After spending a few fun hours in a bus, which turned out to be a tour bus which stopped off at interesting sites along the journey such as a really cool pine plantation, we arrived at Parapat to catch the ferry across to Somosir Island where we would be spending the next few days.
Lake Toba, located 176km South of Medan, is the largest lake in South-East Asia. It occupies the caldera of a collapsed volcano which exploded about 100,000 years ago in a blast which would have made Krakatau's eruption look small in comparison. It is the traditional home of the Batak people - the traditional greeting of the Batak is to shout Horas, though I was never really sure what it meant.
Somosir Island, the island occupying a large proportion of the area of Lake Toba, was created by subsequent upheavals between 30,000 and 75,000 years ago. The island has long been a popular tourist destination for tourists, though its popularity has dropped off slightly in recent times, and its popularity is apparent in the islands' culture, which seems to focus entirely on the tourist dollar.
The most popular town for tourists on Somosir is Tuk-Tuk, so we decided to head a little bit off the beaten track and stay in Ambarita, North of Tuk-Tuk. Ambarita is a quiet little town, and we quickly figured that, despite the nice losmen to stay in, there was very little to do and, despite the suggestions of a half-hour walk into Tuk-Tuk, we found it just a little bit too isolated for our liking. So, after staying in Abarita one night, and being held hostage by the friendly locals for one night in Tuk-Tuk, we decided to move into Tuk-Tuk and make life easier for ourselves.
There are a few interesting places to visit on Somosir, such as stone chairs where the Batak people decapitated and ate the bad dudes of the village - though we never actually got around to seeing these. The best thing we did was hire motor bikes and travel around the island on bike. The roads are terrible with most of the time on the road is spent searching for (and trying to avoid) potholes and buffalo.
In our journeys around the island we visited a performance of the traditional Batak dancing and I got to join in for a bit of good old-fashioned tourist fun. The dance was apparently something to do with getting good crops and the witch doctor (or whatever he was) asked his stick how many buffalo needed to be sacrificed to get good crops (or at least, that was my recollection of the facts). Needless to say, there were no buffalo killed in this performance.
We then continued on to the hot springs around the other side of the island from where we were staying. I decided not to get in the water - it looked just a bit hot for my liking - but the others climbed tentatively in and emerged from the water several minutes later looking somewhat redder than before.
Back on the bikes and off the island via a natural land bridge onto the mainland. We headed into the mountains and stopped at a lookout to have a rest and take some photos. From the lookout we could see the island from an elevated position as well as some farmland below.
After this we pretty much headed back to Tuk-Tuk for the night, I didn't realise it at the time because my speedo on my bike was broken, but apparently we (the girls were doubling with some of the locals) were riding at 90km/h at some points.. pretty scary considering we weren't wearing helmets and the roads were like one large pothole.
The rest of our stay in Somosir consisted of hanging around the place and swimming in the lake. It was all very restful but I managed to get pretty badly sunburned, helped in part by the anti-malarial tablets I was taking which increases the skin's vulnerability to the sun. Luckily this was just about the only thing that happened to me in Indonesia, despite everyone's warnings that I would definately get sick and have all my luggage stolen.
Lake Toba was very nice, but I think I would have had a better time had we not been taken into the possession of some of the locals who were nice enough, but seemed to be very good at taking our money from us. Lake Somosir turned into quite an expensive holiday. I got kinda sick of them very quickly, I saw them as being a bunch of wanna-be Jamakans, listening to Bob Marley and smoking their weed. They all worked at a losman in Tuk-Tuk, though they only seemed to work about as hard as the average Indonesian Male, (which wasn't very hard at all). They just seemed to lure tourists in and take them for what they had - a position I really didn't enjoy being in - though the others I was travelling with, annoyingly, seemed to think they were pretty cool.