Brastagi – Haranggaol: The lake’s in sight

Posted: June 10, 2010 in Mountain bike touring North Sumatra 2008
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Wednesday April 16, 2008, 75 km (47 miles) – Total so far: 166 km (103 miles)

Today we’re on a mostly downhill road to one of South East Asia’s largest highland lakes, at 900 m above sea level and 100 kms by 30 kms across. The island in it, Samosir is 45kms by 20 kms, and is a tad larger than Singapore itself, but the latter isnt giving up without a fight. It just reclaims more land by deep sea dredging, ironically from it’s own or close to Indonesian and Malaysian waters.

To further confuse and complicate matters fot the geographically challenged, there is a small lake on Samosir island’s plateau itself. A lake on an island in a lake on the island of Sumatra. Those in the know will tell you that Samosir is not really an island, as a small concrete bridge connects it to the mainland on it’s western flank. Sort of a dubious peninsula? Eons ago, the Dutch dug a canal here to drain surrounding marshlands, to the anger of the superstitious local Batak people. Fearing that their ‘island’ would sink into the lake, we now have a locally built bridge. We ride across this in the coming days, granny gearing up 900 metres among pine trees and into the clouds. I can almost hear Dame Julie Andrews.

We left Berastagi bright and early, flanked by the area’s two steaming volcanoes on each side of a very quiet country road. Traffic became heavy after 20 plus kms as we made our was across a 1200 m highland plateau for the next 45 kms. Small cross roads towns with the odd bus station and market being the centres of activity giving way to quiet roads again once we rode 5 minutes out of them.

A slight detour of 3 kms off the main road led us to our first views of the lake, a dizzing viewpoint 300 metres high above. Nearyby was another ‘tourist object’ the Sipisopiso waterfall. An hour’s hike leads to the plunge pool below. No thanks, our legs are just starting out on the first long day of riding and we need to take it easy.

Does it cut like a knife ?

The green hillsides here are dotted with elaborate and swanky looking…..tombstones. The Batak Christians and Catholics have reserved choice spots on the highest hill tops with the best views. Some are not really filled up yet. There may be only one dearly departed in a tombstone with space left for the remaining family members, eventually.

Some tombs are really large and elaborate, with murals of the country side and lake on the horizon, and Jesus flanking the coffin itself. Not too creepy a place to camp out at, but dont take my word for it!

Lakeside, an old photo from 1994

The downhill run into Haranggaol is a dream to ride, just had to watch out for the many blind corners made scarier by flooded potholes and the oncoming truck full of produce and kids on top. I almost lost it around a 180 deg bend which had a speed bump designed for a total stop. It was the size of half a basketball and designed to stop even a truck, or dent a bicycle, it’s rider or rim or two.

Found a quaint but slightly run down guest house, The Horisan, (Indo for Horizon) just by the lake with our record low rate of Rp 60000 or just $6.50 so far. Icy cold bath water meets internally over heated bike tourist. No big deal. Easy if bath is just a scoop and splash from a huge cistern or pail job. Bathe in segments. Lather legs first followed by arms. Shampoo hair, if any. Wash off legs and arms. Soap torso, nether private places, and back. Wash off hair and head, then finally torso, NPPs and back. Keep super light quick drying towel nearby. Done. At least for me.

Tooth brushing? Slightly decadent, with 2 cups of bottled water.

The rest of the afternoon was lazy, just strolling for a change by the lake, with it’s many fish traps. It seems goldfish, orange carps are a delicacy here.

There’s something to be said for a cool night wind billowing through our window curtains, while I’m snug inside my silk liners, ready to snore and compete with the croaking frogs and crickets outside. Time check, just 9 pm.

the good ol mountain biking days 1994




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