Let’s Get out of Medan !

The flight from Malaysia to Indonesia was pretty stress free. We had partied hard the night before on our last night on Penang, so we were a bit rough next morning, but Lyndon knocked on our door and told us it was 10am and there was a large beer sitting waiting for us downstairs. Some middle aged Malaysian bloke called Mohammad was having a party by himself and was buying beers for everyone. The bloke was hilarious, and we found out he had been drinking since 8am, this was just a top up for us from the night before, so after 2 large bottles, we were all flying again and on the same level as Mohammad. Mohammad wouldn’t let us buy him a beer back, he was pretty insistent. I was just beginning to wonder why he was wearing a crash helmet, when he suddenly got up and jumped onto his motorbike. We watched in disbelief as he kicked started the bike. No one could stop him, and as he revved up ready to hit the road, he turned back and shouted “My Amigo’s, I have great time, but now I is pissed – Bye Bye my Amigo’s”. Hope he didn’t cause a crash and made it home safely, probably to get killed by his wife.  We worked out he must have spent at least a weeks wages on beer.

The bartender who had looked after us for the past few days was the spitting image of Sammy Davis Jnr. We said goodbye to Sammy, got a few pics and were on our way to the airport to reach Medan.

Sumatra if you recall, was the region overtaken by the large tsunami on the west coast of Indonesia in 2004. Over 220,000 were killed and the whole nation seems to have been deeply affected, and talk about as if it happened just yesterday. There have also been many other deadly earthquakes in recent years.

Medan is one of the main regional capitals, a huge, sprawling, dirty and decaying city, and one night for us was certainly enough. There are no recognisable shops, just row after row of rusty corrugated iron roofed buildings and desperate squalor. The place is just poverty stricken, and it’s on an immense scale.  It really had taken us until late at night to feel slightly relaxed, as you just feel so on edge.  Over a beer or two, we chatted to the locals, and you suddenly realise that the people here are absolutely first class, trustworthy and extremely friendly. You can actually feel the honesty in folk while they are talking, they are just so happy and content with life. But one day in Medan was enough, so we tossed a coin, we were heading to Lake Toba in the morning.

It took about 4 hours to get to Danau Toba in a hired people carrier, shared with 3 others. The driver thought he was Micheal Schumacher and I was convinced we were going to die as we continually faced oncoming traffic head on so many times, and seemed to be pulling into lane just in the nick of time.

Reaching Port Parapat, having scaled the dizzy heights of the extinct volcano while our ears popped and wee monkeys scattered, we were just a short ferry ride across Danua Toba to the island of Samosil. The lake is within the caldera of the volcano. It’s as big as Loch Lomond. The ferry would drop us off at the lakeside village of TukTuk on Samosir.  The local’s sing their Batak songs as they cross the water, and we were absolutely gobsmacked, and speechless at the beauty of the surroundings here.

We walked up the road from the jetty and found the Samosil Cottages, and for £7/night we have 5 star accommodation. A spotlessly clean room with ensuite facilities, and a hot shower. Lyndon is just next door and we have a large shared terraced balcony surrounded by tropical flora and palm trees overlooking the brilliant blue lake towards the moss green mountains.  The decision was made instantly – we are staying here for a week! 

You can rent mopeds here for about £5 for the day, so we decided to go for it and have been all around the island. All the locals drive these bikes, we frequently see mum’s with a family of 4 small girls on one bike, and even kids a young as 6 or 7 zipping around. The traffic is light, and it feels like we have the whole place to ourselves.  As you drive into each village the local children all shout “Hello!!” with big wide smiles and hold out their hands to high five you as you drive past at a snails pace. 

Time to chill out again and take some time to plan the next move, which seems to be a trip about 6 hours away to Bukit Lawang to do a jungle trek and see the wild Orangutan’s in their natural habitat.

We met a lone traveller in the hotel bar, Richard from Swansea, who told us the most amazing story.  He had done the jungle trek a few days before with a local guide, and just 20 minutes into the journey, a huge female Orangutan holding a baby jumped out in front of him.  He almost died of fright (not his exact words) 🙂 but the Orangutan put her arms around him and gave him a huge cuddle while looking directly into his eyes.  The baby started playing with his ears and nose and started cooing.  He showed us the pics which were absolutely amazing. I’ve not shaved for 3 weeks and have quite a bit of ginger face fuzz. The guide reckoned that because Richard had strawberry blonde hair, the Orangutan was seeing him as potential mate.  Richard, Lyndon and Michelle took one look at me, there was a slight pause, and everyone burst out laughing. 

 Time for a shave.

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6 Responses to Let’s Get out of Medan !

  1. Bob Ward says:

    Hi Pete & Michelle
    You are really going for it, fantastic adventure and it sounds like you are having a brilliant time. Liked the story about the orangutan cuddle and the trolley in Sydney. Sounds a bit like the Hilltoon.
    Enjoy the rest of your trip and take care.
    Bob & Carol x

  2. Siobhan Newman says:

    No don’t shave!! Think of the photos you’ll get when you trek into the jungle, they’ll all be jumping down from every tree to seek your company!
    S 🙂

  3. Lesley says:

    Have just phoned papa smurf to tell him about Anne Murray. Listened to it myself on the link and shed a tear(ok was greetin for wee while). Brought back memories of something some time in the past. No idea what:) All sounds great fun and you’re right, no way would I be sleeping there!! The resemblance to an orangutan is startling, you are like a ginger David Bellamy. Mich you look great as always and am sending you a big hug. Still enjoying the job although some of the kids would give the Tarbets fae Beechy nightmares. Holding my own, I am fae Charleston ye ken.

    Love you both see you in the next round of photos.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  4. Sheila says:

    Hi Pete and Michelle, it all sounds amazing! Can’t wait for you to add your photos.
    Keep enjoying it. Love Sheila

  5. Pamela Joy Fuge says:

    Just wanted to let you know that Medan has loads of really modern air conditioned shopping centres that are not near the back packing areas where most of us back packers stay.
    And I have had the chance to visit the very beautiful and expensive Chinese housing complexes just on the outskirts of Medan that are such a contrast to the area around the Grand Mosque.
    Personally I really like Medan with all its griminess, and the lovely lovely people.

    • The people were lovely Pamela, really lovely. We saw a bit more of Medan when we were passing through towards Bukit Lawang, and it was quite a contrast as you get to the outskirts. Thanks for posting your comments. The first from someone we don’t actually know ! Hope you liked the site.


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