24.12.2006 - 31.12.2006 30 °C
Sunday 24 December, we went to Medan by ferry - horrible trip, it was supposed to take 4 hours, in the end it took 7 but at least we didn't drown!
From Medan we went straight on to Parapat at Lake Toba on an even worse journey:
Imagine the following - turn up your car stereo at top volume, now double it and play marusha in a never ending loop. Try, whilst driving on the other people's lane, at top speed (for Indonesian mini busses 80km/h this is), to avoid hitting any car driving in your direction. At the same time honk for every car/pedestrian/bicyclist/motorbike/dog/... you want to overtake and honk again if you successfully did so (adds up to an estimated 12456 honks per hour). Do this at night time with hardly working headlights.
Unfortunately we didn't make it to Tuk Tuk, our actual destination in Sumatra as we arrived at 9 pm, just a bit too late to catch the last ferry to the island in Lake Toba. As a result we had to celebrate christmas in a not so comfortable and quite expensive hotel with rather sticky bed sheets. At least we bumped into Santa Claus on our way to the restaurant (nice place but we had to take care of eventual dog dishes appearing on the menu), who was accompanied by a big band on a truck and plenty of supporters. Most of the population is catholic and these guys really know how to celebrate christmas!
In the morning of 25 December we crossed the lake to Tuk Tuk and spent the next 3 days with former canibals ; )
NB: The people of Lake Toba, called Bataks were of a canibal background a mere 200 years ago. Two European missionairs did their best to convince them to restrain from canibalism with success, however only after they got eaten as well.
Most of the time we spent with doing nothing at all. Only one day we rented some mountain bikes for a couple of hours and the other day some motor bikes to explore the island a bit which is a really chilled out and peaceful place.
Thursday we left Tuk Tuk to go to Bukit Lawang, a natural reservoir for orang utans. After a 12 hour journey (for only 300 km) we arrived at the Jungle Inn, a nice place to stay, just at the entrance of the reservoir. In the end it was definitely worth the trouble of getting there (taxi and public bus this time, still Indonesian marusha on public bus at full volume, with twice as many people on the bus as were actually able to fit in). On our second day we did a 3 hours jungle treck where we were able to see about 5 orang utans some of them even carried babies (the youngest one was only 2 months old). We were even allowed to feed them bananas which was a great experience!
The idea of the project is to get young orang utans, that were captured and seperated from their mothers by hunters, back into their natural environment. This can take several years of keeping the animals in quarantine, so that they can learn how to survive in wildlife. After this period most orang utans stay in the area of the feeding platform, where they get milk and bananas twice per day. After a while they get bored of this simple menu and will search for other fruits in the jungle until they make their own ways.
Two days later, on Saturday we went back to Penang. This time by plane which we almost missed (the public bus took 5 instead of 3 hours for 80 km to Medan, because of all kinds of interferences - picking up building materials, coconuts and all other things you can think of on its way!)
So now we are back in Penang to celebrate new year. We didn't know it but it seems like the biggest party in Malaysia is going to happen right here - about 100.000 people are expected to celebrate new year's eve on a massive open air beach party which kicked off already 9 hours ago. It's about time we get moving ...
... happy new year to all of you and still ... merry christmas! : )
- sorry it took so long to add in pictures! it really depends on the connection to the internet and the facilities whether we are able to add in pitures or even to check emails, please be patient with us -
By now we are already on the Phillipines. We will tell you about here and our time in the Cameron Highlands and Kuala Lumpur soon!