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Our Last Days in Sumatra

We have successfully finished the Sumatran part of our journey! Unfortunately, the internet connection is – again – too slow to upload photos. [update: these have now been retrofitted!]

The bus from Bukittinggi to Prapat safely transported us over the northern Bukit Barisan, a mountain range we dared not cross in our rickshaw with its bad engine, faulty brakes and ingeniously improvised clutch cable.

The floor of an average Indonesian bus

Upon arriving in Prapat, we decided to take a ferry across Lake Toba to check out the famous Samosir Island and escort to their resorts a group of lovely damsels we had met in Bedudal Café.

Despite its spectacular nature, I found Lake Toba one of the most annoying places I have visited in Indonesia.

In addition to the abundance of touts, overpriced guest houses and dodgy souvenir shops, hundreds of school kids were dismissed to this tourist hot spot to practice their English, presumably because their teachers were too lazy or incompetent to handle this responsibility themselves. The result was a constant wailing of “Misterr, frektis Inggris?”, followed by an obligatory photo-shoot to prove that the assignment had indeed been carried out.

Lake Toba as seen from the ferry

Glad to be back in the real world, we continued our journey to Pematang Siantar. The highlights of this bus ride were the magnificent sylvan panoramas, monkeys patrolling the road side and a bench with three school girls on it that suddenly broke off.

In Pematang Siantar, we were welcomed by my uncle Ais, who had earlier helped us with the truck. He took good care of us and drove us to Medan to pick up the rickshaw.

Offloading our rickshaw from the truck was a rather spectacular endeavour. Helped only by three wooden planks and about 15 men of strong limbs, the whole thing was slowly manoeuvred out of the truck and onto a field, ready to go.

Behold, only one of the three wooden planks broke!

On the way from Medan to Belawan, 5km before reaching our destination, we were pulled over by the strong arm of the law. Despite our ASEAN patronage and supporting statements from the national police department in Jakarta, our corrupt friends still deemed it in their best interest to try and have some “coffee money” imparted to them based on impromptu invented criminal offenses.

After they had failed to come up with a single justification to do so, they reluctantly let us go. My rather sarcastic apology for having wasted their time did very little to brighten their disposition.

What a delight it was to drop our metal stallion off at the Belawan harbour, whence it shall be shipped to Butterworth in Malaysia.

Some of the other vehicles barely survived Sumatra

In the meantime, I find myself comfortably at the residence of Xin Hui’s parents in Penang, having been treated the best rojak in the world!

Stuff that broke down: the metal frame supporting the back seat

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