Berastagi: On the Karo plateau

Posted: June 10, 2010 in Mountain bike touring North Sumatra 2008
Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday April 15, 2008, 25 km (16 miles) – Total so far: 91 km (57 miles)

Berastagi, (elev 1300 m) being the largest town in these Karo highlands, is one lush place, surrounded by jagged mountain peaks. A cool, sometimes rainy climate, with fertile volcanic soils, means one sure thing. Fruits and vegetables by the truck load. Grown to fuel a msaaive demand for cabbage, corn, carrots and potatoes for markets in the lowlands and as far as Malaysia and Singapore.

A two street town at the edge of a plateau surrounded by two steaming volcanoes, most people and thus traffic, breeze by Berastagi on the way to Lake Toba. A bus/truck stop, a day market and two rows of shop houses line the main street/strip.

The surrounding areas are something else and are best explored on two wheels. Quaint holiday villas dot the quieter hillsides, some dating back to late 1800 Dutch colonial times. Then there are the modern but secluded, megasized condo style resorts, full on weekends and mostly deserted on other days. I usually pop in to ask about the rooms and use a posh bathroom. We made an exception this time and went for a deluxe room at the Sibayak International Hotel today.

Rp 700,000 says the pimply front office manageress. What? And the price for poor cyclists? OK Rp 300,000, just for you. Yeah, we’ll keep it a secret. She went on, buffet breakfast included and free entry into a huge and smoky karaoke joint.

We got nice beds, bathroom, TV, dubious 24 hour massage parlour by the karaoke, huge pools and bike valets. The clincher was ‘the 24 hour hot water system’ in case one fancies a bath at 4.00 am. Our previous night’s room had just intermittent icy cold water and slimy walls. Not good.

If you can't smoke them, chew them

It would be great to climb the two semi active volcanoes here, Mt Sibayak (2170m) and Mt Sinabung (2451m) but our legs would probably be spent cycling offroad into the surrounding farmland and villages. That was what I thought the last time too, but cycling here, as in most parts of Indonesia makes so much sense. Not having to deal with public transport is a major plus. So too is cycling to soak in some hot springs north of town. If there are no updates, bear with me as I might be preoccupied with an in room massage or two.

Today’s weather seems more cooperative. Bright sunshine and blue skies. Clear morning pictures of both volcanoes. Didnt pray for good weather for the night though, so another timely deluge while we’re holed up in the swankiest people watching place in town…..MFC or Mexico Fried Chicken.

After dinner conversation was centered on ‘why the name??’ If you’re yawning by now feel free to switch to another journal! I might too.

We rode a whole 12 kms to a hilltop for 360 degree views of the city. That’s all the exertion for today, because photo taking does take time, and time is what we have a lot of in this 2 street town. Alvin even got his heavy Kalloy seatpost shortened by 5 cm at a bike shop this morning. If we have time tomorrow morning, which we do,we might just ask the guy to re attach the part that was cut off.

A beetle with exquisite taste

We had our Animal Planet moment when a stag beetle about 3 inches long planted itself on his Brooks saddle as we started to ride. There goes another 15 minutes spent on macro photography and comparing notes on composition, backlighting, depth of field etc etc.

The ladies at the market are much more considerate with their nicotine, they sell and chew them. Just watch out for the remains on the floor.

As the teenage smoke stacks at Speedy Net here are engulfing us while we bring our misadventures to you, I’ll have to bid one and all, a quick, cough, adieu……

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