Padang to Sibolga 3-7 January 2008
Good news, when we arrived at 6.30am the car was waiting for us all ready to go! The mechanics had done an excellent job, at a fraction of the cost it would have been back home. Terima Kasih guys!
We got straight back on the road, returning to Bukittinggi which we had enjoyed so much before. It really is one of our favourite parts of the country being very friendly and laid back with lovely scenery. We re-visited our old haunts, especially our banana pancake lady ..delicious! Whilst there before we had heard of the giant rafflesia flower which is found in a small village to the north of Bukittinggi though sightings could not be guaranteed every year. Apparently one had been spotted so we took a tour with a local guide which involved an hour’s trek through the rice paddies and the jungle till we saw the flower which was pretty impressive, as was the countryside.
Next we headed off to Danau (or Lake) Maninjau, which is a lake within the crater of an old volcano which is renowned to be very beautiful. The road down was described in the LP as “unforgettable” and so it proved but perhaps for the wrong reasons! It comprises 44 numbered hairpin bends with glimpses of truly gorgeous scenery of the lake and hills. On our travels we have become very used to “Hati Hati!” signs which means careful and usually warns you that you are about to encounter a horrific hazard of some description so you can steel yourself. On the way down we were passing trucks loaded with fish (they transport them live in huge bags of water) and bus loads of travellers. No one else was being very “Hati Hati” at all so we were proceeding very carefully. When a particularly mad truck came flying towards us we pulled up on the side of the road and stopped to let him pass. This was fine until without warning the car lurched down at my side as the edge of the road had collapsed! This was right on number 20 of the 44 hair pinned bends! We had to get out the jack and (helped by some good Samaritans) we dug under the wheel and placed rocks so the car could get traction as we had collapsed into an old drain. The whole thing was made extra hazardous by trucks constantly flying round the corner and having to screech on their brakes. Thankfully after our preparations we waved down a truck and he pulled us out, just before darkness fell. Whew ..good to know all the rescue equipment works!
The Lake was very beautiful, and we found a nice home stay which looked out over the water. The next day we drove around the lake (48kms). The main industry is fish farming and it was obviously harvest day as everywhere the fish were being loaded into large bags which were filled with water and blasted with a shot of oxygen before being transported to Padang and Pekanbaru. As we were driving we heard drum beating and happened upon a possession coming from the Mosque. We had to stop as the road was blocked and were invited into a house where a party was in full swing with very enthusiastic (and good) drum playing. Eventually we worked out that the little boy in red in our pictures had just been circumcised and his siblings were presumably dressed up in sympathy! We were made very welcome.
We ate fish that night which was delicious. Sadly we had to leave the next day as our visa runs out on the 19th of January so we have to keep an eye on the clock. We drove north, stopping for lunch at a passing Sate stall in the middle of nowhere. We passed through a small town Bonjol whose sole claim to fame is that it is the site of the equator so you pass from the Southern into the Northern hemisphere. First time “up north” in 9 years for me and first ever for Andrew. We stopped to take a picture and were set upon by salesmen.....so we had to buy the t-shirt!
Next stop is Pulau Nias which is another top surf spot to appease the surfer who missed out in Mentawai, so we headed to Sibolga and had a day to organize ourselves change money etc prior to catching the overnight ferry to Nias. Back on the sea sickness tablets for me!