The largest of the Indonesian islands, Sumatra consists of varied landscapes ranging from amazing beaches, active volcanoes and dense forests. Needless to say it provides you with some memorable experiences like a chance to get up close with Orangutans!
I had the pleasure of visiting the islands with a lovely French couple, Aldo & Fred, who were travelling from France to Sydney. We were travelling a similar route and hence decided to keep each other company through the Indonesian leg. We landed in Medan from Penang and the most welcoming factor of Sumatra is the fact that it is pretty much untouched by the hordes of backpackers and tourists travelling around the South East Asian countries and so is a lot more peaceful.
We were in Medan for a day just to collect our motorcycles from the port. We found the locals to be quite a polite and jolly lot. But the surprising element was their knowledge of Bollywood. The fact that I am Indian got them chatting away about Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan (Bollywood Superstars back home). Some of them could even croon a few Bollywood film songs.
A very important point to note is to check the balance money after every transaction, be it in a hotel, shop or anywhere. Tendering incorrect change back is a common occurrence and my first such experience was at the immigration counter in the airport.
Our first destination after getting our bikes was the village of Bukit Lawang. Located within the Gunung Leuser National Park and situated approximately 80 kms Northwest of Medan, it is most famous for being one of the last places in the world where one can see Orangutans in the wild. The jungle trekking was a great experience where we went up vertical tracks on our hands and knees, holding onto the creeper plants ensuring we don’t slip. All this in search of an Orangutan, that I ought to tell you was one of the most amazing experiences as we were at such close proximity. There is an entry charge of about 30 USD per head for the trek into the forest with the guide.
Our next destination was Lake Toba, and en-route we passed through Berastagi. This was a small stop over town, nothing touristy about this place. Personally, this was the first time I saw an active Volcano and I felt exhilarated. The ride to Lake Toba was very scenic and we rode through Parapat, the town by Lake Toba (Samosir island). It is the largest crater lake in the world and it takes time for the fact to sink in that we are on an island (almost the size of Singapore) in the middle of the crater!
Highly impressive and incredibly beautiful, it was so refreshing to be surrounded by such a vast stretch of water that was not the ocean and have lovely small local villages to explore. It makes an exciting day trip to visit the traditional villages. A couple of days here was relaxing and got us all pepped up for the next leg of the journey. The prices for the hotels begins at 75000 Rupiah and goes upto 350000 Rupiah for a night. The ride around the island on the way back was very scenic and truly magical.
The next stretch of our journey was through the Western coast, covering Sidempuan, Bukittinggi, Padang, Bengkulu, Lahat and ending the ride in Lampung before entering Java island. Unfortunately the entire ride was through the haze because of which we had to miss out on the Harau Valley in Bukittinggi and other spots worthy of a visit.
We had a great experience during our ride from Bukittinggi to Bengkulu, we had to stop in a village as it was getting late and we didn’t want to risk riding in the dark. This was a small village and there weren’t any guest houses or hotels. We were welcomed by the villagers who ensured we had a comfortable stay with them for the night.
It was truly a great experience and I would strongly recommend travellers to explore the beauty of Sumatra. The average room rent we spent was approximately 150000 Rupiah per night for double occupancy, i.e. approximately 11 USD per night.
My actual plan of riding into Vietnam from Laos did not pan out as unfortunately they did not allow me to cross with the bike as there is a restriction
Warrier's Trail is a crazy dream of a simple guy that was inspired by a desire to travel, meeting people, see places and live life full of uncertainty.
The dream is to travel 40 countries, in over 500 odd days in 5 regions (S.E.Asia, Australia, Middle East, Europe & Africa)
A journey of exploration!