Part 1: Adventures in Sumatra, Indonesia

Making our Way to Lake Toba From Medan

“Taxi you need taxi?” said the stranger outside the terminal.

My travel partner, Harrison, and I had just touched down in North Sumatra. I said “We need a ride to Tuktuk.” We were heading to the world’s largest volcanic lake – Lake Toba. It sits on the worlds largest super volcano, last time it erupted there was a nuclear winter, and the massive hole was filled with water.

Harrison and I looked at the man and traded the look of affirmation. 1 hour later two white boys from Ohio, a 90 year old Indonesian woman, and a native from TukTuk packed into a tiny van for a four hour journey through rural Indonesia.

The two lane road was being exercised as four, but sometimes five when a bold driver would make a furious pass. The old woman had fallen asleep on Harrison’s shoulder. He gave me a look that said “Is she going to make it?” I pointed ahead as we veered back onto the right side of the road with the notion that we all might die anyways.

Taxi North Sumatra
A spitting image of our taxi. All of the vans were decorated vibrantly with paint, stickers, and decals of all colors.

A Night in Parapat

After a few near death head on collisions we finally made it to Lake Toba. We we’re planning on staying on the small island in the middle of the lake, Tuk Tuk. The last ferry had just left and we were trapped on the other side in Parapat.

We wandered into a tattered guest house called Charlie guest house. The place was empty except for one middle aged woman. She gestured a spliff in our direction and said “Smoke?” She was playing bejeweled on a computer from the 90’s.

The Charlie Guesthouse, Parapat, Indonesia
The Famous Charlie Guesthouse in Parapat, Indonesia

Guitars were mounted all over the walls. This was our first clue to the fact that music was ingrained in the culture of Lake Toba. It turns out the guest house is owned by a famous Batak musician, who has played all over the world.

Not one day passed where we didn’t play a guitar somewhere, with anyone and everyone, a jam could happen at any moment. Every place of business had a guitar somewhere on the wall that you were welcome to pick up and start playing.

In just a few hours we would meet a good friend, Himbit, who would end up showing us all around the island of Tuk Tuk. We had no idea what we were getting into – The story continues in part 2.


Do you have any questions, or comments? please comment below or tweet me @marekjmichalski.