Batman and Robin Hit the Jungle Juice

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Sunset on Samosir.

Danau Toba is perhaps too big to fully appreciate as a whole. Like its southern cousin, Maninjau, Toba is a volcanic crater lake. The difference between the two is judged mainly on size. Toba is the largest lake in South East Asia and, just to give a sense of perspective, Samosir, the island of cooled lava that rises from its waters, is the size of Singapore. Standing on the shoreline looking across the channel towards Samosir, you cannot tell just how big Toba is as the island blocks sight of the opposite shore. Look  left or right and all you get is water stretching away to the horizon.   

We didn't get to appreciate Toba at all until after another wait at Bukittinggi bus station.

welcome to Bagus Bay Baby.
Initially, through either miscommunication or profiteering, I couldn't really tell which, we were sold tickets for the economy bus. However, given that this journey was slated to take 14 hours plus and our would-be chariot looked more badly beaten than England after that match against Croatia, I put my foot down and said a Winehouseian "no, no, no."

So we were shifted, after an hour's wait in a sweaty wooden box of an office and the handing over of another 3 dollars each, onto an air con bus with toilet. Unfortunately we ended up with the only seats available, the very back ones which don't recline. The drivers would take it in turns to climb past us and sleep on an old mattress behind whilst the conductor made himself comfortable on a massive sack of grain in the space just in front of us, next to the back door.

The band rock out at Bagus Bay with Alex and some random Dutch girl we met.
Leg room was something that only happened for other people that night.

I'd say, out of all the bus journeys I've experienced so far, only the ones through Bolivia were worse than this little pearler. I got maybe an hour's sleep all night, sitting up straight and jammed as I was between Alex on my left and a young Indonesian woman on my right. The heady scent of the toilet wafting past my nostrils was the cherry gracing the icing on the proverbial cake of discomfort. In the end it took over 16 hours over a road that is supposedly a principal highway but was actually more uneven than a dust up between Joe Calzaghe and Lembit Opik.

By the end of it Alex and I were left frazzled and not overly prepared to face the tout challenge that awaits all travellers who attempt to set foot on Samosir.

A break on the shabby pool table.
But face it we did, ending up trailing after a 20-something guy who liked to be known as Capitan. Again, I'm sure that we ended up paying a bit of a wad in commission but he was a nice enough guy, not too pushy, and given that our room only cost 15,000 Rupiah (USD 1.50) a night each, I wasn't going to lose sleep over it.

In the end we spent a week on Samosir, at a place called Bagus Bay, which was nicely set up for plenty of dossing with an dusty old tramp of a pool table, a collection of copied DVDs and an internet cafe next door. The place was pretty quiet most of the time, perking up only for the appearance of a local band, fuelled by the local palm wine, a sense of gusto and not a whole lot more. Our main activity each day became deciding where to have our next cheap as chips meal.

Fernando pours the evil jungle juice with a knowing smile. Tomorrow will hurt.

By the Friday before the end of our stay, we had made it through almost a week without drinking anything stronger than tea. We hit the teetotal wall however when Fernando, the guy looking after Bagus Bay, guided us to a local place serving jungle juice (the aforementioned palm wine), where he secured enough for each of us to get trollied for 10,000 Rupia (1 dollar) apiece. The stuff looked like 3- year-old milk, opaque, viscous, yellow and smelling of yeast, but it certainly did the trick. Alex, the hip hard-drinking Boy Wonder of our dynamic travelling duo, ended up going clubbing with some locals.

A random local from a dimly remembered get together later in the night.
 Yours truly starring as a pissed up, grumbling Batman, made excuses and headed back instead, managing to stumble most of the way to our room before falling into a muddy ditch. 

Whether 19 or 29; I've never been cool.  

leesalad says:
You light weight Dave! Sounds like you are hitting your twilight years!
Posted on: Jun 22, 2008
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Sunset on Samosir.
Sunset on Samosir.
welcome to Bagus Bay Baby.
welcome to Bagus Bay Baby.
The band rock out at Bagus Bay wit…
The band rock out at Bagus Bay wi…
A break on the shabby pool table.
A break on the shabby pool table.
Fernando pours the evil jungle jui…
Fernando pours the evil jungle ju…
A random local from a dimly rememb…
A random local from a dimly remem…
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photo by: alexchan