At Lake Maninjau our bus dropped us off about 5km from our guesthouse—and it was raining. A local police officer waived down a couple of guys with motorbikes to take us there. The guesthouse we stayed at, Arlens, is interestingly located about a quarter of a mile from the road on the lake, down a narrow, muddy path. Arlens is run by a very accommodative family who keep the business well maintained. It has pretty flowers and vegetation with a nice gravel path leading to the beach. It also has a pleasant lounge and dining area where one can enjoy the view of the lake. Oh yes, Arlens had the laid back atmosphere that I desperately needed.
We met a real nice Dutch (the Netherlands) couple that evening while we were eating. They were on a RTW trip as well. They had just come from northern Sumatra and very graciously tore that section out of their Lonely Planet Guide book for me. They were able to give me some great information, which was great for me, as I intended to head in that direction next. One of the employees at Arlens asked if we would enjoy a campfire on the beach. Sounded great! So we all moved and continued our pleasant conversations to the beach, where we talked for hours. Very good night.
The next morning after breakfast—I always have the same thing here in Indonesia: banana pancakes—we decided to rent a motorbike and cruise around the lake. This was my first time on a motorbike and, I must say, I had a blast. I let Marc do most of the driving as I almost wrecked when I drove. Hey, it was my first time!
When we returned, Marc and I edited some videos of our travels before eating dinner. You canview them here: http://vimeo.com/user2544346/videos. The sunset was gorgeous that evening and we chilled out on the beach and spoke with some locals from Bukittinggi. One of them, Muhammad Ali, who actually prefers to go by Ali—he says Muhammad is not a popular name with westerners—was quite interested in NGOs. I told him about HODR and he seemed extremely eager to learn more. After he expressed interest in volunteering for the organization, we went to a local internet café where I wrote a few emails to HODR notifying them of his interests, allowing him to volunteer by the end of the week. Ali was very appreciative. Marc and I went to bed fairly early that night as we were tired from the night before. The next morning after another delicious breakfast, Marc and I decided to head back to Bukittinggi. The previous night I expressed interests of climbing volcano Merapi to some of the locals from Bukittinggi. The locals said they would be leaving for Bukittinggi the next morning as well and suggested we stop by their café, Café Bedual, where they would set us up with a guide for the volcano trek.
It began to rain as we walked back to the road from our guesthouse. This wasn’t good as the guesthouse staff said it could take nearly an hour before a bus would arrive. However, within five minutes, a truck pulled up. ‘Bukittinggi, Bukittinggi?’ The driver hollered. After I managed to understand his going rate, which was only 30 cents more than the bus, we threw our bags in and left. Instead of going into detail about our ride back, it’s safe to assume that every ride, to anywhere, there’s white knuckles involved. We had the driver drop us off at the café the locals recommended. Ali greeted us upon arriving, ‘You made it!’ he said. ‘Come in, sit, sit.’ Marc left for the nearest internet café as I negotiated our arrangements for the volcano trek. I managed to get Marc and I a bit of a discount and scheduled our trek for that night at 11 p.m. in order to see the sunrise. With a few hours to kill Marc and I went to the grocery store to buy some snacks and water for our upcoming adventure. Afterwards, we ate our last meal of the day at a Pizza Hut. I couldn’t afford to risk not enjoying my last meal before our long trek, and Pizza Hut was a guarantee good meal.
We met our guide, Ryod, back at the café at 10 p.m. before leaving for the volcano by motorbike. It looked liked we chose to climb Merapi on a good night as there were stars in the sky. With our day bags latched around us and our flashlights in hand, we headed up the dark volcano—and I do mean up. Within a few minutes I realized that there was not going to be many areas of the trek that would be level. My lunges quickly began to feel heavy. This was not a good sign, as we still had 6.5 hours before reaching the summit. I managed to hear something
off to the side of us as my body loudly gasped for oxygen. We all stopped. The three of us shined our flashlights into the thick vegetation, slowly panning right to left. Complete silence. I then
heard the most terrifying sound one could hear while in the dark, on a volcano, and away from any form of civilization for miles: the sound of an unidentified animal growling at you.
‘What the hell is that?’ I asked.
‘Um…it is a pig,’ our guide responded. Not sounding too sure of himself.
‘A pig? I’ve never heard a pig sound like that!’
‘Okay. Let’s keep going,’ he said.
And just like that—snap!—my body was flowing with adrenaline. Having enough energy would not be a problem for the next few hours. I was recharged.
It was amazing how the weather conditions on the volcano changed. It went from clear skies to a thundering rainstorm within moments. While waiting the rain out under some thick trees, my body began to experience such changes as well. I went from being hot and sweating profusely one moment, to being wet and cold, to the point of shivering the next. I also got to the point where I didn’t enjoy our breaks because my body would cool down too fast; I had to keep moving to stay warm.
There were many times throughout the trek that I questioned whether I could continue on or not. I felt as if my body was shutting down again. Despite how tired and slow I thought I was moving, our guide said that we had actually gotten ahead of schedule as we made it to the edge of the summit about an hour early. He told us that we needed to wait an hour before continuing any further because of the weather conditions at the top. It was beginning to rain again and there were not any trees present at the top that would be able to protect s from elements such as wind and rain.
Finally, after about seven hours of trekking we made it to the top. We journeyed from hell to seeing a glimpse of heaven. And it really was heavenly at the top. The view was spectacular. No picture or video I took could capture the pure beauty or ethereal atmosphere we witnessed. The three of us chilled out for an hour at what appeared to be the highest peak of the volcano, with our feet hanging off the edge. It was a great moment to sit back, eat some cookies, and just bliss out.
After twelve hours of trekking we finally made it back to town and decided to splurge a bit and get a room with hot water and power outlets to recharge our electronics. The hot shower was glorious too. Marc and I lounged around for the remaining of the day and prepared for our departure the following day. This was our final day together as Marc would be heading off to Australia in a few days, while I would be heading north to explore the rest of northern Sumatra.
It was really strange when the moment came for Marc and I to part ways. The bus honked and the driver opened the doors for Marc to put in his luggage. We looked at each other like, wow, this is really it.
‘Well, Broski,’ Marc said.
‘Alright, man,’ I responded.
‘You too, man.’
We proceeded to tell one another what an amazing six weeks we’ve just had and how we loved one another. And off he went…
A new chapter of my trip was about to begin. I was about to vagabond solo, and as I turned around and began walking up the street, I began to experience something new for the first time on this trip: butterflies.