for them, but afterwards we went for dinner and they told me their stories. we made some plans for the next day and at the end it was very late when i started walking back (never leave your place without a torch). i actually walked straight to ariko. it was martin's last night and i wanted to say good bye.
there was a big session going on with a lot of "jungle juice" (wodka with juice and fruits). i couldn't really join in because the next day i wanted to go to the orang utan feeding with lisa and rebecca, which means getting up early (i need my proper mandi (shower or bath) in the morning and my tea).
August, 9     TOP
Written at July, 28 and sent by   Air Mail

wednesday, july 18, i got up early. lisa, rebecca and i wanted to meet at the boat to go to the orang utan feeding. arriving early i had still time for my teh susu.
when lisa and rebecca arrived we went for the boat to get to the rehabilitation centre. a bit tricky to get rebecca into the boat and out of it again. anyway we had to wait a bit outside the gate, watching some orang utans and makaques playing around and fighting over some bananas. then we had to walk up to the feeding platform and waited for the orang utans to arrive.
the orang utans coming for the feeding are semi-wild and get fed with milk twice a day. at the end there were two females with their babies and one male coming. i'm not sure what i think about this all, i mean it's made as an tourist attraction now, for a lot of people the only way to see an orang utan, but still it feels a bit weird to sit there with a lot of people for an hour and watching this.
afterwards we went to the jungle inn for breakfast, joined by edith & konstanz. they serve a strange kind of tea. actually you nearly have to search for the water between all the herbs.
lisa and rebecca wanted to have a little rest and i met martin and veronica who were on the way to the busstation. so i joined them saying good bye to martin. i felt so sorry for him being really sad to leave. i couldn't wait all the time till the bus arrived because i said i would meet up with lisa and rebecca again.
the rest of the day the three of us spent walking around the village, watching a movie and so on. i didn't stay for dinner, not wanting to walk on the path in the dark again. so this time it was a true good bye because the two were leaving the next morning.
like most evenings i walked to ariko but without martin it was a bit different. i had a talk with erwin and decided to go with him on a jungle trek the next morning.

so i got up early to have a good breakfast that would keep me going for a while. at 9am we could start our trek (you always have to wait for the end of the orang utan feeding as it seems). first i thought we would walk in a small group but then we took another turn so it was just the two of us what i really appreciated. we still met quite a lot of tour groups, some of them shouting and singing loud (you may ask why they went on a jungle trek), but most of the time we were on our own. if you walk quietly you can hear all the different sounds - gibbons, hornbills, peacocks.... - it smells great and it's a lot to see. erwin was a really good guide, explaining a lot about the plants, animals and so. we saw two semi-wild orang utans and sat down in a distance just to watch one of them.
one place we went to is called "panorama julia" because one of the orang utans called julia used to come to that spot.
we had a lunchbreak at a small river. erwin had brought a huge lunch for us and i must say i was very hungry after all that climbing up and down. sometimes it was more like abseiling (rope down?), instead of a rope using lianas.
at the end we got back to the bohorok river close to ariko. because of all the rain the days before it was waist high. being wet anyway and very hot we went for a swim and then walked back to tengger. i was quite exhausted so went for a nap - erwin later told me he did the same, although he's much more used to it.
in the evening i went again to ariko for dinner. nasir, the owner, took veronica and me to a healer, because he needed some medicine. it was the father of selaman and nias, whom i had met a few days ago. veronica and i were greeted as their kakas (big sisters) and we spent some time there. the father is a fisherman and healer and they've got five children. it's a very nice family and i enjoyed sitting there and talking with them.

friday is market in bukit lawang. edith, konstanz, antol and rolan waited for me to go to the market together. it's an interesting mixture, fruits and vegies, meat, food stalls, second hand clothers and shoes! so another chance to get new sandals and this time i was lucky. i found a pair very comfy leather-sandals. it was fun, looking around, bargaining although i still couldn't find a shirt with long sleeves i liked.
i stayed in the village at antol's and rolan's place till about 3pm, playing with a little boy, chatting, watching people, trying to fix a price for rolan's paintings - being happy to be alive and to be in this place with these people.
from the village i walked straight to ariko to meet with veronica. wonderful afternoon, trying to do some acrobatics together with atun. the girls come around and we were just playing together, doing things like "huepfkaestchen" ("heaven and hell" or "hopscotch". jump on fields, marked with chalk on the floor) and so on. it was just fun.
at tengger the boys were grilling fish again, we had our kamput and "whiskey" and sat up very late at night - thunder and lightning over the jungle, rain dripping on the roof, very cosy.

saturday was not a good day for me, i felt that was something wrong with me and it was not a hangover. i decided to wait and see and not doing a lot. so i spent the day at tengger, reading and relaxing. just a walk to ariko for dinner, but i didn't stay long, really didn't feel good at all.

the next day i felt a bit better but still something was wrong with me so i decided to leave the next day to go to medan to a hospital. that day was filled with a lot good byes, something i really don't like. i felt very much at home in this place and it's never easy to leave a place you really like. but i'll take something home from here. rolan, edith and i did find a price for the painting everyone of us could agree on. edith will take mine back home with her and send it to dortmund.
that evening we had fish again, a lot of drinks and talks. veronica, jochen and gerrit came around as well and it was a nice evening. weird feeling to leave the next day.

so monday, july 23rd was the day for going back to medan. i had a long talk with ivona about her work and that she's looking for an assistant and i will think about this for myself. might come back next year and work with her.
on the way to the busstation there were more good byes. bah! i took the public bus to go to medan, the tourist bus might be a bit faster and brings you into the centre but therefor it costs almost tentimes the price you pay on the public bus.
in medan i got of course ripped of getting to the centre - something new to learn.
i checked out some of the guesthouses being not really keen on going back to zakia (noisy hotel) after the last experience there. but of course you can't do this on your own, especially as a woman, there's always a "guide" coming from nowhere. he took me to some other places - at the end i had two huge blisters under my food and was back in zakia! but the nice thing was that i met emanuele again.
so we spent the afternoon together walking around to find the best place to change money. because indonesia got a new president that day, the dollar dropped down and the exchange rate was not that good anymore. but than for the indonesians this is good and i'm really interested in what will happen the next months. that evening emanuele and i tried to explain to iwan ("my guide") that europe is not a horrible place and that it is quite nice to live there, just different from indonesia. sometimes i wonder where people get their ideas from.

anyway, there was still something about going to hospital, so early next morning i took my first trishaw to get to it. very sorrow examination to find out nothing wrong with me, still dosn't know what happened the last days. but then as long as everything is alright i don't bother.
from there i walked to the australian consulate to check if my visa is still valid. it is, great, so i don't have to spend money on it.
i thought i might walk back to my place but then i was followed all the time by a guy who wanted to be "my friend". he just didn't get the point. at the end i had to be quite rude to get rid of him. sometimes it doesn't work when you are polite.
in the afternoon i met up with reza, i had promised to ring him up when i'm in medan. so we were exchanging gossip from ariko and bukit lawang. and having an indonesian guy to sit with you scares the other away (iwan was hanging around all the time).
later i went for the internet but was a bit to tired to finish my diary, so thought doing that the next morning. i had dinner with emanuele but we didn't sit up long instead had an early night.

july 25th, the day to leave medan, but first i had to go to finish my diary - i thought. because we had to wait till the internetcafe would open emanuele and i went for some breakfast (rice and vegetables as usual). then i started writing my entry and after a few pages the system crashed down. so once again just for another crash down - no way trying it again. that means going back to handwriting and posting letters - there won't be internet in the next few weeks.
on the way to get my bus to berastagi i bumped into iwan again (wherever i go he is close, i actually had a hard time to explain to him that i don't want to take him as a guide with me. "but then i can look after you!" - that was absolutely the wrong thing to tell me! so he brought me to my bus and told me he would come to berastagi himself - i hope he won't. sitting in that crowded local bus (how many people can you get on one seat?!) i hoped he got my message.
anyway i got to latersia (latersia cottage), a place to stay veronica and nasir had recommended. lunch was waiting for me. i just arrived at the night time. funny thing was, that i was asked if i'm the german who stayed at ariko. nasir had told them i would come. i didn't do a lot the rest of the day, with my foot still sore i was not very interested in walking at all.

the next morning i walked down to berastagi for breakfast and to go to the fruitmarket. i wanted some fruits (oranges & bananas like always) and a fleece. bugger, it does get very cold here during nighttime and all my warm clothes are either in bangkok or tasmania. that afternoon i started writing my diary, read a bit, had some lunch and was really annoyed about my blisters. you can't climb a vulcano with something like this under your feet.
later atun arrived - why did i leave bukit lawang, just seeing the people again in other places. but it was nice, sitting and getting the latest gossip from ariko and tengger. as it seems everyone has left that place now, pavel went to krakatau with amin, veronica and gerrit to penang....

friday was a day of changes. it started like always, i had my breakfast in town, then walked back to latersia, finished my diary (1. part), walked back to town to go to the postoffice and was just on my way back up when i met melda and adriana. they are both englishteachers and asked me if i would mind coming with them to their courses to give their students some practise in conversation. of course i didn't mind, so i walked back to latersia to bring my shopping back and returned an hour later.
we took the bus to kabanjahe and i spent the whole afternoon answering questions of all the students. it was really fun, very enjoyable afternoon. some of the students were very shy but some very outgoing. especially the last class, four gils at the age of 16/17 who were asking me a lot about myself.
so when adriana asked me later if i would like to come to another course thr next day i said yes. that night i met mathias from switzerland and we had a very nice talk, later sitting outside having bbq on a bonfire.

the next morning was very quit, nearly everyone was going out and i had time to start with the second part of my diary (the one i'm still writing now). before meeting adriana i had lunch in town with eireen and bronti, who were staying in latersia as well. then adriana and i went to kabanjahe. on the way we stopped at a wedding of a friend of hers. the first time i saw the traditional dresses and of course without having a camera with me.
in kabanjahe i met malim, another englishteacher, but only one of adrianas students. so we sat outside and just had a chat. adriana bought me a bunch of flowers on the market as a thank you and then we went back to berastagi. it was a nice afternoon and i like adriana very much. she is very open and invested in a lot of things. she invited me to go out the next day - no idea whereto, but then i like surprises. it was a lazy evening, watching movies, rene (eva's son - she is the owner of latersia) falling asleep in my arms, so i had to put him to bed.
i didn't go to bed as early as usual and at the end i had a quite late night, because mathias knocked on my door and we sat in my room talking a lot till i had problems to stay awake.

wow, i can't believe i actually get to sunday, 29th july - yesterday! i had breakfast with mathias and then walked down to meet with adriana. melda wanted to come as well, so we waited for a while for her and then walked to her place. she was still at the church so we waited at her place.
finally we could go on our way a friend of melda joining us as well. i still didn't know where we would go to. we took the bus and ended in a small village. basam is a karo batak village where they had their kerja tahun, an annual festival (work year - festivity in which karonese city dwellers come to visit their relatives in rural areas to show their solidarity to do chores). there was music and dancing and you go to different families who invite you to some sticky rice and food. i had sticky rice before but they have got different ways of making it. one was cooked in alcohol, it tasted a bit like red wine, and the other was made with coconut and brown sugar.
we watched for a while the dancing and singing till someone said now it would be our turn. nobody had told me that before, i mean getting up that stage and dancing in front of all these people, me, the only foreigner. but no way out. someone gave me a sarong and then we had to dance. actually it was quite funny, none of us really knowing what to do. without that i had been a special attraction already, usually there aren't any foreigners coming to that village. afterwards a lot of people were smiling or laughing at me.
later we went down to a farm of one of adrianas friends, picking some oranges and tomatoes. i had a great time but was still a bit tired (not enough sleep) so i wasn't unhappy when we left in the afternoon. adriana walked up with me to latersia and stayed there for a while. when she left she told me she would come around the next day to say good bye. after she had left i went for a little nap. the evening was very quiet. i just read a bit and then went to bed.

so, this morning i've spent finishing this part of my diary. now i can go down to the town and post another letter away. this will be my last day in berastagi. tomorrow i'll leave for tongging, a small village close to lake toba.
August, 11     TOP

(30.07.) after finishing my last part of the diary i went down to the post office, walked to the market but didn't spend to much time there. a lot of people told me that berastagi has got one of the best markets, might be, but it stank so badly i had to leave (i'll never get used to dry fish, bah!). i took some pictures, one of a monument i really liked - a cabbage!
in the afternoon adriana wanted to come around, but then she gave me a call that she couldn't make it. what a shame, we had such a great time together and i would have liked to see her again before leaving. so i walked back to town to swop my books and was caught by rain. i waited in a cafe, having some chai (indian tea), talking with a guy who's working as a teacher in berastagi and finally the rain stopped. just in the moment i got back to latersia it started again and didn't stop at all for the rest of the day. but that was okay, i had a nice evening, playing ludo with alexander (eva's oldest son), chatting with the staff and went to bed early.

the next morning it was still raining. i packed my backpack, paid my bill and took the bus to kabanjahe. from there the next bus to merek and there i was stuck. there is a bus going down to tongging but it only leaves when it's full. that took almost an hour. so there i was standing in the rain, talking to some locals and feeling a little bit annoyed after waiting for an hour for the bus (which stood right in front of me - locked up) to leave.
to get to the place i wanted to stay (it's actually the only one in tongging) i had to walk through the village and a bit further out. but then i was amazed, the place (wisma sibayak guesthouse) was beautiful, close to the lake, nice garden, friendly people, no tourists - a place to stay and chill out (or do something). the rain had stopped also and so i sat on my veranda, looking out on the lake, reading a bit and felt happy about being in that place.

wednesday i took the bus up to sipisopiso waterfall, it's always amazing how many people you can squeeze in these small buses. from the top of the waterfall you've got a great view over the lake or better part of it. the walk down to the bottom is quite steep in some places and i still don't like walking down steps that much. it's not one of these fantastic waterfalls but it's alright.
i was thinking of walking back down to tongging (serpentines), but just after i started i met ginting who's the manager of the guesthouse. he asked me if i would like to go to the jungle with him. there was not a lot else to do, so i went with him to merek where we changed from motorbike to a truck. we took some lunch with us and the drove about 20 km out in the jungle. long talks about environmental work and all that sort and then you see what he's doing in the jungle. he's got some workers up there taking the soil out for his asparagus farm. i mean this is a protected forest, but as long as you pay enough ... he explained he only takes 30 cm of it and leaves the places alone for a year. sorry, but how long does it take for the ground to recover. people are strange, i mean after talking about all the things that have to change in indonesia like corruption etc and then that. afterwards we've been cruising around to different farms and made a stop at his father's place to unload the truck. very interesting day and in a way very typical for the life here. later that afternoon he dropped me off in merek and i took the bus back to tongging. i was not the only tourist anymore, melanie from munich had arrived that day and we had a chat, thinking about going to the market next day and perhaps to a wedding as well.

of course i was up early next morning so i decided to go to the market by bus instead of walking 12 km. no space in the bus, so climbing up, sitting on top of the roof with some men who were not all very polite. although you don't understand everything you can often guess what men are talking about especially when they have a special kind of smile on their faces. i was quite glad when they got off the bus.
the market in silahil was not that fascinating, i mean there were probably 20 stalls (dried fish of course) and not a big variety. but there are still some batak houses and it was a nice walk around the village. i missed the only bus going back so insted i started walking back. not to bad, it's just a plain walk along the lake and i had the street nearly on my own. after walking halfway back an old guy with his motorbike stopped and gave me a lift back (little wave to melanie who was just on her way to the market). otherwise i would have been to late for the wedding. back at the guesthouse julia gave me a sarong (very nice one) and a scarf so that i could dress up proper for the wedding. and as always something embarrassing has to happen. arriving at the wedding i had to dance again. the last time it was a whole group of us, this time it was just me and the singer and it was not only one song, no, two songs. i think i blushed straight away, although after a while you get into their way of dancing and when you imagine to be on a stage, i mean i really had fun after a while. but when they asked me to join in again i prefered to stay back.
julia tried to explain all the different things which were going on and it was interesting. we had our second lunch there (which was a mistake i figured out later) and after that walked back.
that afternoon a big storm was coming up and it was better to stay inside your room. julia and i had a long talk the next morning about her life, she's not very happy and i hope she'll make the right decision to give her life a change. friday is market in tongging, so melanie and i went there with a very late start, it was nearly lunchtime. anyway the market was better then the one in silahil and we bought some fruits and these nice cornpancakes with a peanutfilling (my second mistake). melanie wanted to go to the sibayak waterfall but i was just lazy and walked back to enjoy my pancake - after half of it i had to give up. the rest i gave to julia and her children. later melanie and i decided to leave the next day to go to pulau samosir. and then suddenly everything happend at the same time - my god, did i feel ill. it was hard to decide what to do first throwing up or going to the toilet.... the whole night this was going on, i thought i'd die. no chance to go anywhere on the next morning. so melanie left without me but we said we would meet on monday for dinner in tuktuk. the rest of the day i spent with trying to feel better. at the evening i felt good enough to play with the children (not too much) and decided to leave the next morning.

sunday, august 5th and i felt good enough to leave. had another talk with julia, she wants to stay in contact, we'll see. anyway it took me one motorbike, three buses and a boat to get to samosir. the connections were realy good, the boat actually came back to pick me up and i found a nice place to stay between tuktuk and ambarita. still not sure about my stomach i didn't do a lot that day, just walked down to tuktuk fore lunch and to find the place i wanted to meet with melanie the next evening.
August, 28     TOP

monday morning (6.08.) i walked down to ambarita to get something for breakfast. in the first moment i thought i'm in a big open souvenir supermarket, but walking away from that region i found a nice place for having some nasi goreng (fried rice). i had a long talk with the woman owning that place who's suffering a lot from the less amount of tourists coming to sumatra. then i thought i might take another route back and ended up on the road to tomok, had a chat with a former schoolteacher, who repeatedly told me that he used to be an englishteacher. it took a time to get away from him because he started the same story over and over again, little problem with his shorttime memory i would say.
i thought there might be another road leading back to my place but actually there was nothing like that. so i took a shortcut through some fields, disturbing a few buffaloes (they are massive) and ended up on the other side of tuk tuk. well, so why not walking around the peninsular. i mean it's not that far, but again i was wearing the wrong shoes. when i started my walk early that morning i had only been thinking of getting something for breakfast. anyway, there was no way shortening the walk (i thought, but found out there was one day later) and i must say i was amazed how deserted tuk tuk was. before i got there i thought it might be a buzzing place but there were just very few people to see - and heaps of guesthouses and restaurants.
just before getting back to my place i had one more stop at a restaurant and another nice chat there.
back in my room i counted five new blisters, i was only wondering how you can get blisters on your heels in open shoes?!
the afternoon i spent relaxing my feet, reading the newspaper and wondering how i would get back to tuk tuk to meet up with melanie.
wearing different and quite comfy shoes i went on with my feet martyrdom to meet melanie. at the end i walked again around tuk tuk and back, don't ask how... but therefor we found a nice small place where they served gado gado (vegetable salad) for a realistic place and we even found an internet place for 20000 rupiah (which is still a hell of a lot of money). that place was actually serving a great breakfast so melanie and i decided to meet up again on wednesday for a nice treatment.

the following day i did nothing! i mean, i relaxed my feet, read a lot and the only walk i did was down to one of the bookshops to swap my books. in the evening i went back to the reataurant close to my place and met a german couple there. rudolf, christine and i sat there for a few hours, talking about travelling, indonesia and life itself. at the end i treated myself to a bottle of beer on my balcony.

wednesday was the day of the big breakfast and this time i found the shortcut to the other side of tuk tuk.
what a breakfast, i haven't had anything like that for the last nine months, it was a real german breakfast:
fruitsalad, muesli (granola), yoghurt, a loaf of warm, freshly baked bread, jam, honey, cheese, butter, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber and boiled eggs!!!!
we spent five hours in that place eating, chatting, having a few breaks and drinking two pots of tea. sometimes you could only hear a happy sigh from the both of us.
i don't mind having rice for breakfast but this was special (having a special price as well but who cares).
then it took me another hour to decide if i wanted to leave the next day or not. but then there was nothing in this place to hold me back. after a lot of nice experiences with people that was the first place besides medan where the young men turned into quite a huzzle and the kids were always asking for something ("give me money!").
okay to say the truth - i just didn't like samosir that much after i had been in tongging. i was not really interested into exploring villages, especially with now seven blisters. so i booked my bus for the next day (my second touristbus, but sitting 17h in a local bus was not of my liking.
coming back to my guesthouse i had a chat with the woman running that place and then i ended up in the kitchen. they wanted to know how to bake breadrolls so i showed them. the whole time i was treated with tea and fresh juice, what else do you want. and although i had to use riceflour and wasn't sure if you can use that for baking breadrolls they came out nicely. so from the next week on you'll find them on the menu at m.mas (the name of the guesthouse). i went later to meet christine and rudolf again but was still to stuffed to join them for dinner. we didn't sit up that late again and i went to bed early - thinking of my 13h trip in a minibus the next day.

early thursday morning i got up to catch the ferry to parapat. of course the ferry was arriving in parapat half an hour after the departuretime of the minibus. but i was still the first one to arrive. we waited till 9.45am for the other people to arrive (8.30am was departuretime) and at the end i had the whole bus on my own. there's not that much to tell about the journey, at our lunchbreak i met sam again, who was in another minibus, i tried to sleep, but the roads were not very good and i couldn't read at all. we had three more stops, one for the toilet where there was none and no place to hide (you don't want to pee in front of a lot of muslim guys), one for dinner and one at the equator. great, it was dark, there was nothing to see at all and i don't think there would have been a big change even during daytime and in 30sec we were surrounded by people who wanted to sell us t-shirts.
arriving in bukittinggi it was already 10pm and i was just bloody tired. my driver changed and so i had someone else to drive me around the city to find a place to stay. after ten guesthouses i gave up - either the places were very expensive or they were dirty and stank like hell or they were full. so i took the last one being sure to go on a search for a better place the next morning.

i got up early after a bad nightsleep and walked around to find a better place for a cheap price to stay, so another ten to check. at the end i took the first place i had a look at. i got a spacy room with a huge window out to the garden. a mountainview and my own bathroom. then it was time to get something for breakfast and then back to bed to get a bit more sleep.
getting up again around lunchtime i felt like doing something. so i went to this place called fort de kock (built in 1825 by the dutch during the padri wars) where there's nothing left from a fort besides that they've put up some canons there. but you've got a nice view from there and you can cross a footbridge to get to the museum and the zoo. i knew that you've got to pay different fees to get into the zoo and the museum and i really didn't want to see the zoo (as far as i could see it looked horrible). so i asked if i could get a ticket for the museum only. the guy said yes but that it wouldn't open before 2pm. so i went back to the park to wait there. coming back i bought my ticket, telling him again, i only wanted a ticket for the museum. yes, yes...
getting to the museum they told me of course that i've got to buy another ticket. so i walked back to the entrance, arguing the third time with that guy till he gave me my money back. i know it's not a lot of money but sometimes it's just a bit annoying that they quite often give you the wrong thing or try to charge you more ("tidak harga touris" is an often used phrase). it was only a small museum but for that not to bad. you get some information about the minangkabau culture and about their maternal structure:

"all females and young boys from one mother lived in rumah gadang, which was named after the mother. the adult males were identified with rumah gadang but they did not live there. the husbands of familie's house slept with their wifes at night yet they didn't belong there.
adult males had to find shelter at surau (house of prayers) or at lapau (cafe), as they also did not have room at their mother's house since the age of six. the male house elder usually the mother's brother who managed ricefields for his sister's lineage house, but slept in his wife's house. it was said to be extreme embarrassment if the clan leader or house elder and the husband met each other at the rumah gadang. the dault maloe was expected to work on the lands of his own mother and helped support his nieces and nephews to be identified with the clan. if he became sick, his mother took care of him and when he died, he was buried in the plot that belongs to his clan rather then with his wife."

there was still half the afternoon left so i walked to the panorama park, which is a big souvenir place but you do have a nice view from there over the sianok canyon. in the park is the entrance to the japanese cave - i tried to find out what it was built for but no one could really tell me and this little phone that should give you some information in english just took my 100 rupiah and gave me nothing. later on i was told the cave was built to fight the dutch off, but i'm still not sure. (built as a castle of defense of world war II. bukittinggi was the command centre of the japanese defense in sumatra)
anyway in the evening i met sam again and two french women who had stayed in latersia with me. we had a nice chat and they told me about a nice place to stay in harau valley, we'll see if i'll get there.
saturday was a day of surprises - not all of them great. after i had been to the market i walked back to my hotel and met melanie at "my" cafe (the place where i spent a lot of time drinking tea and reading the newspaper). she was one day early and had just moved in the same hotel as me.
with her was sinnead, an irish woman, i had briefly met before and so i changed my mind and sat down with them. there's something to say about sinnead, she was very nice but after she had spent a few weeks "out of civilization" she was nearly not able to stop talking. it was interesting and she had a lot of stories to tell but you couldn't get a word between. i really liked one of her expressions: "there's always a little man waiting for you wherever you go in indonesia who wants to be your guide!"
melanie and i decided to go to koto gadang together but first she had to change money, so i stayed at the cafe, reading the newspaper, waiting for her. after over an hour she came back - shocked! the exchange rate for the $us had dropped again to 8600 rupiah. when i got to sumatra you got 11200 rupiah for us$1. and it didn't look like the rate would go up again in the next days. after thinking that over i decided to change some money myself. at the end we checked nearly every moneychanger till we got the best rate and were quite stressed and exhausted. it took us nearly another couple of hours walking up and down the streets. we treated ourselves with an icecream, which was nice, besides that i got some strawberry icecream with my vanilla and chocolate - i hate strawberries!
because it was quite late we skipped the plan to go to koto gadang and decided to do that the next day. for dinner i had some fried bananas and then met up with melanie and sinnead again. it got quite late because there was no chance to say good night to sinnead..... but then it's always fun to exchange the different experiences with the little men.

sunday (12.08.) i was the first one for breakfast. besides me there was only one more guy and we started talking to each other. karl is an anthropologist from america, who used to live in bukittinggi in the 80's and is doing a research about the minangkabau and their way of expressing emotions.
a bit later melanie and sinnead arrived and karl invited us for dinner that night. sinnead left that day, but melanie and i agreed on it and we decided to meet at our place.
anyway melanie and i left to go to koto gadang at 9am and thought we might be able to go and see the rafflesia in the afternoon as well. it was a very pleasant walk through the sianok canyon (a little man waiting there for us... but we got rid of him) to get to that village and it didn't take as long as some people had told me, i think we found the shortcut straight away. we had to cross a bridge on the way and looking down you could see all these men digging for silver in the river. some only with a small equipment and others had trucks down there.
arriving in the village we sat down on some steps, melanie starting to make a plan for whom she wanted to buy something. after a few minutes we had three children standing next to us asking melanie for her pen. they were very persistent, standing there nearly 20 min and not stopping! i offered them another small pen but they only wanted melanie's. at the end they didn't get any.
something about melanie and her planning: she's the master in making plans but usually they don't work out in the end. there's always something happening that makes her skipping them - but nevertheless she's not giving up!
i had decided to buy a bit jewellery to sell it when i'm back in australia, so i didn't make any plans besides not to spend to much money (there was a reason why i changed money the day before).
we spent the whole morning walking from one place to the other, asking for prices etc. then we sat down for a tea and coffee and melanie worked her plan over again. there were two or three shops with nice silverwork which were quite cheap. but it's like the dollar, prices change in an hour. coming back to one of the places we got together what we wanted to buy and then found out that the things were more expensive than in the morning....
so melanie started bargaining....wow, in the first shop we nearly spent 3 hours negotiating the price. they brought us a little snack inbetween, offered us tea and the woman was after two hours close to a nerval breakdown. i got my things quite easily for a fair price but melanie really worked on hers. after 2,5 h she asked if they could leave all the things for her for another half an hour, that we could go somewhere else and then come back. i think the idea of us coming back was to much for that woman, she agreed on melanie's offer and after she had packed everything into boxes we left.
the other place was a different surprise, i bought much more then i had thought off, because here the things were gone cheaper than in the morning and it didn't take long to get everything sorted.
we figured out that there was no way to see the rafflesia that day because when we arrived back at our hotel it was already 5pm. so just time for a bit relaxing and a mandi before we were meeting karl.
August, 29     TOP

karl, melanie and i went to one of the padang restaurants, nice place to eat, although you have to ask first how much the different dishes cost otherwise you might be surprised. but karl didn't bother and we had quite a variety of different things in front of us - all meat and melanie is vegetarian. so karl ordered some salad as well and i must say, that was one of the best meals i got. just hard to figure out how they cook all this stuff, especially the rendang (beef or chicken cooked in coconutmilk and spices for hours).
afterwards melanie and i went for some more tea, karl went back to his work and we came back late to our hotel to find out it was locked. okay, i rang the bell - nothing happened. after trying this for three times we ended up climbing over the wall. melanie stepped on my hands, then on my shoulders and lifted herself over the wall and lucky us there was a key inside the lock. when melanie opened the door our hotelier came out of his room as well, looked very sleepy and i'm not sure that he realized what had gone on before.
after a short time you can get into some kind of routine. every morning very early breakfast with karl, having a lecture about minangkabau - very interesting, then doing something, having a lot of teas during the day, reading the newspaper.... i think i'll miss that when i'm leaving. anyway, monday melanie and i wanted to go to the king's palace but then decided to go to see the rafflesia instead, because it looked like there was not a big chance to see them later still blooming. of course you can see dead ones but that wouldn't be as interesting.
so we took the bus to get to palupuh and then started walking in the direction of the sanctuary - followed by one of these little man you can find everywhere. we were not bad finding our directions without his help, but when we actually started to walk into the sanctuary he stopped us, saying that we were not able to find any in there at the moment and that there were just two to be found outside. of course you're not able to find them by yourselves, you need the help of a little man. so we negotiated the price and then followed him. it was true, we wouldn't have found them by ourselves and also he was explaining some other plants on the way. the rafflesias we found were quite at the end of their blooming (one was actually already dead) but still it was nice. the funny thing is that everyone says: "you want to see the biggest flower of the world?" and you just think, it's not a flower it's a fungi!
walking back we were ready for a nice cup of tea but the only things you could get were warm, sweet softdrinks. so we catched the bus back and went to another padang restaurant for some jackfruitcurry. then melanie went to padang panjang to see the bullfighting (which was not on as she figured out) and i walked back to have a nice little afternoonnap, reading the paper and a bit of my book and then met henning at "our" cafe. we had a nice chat, melanie joining in after she got back and i saw my first flying foxes. it was funny because henning said, "look at that owl" and i thought "owl?", then there was the next coming and the next and i thought, funny shape for owls and a bit to many of them. these creatures look amazing, huge massive beasts and with that bloodred sky over them - wow!

on tuesday i figured out that melanie and i are very good in long breakfasts. actually we sat for hours in our cafe and walked from there straight to lunch. we were forced to have an early lunch because the banks were closed for lunch, the photoshops couldn't deal with my slidefilms and there was nothing else to do. checking out the banks and the moneychangers was a complete shock - the exchange rate was further down again. so we sat outside on the street, getting out the calculator and the diary and started to work out how much money to change. i decided to give sumatra only another week and then heade (?) back to malaysia. melanie started thinking of going to malacca earlier as well but she still has to meet a friend from home. so for her it was a bit more tricky. anyway after quite a while we got sorted and changed our money - bugger! so, no extras anymore and i've to try to find a cheap place to stay in maninjau.
the rest of the day was very lazy. reading, writing part of my diary and later getting fried sweet potatoes and temper for dinner.

for wednesday (15.08.) we had decided not to have our brakfast at the cafe, because the risk of not getting away was quite high. instead we went to the market, had some nasi goreng and then went to see the rumah gadang pagaruyung (the king's palace). it took us about 3h to get there, first a bemo (small suzuki or daihatsu bus) to the busstation, then the bus to batu sangkar, then another bemo to the next busstation and then one to the palace. it's not only that you have to take so many buses but also you just sit in them waiting till they are full.
the king's palace is a nice example for the traditional way of building houses. they've built their houses with roofs shaped like buffalo horns. buffalos play kind of a role in minagkabau culture, there's one nice legend i'm to lazy to write down now (perhaps later). (NICE LEGEND)
it's one of the stories you get told by the guide who's showing people around the palace besides of course the introduction to their materlineal idea of society. we also got a little massage for our legs there (i could need one for my back at the moment, the hight of the chair and the table don't really match for me small person) and we spent more time at that place then i was expecting. actually we had our first female guide (no lttle man waiting for us) who did the tour round the palace for free (defenitly no little man!). she was also the first one asking us if we were mother and daughter (i'm not that old!)
anyway, it took a bit to get a bus back to batu sangkar and of course it was time for some lunch. so we walked across the market and found one of these small local restaurants where you could get jackfruitcurry (one of my favourites). so we sat down and the it started:

now i'm mean and leave you to this, i have to find another place to go on writing, this one kills my back.
August, 30     TOP

"miss, miss ... miss, miss..." i mean after a while you get used to this, where ever you go someone is trying to get your attention, but this was really annoying and the guy was so persistent (it was like having a horrible child next to you "mom give me this, mom i want that...."). after a while we tried to ignore him, especially after he started to be rude. then he came over to our table asking melanie for a cigarette, which he didn't got! so he walked out to get one somewhere else, five minutes of a peacefull quietness, then he came back "miss, miss...." i think we were both in the mood to leave when suddenly an indonesian invasion came into the restaurant (children and adults) playing themselves around us and starting a nice and funny conversation. and again this question "are you mother and daughter?" there must be something wrong - either i look much older or melanie much younger.
the guy in the back was ignored by everyone, seems he was not very popular anyway. getting back to bukittinggi took another 3h and there was just enough time for a bit relaxing, having a shower (i'm still not used to throw ice cold water over myself with a bucket) and getting a baite (?) to eat. then melanie, henning and i went to a theatre where they show traditional music, dance and selfdefence of the minangkabau. karl had told us a bit about it before (in the early morning lectures about minangkabau, a reason to get up for an early breakfast) and i was quite keen to see the silek (the selfdefence), might like to learn it myself.
so before the performance started i had a talk with one of the professors and we made an appointment for the next day, so that i could see their school.
we enjoyed the performance very much and i was sure that i want to learn these traditional dances.
this time melanie and i were a bit more clever, we had told our hotelier that we would be back late, so not again a climb over the wall.

the next day i went to padang panjang to meet up with pal, the musicteacher. i got there a bit early and had some time to find out where i had to go and to look for a cheap internetplace. because i didn't have a map i asked a friendly young woman where to find the school and she started to walk to it with me. she showed me the direction and then i tried to explain to her that i was an hour early and would like to go to an internetplace. she didn't understand english very well (my indonesian is not much better) so i showed her on my watch what i meant. she took me to the market and brought me to a place where they repair watches. i gave it up, thanked her and tried to find soemone who could understand me. at the end i found an internetplace but had just half an hour left.
anyway at 12pm i met up with pal who showed me the campus (indonesian "karawitan" art academy). the funny thing was he actually had spent the night thinking about what i could do, making plans for my future (i thought it was only my mom doing this - of course without asking me). he asked me how many kilos i could take back on a flight, because i would need all the instruments and then i could built up a group in germany and we could do an exchange program. well, first i have to learn and then we will see...
August, 31     TOP

anyway, we spent a nice afternoon together. he took me to a place where they make all these instruments and then to another place where they sew the costumes and then gave me a tape with traditional music and a flute as a present. so, if everything works out in the right way, i'll be back in april, stay with pal and his family and will get my own teacher for four weeks. it just depends on the visa and how long it will take to get the right one (some of them take months, i'm not sure what they are doing in the immigration office the whole day). i didn't go back with him to padang panjang. instead i took the bus from koto baru (squeeze) and was quite tired. i like to ride on a motorbike (something i always hated, but after 5 months you really get used to it) but it's quite tiresome. the rest of the day was as usual, having dinner, chatting with melanie and then got to bed early.

friday (17.8.) was independence day. the last week you could hear and see students preparing for the parades and we left bukittinggi as early as possible, after breakfast on the market and again the question: are you mother and daughter?
we wanted to go to harau valley, where we actually got at the end after three hours on the bus or better the buses. we've spent about half an hour sitting in a bus in payakumbuh to get to harau. it never get's boring, there are always people who like to talk to you, but the bus was not that comfy and i had a bit of a problem to find space for my feet and the sun was burning down on us as well.
anyway, the driver dropped us next to a guesthouse and cafe, so we thought, it might be a good idea to have a nice cup of tea. after checking the menu we decided to leave the place and find something else - 1500 rupiah for teh pahit, they must be joking. so we walked along the street till we got to a place with some foodstalls. teh pahit 500 rupiahs and nasi goremng for a fair price as well. we had our tea first and then walked up to a panorama view, of course it started raining so we just sat there, melanie started making new plans (she's not giving up) and it seemed like it wouldn't stop raining. good thing was that there was a shelter and we had it on our own for half an hour, then lot's of young people came and we left. time for lunch! i wanted to take a picture of a little girl sitting in the middle of all the food and her mother said it was okay. i should have asked the little girl, god, she burst into tears, i didn't do anything besides taking a picture....
after lunch we walked a bit around and figured out that this must be the spot where all the young people meet to drink and have fun, sorry to disturb. it was not that fascinating so we started walking back (it's a nice spot for climbers though), were followed by some young boys and caught a bus after a while. the busride back was strange. because of the independence day in every little town was a parade, so we got into a trafficjam. two guys jumped on the bus, thinking themselves funny. one of them took my sunglasses and jumped of the bus. great! but i'm not stupid, okay there was no way to get my glasses back but instaed i took the cap of his friend, explaining him he would get it back when i get my glasses back. some of the people in the bus thought that very funny and supported me, nobody actually took the side of that poor boy, but then i don't care. i gave him my adress, told him till when i would be there and that this was his only chance to get his cap back (it was not even a very nice one).
back in our hotel i put the cap on the counter with a sign on it. (of course i didn't get my glasses back - but he lost his cap as well)
in bukittinggi we went to a food stall and had our third nasi for the day, you can really get used to it, when we got asked by a nice lady if we were mother and daughter. there is definetly something wrong. we asked her why she thought that (i'm sure i don't look that old). she said we were looking a bit alike (not really) and that i would be around midthirty (okay, that's not to bad) and melanie was fifteen (melanie was a little embarassed, being actually 22). i felt much better after that explanation and told melanie that i'll adopt her. i mean having a grown up daughter is much easier then rising one!
that evening melanie and i sat at the coffee shop, talking about how it is to meet people from back home, when suddenly her friend stood in front of us... four days early!
i went to the internet shop, giving them some time on their own, but the internet was so slow that i gave it up after half an hour and came back. strange athmosphere, but what do you expect, melanie had been away for eleven months.
anyway, we sat up a bit longer after hartmut had left, talking about the situation (womenstalk).
the next morning was weird, i sat down with karl and jim (an ex-student of him), hartmut came took a seat at another table, then melanie arrived looking from one place to the other and at the end sat down with karl, jim and me. after the two left hartmut left and then i moved to another table to give them time to sort things out. at the end i spent the next 1,5 days with melanie and then she went with hartmut to maninjau.
hartmut went to koto gadang that day and i didn't meet him again. melanie and i spent half the morning having breakfast and then walked down to the mainstreet to see a bit of the parade (they celebrate independence day for a whole weekend). i've never seen such a bad organised parade, but then i usually don't see any. it was a bit strange, all these kids dressed up, marching along...
after a while we thought that it was enough and went to the market (i need new sunglasses), bad idea! i don't know where all these people came from, but sometimes you got completely stuck in our way and i had to leave, otherwise i might have had a panic attack. the afternoon was very lazy, i made a few copies about malacca from melanie's guidebook (which took ages) and then we went for dinner and decided to go to the cinema and watch a hindustan movie. bad taste, if you ever have the chance to watch one of these bollywood movies, go for it. you don't understand a word but they are so easy that there is no need for that. a lot of dancing and singing, always the good and the bad... absolutely great, just a big laugh.

sunday was my day of moving again. after the usual breakfast we met henning again, who said a bit about maninjau and then i packed my backpack and took the bus to maninjau. the route down is quite famous - 44 hairpin bends!!! but an amazing view down to the lake.
a lot of people had recommended to stay in the rizal - i don't know why, it's expensive and crap. so i went to another place where the room was only 7500 rupiah (share bath, a toilet - you don't need a shower here, the lake is big enough). actually a nice place with funny people. one young woman from aceh was there, making holidays for 2 months and very different to any other indonesian woman i've ever met. a lot of tattoos all over her body, jewelery like a x-mass tree and absolutely funny. i promised her to teach her how to swim, so something to do besides climbing lawang top and cycling around the lake, i thought.

okay to make it short, besides swimming, reading, eating and teaching chiram how to swim i did nothing! a whole week just enjoying the lake and the (most times) good weather was enough to do. i met a few nice people there, went out for dinner twice with peter from switzerland, had some nice talks with him, met some locals.... not really a lot to say - but it's a great spot for doing nothing. i booked my ticket to malacca (bus and ferry) and got completely confused on saturday. i don't know why, but suddenly i figured out that my ticket was booked for the wrong day and that i had 3h left to pack my backpack and get to bukittinggi. it took me ten minutes to pack and wati started making my bill. we weren't sure about how many day's i had been there so i checked my diary, to figure out that i'm just stupid and my ticket was booked for the right day and i was a day early. chiram and wati burts out into laughter and the rest of the time i got this story told over and over again....

but sunday (26.08.) was the right day. i didn't have to pack my backpack and late morning i caught the bus back to bukittinggi. i spent the day in bukittinggi, talking with a lot of englishstudents and their teacher, got a lot of photos taken of me with the students (they come now every sunday for tourist hunting, karl told me later) and then it stated raining. bah, i was soaked after a short while and went for a cup of tea. i exchanged my books and then was picked up by my bus to get to dumai.
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