Wet giant, hot giant!

Sunday, November 13, 2016
Berastagi, Sumatra, Indonesia
It took only around 3 hours to reach Berastagi and the journey up was nice enough. As we passed through Kabanjahe and headed North further away from Lake Toba we could see Mt Sinabung the volcano in the distance standing out massively against the horizon. Smoke and ash billowing out from one side, an impressive yet ominous sight.

Once we were dropped off and sorted with some digs we did a quick bit reading and went out or a walk to check where Mt Sibayak is . It's a dormant volcano that you can climb up into the crater and there are hot springs you can take a dip in half way back down the other side. We found it ok and spent the rest of night relaxing, grabbing some food and reading up a bit more on the other things we wanted to do here. Hiring a scooter to get down to Sipiso Piso waterfall and also across to the regularly active Mt Sinabung that we spotted on the way up and we also checked out the various routes up Mt Sibayak that we could do without needing a guide. The alarms were set early and we would do the trek the next morning if the weather was good if not we would grab a bike and head off to check out the other things and go exploring.

The next morning when we woke up at the first alarm we both knew straight away that we weren't going anywhere that morning. We both felt really ill. I was aching and hurting all over, particularly in my hip and shoulder joints where my arthritis is usually worse.. We both felt nauseous and had bad heads and generally just felt like utter crap . We tried to sleep it off over the morning but when we woke we were no better. The day was a right off but to be fair it's the only day so far on this trip that we have lost a day due to sickness so can't complain really. I'm not sure what it was, maybe a quick 24 our bug that we had both picked up but we only ventured out at around 8pm that night for some food not that either of us felt hungry at all that day but we thought we should at least get a little something inside us. the rest of the day was spent in bed.

The next morning we were still no where near 100% but we couldn't really afford to hang around in Berastagi any longer so we dragged ourselves up and headed out to rent a scooter for the day. We certainly would never have made the trek up Gunung Sibayak so it was the best and probably option. Berastagi itself is just an average 1 busy street town with other side roads poking out and that one main street is ridiculously busy and annoyingly noisy. Our digs were on that street it and it was unbearable at times the constant bikes trucks and buses growling past and blaring there horn at nothing in particular non stop .

Once filled up with petrol and cruising along the relatively quiet and surprisingly decent Sumatran country roads it was great to be and about. The scenery was beautiful and there is a certain satisfying feeling thinking that your off adventuring around Sumatra, just the two of us on the bike.

The ride back down towards Lake Toba and Sipiso Piso waterfall was easy and quicker than expected. I know we have just been to lake Toba and it might sound a bit backwards to have left there and now be riding back to the edge of the lake. But the lake is vast and makes much more sense to do it this way.

Once at the waterfall we parked up and took a wander down. Again we hadn't seen any westerners all day and sure enough as we descended the steps we were stopped every few minutes to pose for photos with the locals. It's quiet nice and funny to do but after doing it a few times you start to realise that you would never want to be famous ....you wouldn't get anywhere.

The waterfall itself is great. Very impressive. We have seen a few now and sometimes don't even bother going to see nearby ones that look pretty but a lot of effort for the size they are but Sipiso Piso is definitely worth the trip out. It's probably the best I've seen after Sekumpul in Bali and Kuang Si in Laos. It must be around 150m high and it's a powerful beast, at least in rainy season like it is now. It sits in a big deep valley that gives it a great setting and back drop.

After sitting and enjoying the view for an hour we headed off down another turn off we had spotted taking you down a gorgeous winding mountain road lined with orange trees and a stunning view out across Lake Toba. At the bottom was a small fishing village with a few guesthouses but not much else past the village. So we turned back up the steep snaking mountain road and off in search of Mt Sinabung the huge volcano.

After an hour of riding mighty Mt Sinabung came into view,dominating the skyline . It would still be another hours riding though before we got anywhere near to the base of it. Mt Sinabung is an extremely active volcano with something being spat out of it such as ash or lava about 300 days every year. So he's a pretty busy chap as far as volcano's go.

We headed out the other end of Berastagi and weaved our way through the backwaters through farm land and past curious locals.

The closer we got the more ash we started to spot. The plants had a uniform coating of it and the blackness of the tarmac on the road grew narrower and narrower as the light powder at the sides squeezed it in the further we went. Through many small villages that to us seemed to be living far to close the hot fiery mountain. Each one completely coated in ash. It's constantly in the air and after a little while you start to feel it a bit in your lungs. I took my phone out at one point and within 30 seconds it had a thin film of white dust on the screen .

Eventually we hit the base and could see smaller vents on the side forcing out hot steam in a constant flow. There is a huge strip down this side of it where most of the lava must flow and it's scary how close that is to peoples homes. Trees line either side of the strip but they must only have reached a certain height before the heat from a lava flow has stripped them bare. A stark and dead white ashen forest ripped in half by what looks like the surface of another planet. I haven't really seen a volcano before other than the two in Bali from a distance and they are no where near as active as this one. It's quite an intimidating and spooky sight but really interesting and I enjoyed getting as close as we did to it. We tried taking a small back road heading anti clockwise around it to see if we could go all the way around. The dead forest suddenly changed into lush green jungle and we passed a beautiful quiet lake with just a few locals fishing before the trail ran out and it was just dense forest .

Time started to get on so we headed back into town on the direct easy road and up to the local market to grab some really good cheap local food just in time before getting the bike back for it's 7pm deadline. It was a really nice day and I've started to wish we had a lot more time to spend in Sumatra as it's fun and different so far from anywhere else we have been so far. As always we have enjoyed the freedom that a bike gives and Sumatra looks like the kind of place that would be great to dump the big back packs somewhere and grab the day packs and go off exploring on 2 wheels for a month or two...maybe another trip.

Once back we still needed to sort out where we were headed the next day. We had looked at a place further North that would be great to go trekking in the jungle and it's also somewhere that isn't touristy and bust but there was no cheaper public bus option to get there easily from Berastagi and for taking a shared car the costs were too high, so at the last minute we decided on Bukit Lewang. It's supposed to be very touristy as it's National Park where you can go to see Orangutans but we are hoping it will be quiet due to the fact it's low season and the wettest month of the year. Either way I'm sure it will still be fun.


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2020-08-08