Sate Padang

A night food stall near my house sells sate padang. A dish from Padang, Western Sumatra. It’s traditionally made with beef in Padang but in Medan chicken and lamb are commonly used. This particular sate padang was chicken (ayam). The spicy yellow sauce on top is made from rice flour, turmeric, ginger, garlic, coriander, galangal root, cumin, curry powder and salt.

I’ve never been a real adventurous eater. It’s not so much that I’m afraid to try new things but I’m shy about ordering when I don’t know what it is that is available. I was hungry tonight, it was raining and I knew I had limited options so I pulled my motorbike up to a sate padang vendor and just pointed.

It doesn’t look like much but it was very cheap (less than $1.00) and it was quite delicious!

Sate Padang Ayam

Food tastes better served on banana leaf

Banda Aceh and the Tsunami Sites

Before I go any further. For reading purposes. Aceh is pronounced: “AH-chay”

I wanted to see more of Banda Aceh so on my final morning in Aceh I rented a motorcycle and after eating a quick breakfast I made the 17k trip into the city center. I was armed with only a simple tourist map written in only Indonesian. My first stop was the tsunami museum. Many of the exhibits were closed but I got to see a little bit about the post tsunami damage and efforts of restoration. Unfortunately, most of the exhibits were in Indonesian only and only a few had English. The museum opened in 2007 and admission is free.

Aceh Tsunami museum

Aceh Tsunami Museum opened in 2007

After the museum a few local school girls helped me find an internet cafe. They hopped on their bikes in pairs and I followed them down the street. I took care of some website business then crossed the street to a travel agent to book a flight back to Medan for the following day.

My next order of business was to find a power generator vessel that came ashore during the tsunami. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful as it was tucked away in a residential area. I then headed off in search of the grand mosque.

Since the map was labelled in Indonesian I wasn’t sure what much of it said so on my way to the mosque I accidentally came across the Aceh Thanks the World memorial park. After the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean (Boxing Day) earthquake and tsunami disaster, Banda Aceh was completely devastated. The maps that showed how far inland the waves damaged was incredible. Indonesia alone suffered anywhere between 170,000-220,000 of the 200,000-300,000 total deaths from this disaster. The province of Aceh alone had a death toll of nearly 100,000. There was a huge response to this tragedy around the world and in order to show its gratitude Aceh built a memorial park with a large wave monument and individual plaques to each country who gave support.

Aceh Thanks the World

Aceh Thanks the World

I spent some time in the park reflecting back on December 27th, the morning after the disaster. I vividly remember sitting by the computer reading articles and following message boards. I had never donated to a disaster prior to the tsunami but I felt compelled to and have done my best to give at least something when a major disaster happens. I remember not even knowing about Banda Aceh prior to the tsunami and here I was 6.5 years later standing in the city center that didn’t exist when I first learned about the place.

Aceh thanks the USA

Aceh thanks the United States of America

After taking a walk through the park and reading all the plaques dedicated to each country, I hopped back on my bike and headed for the mosque. The grand mosques in Sumatra have a Dutch colonial look to them. They are massive and a gathering place for Muslim men and women at almost all hours of the night and day. An afternoon call to prayer was being announced as I parked my bike and walked into the yard. I get looks when I’m in the city but I seemed to get extra attention inside the mosque compound. I wasn’t dressed appropriately to enter so I just hovered around outside and took photos.

Grand mosque Banda Aceh

Mesjid Raya Baiturrahman

I was hungry and since Sharia law in the Aceh province makes it illegal for Muslim and non-Muslims to consume food and drink during fasting hours, I had to be discrete about it. I headed back to the beach and had a quick lunch at the bungalows then returned to Banda Aceh. It was a nice ride so I didn’t mind doing it.

Joel's Bungalow

A nice discrete afternoon lunch to break fasting.

I wanted to try and locate the power generator vessel that was carried through Banda Aceh into its final resting point where it is today. My second attempt was more fruitful and right in the middle of a residential community was this enormous power generator. The museum and the memorial were interesting but the devastation really hit home when I saw this giant ship that was quite a few kilometers inland from the Indian Ocean laying in between a bunch of houses. Then sadness sets in when I realized this vessel rested on top of several homes killing the families that lived there. They’ve put the vessel to good use and it gives power to Banda Aceh.

Power generator vessel

Power generator vessel

The final stop I wanted to make was “kapal atas rumah.” Translated this means, “ship on a house.” It was in a small neighborhood along the riverside. There were several boats that rested on top of homes after the tsunami but this one was left in its place as a memorial. Again, like the power generator vessel, this was in a residential area. I wasn’t sure where to look for it so I asked some locals and they told me the way to go.

Boat on a roof

Boat on a roof.

How the Tsunami Ended Decades of War
I didn’t quite spend the amount of time in Aceh that I originally planned. I wanted to take a slow journey back to Medan by bus stopping along the way in various towns and cities. There is virtually no information about the province in guide books outside of Banda Aceh and Pulau Weh so it would have been an interesting adventure where I could have put my Indonesian to good use.

Aceh has never really been a tourist destination due to the ongoing armed conflicts that the region has suffered for decades after Indonesia became independent. There have been attempts by armed separatist groups to declare Aceh an independent nation as it was prior to Dutch colonialism. There were demonstrations in the late 90’s and conflict leading all the way up to 2004 before the tsunami.

I don’t want to talk too much about the politics and take any sort of a stance on it since I’m living in Indonesia now and free speech does not mean the same thing as it does back home but one could probably be forgiven for sympathizing with the separatist movement. Read more about it or watch the documentary The Black Road if you’re interested.

If just one good thing came out of the tsunami it is the almost immediate impact it had on the war. By December 28th, just 2 days after the tsunami, the GAM separatist movement in Aceh declared a cease fire and less than a year later the Indonesian government and GAM came to a peace agreement that ended decades of civil war. The tsunami itself was stated as the main motivating force for an agreement as the separatists felt the Acehenese people had suffered enough and deserved peace.

Banda Aceh is a pleasant city. Unlike many other Indonesian cities.

The peace agreement still stands to this day and the city of Banda Aceh has at least recovered from the physical scars of the tsunami. The situation in Aceh still remains volatile as the war with Indonesia was not that long ago. Hopefully, things stay as they are now and peace continues because the Aceh is a beautiful place. I do look forward to making that journey through the province at a later time.

Pulau Weh

Photos of Pulau Weh can be found on my facebook fan page. You can view them by pressing “like” on the left hand side of this page and becoming a member of Joey Goes Global on Facebook.

Last week I left Medan for the northern province of Aceh with the intent of spending a few days in Banda Aceh. My birthday was on Friday, the 12th of August and I figured it would be quite a different experience to spend it in the least festive type environment as possible. However, before I left I got in contact with a fellow Long Islander that I met while I was in Bukit Lawang who convinced me to come up to Pulau Weh (Weh Island) for my birthday. She arranged to have a friend of hers who drives a becak to pick me up at the airport and bring me to the ferry for a good price. Pulau Weh is about one hour into the Indian Ocean from Banda Aceh.

I arrived at the harbor on the island and was approached by an young local asking me where I was going. I told him, Iboih (a small diving village) and we negotiated a fair price for the motorcycle taxi. I hopped on the back and met up with my friend. She introduced me to a couple of girls from the UK and Ireland who I would later spend much of the time hanging out with.

Pulau Weh is known as a world class diving location. Indonesia has some of the best diving in the world I’m told. My three friends all had just finished getting their open water diving certificates (PADI) the day prior so they were in a celebratory mood. We chatted into the evening and started making plans for my birthday the following day.

The next morning most of us got up early and rented motorbikes to take out on to the island. The main town on Pulau Weh is Sabang. We made our way to the Friday market and did some shopping. Fasting, or “puasa” as it is called in Bahasa Indonesia, is taken place throughout the month of Ramadan which falls in August this year. In the rest of Indonesia this is usually just a minor observance in the grand scheme of things however, in Aceh and Pulau Weh it is considered mandatory under strict Islamic law. As thirsty as we were once we left the confines of our small tourist village, we couldn’t drink in public. There are restaurants and resorts spotted throughout the island where eating and drinking can be done but it’s at your own risk and clear signs on the wall that consuming any beverage or food during fasting hours is strictly prohibited for all people, including non-Muslims. The island has a Christian and Buddhist population as well so there is no discrimination.

The day was wonderful. We rode around quite a bit and searched for a resort called Freddie’s where we hung out for awhile and ate lunch. The beaches on the island are all quite empty. After we relaxed for a bit we took off Sabang again to wait for sunset so that we could eat at the food courts. Sabang is quite busy in the evenings and myself and the two other girls were quite the novelty walking around. Both them were covered appropriately and it’s good because you could see the Sharia police checking us out to make sure. Women must cover themselves fully and not show any leg or shoulder skin. A full burca and head cover is not necessary. Even for myself I was concerned about my shorts being above my knees so at the first chance I got I changed into a longer pair.

We arrived at the food court at about 6:30pm. With 30 minutes to go before the end of fasting the stalls were already cooking their meals. At about 6:45 people began ordering food and drinks. You can see an entire food court full of people with drinks in front of them that they aren’t touching. At 6:50 the mosque begins a prayer and approximately 5 minutes later an alarm sounds. It is an air raid horn that can be heard from very far away. This is the signal that fasting is over and as soon as it sounds everyone begins drinking on queue.

We spent a few hours having a delicious meal. Everything from roasted duck and chicken to fantastic fruit shakes. We then took a 30 minute night drive back to our village on motorbikes. This was my first time riding a bike at night and I was surprisingly comfortable. I have to get used to it since I’ll be buying one in Medan for work soon.

The following day I went snorkeling with the three girls. I hadn’t snorkeled in tropical waters since I was 8 years old in the Virgin Islands. It was breathtaking going underwater for the first time. There were so many colors and so many different kinds of sea life right under my feet. Unfortunately this meant a lot of sea urchins as well. Iboih sits directly across from Pulau Rubiah and is a decent swim across a channel. The water gets so deep in the middle that even with goggles the bottom is not visible. About three quarters of the way across a strong current started pushing us to the left. One of the girls made it across quickly but the rest of us struggled. I could see how easily one could get swept away if they’re not careful about the currents. We finally managed to get across to Rubiah Island where we sat in on the beach and relaxed.

The girls wanted to show me the sea garden which is on the other side of Rubiah. We made a quick hike through the center and came out on a small beach. I was warned when we got to the rock coral to not put my feet down. This was to avoid sea urchins and more importantly not damage the ecosystem. The sea garden is one of the main attractions on the island and we had it to ourselves. There was beautiful coral reef and tons of sea life. I really didn’t even know what most of it was but that didn’t take away from it. The girls would point out certain things to me as they just got done with their diving course and the names of all the sea life were fresh in their minds.

We headed back to the channel to make our swim back to the island. The girls knew a lot about the ocean currents and before jumping they tried to figure out the best way to go about it. The margin for error is probably smaller than one would expect for a casual day of swimming, If we went in too far to the right there was only a few thousand meters between us and the open Indian Ocean. If we drifted too far to the left the girls would be coming ashore in the village in bikinis which would create problems under Sharia law. The decision was made to get in further to the left of course and if we happened to float too close to the village it would be better than going out to sea. The swim back was tough and towards the end I just had to put my head down and push on. One of the girls had an ankle injury so we had to keep pace with her as to not split up. We made it back safely and enjoyed the rest of our night.

Sumatra continues to get better and better with each new place. Although, I wouldn’t exactly call Pulau Weh better than the rest but it sure adds to the already large variety of things that this part of Indonesia has to offer. It has been interesting being here during Ramadan in the already strict Islamic state of Aceh. I had thought that Pulau Weh would be more relaxed in regards to adherence to it but it turns out it’s not. This was evident when one of my friends on the island went off to have some alone time with a guy she met and was stopped by Sharia police and given a warning. They were in a quiet private area having a chat, sitting several feet from each other and this was still enough to get the attention of a plain clothed officer. He told them they’d have to leave and if they are caught alone again they would be put in jail.

Now I’m back in Banda Aceh on the mainland in a bungalow right on the Indian Ocean. This was ground zero for the 2004 tsunami and tomorrow I plan to rent a motorbike and spend half of the day seeing the many tsunami related sites of the city and then the rest of the day in the countryside along the ocean and up in the mountains. I’ll just be armed with a map and my bahasa Indonesia in order to get me around. This will be a fun test of my ability to navigate Indonesian roads. Banda Aceh is a small city with not a lot of traffic so it will be a good warm up for the bustling havoc of Medan.

So this is home…

This is somewhat anticlimactic for my readers in that I sort of left things hanging as to what my final decision was going to be on teaching. After a rather disappointing interview with the school in Medan I was left hanging for about a week waiting for an answer. I had already made provisions to go to Jakarta. I sent a follow up email and the job I wanted, I got.

Fast forward a few weeks of hanging out in Bangkok, I’m now in Medan, Indonesia where I will call home for the next year. My contract doesn’t begin until Sept 12 and ends Sept 30th of next year. It’s been a rough first week here as the accommodation they placed me in is rather uncomfortable. If it’s one thing I’ve learned about myself it’s that I have one absolute non-negotiable when it comes to any housing going forward. There must be A/C. I’m miserable in this room with just a fan. It doesn’t cut it.

I had heard some unpleasant things about the other house so I was afraid that I wouldn’t be happy with it but I decided to check for myself right away so I could make a final decision on whether or not I could stay here. The other house is absolutely amazing. There have been reviews online about the conditions there, with leaks and rats and break-ins, but I addressed those issues with the teachers living there now and have assured me those things have been resolved. Although, rats are a part of life here, I see them everywhere.

The house I’m in now is big but the one I’ll be moving into is just massive. It has 4 levels, several bedrooms, a big garage. The roommates there seem like they will be easy to get along with. Having fellow beer drinkers is always important. The girls I’m staying with now are really nice but they pretty much keep to themselves. Which is good but at the same time occasionally letting loose will be nice, which just won’t happen where I’m at. The new house has WiFi, a big bed, a washing machine and a balcony. My room will be very big.

Observations
I observed a class today and it gave me some real incite into how things are going to be. It’s really structured with a specific curriculum, however it’s not so strict that you can’t add your own personality and flavor. In fact, anytime I want to deviate from a lesson plan, I’m allowed as long as the subject matter they want covered, is covered.

Most of the students at the school are Chinese-Indonesian. They seem a bit more shy than the Indonesian students I had in Bukit Lawang but I think it will be a fun challenge. I’ll be teaching every age group from around 5 up till adults. Classes seem to range from about 10-15 students with the occasional one-on-one tutoring. This is not a public school, it’s a language center so this is not their primary education.

Back to Bukit Lawang
I have over a month before I start so there is no sense in sitting around waiting. Tomorrow I’m going to take a bus to Bukit Lawang to go visit. I was going to wait until I bought a bike but I’m not prepared to make that trip just yet. I want to get some city driving under my belt. I’m excited to see all the friends I made during my volunteer stint. My first stop will be the clinic and then make my way towards the river saying hello to anyone I can. I’ll stay through the weekend probably and maybe even longer. A week long public holiday for the end of Ramadan starts at the end of August. I have to make sure I get wherever I’m going to be, before the holiday and then leave after. There will be no buses running before and after. My plan is to head to Lake Toba and stay a week on Samosir Island. The island is predominantly Catholic so it would eliminate any risk of being stuck somewhere, unable to find food due to the fasting periods of Islam. Plus, it’s really nice on the lake and I can cool off for a little bit.

I’ll be back in Medan for good right after September 1st. That’s when I’ll shop for a motorbike and start learning my away around the city. Unfortunately, the guy I’m replacing doesn’t leave till after I start so there will be a 10 day overlap before I move into his room. It would have been nice to settle in the room before but what can I do?

That’s about it for the update. I’m just going to be touring around a bit and relaxing so I don’t expect much updating.

Waiting game…

The waiting game is about to be over. I’m still here in Ban Phe, Thailand. I decided to stay for the weekend and not move around too much because it’s easier to not spend much money that way. If I was in a bigger city the baht flow a lot faster. I have a beautiful room at Christie’s with A/C, hot water, TV and a great WiFi connection. I spend most of the days inside trying not to spend any money. The job in Medan is what I’m holding out for and I was told I would hear an answer a week from last Tuesday. If I do get the job I have to decide if I want to wait till the end of August to start. It is a tough decision because I really want the job but going that much longer with out a salary isn’t the best idea.

If I do decide to wait it out I’ll probably stick around Ban Phe longer and rent out this guest house for a month along with a motorbike for a discounted price. The interview itself didn’t go really well last week so I’m not expecting much with that job.

Could be worse places to wait around for employment

That leaves Jakarta, my eternal safety net of a job as my probable final destination. This is by no means a consolation prize as Jakarta is sure to be a great city for me. A lot of people don’t like it because it is a crowded mega-city but I can find the good in most places. If this is the plan then instead of flying the expensive $200 route from Bangkok to Jakarta, I’ll instead take a train south through the Malay peninsula to Singapore and then do a short hop on to Jakarta for much cheaper.

Either way, by Tuesday my future should be clear. Either I’m going to live in Medan or Jakarta for at least the next 12 months.

Thailand, you’re losing and Indonesia is winning

In the, Where Will Joey End Up Sweepstakes, Thailand is starting to fall precariously behind.

I arrived to the island of Penang off the west coast of Malaysia earlier this week in an attempt to secure a 90 day education visa for my stay in Thailand. I was told Penang is the most lenient Thai consulate so I felt pretty good. I think I’m realizing very quickly that visas are never a given and often a real pain. (see: Syria)

I’ve been staying in Georgetown, the second largest city in peninsular Malaysia. I was here four years ago and it is the same as it was then. Cockroaches roaming around the streets, open sewers with disgusting odors creeping out, transvestite prostitutes relieving themselves in back alleys, rickshaw drivers asking me if I want an array of different types of sexual adventures with my choice of girls both young and old, the smell of rotten food coming from stalls, and the glorious squeaking and chirping sounds of buildings infested with rats. Oh, but it’s been deemed a cultural heritage site by UNESCO. Add to this my cold and you could forgive me for being ready to leave.

So, day three in Georgetown and I finally have my verdict. I went to the Royal Thai Consulate the morning after I arrived. The owner of the guest house helped me prepare my documents and for a small fee drove me to the consulate. The visa office is only open from 9am-12pm so we got there just as it opened. It was a pretty quick process. They took my money (about $73) and my passport with all my documents. They said I needed a letter from the Ministry of Education in Thailand and that they would start the process but before they would grant it they need the fax from my school.

Sample

The elusive document!

Now, with only a receipt to pick up my passport the next day during a small window of time, I headed back to my guest house to start calling TEFL International. I spoke with one of the visa issue handlers on Skype but the connection was poor or she didn’t understand my request. She said to email her instead. I hung up the phone and immediately emailed her. Fast forward 24 hours, no reply. I sent several follow up messages advising them that this was time sensitive and I was to pick up my passport in an hour. They said they provided me with all the paperwork I should need and that if they don’t grant me the visa there is nothing they can do.

I went back to the consulate at 2pm that day and was given back my money and told that I was still missing the necessary letter. I got a sample from the consulate and took it back to my guest house where I took a photo of it and showed it to TEFL International. They emailed me back a few hours later to tell me that they called the Ministry of Education and that letter could be provided but it would be a minimum 5 days. They sent a follow up email asking me to explain my need for 90 days if my course is only 30 days long. I advised her that my plan was to enter Thailand as a tourist first visiting Bangkok seeing as though I have a friend there who is a teacher. I wanted to get acquainted more and start looking at accommodation in case I live/work in Bangkok.

I received a reply from TEFL International stating that my purposes are not acceptable and that they won’t be submitting the request to the Ministry of Education because they have had problems with foreigners using the 90 day education visa for strictly pleasure purposes. So, now I’m forced to go the dishonest route of doing “visa runs.” This requires heading to the border before your allowed time runs out, crossing into either Cambodia, Laos or Myanmar and then literally turning right back around and going through immigration. This is expensive, a real hassle and in my opinion dishonest. TEFL International said I would have to make a visa run in the middle of my intensive course with them in Ban Phe, Thailand.

So, needless to say, I’m a bit frustrated with Thailand right now. Not so much at the school itself but how strict immigration has become. This isn’t exactly a reflection on the country either but rather what the country has become since so many people find it to be such an alluring destination to find pleasure or business.

Thailand is slowly becoming less and less appealing to me as I am reminded in Penang of how many foreigners actually live there. There are bus loads of tourists doing visa runs in and out of Penang. When I was in Indonesia things felt so much different. Yes, there are tourists but due to its geographical position and being an island nation, it doesn’t get the same influx of people that Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and the rest of mainland SE Asia gets.

What this all means is that I’ve already emailed TEFL International’s school in Surabaya on the island of Java in Indonesia. They’ve advised me that I can transfer my course from Ban Phe with out paying another deposit and that my final payment must be paid in Indonesia. My growing intention has already been to head back to Indonesia to work after getting my certificate so I figure why not just take my course there too so I specifically learn how to teach Indonesian students.

I miss Indonesia intensely. Almost the moment I left I felt deflated a bit. It’s hard to explain but I really fell for Sumatra. I can only hope that Java is just as good. I’ve heard nothing but good things about all of Indonesia. (outside of Bali) So, maybe this will be a start to a life in a country that wasn’t exactly the front runner for where I was going to end up but at the same time makes so much sense now. I remember receiving postcards from a girl I met online who lived in Jakarta when I was 17 yrs old and how I dreamed about going to Indonesia someday. This isn’t to say I don’t still like Thailand, but maybe it just isn’t meant to be. I’m waiting to hear what the process for a transferring to Surabaya is and whether or not a visa is easy to get. I may have to make a return trip to Singapore to the Indonesian embassy.

UPDATE: Since writing this I found another possible way to obtain a 60 day tourist visa for Thailand. This requires me to be dishonest and say that my trip is solely for tourism. This statement about sums up the process.

[joseph] I appreciate your desire to be honest,but please understand that your
not dealing with a straight-forward system or process here

So, I’m paying the owner of my guest house $10 to take care of it tomorrow. She has my passport and two photos plus my tourist visa application. She will drop it off at the consulate and then pick up my passport with the 60 day tourist visa inside. The fee is waived until May this year so it will save me nearly $40. I am not getting too excited. I have a feeling that since I already tried to get an education visa and failed, they’ll have me in their system and deny my tourist visa. If this happens, the office in Indonesia has already advised me I can enter on a 2 month cultural study visa as long as I have an Indonesian citizen sponsor me. I have someone in mind who could help me so we’ll see. Either way, I seem to have a glimmer of hope here.

I know this sounds like a lot of headache for Thailand but in reality citizens of most countries, including the U.S., can just arrive at any airport and receive a stamp on their passport good for 30 days. I’ve complicated matters myself by arriving via land as a tourist and by needing extended time to take the course.

Samosir Island, Lake Toba

Emiel and I reunited with the jungle trek gang in Lake Toba earlier in the week. Reike and Frida left after two nights and then Liz and Emiel followed soon after. I am now here alone where I’ve been relaxing, listening to my audio books and doing a lot of sleeping. I needed this kind of rest and Lake Toba is a perfect place to do it. It is a bit touristy here but it has been no bother to me.

I’m staying on the island of Samosir which is home to the Batak people of Lake Toba. Batak includes a number of ethnic groups in northern Sumatra and this island is home to the Tobanese. Bataks in the Lake Toba area specifically refer to themselves as Batak people where as other groups do not. There is traditional style of dance and a specific housing structure that can be seen throughout the island. The people here are just as friendly as in Bukit Lawang. The island of Samosir is predominantly Catholic. Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world so this island has quite the distinction within Indonesia’s borders. There are churches scattered throughout the island and many cemeteries. Interestingly enough, after some research I found that the Batak people at one time practiced a form of cannibalism and there are accounts of it dating back to the 19th century.

Batak

Traditional Batak Village

Emiel and I rented mopeds our first full day on the island in order to explore Samosir outside of the tourist bottleneck of Tuk Tuk. Tuk Tuk is where most of the ferries drop off tourists and all the cheap accommodation can be found. Renting a bike from here was cheap so we set off for the afternoon. The beauty of renting a moped as opposed to taking a guided tour of the island is that we were free to explore on our own. We stopped along the way to check out random turn offs and to have a bottle of coke occasionally. To circumnavigate the island would mean a full 8 hour day and we had rented bikes around noon so this was out of the question. Instead we made the hot springs our goal about 43km away. We stopped for lunch in the town just near the springs and afterwards checked them out. There wasn’t much to see as the springs were just along the shore of the lake itself. After a few minutes we took out the map and decided which way we’d head back.

Emiel, like myself, enjoys a bit of adventure and the trip back taking the same road seemed rather boring. Instead we decided to cut back into the interior of the island which would provide a more exciting trip. It was already 3pm and still had 4 hours of sunlight so we figured we’d go for it. The map made the trip look pretty straight forward but we would find out later that it was anything but.

Mopeds

Just a couple of easy riders

Within in minutes of being off the main coastal road we were met with hard gravel and broken roads. The map itself specifically stated that the road through the center was safe for mopeds and motorbikes so we figured it would be fine. We rode for a good hour or so winding up into the mountain. The temperature dropped significantly but with every small town we saw we reconfirmed our route was still good. Along the way children would run out to the street to give us high fives as we passed by and adults and elders would also wave to say hello. Occasionally we would stay just behind locals who were also riding through the rough roads and watch the way they moved and followed their paths. At times the road would improve a bit but then quickly return to nothing more than a dirt path.

Cute kids

Kids being cute as usual

At some point Emiel and I must have made an errant turn. It seems as though we were following the main marked road but we ended up riding through a part of the island that was mostly rocks. It wasn’t dangerous in that there was a threat of crashing because it was a flat road. It was just not good for the bikes and seeing as though there was no insurance on them, we’d have to foot the bill if anything happens. Some locals that we had seen earlier riding through had passed us and motioned for us to follow them to the town of Tomok where we will be able to get back on paved roads and head home. We were already running later than scheduled and looked to have at least a few minutes of travel come nightfall. We followed this rocky road for a good 30 minutes occasionally hitting pockets of water and mud. This is where I broke my camera. I had it in my right pocket because earlier I had stopped to take photo opportunities. The bike with the locals in front of me attempted to pass over a muddy hole. I hesitated but decided to follow. I made it over through the hole but when I got on the other side, at a stand still, I literally tipped over and just landed on my side. My right side. The side with my camera. It cracked through the center and is inoperable now. Luckily I have travel insurance and already have the claim underway so there should be no harm done other than the reality of my score with the moped. Moped 2 – Joey 0.

All in all, it was a great day and Emiel is a great travel partner. I have a place to stay and friends to hang out with in Holland if I ever make my way up there. Separating from the gang was rather uneventful as my intention was to stay only one extra day in Lake Toba and catch up with Emiel and Liz in the jungle again for one last weekend before he heads back home. Unfortunately, or fortunately… I just didn’t want to move. I’ve been on the go for awhile and Lake Toba is really relaxing. My room overlooks the lake and the staff was really friendly and kept me company.