Saturday, 13 April 2013

Sumatera Barat Part 4: Pangguruan - The Best View of Toba

View of Lake Toba from the balcony of our hotel room

Bus Hunting?
On foot, we headed to the main road, particularly to the spot where the becak motor driver dropped us few hours ago. My back was aching so badly, but the thoughts of leaning my back against the bus' comfortable seat surpassed the torture. 

We really hoped that the beauty of Pangguruan worth the trouble. 
We passed by shanty homes, paddy fields with a buffalo, old Batak's cemeteries and shady trees, until we reached the spot. No one was there. 

Now what? How to get to Pangguruan?

According to the travelling bible (read Lonely Planet), you can flag any buses and head to Pangguruan. Our big question was - where is the bus? None of them in sight! And where is the spot to wait for the bus?

My wife said, let's just... walk. So we walked, passed by few houses. Kids with school uniforms were everywhere along the way, obviously a sign the school day was over. Yeah, with backpack on our bags, it was not a usual scene they witnessed in their daily life, so we did expect lots of attention from those kids. 

I crossed the road and asked one of those kids, where is the appropriate spot to wait for the bus. The kid answered, you can practically wait anywhere by the roadside and flag any bus. 

Yeah, still, that did not answer the question of - where is THE bus?

Tired of walking, we stopped by at a bench in front of a closed shop by the road. Less than a minute, a colorful van stopped nearby. We saw three passengers alighted. Well, it seemed that the van was an alternative mode of transportation besides the bus. 

Wait. Maybe that's THE bus!

THE bus. To me, it is a van...

Journey to Pangguruan
Perhaps the lingering thoughts were clearly reflected on our tired faces, that the driver of the van waved at us. I approached the van and asked as to whether the van is heading to Pangguruan. The driver said, yes, we would pass by Pangguruan. Great! 

So we took our backpack and jumped in. The back seats were empty. While having difficulty shoving our big backpacks to the backseat, a Batak lady assisted me and said:

"Naiklah dulu."

(Why don't you climb up first?)

I smiled as a gesture of gratitude. The van started to move as I exhaled, as a sign of relief, we were finally on a moving vehicle towards Pangguruan. 

Passengers in the van

I cast a glance outside of the window, in between those trees, I could see some parts of Lake Toba. Without me realising it, I fell into a deep slumber, with my wife on my side, leaning on my shoulders.

After an Hour
We woke up after an hour, definitely clueless as to where we were at that particular time. I was of the assumption that the driver would know where Pangguruan is. Despite the passengers before my eyes had changed after an hour, the beauty of Lake Toba, outside of the window remained the same. 

Beauty of Lake Toba

After 15 minutes or so, we witnessed the transformation of the view of trees and plantations into administrative buildings. Slowly I realised we were already in a small town. Whether it was Pangguruan or not, we were unsure. 

The driver asked, where was our destination actually. Then I shouted "Saulina Resort".
He said, we've passed Saulina Resort few kms behind us. So he recommended a tuk tuk to bring us to the resort. 

We alighted from the van, paid his fee and climbed unto the tuk tuk. Initially we thought of walking to the resort, but we were told by the Tuk Tuk driver, the distance was too far away, too ridiculous for a journey on foot. 

Indeed he was right. What were we thinking? It was damn far away. 

Our beloved resort - Saulina Resort

Arrival in Saulina Resort
The only way to get to Saulina Resort (if you do not have your own vehicle) is to flag any bus available, stopped by at the town of Pangguruan and take a tuk tuk. Other than that, Saulina Resort is far. No kidding.

Reception Counter and Cafe 

But the journey was worth it. The best view of Lake Toba is available here, in Pangguruan. Pangguruan is the only properly constructed town in Samosir Island, where the administrative buildings of the district were located. The hot spring, supposed to be the main attraction of Pangguruan, was found to be to hot to be enjoyed. But still, to me, the best view of Lake Toba is here. 

Upon arrival, we quickly asked whether the driver could fetch us the next day, early in the morning at 9 am. He agreed. I asked for his phone number, but he said, he had no handphone as he could not afford any. So the offer was based on trust, and I believe he is a good guy. Besides, my wife said, it's a quick and confirmed cash, he would definitely come to fetch us. 

But what if he didn't?
Well, we will figure out that part later, shall we?

Toba, the view at the end of the day
Resort by the lake

Rest for Hours
It was already 3 pm and we were damn tired, dehydrated and hungry. After checking in, we went straight to our room, which was located at the second floor. Silence and serenity. Perfect things to describe Saulina Resort, majorly caused by its strategic location, being far away from town. Most people spending their nights here would be local people with their own transportation.

We arrived in our room. Sadly, no water heater was available in that room. I had to go to the reception counter once again to ask for water heater. The receptionist said they do not have any for customer. 


But they can send us hot water in tumbler. Seemed I did not have that much choice, so I agreed. I went back to our room and waited. We brought so many food - breads, instant noodles, biscuits. I told my wife, we should finish them up here, in Pangguruan. 

The Old Fashioned Way
One of the staff dropped by and handed over a tumbler with hot water... erm.. not really, the water was rather, warm. Too warm that it had minor effect on our instant noodle. 

Tak pasal-pasal kena jemur maggi kat panas nak kasi kembang. Epik. 

Mampu berejam nak tunggu kembang?

The Best Rest Ever
Once the instand noodles was ready, we ate and laughed all the way. This was among those moments you would not be able to forget. After the remarkable lunch experience, we sat down on our bed and watched local channel on tv - local drama and a local show selling tupperware. Then we fell asleep until  6 pm.

Night in Pangguruan
Pangguruan has nothing much to offer at night, or should I say Saulina Resort? I was informed that the most happening spot at night would be in Tomok or Tuk Tuk. But still I could see some families spending their quality time together doing bbq, playing music and dancing. 

We dropped by at the cafe to enjoy some drinks. Coke, hot chocolate etc. As we were chatting, we could hear the sound of the water at the lake, splashing on the tiny shore. 

We spent the night without the need for an air-conditioner as it was cool and chill enough.

Wake Up!
We woke up early the next morning, packed our bags and headed to the cafe for some breakfast. There were already many people there, having their breakfast. We ordered toast bread and hot chocolate as breakfast and spent an hour chatting at the cafe. The cafe was nicely located and constructed so that the customer would be able to enjoy the view of Lake Toba from the second floor. 

He Who Fulfilled His Promise
At 8:45 am, we made our way to the spot where the motor becak driver left us the day before. And there he was, smiling and waving at us. He asked for a specific destination. We told him that we need to be in Tomok in an hour, so we needed him to send us to the nearest bus stop. Or van-stop?

He drove us to the small town of Pangguruan. I could see the small town "waking up" in the morning, people cycling and walking to work or doing their daily chores. 

Where the Van Waits for Passengers
He dropped us nearby a coffee shop, where less than a dozen local people seemed to be waiting. Well, that did not give an impression of a bus stop, but it seemed pretty obvious to me, that was how things worked there after I saw two vans parked nearby. 

One of the people asked us, whether we were heading somewhere. We quickly informed him we need to get to Tomok in an hour time. He took my wife's backpack and put it in the van. Then he took my backpack (which was way bigger than my wife's) and put it on top of the van. 

Well, to be honest, I did try to convince myself that this was a normal practice among the community and that they would ensure all the customers' belonging remained safe and sound. 

While occasionally looking back unto the road we left far behind (in case my backpack fell off from the top of the van), I did enjoy the nice view along the way. 

Other than Batak's houses lined up, forming a scattered neighbourhood, I noticed the crops planted by the local people. Majorly dominated by corns, it occurred to me that the fertility of the land in Samosir is indeed very high, given it was a land formed by volcanic eruption years ago.  

Arrival at the Jetty of Tomok
We arrived at the jetty of Tomok an hour later, about 10 am. Ferries lined up before us and we were uncertain of which ferry would bring us to Parapat, until we were properly instructed by one of the local people. We boarded the ferry, where the same ambience appeared once again - persistent seller selling nuts, instant noodles and mineral water, Batak ballad songs played out loud and Batak boys singing a Batak song. 

Minutes later we were already on our way to Parapat. 

Until we meet again, Samosir Island...

Hairi Tahir

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