Saturday 2nd December:
We moved on, using private car and driver to Berestagi, a one night stop over to see the sun rise from the rim of a volcano. It took about 3 hours with landslides caused by recent heavy rain requiring us to take a diversion.
Our first accommodation disaster of the trip: we had booked two rooms at a hotel which we found to be grubby and smelly – well what can you expect for £11 per room? Fortunately, they had reserved only one room, which had no windows and was not pleasant, so we left in high dudgeon and our driver called up a friend who came from his house nearby and arranged another hotel for us. This one was once opulent and still rated 4 star. Outwardly it looks lovely but there are dirty corners and faulty plumbing but it was more than acceptable for our plight. It even had hot water.
We were up at 03.50 the next morning and met Erwin who had not only fixed our hotel for us the previous night but was also to be our guide up the volcano. We drove along the approach road in a battered van along a road surface you wouldn’t risk with a four wheel drive vehicle in the UK. We went as far as we could along the road and then we got out out and walked up to the start of the path up to the volcano, Agung Sibayak. It was pitch dark, Erwin gave us torches and we walked up and up,realising why the vehicle had stopped as half the road disappeared in land slips. When we got to the start of the track there were rough shacks selling provisions and the start of the line of tents which were to be found all along the way to the top of Sibayak. It was how I imagine the start of a trek in Nepal to be.The walk up was less challenging than the jungle but still challenging because of the dark and not knowing what was on either side of the path, sheer drops or creatures.As we walked we could hear a sound like an airplane engine or river pouring down a canyon and it was not until it was light that we saw that the thunderous noise was the sound of steam escaping from very many blow holes surrounding the crater of the volcano. Erwin had everything timed to perfection we arrived with ten minutes to spare before the sun came up, and , as it did, some mountain horns were blown by some trekkers on the ridge to celebrate the dawn.
We spent sometime on the volcano looking at the crater, blow holes, steam and bright yellow sulphur, before heading back to our hotel.
A quick breakfast and then off to another volcano surrounded by an exclusion zone of 4km. This is due to the volcano, Agung Sinabung, erupting in 2013 when many people in the local village were killed and constant activity since then. On one occasion thirteen people visiting their abandoned village were caught in a burning ash cloud and despite having motor bikes were killed as they fled from the burning cloud. We were told about this as we stood in the abandoned village, infringing the exclusion zone rules! Erwin assured us that he had checked ‘with vulcanology’ and that no volcanic activity was due today! The land is so fertile the villagers from the abandoned village visit daily to tend their crops but now live in Berastagi town.
Back to the hotel and then picked up by a car to be taken to Lake Toba and on to Samosir Island and the little village of Tuk Tuk. The ferry across the lake took thirty minutes in an interesting boat best describe as colourful but basic.