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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Monday, 27 September 2010

September 27th: Lake Toba

On September 27th 1981 I was at Lake Toba in Indonesia, walking to the village of Tomok.

Lake Toba is in a huge volcanic caldera on the island of Sumatra. I stayed where most visitors then stayed on the peninsular of Tuk Tuk on the island of Samosir. The local people are Batak, Christians, many of whom live in characteristic boat-shaped houses and build white tombs in the open areas between their villages.

Part of the attraction of Tuk Tuk is that you can stay in some of the Batak houses which are quite spacious within but don't have much in the way of views. I stayed in one for a couple of days but then moved to a more normal travellers' place where the food was better (fruit salads including mango, papaya and avocados), where you could swim in the lake easily and which was an easy stroll to the little town of Ambarita, which had some finer restored houses preserved as a monument and a good place to read and drink coffee.

More, though, I wanted to walk out. The ridge behind Ambarita, which dominates one side of all the views here, had a trail which I walked up several times. Finally I walked over the top with a friend though thick jungle and out into more open areas where there was a little guest house to spend the night. Then we walked down through fields and pine-trees and past villages of Batak houses to an area of eroded badlands and eventually into the middle of the large town of Pangururan. This side of Samosir was more developed and less touristic, though still with fine houses. We came back on the road using buses and lifts.

Finally I walked over to Tomok which gets more day-trippers. Here is what I wrote in my notebook:
Afternoon, mainly clouded sun. On a bank overlooking rice-terraces which form a great irregular amphitheatre in front of me. I've walked a little way up from Tomok, past the tombs and the tourist shops. The rice fields must form a hundred tiers, shallow, no stone here, some newly dug, some quite wet, some at the bottom already green with rice. At the very bottom is the brown water of a pond. A bittern stretches its neck nearby. A buffalo tethered to a post wades nosily through the mud browsing, its young one, short-horned and hairy, is near me, free. Some chickens run about in between. Mynahs fly noisily around. There are trees scattered about and there are banks too steep to fit into the terracing. Opposite me, at the foot of the mountain, are spread three or four farms, Batak houses and tin roofs shining through the sheltering trees. Sounds of cocks crowing and hammering. Little square white tombs with pointed tops. Behind here the mountains look steep and menacing, steeper than at Ambarita. Open grey crags and then pine trees come two-thirds of the way down. 

Some of my pictures:
Batak Tombs
Inhabited houses near Ambarita

Stone chairs in Ambarita
Village near Tomok

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