With a group of our traveling pals we set off on a bright morning to tour Samosir Island by motorbike.
Our lovely Argentinian friends, Guido and Aylen.
A Scottish/Dutch combo on the third bike.
A map of the island our only guide.
After departing from Tuk-Tuk, our first stop was at Ambarita, a site of cultural significance for the Toba Batak people.
Ambarita was once the site of the king's residence and a court where important judicial meetings took place. On these self-same stone chairs, local elders met to decide the fate of transgressors. Popular punishments included slashing the skin and placing salt and chili pepper in the wounds. After a litany of other torturous methods were employed and death was inevitably met, the criminals were then boiled and consumed by the remaining members of the tribe. Human flesh, especially certain parts of the body such as the earlobes and soles of the feet, were believed by the Toba Batak to contain vital nutrients and "soul-enhancers" (not the James Brown type). Cannibalistic practices remained an important part of the culture up until the mid-19th century.
This tree, a victim of a recent storm, was butchered and later sent to the market.
A typical Sumatran school bus.
The dusty, decrepit Huta Bolon Museum in Simanindo. This is a traditional Batak village, located inside a small square that is surrounded by a tall bamboo fence. Inside the huta, a row of long-houses faces to the mountains, where their communal God was thought to reside.
The borotan, or slaughter-pole, is placed directly in the center of the village and is adorned with carvings of animals and the leaves of the banyan tree (known as the tree of life). During feasts or celebrations, a water-buffalo would be tied to this pole and subsequently...
At a cafe across the street from the museum, a group of youngsters sat around playing guitar and crooning out solemn songs of unrequited love and hard times (peppered with the ubiquitous Bob Marley or Eagles classic). Within contemporary Batak culture, the banalities of everyday existence are heightened by their cultural affinity for music (both Western and local). It is rare to meet a young man or woman who cannot play guitar or sing a melody. There is no better way to pass the time, and on this island, there surely is a lot of time to pass.
As the boys continued their communal chorus, the older patrons at the cafe chain-smoked, drank tea, and played chess.
"Welcome to Parbaba White Sand Beach".
In one brochure, this strip of dirty sand and shallow, tepid water was referred to as "Toba's Little Slice of Bali". Located on the far northern shore of Samosir Island. It wasn't quite Bali, but made for a nice pit-stop for lunch.
A youthful paradise on the shores of Lake Toba.
A local artist's not-so-subtle denouncing of logging and the devastating erosion created by the truck-monsters.
We drove onwards to the fabled hot springs.
What were billed as natural hot springs turned out to be a restaurant/cafe and some man-made pools built into the side of the mountain. However, geo-thermal activity was indeed present and some of us took a warm, muscle-soothing dip in the sulfurous water.
Stay away from narcotics.
Village life in the middle of the densely-forested island. At this point the road was devastated and the rest of the group, smartly, turned back to return to Tuk-Tuk.
Attempting to find this tiny, unassuming pond was almost the end of us. Deep in farm country, we braved treacherously unearthed roadways to encounter glorious Lake Sidhoni (a lake on an island on a lake on the world's sixth biggest island - confused yet?).
We did indeed park the bike and march down to the water's edge. Encountering some proud ruminants...
...and a mischievous gang of raggamuffins fishing for froglets in a muddy stream.
Further afield, with the afternoon light declining, we took our last photo of the day before a rain-storm and the lack of a proper map left us cold, miserable, and hopeless. Our last shot depicts another impressive ancestral tomb on the roadside before we set off into the wild...
TO BE CONTINUED...