Sunday 2nd December to Thursday 6th December
We had planned a four day stay on beautiful Samosir Island, a vast island in the middle of the vast Lake Toba. The aim was relaxation after our energetic bursts at Bukit Lawang and the volcano. We were met at the jetty and our luggage was boarded onto a hand cart and taken the short distance to Horas Home Stay. We were met by our host, Berend and his wife, Mian. We were exhausted but Berend insisting on giving us a full induction into his home stay, all through a fug of cigarette smoke, disregarding our suggestions that right then we just needed a shower and sleep. This was the first indication that whilst the homestay is idyllic the host was intrusive and continued to be throughout our stay.
This didn’t really mar our enjoyment until the fish barbecue on the final evening. We spent four happy days exploring the village of TukTuk, stopping along the way at the many lakeside cafes for coffee, beer or lunch, depending on the time of day. We did a longer walk to an ancient Stone Chairs monument and a local weaver, returning by way of a local footpath through the paddy fields, negotiating loose water buffalo along the way. It was a fabulous place but unfortunately we had some businessy things to do. We had decided that our planned return to Perth via Bali and the Gilli Islands was simply too risky with the intermittent opening and closing of the airport on Bali due to the threatened eruption and ash cloud emitted by Mount Agung volcano. We spent many hours looking for alternative routes back to Perth via a beach resort. There are no direct flights to Perth from Indonesia except via Bali so we had a bit of a problem. Various suggestions were made: to travel via Malaysia or Singapore or to any of a number of beautiful beach areas on Java or Sumatra, all of which required complicated land and flight arrangements. We put the time in but did not, at this stage, reach a conclusion.
The Homestay itself was beautiful. We stayed in an old renovated Batiq style house – we later discovered that Berend and his wife have moved into the modern hotel next door! It was all old, dark wood, well equipped with bedrooms up and and downstairs. The garden was tended like an immaculate allotment and provided all the food for the meals that were provided. There were rabbits (destined for the pot) and chickens and dogs all adding to the charm. A kayak was provided and we spent a happy hour on the lake, viewing all the lake fronting hotels, bars and restaurants.
The Horas Homestay fish barbecue deserves a mention of its own. We were persuaded into this by Berend, who, it has to be said is a bully. He promised a feast but would not tell us what was on the menu. Part of the deal was that he attends, eats with us to guide us through the courses. This he did, smoking continously at our table, not allowing us to use cutlery until half way through the many courses, starting with satay, cray fish and tilapia. He insisted we dealt with these with bare hands, burning our fIngers along the way. We finally got cutlery for the later meat courses. The amount of food was ridiculous and Berend indicated that the staff were all waiting to clean up. So Berend got to eat with us, feed his staff and dictate how we were to eat. There were eight courses in all.
So the question is why two two normally assertive, if not bossy women allowed themselves to be browbeaten by an elderly Dutch man? We have no real answer, it surprised us both but it was a insidious process and making a stand an would probably have involved making a scene, in front of his wife and staff.
No matter, move on….
We left on the same delapidated boat that we arrived on. We were driven to a local airport, some two hours away where we took a flight to Jakarta on Java, thereby ending our totally enjoyable stay on Sumatra.