The Oldest T(r)out in the West
Danau Maninjau Travel Blog› entry 53 of 115 › view all entries
We endure almost two sweaty, tedious hours sat on the back seat of a bus in Bukittinggi waiting to begin a two hour journey to Lake Maninjau. There is no obvious explanation as to why we have to wait so long. We just do; that's how things work here. I spend the time trying to learn a bit of Indonesian with a young mother sitting near to me, but it's pretty frustrating.
It's not that Indonesian is a particularly tough language. Compared to tonal languages like Thai and Vietnamese, it's a piece of Sarah Lee chocolate sponge. However, Spanish has firmly staked its claim as second language of choice in my brain and its words thrust their way forward every time I'm grasping for a word in Indonesian.
I don't realise that the old woman who heaves herself onto the bus and plonks herself down next to me is a limpet until far too late. She speaks remarkably good English and tells me in detail about a friend she has in Cambridge. Then about many other things that I don't really care about but listen to politely, nodding like the Churchill dog at regular intervals. Mercifully, just before we finally set off, the conductor ushers her forward to a comfier position. This is so the back seat can be jammed with as many backsides as is humanly possible. Lesson no.1 in Indonesian bus travel - sit on the back seat and prepare to be squished.
Danau Maninjau, a crater lake formed when an old volcano blew itself to pieces thousands of years ago, possesses a tranquil beauty. As the bus weaves and crawls down a section of switchback road that includes over forty turns, we get decent views of the crater and the lake below. The old woman's cry to us of: "Isn't it beautiful!" is entirely unnecessary. The high walls of the crater, packed with greenery, surround an expanse of blue water glimmering in the sunlight. Suddenly the two hours in Bukittinggi begin to seem like they were worth it.
As we enter the village of Maninjau, the old woman tells us when we should get off.
We say goodbye to the old woman but she isn't finished just yet:
"Now you will take my photograph." She says.
"Oh, will I?"
"Yes" she says, ignoring my bemusement and posing in front of a nearby car.
So I take a snap and show it to her on the screen of my digital camera. She takes a cursory look then peers up at me with a firm expression.
"You will send it to me when you return home. I will give you my address."
"Oh right," I say, "I suppose I will."
"Yes. You will do that."
I hand over my notebook and she carefully writes her address down for me in large confident script. Then we say our goodbyes and she's finally on her way, leaving me feeling slightly like I've been run over by an OAP steamroller.
Alex and I spend the next two days doing very little, mainly vegging on the balcony watching the work of the fish farms that dot the lake near the hotel, eating and chatting to friendly locals who wish to practice their English. It's a slightly weird feeling to find yourself within the caldera of a volcanic crater lake, the horizon blocked all around you by the shadow of the craggy rim.
The best time is as night falls, giant bats flap across the lake and over the hotel whilst the mosques of the principally muslim population project a wailing religious melody to accompany the close of the day. Elsewhere, and particularly in cities, this sound, pumped through ailing loudspeakers, can sound jarring. At Maninjau though it's perfect accompaniment to the gentle waves of the lake as they splash onto the rocks of the shore.