Trans Sumatra Indonesia

Selat Sunda, Bakauheni, Bandar Lampung | Tanjung Karang, Kereta api | Palembang, Musi | Bangka, Belinku | Lahat, Bukit Barisan | Lubuk Linggau | Sungai Penuh, Barisan Kerinci | Kaya Aro, Gunung Kerinci, Kerinci Seblat | Padang, Minangkabau, Danau Mininjau | Bukit Tinggi, Batusangkar, Battipuh | Ngarai, Kotokadang | Padang Sidempnau, Bonjol, Rimba Panti, Pesantren | Prapat, Sipo Holon, Toba, Tuk Tuk, Butok Bolon, Ambrita | Brastagi, Samatang Purba, Sipiso | Linga | Medan, Bohorok |

** Click images to enlarge **

Trans Sumatra highway a nightmare or a splendid experience? After completion of the Trans Sumatra highway a trip from Bakauheni in the south to Medan in the north is for sure a fascinating experience. Much depends on good travel preparations, available time and your resilience during the unavoidable delays and everything what's going wrong during this trip, which is normal in Indonesia. Patience, toleration and keep smiling are very important during this unforgettable adventure.

Nice pictures We started our trip in Jakarta and after a good sleep we take the bus to Merak for our transfer by ferry-boat across the Selat Sunda (Street of Sunda) to Bakauheni. During the trip you will see far away the famous volcano Krakatau waiting the next eruption. From Bakauheni we take the bus to Bandar Lampung, the capital of the province Lampung. Slowly the way is going up and from above you will have a wonderful view over the Teluk Lampung (gulf of Lampung). In Bandar Lampung we overnight in hotel Sahid Krakatau.

Railway station Kereta Api The next day we continue our trip from the railway station Tanjung Karang with the accommodation train to Palembang, In spite we are a very small group (8 persons) we got a private wagon and security guards during this trip. It's real an experience to travel first class along all the picturesque little villages, during the stops you can get out to walk around but the guards will watch you. Very poor hamlets relieve splendor villages all among luxuriant vegetation. It is permitted to have a look in the other wagons of the train, do it, and you know how privileged you are traveling! . After 12 Hours and about 80 stops we arrive at the station Kerete api (fire wagon) at Palembang. We overnight there in hotel Swarna Dwipa.

Nice views on route In Palembang we visit museum Belaputra Dewa a Songet weaving-mill and some home-industry with shells. We made a boat trip on the Musi river with beautiful rumah limas (traditional houses) and many poor pile-dwelling houses along the border. The trip ended nearby a beautiful Chinese temple. A very good tropical lunch has been served by Taman Sari. During our visit a festival with a kind of a fair was going on, it is funny to see the locals making fun and to join them. My length 6.3 feet (surely not so tall) create surprise.

Kroepoek manufacturer Today we leave the hotel with very limited hand luggage to the airport Talang Betutu for our flight to Bangka island (a former tin-island). Here starts the first proof to test our guide, In spite of all (re)confirmations there is no space available because the governor needs the plane! After some words between our guide and the Governor (who is traveling with only 5 persons) at once is Okay. No space is merely a fib of the Merapi booking office! To Bangka island is only a 30 min. flight and then you arrive in a tropical paradise, from the airport to our destination Belingu is still a 3 hours drive. Rumodong Cottages with idyllic little cottages on the beach under the palm trees with permanent inhabitants some gecko's.
In the morning we visit the pepper plantations, fish market and Kemplang traditional home-fabrication of kroepoek (prawn crackers). The vegetation over the island is supremely beautiful. In the afternoon we go with a little boat to a very small island Lamp for swimming and sunbathe. A beautiful inhabited little island in the Chinese See. In the evening after diner at the beach a local dance group in traditional dress attract us with nice performance.

washings After the return flight to Palembang we pick up our luggage in hotel Swarna Dwipa and depart with our final bus to the first destination Lahat. A trip of about 215 km along Pineapple, Rubber en Palm oil plantations en the famous Bukit Tunjuk (finger-mountain). On the way we made several stops for pictures and possible sanitary facilities. Lahat is a average sized village, a nodal point in the highway and is situated at the beginning of the mountains Bukit Barisan. We overnight here in hotel Sandrawasi, clean but with only a mandi tray (a reservoir with cold water and a saucepan to splash it over your body).

colorful pasar Before we depart for Lubuk Linggau, a 158 km trip, we pay a visit to the old (former Dutch) mission school (acquaintances of our guide are working here). It's quite an experience for the children to demonstrate their knowledge of English and Dutch language, and it is funny to see that there are still some Dutch school-books in use. Out trip to Lubuk Linggau continued along several interesting Kampongs mostly build close to rivers overstrained by tricky long suspension-bridges. Everywhere people lives you see many woman do their washings in the river. In Lubuk Linggau we stayed Transit, clean but only with a mandi tray. In the afternoon we enjoyed our self in the kampong .

forest During the trip of 306 km to Sungai Penuh you will see real virgin forest, partly the trip going through the Barisan Kerinci a protected area. The so called Trans Sumatra Highway is here a very small way fringed by overgrowth giants of the forest, high in trees howling the monkeys. Our driver suggest something new, you are going to walk and I will pick you up later - a very good idea, especially at the time we arrived the bus we found the coffee ready. From time to time you will see a piece of wood what is burned down and where some people live trying to grow (illegal) something, mostly cinnamon. If this situation continue the forest will disappear very soon. The public opinion is against preserving the forest, they begrudge the unused space. We pass several little kampongs where immediately the whole population turned out to see the crazy belanda's (white people), In one of these Kampongs a little very old man with only one and a half teeth explained in perfect Dutch (I have a book about King Claus and Princess Beatrix) we where unable to restrain our amusement!. Take care that you have always plenty of cigarettes, pencils and sweets for presents. At Sungai Penuh we overnight in hotel Busana.

under contruction An excursion to the tea factory Kayu Aro, a state-enterprise, pass along the Gunung Kerinci a 3800 meters high active volcano. It's real an experience to see the process of tea production. Just down the factory you will find a the extensive Pasar (market) of Kayu Aro a multicolored collection of all kind of food and consumer-goods. With a Bendi ( a kind of horse carriage) we are going to Pontok Tinggi to see the wooden mosque build without any nail, beside the mosque is enormous drum Bedug which will be used to call up for prayer.
We go down from the mountains through the tropical forest Kerinci Seblat to the west coast of Sumatra, to the area of the Minangkabau, well-known for her matriarchy society. Again he trip is going through overwhelming vegetation, walking the most beautiful parts with coffee at the end. After 277 km we arrive in Padang, where we overnight in Muara hotel.

Minang girls The Minangkabau still fascinate the anthropologists for their matrilineal family-system and their strong base with Islam. The married woman still stay together with all the family of her mother-side sukiyaki in a big family house Rumah Gadang. All the properties are owned by the mistress of the house. Her man is paying from to time a visit to his wife. They declare it as follow: Adat (tradition) is based on syarak and syarak is based on the Koran. I don't understand? Museum Tanda Masuk is a big Adat house and worth while to visit also the Chinese temple is beautiful. Just outside Padang is very old rise mill driven by water, from time time it is still in use.
We continue our trip along beautiful sawah's (rise-fields) up the mountains to the lake Danau Mininjau a beautiful mountain-lake bordered by steep, 600 meters high, with virgin-forest covered walls.To my opinion this lake is much better than well-known Toba lake, anyhow it is not so touristic as Toba-lake. We take it easy this time, limited to walking along the lake. In spite of our intention to take it easy we still visited with a local guide a waterfall. In de evening after diner in Pasar Panjang Permai hotel, a fantastic dressed Mininjaudance-group surprised us with a performance.

Today lead the trip us to Bukit Tinggi 137 km by a way of 44 bends Kelok ampe puluh ampe by a roundabout to Pagarruyung to see the old former Kings palace and Batusangkar with fortress van der Capellen, the old Rumah Gadang, and Batipuh with an old Surau along beautiful views on Paddi fields , ploughing buffalo's and a overwhelming wealth of flowers we arrive Bukit Tinggi where we overnight in hotel Pusako. With a bath and hot water!

for some people its salable First we pay a visit to Fortress de Kock and the Big Ben Jam Gadang next we found a local who want to guide us in Buffalo's hole Ngarai rift to find the flying dogs. An exciting trip on Kakki Ajam (bare feet) through rivers, mud and marshland until we found them, hundreds of very big bat-like creatures. After a steep climb we arrive in Kotagadang a little silver city. On the way back we take the Bemo (a three wheel car overfilled with passengers) and a Bendi (horse carriage). Back in Bukit Tinggi we treat our self with pineapple pancakes, because we are heartily sick of rise.

Batak house We continue to Padang Sidempuan a trip of 315 km, by Bonjol we cross the equator, a reason for having a romp with water and a certificate mentioning that the circumference of earth is 40 million km. (a little mistake). Bonjol was in the former days a Islamic leader and his statue including horse and sword, adorn the city. Till Lubuksikaping the way is going up then it's going down to a lovely river valley with rice fields. We pass the hot water wells near Rimba Panti with a lot of very tame monkeys, the area of the Mandailing Batak with violence to Islamism converted Batak people and the biggest Pesantren Islamic boarding school where hundreds boys and girls living in very little cots (to be reeducate?) Slowly the landscape changed, more churches instead of mosques and typical batak houses dominate the landscape.

Because we want to make many stops we depart very early in the morning for our trip to Prapat 200 km. One of the stops is at Sipo Holon with hot sulfa wells, from Prapat we take the boat over Toba lake to Samosir island. Our destination is Silingtong hotel at Tuk Tuk. A jewel of a hotel with pretty cottages and a beautiful Orchid garden The owner speaks perfect Dutch. You will notice that it is much more touristic over here. By boat we going to Butok Bolon to enjoy a professional demonstration of Toba Batak dance and rituals. The excellent performance is in an open air museum Mutabolon Simanindo with beautiful Batak houses. We visit also Ambarita the old stone court of justice with the execution place. the next day we enjoyed our self with a round trip in the hotel bus.

Our next destination is Berastagi high in the mountains, first we see Samatang Purba a long house of the King Simalungun with his 24 wife's, a very beautiful block of an amorous temper. Second we visit the Sipiso waterfalls, nice but very a touristic attraction. In Berastagi we stay in hotel Sibayak very good! A walk through the nearby park on the Gundaling hill is real worth while. So high It's real cold here!!

All together we rent a small bus with driver to explore the surroundings.The driver knows something we like to see, a Karo Batak village Linga where a funeral was going on. This is a particular experience, in a short briefing: the body on a stretcher decorated with Christian signs like a crucifix will be carried by as Muslim dressed people to the village market place under Christian praying's where a ritual Animistic feast starts with loud music and dance. In the beginning everybody was sitting on the ground but soon they go all dancing on a strange rhythm. probably the dead person was very important because there were many people. On my request for permission to make a movie from the procedure they were very enthusiast and explained that the dead man will now more satisfied by so many sympathy.

Bohorok On the way to Medan we visit an other Karo Batak village and a rubber and palm oil plantation. Along the way are little stands where you can buy delicious Rambutan. They fit us in hotel Darma Deli. In Medan are restaurants which serve good western food. There remains only one trip, to Bohorok with the Orang-Utan rehabilitation center from WWF. From Medan to Bohorok is 140 km thus we take our lunch with us. After the lunch we have to wait a while until it is time to feed the animals, it is not allowed to visit this area outside feeding time. A very narrow path is set out through the jungle to the river Bohorok where the guards ferry you by canoe to the other side, Then you have to climb the steep slope till you arrive a platform build in the trees. Here guards feeding the Orang-Utangs with coconut milk and bananas. The 5 feet tall animals dangle straight before your face. In the mean time it started with raining, tropical rain! The way down changed into a wild mud-river. It was a good idea that everybody has a couple of boys who assist you with carrying the camera's etc. But be attend! some unreliable boys try to steal whatever they can, also your umbrella and they ask too much money for their service.

We thanks our guide Pauline Muljono, a sociable female and smart enough to fix every problem even aching muscles and sprain ankle's, the driver and his helper who were always standby. The trip takes 24 days and remains unforgettable.

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