|At Hotel Wisata Samosir|
|Just before our first 3.5 km stop|
This morning, after a pretty rough night, we met again at the hotel lobby for breakfast. Not suffering from hangovers but fitful sleep, everyone attempted polite conversations until the caffeine finally kicked in.
Last night’s street activities had gone on until the wee hours of the morning. While the sound of clanging wok was heard until almost midnight, motorcycles were screaming down the main road beyond that unGodly hour. Thinking the worst was over, a noisy street-sweeper truck inched it’s way down the road even before the rooster crows!!!
By day 3, we were robotically spooning the standard fried rice, a staple served in all hotels in this region. It was after all FREE and we doubt there are much choices on the streets!
Leaving our hotel, the sky was a heavy grey. The worried bunch of us pulled out our rain gears to keep them handy but other than a light drizzle on our first 3.5 km segment, we were blessed with a cool, cloudy day throughout!
Less than 1 km after flag off, we turned left to join a kampung path. Having passed Palito, the best cafe in Pangururan (which is coincidentally non air-conditioned), our shock was immediate....
An acrid burning smell filled the air. Guided by a loud hissing noise, we were shocked to see a dead dog being blow torched! Another B1 meal in preparation, this could be a way to remove its fur!
Our shock progresses further as we rode up the hill. Not only were the climbs steep but the hairpin bends went on and on. The steep gradient coupled with humongous potholes and loose gravels made it very hard to maneuver.
Once in a while, a car or motorcycle will scream past us. Being locals, these motorists are familiar with every bend and holes in the area, leaving us no choice but to grind over a hole or risk crashing into them!
As this is a volcanic area, rocks are a plenty! Thrown onto the roads, they come in fist sizes, sometimes larger and most with sharp edges!
It was pretty obvious Kim Chai and Hanz are good climbers. Like mountain goats, they went up the terrain easily, leaving all of us way behind.
It was quite demoralizing to see Hanz spinning his wheels at high cadence up a slope, overtaking everyone effortlessly only to return down the hill to help Dot off-load her weights! After his rescue mission, he was at it again, whizzing past everyone!!!
Our first stop was at 3.5 km mark. Taking shelter from a light drizzle, we escaped into someone’s porch. Right opposite, a dwelling with the same wide, wooden folding doors doubled as a store selling household utensils. It was not opened for business when we were there but the few balls hanging from the ceiling and brooms by the doorway was the giveaway.
Herbert was taking a long time to arrive at this stop. With not more than 12 houses in the area and no food stalls, the men were getting bored waiting....
The rain had come and gone....
The perspiration had dried off....
Even Fong Wan had made the pitstop!!!
Armed with a great idea, Kelvin got the men to shout over the walkie talkie as a form of motivation for Herbert. But it was Claudine’s sweet words that got his adrenaline pumping! Within minutes, he appeared from the corner of the bend....
Pump! Pump! Pump....went his good leg. Turn! Turn! Turn....went his other leg.
Everyone cheered for him as he arrives. Expecting him to take a breather, he continued riding beyond the pitstop! Claudine’s motivational words of “Leng Chai, lei hai tak ke!” must have given him the much needed boost!
Chasing after Herbert, we came to the biggest crater of all time! Filled with rain water and taking up the whole road, this pond could possible take 4 hippopotamus, all at once!
Approaching our 7 km mark was a high vantage point that overlooks Lake Toba and its surroundings. Almost like a lover’s point, make shift benches are built at the edge of the road while a leap below is a small farm with a single buffalo!
Panting and trying hard to keep up, Claudine had watched Kim Chai stall but laboured on after a short discussion with Hanz. Transferring her telepathic energies on Kelvin, the only rider still visible in an otherwise isolated place, he had responded positively with a stop!
While the bigger group took the scenic stop, Kim Chai and Hanz were enjoying a cup of coffee less than 1 km away. They were joined by Dot much later while the rest of us took our own sweet time. When we finally approached Lake Sidihoni, a water catchment area, the trio had to make room for us while tea and biscuits were again, served!
Riding out again, it was an easy downhill cruise for a couple of kilometers before we hit a forked road. The left exit goes further downhill, passing a church but it was the right exit, leading up a slope that Kim Chai decided to take!!!
Stopping at the fork of the road, like a beacon, he was approached by a local who sells petrol from a drum with a manual pump. Taken with Kim Chai’s caring personality, he shared on how the Bataks are fast losing their lands to the mainland people. Possibly referring to loggers, he went on about the Batak’s way of life which is all about preservation while the intruders cut down trees without a blink of an eye!
When the last rider made the right exit, we left our Bapak, sending him apologetic smiles as we can only empathize but not help. In deep thoughts, we scaled the slope, coming to Aek Tawar, a dam which peculiarly sits on high ground.
Slightly more than an hour after our last coffee break, we made another stop at a small village. Little scouts, on their way home from their Saturday classes were curious about us.
Hoping to get some drinks from a nearby stall, the adults were not in. The 2 young kids left to man the shop, could only shake their heads when questions about ice and cold drinks were thrown to them. However, they showed us the way to the lavatory when we requested to use it.
The roads ahead began to improve not long after this stop. Running at 1500 m elevation and almost reaching the peak, rolling hills await us instead of the previous climbs which went on forever without respite!
Soon, we entered a eucalyptus forest. With reforestation comes new roads which are needed to move the produce! While a vast area has been replanted with these fast growing trees, a good extent of virgin forest is still left untouched though for how long?
Emerging out of the forest, we came to an abandoned Dutch home that commands a spectacular view of Lake Toba. Thereafter, Kim Chai’s promise of lunch raised our spirits and diverted Patrick’s attention from the poor baby goats in the settlement. He was trying to “shoot” them..........with his phone camera!!!
Our descend began soon after the V junction. Ahead and not far, we chanced upon an artist at work, capturing a scene of Lake Toba on canvas. He was accompanied by 2 other friends, who must have delivered his lunch to him!
Thinking a descend will be easy, it was NOT! Claudine had a hard time braking; having to be at the drop bar position for maximum braking efficiency. After a while, her triceps and fingers began to hurt.
Thankfully respite came in the form of a spectacular waterfall right by the side of the road. Air terjun sigarantung, offered a short rest BUT the road directly after the falls, requires some heart pumping exercise!
Rolling down after the climb, the heart continues to beat rapidly; this time not related to exertion but excitement! A weathered tarmac filled with potholes and loose gravels became a scary experience for Claudine but a thrilling one for the ECC and PCC riders. After all, they have vast experience in trail riding!
Rolling at tortoise pace, Claudine finally made it to Panatapan Parhallow Cafe where the rest of the team were waiting. A simple cafe with a breathtaking view, all it needs is a lake view and Indomie to make it work, while all business models are thrown over the cliff!
After lunch, we continued our descent. The road conditions continued its dire state! When it did improve, the new tarmac was so poorly done, it caved in to heavy trundling. Booby traps coupled with hairpin bends were a plenty making speed a suicidal choice!
On flat ground again, we rolled into Tomok. Armed with a port for larger vessels and ferry terminal, it becomes the gateway to Samosir. Appropriately equipped with a bank, a museum, Indomaret, souvenir shops and cafes it was bustling with activities past 3 pm.
Returning to Samosir Cottages Resort, laundry lined the verandah of most rooms before a call of beer was made. Not thirsty, the teetotalers scoured the area for street food and found a push cart selling bakso and mie ayam right outside the hotel. At IDR10,000 per bowl, the mie ayam, made with real chicken was a better deal than the springy meatballs!
In the evening, while one group returned to Jenny’s, another was out of luck with Chinese food. They scouted for dinner and returned late, calling for a jamming session close to 9 pm.