[simage=447,200,n,left,]A trip planned a last minute turned into a really great weekend, including relaxing and eating great food on the shore of the giant Lake Toba and bagging a very seldom climbed mountain – Gunung Pangulubao.
We flew to Medan, arriving in the early evening and after some bad food and a juice in the hotel, we headed out to enjoy a few cold beers in the small cafe bar, strangely right next to the huge local mosque. The next morning, our driver picked us up and we headed south along the busy trans-Sumatra highway, before turning west and starting to climb into the mountains. After about 4 hours driving we arrived in Parapat, which is the main place to catch a ferry across Lake Toba to Tuk Tuk. Parapat gets a bit of a bad write up in the Lonely Planet, but it’s a pretty nice place with a decent market square and places to eat. It is much better to head across the lake, and we chose to stay in the popular Tabo Cottages, which has accommodation in traditional Batak Style houses, a bakery, and really good food. Tuk Tuk is pretty quiet, and when you walk though the village, most of the restaurants and cafe bars are empty – you are probably going to be the only customers.
The gunung bagging obsession meant that we (i.e. Andy) wanted to go and climb Gunung Pangulubao, which is a “Ribu” with more than 1,000 m prominence. On Saturday morning we took the boat back across to Parapat and met up with the guide who we had arranged to take us to the start of the hike at Taman Eden. Most of the locals only hike up the local viewpoint called Bukit Manja, but we wanted to carry on and get to the summit. The forest on the slopes of the mountain is in good condition and from the viewpoint you can see down to the valley containing the road and the huge expanse of Lake Toba. From the forest got increasingly dense and mossy and we had to crawl through, under or over old trees and deadfall. It was really great and we saw orchids, the endemic climbing pitcher plants and black gibbons. It was a great hike and it’s good to bag a seldom-climbed Ribu.
After the hike, we made it back to Tuk Tuk and relaxed with good food and some cold beers. The next morning we rented a motorbike and headed off around Samosir island. It was Sunday and the roads through all the villages were lined with local Batak people coming back from church. Each village has a church, which are mostly in a German style because of the German missionaries who brought Christianity to the area. The cool air and rural setting is really wonderful, and there are some really interesting Batak houses and graveyards/tombs. We’d like to have had more than half a day to explore, but we had to return to make our way back to Tuk Tuk and then back to Medan for our flight to Jakarta.