February 3 Climbing Sibayak Volcano and Drive to Lake Toba

I started the day a little bit tired and hungry due to the early morning Muslim prayer call and the skimpy breakfast. But climbing Mt. Sibayak was amazing, and so my grumpy mood quickly disappeared! Mt. Sibayak  is a small stratovolcano  near the town of Berastagi in northern Sumatra.

2014-02-03 139

Jeff is standing near the summit of Mt. Sibayak

Mt. Sibayak has been attracting adventurous travelers since Dutch traders first settled the area in the early 1900s. The Dutch built a road part way up the mountain. For the looks of it, little maintenance has been done on it in the last century! In fact, you can no longer drive all the way up to the end of the road. Our driver took us up as far as he could in the van, and then we got out and walked the rest of the way up the road.

2014-02-03 012

Ann and Harmony walking up the road on Mt. Sibayak, past many very large pot holes!

Sibayak means a founding community in the local Batak Karo language.

Once we left the road, the trail got a lot steeper.

2014-02-03 016

Ann and Harmony are climbing the trail on Mt. Sibayak

.It was much less hazy today, as Sinabung  volcano had stopped erupting and emitting so much steam. Still, we could not see the top of Mt. Sinabung when we looked in that direction from the path.

2014-02-03 046

Harmony and Ann on the path up Mt. Sibayak, looking towards Mt. Sinabung

Although the last eruption of Mt. Sibayak was in 1881, geothermal activity  in the form of steam vents and hot springs remains high on and around the volcano.

2014-02-03 082

Looking up at the summit of Mt. Sibayak

The summit of Mt. Sibayak rises to 6,870 feet, providing excellent views the surrounding mountains.

2014-02-03 063

Steam vents near the summit of Mt. Sibayak

Although  Sibayak has been quiet for the last century, new steam vents and seismic activity indicate that the volcano is merely taking a break between eruptions. Fortunately, it was still on a break when we were there, so we could climb it!

2014-02-03 092

Sulfur around steam vent holes near the summit of Mt. Sibayak

The vents produce crystalline sulfur, which is mined on a small scale to make matches by the local Batak people.

2014-02-03 097

Crystalline sulfur around a vent hole on Mt. Sibayak

2014-02-03 087

Harmony and Ann are standing next to a steam vent hole on Mt. Sibayak

This volcanic caldera near the peak of Mt. Sibayak normally has a shallow lake in it during the rainy season. Because it was not raining while we were there, it was just dried mud and rocks.

2014-02-03 118

Ann and Harmony are standing next to the caldera near the peak of Mt. Sibayake

People had been arranging the stones in the caldera to write out their names.So Jeff rearranged some stones inside of a heart to spell Lu.

2014-02-03 162

Jeff is rearranging stones in the volcano caldera to spell out Lu

2014-02-03 165

Harmony is standing next to the Lu heart in the Sibayak caldera

Jeff also arranged rocks into the Chinese character for Lu

2014-02-03 229

Rocks arranged into the Chinese character for Lu in the Sibayak volcano caldera

Our guide Erwin rearranged the rocks inside this square to write out my name.

2014-02-03 231

Rocks arranged by Erwin to write out Ann Lu on tour in the Sibayak volcano caldera

Above the square, I rearranged rocks to spell out Pele, the name of the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, because seeing these volcanoes reminded me of my trip to the big island of Hawaii. That was the last time that I was climbing around inside of a volcano caldera!

2014-02-03 wx80 076

Rocks arranged by Ann to write Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes inside of the Sibayak caldera

I also rearranged the rocks to write Aloha. So it says “Pele Aloha! or hello in the Hawaiian language. Rearranging all of these rocks was hard work-they were large and heavy!

2014-02-03 wx80 077

Rocks arranged to write Aloha. So it says “Pele Aloha! or hello in the Hawaiian language in the Sibayak caldera

Harmony thought that we were all being silly spending so much time rearranging rocks in the caldera. So she amused herself by “planking” on some rocks near the edge of the caldera.

2014-02-03 175

Harmony planks on a rock near the edge of the caldera

It was very beautiful at the summit of Mt. Sibayak, but we had a lot more to see and do, so we climbed back down after just a short stay at the top.

2014-02-03 203

Volcanic rock near the summit of Mt. Sibayak

2014-02-03 271

Pitcher pot plant near the trail on Mt. Sibayak

Our driver took a different road down Mt. Sibayak. This road took us past the steam pipes from the collection area that go down to the hot spring. The section of pipe in the photo below has a leak with steam escaping from it.

2014-02-03 305

Leaky steam pipe on Mt. Sibayak going down alongside the road to the hot springs

The hot springs were lovely, with many pools filled with hot mineral water.

2014-02-03 325

Harmony is sitting on the edge of a pool at the Mt. Sibayak Hot Springs

Harmony did not want to get in the water and soak because she thought that the water was too hot. But Jeff and I both appreciated our hot springs soak, as we had sore muscles from all of the hiking that we had been doing!

2014-02-03 331

Harmony is sitting on the edge of a hot spring pool, just soaking her feet

We were the only ones at the hot spring at the time.

2014-02-03 wx80 098

Jeff is soaking in a hot spring pool on Mt. Sibayak

We went back to Berastagi after we left the hot springs, and ate lunch in a Muslim restaurant there.

2014-02-03 wx80 101

Harmony and Jeff are eating lunch at a muslim restaurant in Berastagi

After lunch, our guide Erwin left us. He was going to stay behind in Berastagi so that he could attend the memorial service for his friend. Hans, our new guide, took his place. This turned out to be very fortuitous, as Hans knew a lot about Batak history and culture. We learned a lot from him over the next two days.

2014-02-03 358

Tian, Ann, Harmony, Jeff, and Erwin pose outside of the Muslim restaurant in Berastagi

Our first stop after lunch was a famous church in Berastagi, the Gereja Katolik St. Fransiskus Assisi. This was a beautiful church built in the Batak Karo traditional style. The Batak people are mostly Christian, converted by the Spanish (Catholics) or the Germans and Dutch (Protestants.) This is a Batak Catholic church.

2014-02-03 365

Gereja Katolik St. Fransiskus Assisi church in Berastagi

According to Hans, there are six different  Batak tribes in northern Sumatra. The people living in the mountains were Batak Karo. Later, we would get to see BatakTtabo when we went to Lake Tabo. Hans said that the Batak Tabo were the original tribe that settled in northern Sumatra, and then the other tribes split off from them.

2014-02-03 366

Front entrance of the Gereja Katolik St. Fransiskus Assisi church in Berastagi

Bataks speak a variety of closely related languages. There are two major branches, a northern branch of the Pak-Pak, Alas-Kluet and Karo languages, which are similar to each other.The southern branch has the Toba, Mandailing, and Simalungun dialects. Some Simalungun dialects can be understood by speakers of Batak Karo, whereas other dialects of Simalungun can be understood by speakers of Toba. So, even though they all live in northern Sumatra, and descended from the same ancestors, they can’t always understand each other!

2014-02-03 362

St. Francis of Assisi on the four-sided, Batak Karo style roof of the church

The Batak people have their own writing known as Surat Batak. The writing was important in  traditional religious ceremonies.. Surat Batak is the writing on the top of the sign above the doors.

2014-02-03 369

Surat Batak writing on the top of the sign above the doors of the church

2014-02-03 368

A statue of St. Francis of Assisi outside of the Gereja Katolik St. Fransiskus Assisi church

The interior of  the Gereja Katolik St. Fransiskus Assisi church in Berastagi.

2014-02-03 372

Inside the Gereja Katolik St. Fransiskus Assisi church in Berastagi

2014-02-03 wx80 117

An altar shaped like a traditional style house inside the Gereja Katolik St. Fransiskus Assisi church in Berastagi

A gong inside  the Gereja Katolik St. Fransiskus Assisi church in Berastagi

2014-02-03 wx80 118

A gong the Gereja Katolik St. Fransiskus Assisi church in Berastagi

Stained glass windows  the Gereja Katolik St. Fransiskus Assisi church in Berastagi.

2014-02-03 wx80 116

Stained glass windows inside the Gereja Katolik St. Fransiskus Assisi church in Berastagi

The pulpit inside  the Gereja Katolik St. Fransiskus Assisi church in Berastagi

2014-02-03 wx80 119

The pulpit inside the Gereja Katolik St. Fransiskus Assisi church in Berastagi

The architecture and village layouts of the six Batak groups show significant variety. Batak Toba houses, for example, are boat-shaped with intricately carved gables and upsweeping roof ridges, and Batak Karo houses rise up in tiers. The top tier of Batak Karo houses have  peaked sections facing in two or four directions. There was a replica of a Batak Karo house next to the church.

2014-02-03 363

Batak Karo style family house, next to the church

Both types of Batak houses are built on piles to keep them safer during earthquakes, and dry during floods. And animals were often sheltered beneath the houses.

There was also a replica of a Batak Karo watch tower building next to the house.

2014-02-03 394

Harmony is standing of a Batak Karo watch tower building next to the house

The Batak rumah (house) has traditionally been a large house in which a group of families live together. This Batak Karo rumah was being used as something other than a replica/museum when we were there. Four families that had been evacuated from the volcano were living in it. So we had to tap three times on the wall next to the door, say “horas” (hello), loudly, and wait for permission to go inside.

2014-02-03 396

Harmony enters the Batak karo rumah

During the day, the interior is shared living space, and at night, cloth or matting drapes provide families with privacy. This rumah was housing four families, one in each section of the house.

2014-02-03 wx80 124

A family living in the Batak Karo house near the church in Berastagi

2014-02-03 wx80 125

Another family living in the Batak Karo house near the church

The shared cooking fire pit in the center of the Batak Karo rumah house.

2014-02-03 wx80 126

Photo of the shared cooking fire pit in the center of the Batak Karo rumah house

Some of the tallest waterfalls in South East Asia can be found in Sumatra. Sipiso-piso waterfall, (like a knife), is 120 meters high. It is located at the northern end of Lake Toba. The water fall is formed by a small underground river on the Karo Plateau and flows out into Lake Toba. 

2014-02-03 413

Sipiso-piso waterfall, near the north end of Lake Toba

2014-02-03 414

Sipiso-piso waterfall, near the north end of Lake Toba

We stopped at one more Batak Catholic church. This one is built in the traditional Batak Toba style.Notice that the roof arches upwards in the front and the back. We would see many houses with roofs like this around Samosir Island in Lake Toba.

2014-02-03 439

Batak Catholic Church, built in the architectural style of Batak Toba

2014-02-03 440

Roof top of a Batak Catholic Church, built in the architectural style of Batak Toba

We stopped at a coffeehouse and restaurant on our way to Lake Toba. The dining room had great views of Lake Toba and the surrounding farm fields. We were served a very interesting spice tea here. It is called Bandrek.. Bandrek is a traditional hot, sweet and spicy beverage native to West Java, Indonesia. The people who live in the highland cool climate there consume bandrek to warm themselves at night and during cold weather. This drink is usually made of ginger, cinnamon, star anise, lemon grass, and black pepper, ground up and mixed together. . Milk can be added or not, depending on one’s taste. It is believed that bandrek has a healing effect on minor health problems, such as a sore throat.

I loved this drink! We bought some and brought it home with us. I had a cold and a sore throat when I returned home from Sumatra, so I drank a lot of bandrek spice tea over the next few days. it really helped my sore throat, but alas, most of my bandrek tea is gone!

2014-02-03 488

Fried bananas with spicy bandrek tea

After our spicy tea and fried bananas at the coffeehouse, we drove on to Lake Toba. Lake Toba was really beautiful! We drove down a winding, twisty road to get to the lake shore, where we were going to take a ferry to Samosir Island. Although it was very twisty, the road down to the shore of Lake Toba was one of the only nicely paved roads that we traveled on in northern Sumatra!

2014-02-03 424

A view of Lake Toba

Near the ferry dock, there was this buffalo tied up. His horns were growing downward instead of upward, like they normally do.

2014-02-03 wx80 171

Water buffalo near the Lake Toba dock for the Samosir island car ferry with horns growing in the wrong direction

I have ridden on many car ferries, but this was the first time that I took a ferry with a truck load of pigs on board! They were very loud; we could hear them squealing for most of the thirty minute trip to the dock on Samosir Island!

2014-02-03 510

Ann is standing on the upper deck of the car ferry to Samosir Island in Lake Toba

2014-02-03 529

Pigs in the truck on the ferry to Samosir Island

Our guest house at the resort at Samosir Island in Lake Toba very nice! We were in the room on the upper, right hand side. So, yes, I was back to climbing stairs to get to my room!

2014-02-04 721

Our guest house on Samosir Island in Lake Toba

There was a playground and a swimming pool on the nicely landscaped grounds. It also had electricity, hot and cold water in the nice bathrooms, and a fan in the room. But no internet, because the wifi connection was down at the resort.

2014-02-04 wx80 002

Playground at the resort on Samosir island in Lake Toba

There was a beautiful view of the mountains in the center of the island from our balcony.

2014-02-04 wx80 003

View of the mountains in the center of the island from our balcony at the resort on Samosir island in Lake Toba

And there was a very nice restaurant at the resort. We ate in it on our first night there, but it was expensive (western pricing!) by Indonesian standards. So we ate in a local restaurant our second night there.

2014-02-04 wx80 005

Jeff and Harmony sitting at a table in the restaurant at the resort on Samosir island in Lake Toba

Even though we were in a western style resort, it still had a few Indonesian touches. Like the water buffalo grazing outside of the restaurant!

2014-02-04 wx80 006

Water buffalo grazing outside of the restaurant at the resort on Samosir island in Lake Toba

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s