Samosir Island

Located in the middle of Lake Toba, Samosir is the largest “island within an island”. The lake itself is the largest lake in Indonesia and the largest volcanic lake in the world. With 630 km2 area, Samosir is also the fifth largest lake island in the world. This place is about 5 hours by car plus an hour ferry ride from Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra province.

This island brings not only a breath-taking scene, but also the uniqueness of local people tradition. Along with its exotic history, this island becomes a popular tourist destination. It also contains two smaller lakes, Lake Sidihoni and Lake Aek Natonang. Uluan Peninsula lies across the lake on the eastern part of the island. The island is linked to the mainland of Sumatra on its western part by a narrow land connecting the Pangururan city on Samosir and Tele city on mainland Sumatra.

Most of the people who live around Lake Toba are ethnically Batak, more specifically Batak Toba. The Batak Toba people, usually referred to as the ’Toba people’ or often simply ‘Batak’, are the most numerous Batak people of North Sumatra and often considered the classical ‘Batak’. The Batak Toba people speak in the Toba Batak language, and are centered around Lake Toba and Samosir Island. Yet, Batak Samosir is different from Batak Toba because they have other variations of Batak like Ambarita, Gurning, Pakpahan, Simbolo, Sinaga, etc.

One of our contributors, Astaka, came to Samosir for the fifth time last year. Another exciting experience, that’s what he feels on each visit. In hist last visit, he completely enjoyed the beautiful landscape and the local hospitality. The Samosir itinerary is very simple. Start the day by walking around, enjoy the fresh morning air in the small town called Tuktuk, where most of the tourist accommodations are concentrated. Afterwards, go towards Ambarita, where the carpet of rice fields will welcome every visitor. Simanindo is the next destination, where a museum, restored from a house of a Batak king, is located. The museum, with a collection of ancient relics and a unique architecture, also showcases a group of human-sized puppets called Sigale-gale, used in traditional dances. Their brawny jaw marks the strong character of Batak that complement their hospitality, ready to greet everyone who visits Samosir.

Mount Merbabu, Central Java

Hiking Journal of Mount Merbabu, September 2010

After more than two hours trekking from the entrance post, the majestic landscape was finally opened before our eyes. The view from this first savanna comprised of hills filled with shrubs of Cantigi (Vaccinium varingiaefolium) and Edelweiss (Anaphalis javanica), as well as the bashful Peak of Merapi in the south trying to sneak among the clouds. In this spot, the top of Mount Merbabu was still nowhere in sight while the valley between Mount Merapi and Mount Merbabu could be seen as wrinkle green layers.

The uninvited fog had returned, marking the time to continue climbing onto the second savanna, where the beauty was multiplied because expansive panorama appeared in this second spot. Aside from Merapi, Mount Lawu was also visible in the far east, showing silhouette resembling the face of a pretty lady in her sleep. A perfect spot to set up the tent and relax.

While sipping the warm ginger concoction and musing around the bonfire, the scenes of early trekking alongside the villages before reaching the tent were flashing around my mind. The distance between the last stop of public transportation to the hiking registration post was quite far, providing an opportunity for every hiker to enjoy more of the life in the village. Regardless of the urgency to register in the post, I wanted to stay longer for a cup of coffee or two with the friendly people to capture their sincere smiles and to savor the tableau of vast tobacco and vegetables plantations.

First thing in the morning, amidst the fog and cold, we were climbing onto Peak of Merbabu. The open savanna hinted the condition of trekking path. Some were steep ascending paths in between of wide and open savanna, complete with broken white blossoming Edelweiss to contrast the wide array of greeneries in its surrounding. My eyes seemed did not want to let go the sight of Merapi by kept looking back just to admire the beauty of the active volcano, or looking head to east to view the peaceful Lawu. Around 8 hours later, we finally arrived to the Peak of Merbabu marked with expansive view of grassland and rocks. Just a minute in this spot, embracing the mountain, the view and its refreshing air, will instantly make you feel in love with mother nature, all over again.