On my trip, many people asked me “Which was the hardest part? “. My answer was always Kalimantan, because my bike and I really struggled with the bad roads and my bike broke many times.
Before I arrived in Sumatera, I was eager to get here because I thought it would be so easy because Sumatera is where I was born and is the island with which I am most familiar. It turned out that Sumatra was one of the hardest parts of my trip and so many things kept going wrong and so many bad things kept happening to me. I had to keep reminding myself that no one said this journey was going to be easy.
In Padang, I went to the official garage. We fixed everything and also changed my tires. Many times, I told them how scared I am about fixing my bike in the official workshop because when I was in Kalimantan, they broke my bike by gluing my carburetor piston! They said I didn’t have to worry about that because they will make sure everything will be okay. After they had finished, I set off for my friend house’s. Half way, one of my rear wheels fell off and I crashed onto the road. I was lucky that I just missed a truck – if I had gone under the truck’s wheels, I would be dead now. The official workshop apologized about the incident and felt so embarrassed that they came to pick me up in their pickup truck. It was almost dark, so they drove me home and then picked me up again the next morning to fix my bike. I told them to wait because I did not want anyone to touch my bike until I was there! The mechanic checked everything again and this time I rode it 20 km just to check if everything was okay. This time, a bolt on the other side came lose! I was tired of going back and forth to the official workshop, so I went to another mechanic, who was recommended by my friend. He fixed everything properly and so the next day I continued my journey.
As soon as I reached West Sumatera, I started to see the haze coming from the peat land burning in others part of Sumatera like Riau and South Sumatera. This is the quicker and cheapest way to clear the jungle to make palm oil plantations. The haze continued until I reached North Sumatera. This year was crazy and the haze had been going on more than 3 months. In Riau it was so bad that Pekanbaru airport had been closed for almost 2 months, schools had been closed for a month, and the hospitals were full of people who were sick from breathing it. The haze is so bad and yet it comes every year. The government never stops the companies who start the fires. When I was in junior high school, almost 20 years ago, they closed the school for few days because of the smoke. Every year so many people have breathing problems. For me, driving through the haze gave me headache and made me nauseous. Riding my bike was really hard because I need to wear a mask at all times and it got so sweaty and so uncomfortable. At night, it was even harder because I often had to sleep outside and sleeping with mask on is super uncomfortable.
I rode really fast so that I could leave the smoky areas as fast as I could. I was so glad when I finally arrived in the first area with really clean air – Lake Toba, North Sumatera. I had visited this place before and had spent almost two weeks there because I liked it so much. Around Lake Toba you can find so many hotels and they are so cheap. The funny thing about this place is the hotels are a lot more expensive for locals and a lot cheaper for foreigners. I met a guy on the boat to Lake Toba who was a guide there. We exchanged stories and he asked me to stay with him at the staff room at the hotel where he works. After I dropped all my stuff at his place, he brought me to his friend’s farewell party and we had fun there. My original plan was to stay few days at Lake Toba but I changed my mind because when I was there, they were fixing the roads and accidentally cut the internet cables. No internet meant I couldn’t talk to people or update my blog or my facebook so the next morning, I said goodbye and continued to Berastagi. The city welcomed me with cold and rain.
I spent a week in Berastagi because I liked it very much. Berastagi is a small town located in mountain area and the climate is blissfully cool. There is also so much yummy street food. There are two volcanoes there, Mt. Sibayak and Mt. Sinabung. Mount Sinabung been inactive for about 400 years and has just started up again. It has been erupting pretty much non-stop for more than a year now. Many people from the villages around Mount Sinabung have been living in evacuation camps and many people didn’t want to leave their farms and sent only their children to evacuation camp. When I was there, the village head brought me to childrens’ evacuation camp. The children were amazed by my bike because they had never seen a modified bike like mine before. I spent few hours there interacting with them. Most of them speak dialect and not Indonesian language but some kids who can speak Indonesian translated everything for me. We had so much fun.
The next day, the village head and I went into the red zone. The red zone was almost empty because most people have been evacuated. The village head had a radio so we knew if it was dangerous or not. There had been quite a big eruption recently and the whole town was covered with ash.
In Berastagi, I went to the foot of Mount Sibayak, which was as far as my bike could go. A lot of people were amazed that my bike had made it to that area because it is quite high. I also went to Lumbini, where a there is a Buddhist pagoda which is a replica of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar.
I loved Berastagi so much and wanted to stay there forever but I had to continue my journey. With a heavy heart, I drove the two hours to Medan.
I found I didn’t like Medan much because it is too crowded and I hate the traffic, so I soon continued to Aceh.