There’s a great deal to discover on Samosir Island. The town of Tuk Tuk protrudes from the northeastern side, ironically shaped like a little mushroom, and it has everything to offer a traveller who wants nothing more than to enjoy delicious food, relax amongst mesmerizing natural scenery, and explore as far and wide as the imagination will allow.
A single main road encircles Samosir and brushes the perimeter of Tuk Tuk. A separate road breaks off from the main one, bisecting the lakeside town. It was along here that we were taken to our first place of accommodation, a basic and clean string of rooms with a large yard out front that stretched towards Lake Toba’s glittering surface. A few tiny islands dotted the lake in front of us.
The view was excellent and the air was fresh. The vast majority of people drive motorbikes; only rarely did I see a car or truck anywhere. There were even signs around town, and out in the countryside, that encouraged bicycle riding over the use of any motorized vehicle.
Our first evening on Samosir was a unique experience. As I mentioned in my last post, there is an abundance of a certain crop that grows in buffalo dung. The guy who drove us to our initial accommodation gave us a bag of the muddy, wet vegetable. Teresa and I perceived our natural environment like never before as we relaxed on the front porch, gazing out at the lake and absorbing the serenity around us. Our bodies still ached from the long trip over: Borneo to Java to Sumatra in one day. The fact that we had nowhere to be in this moment was not lost on us. We were beyond appreciative of where we were and what we were doing.
The next morning, it was time to start exploring the island. A few doors away from ours was a little restaurant that we wound up frequenting almost every day. Eva served up some amazing Ayam Goreng and Nasi Goreng. She made it extra spicy for us as she cooked, sometimes in a bit of a dazed (but still somehow coherent) stupor. She also happened to have three or four motorbikes available for rent. We knew the terrain on Samosir was mountainous so we opted for the gear/semi-automatic bike. It makes a huge difference going uphill. Also, for longer drives, I feel like I’m in a lot more control as I’m able to shift gears as I please.
We essentially had two directional options once we set out: north or south. The first couple of days, we decided to head north, through the wider part of Tuk Tuk and up and around the island. Some of the roadway was wrought with potholes and smashed up cement. It makes for some uncomfortable, sometimes painful driving, especially for the passenger. The bumps are apparently a lot easier to absorb when you’re in control of the vehicle, perhaps because the anterior view that your eyes take in allows for your body to absorb them more efficiently.
The countryside beyond Tuk Tuk is beautiful. The roadway took us along the outskirts of the island, along Lake Toba. As we rounded the northern point and began heading south on the west side of the island, we came to a town called Pangururan. This area is much larger and more populated than Tuk Tuk and seems to be the main trading centre for the island. It’s connected by bridge to Sumatra’s mainland and an even more mountainous area home to a volcanic hot springs. We drove across the bridge and banked to the right, up a steep road and along the edge of the mainland. From this elevated locale, we could see a large chunk of Samosir spanning below us.
Dotted along the shores of the mainland are various pools that channel the sulphuric subterranean waters. A few have built hotels or guesthouses around them, as well. We decided to visit one of the sulphur pools for a little bit, soaking in the naturally steaming water and rinsing off afterwards to have some lunch. Unfortunately, Teresa was wearing a silver bracelet that her sister had bought for her and the sulphur quickly ate away at the shiny exterior.
We crossed the bridge back to Pangururan and found a spot along the lake that served some of the best Mi Goreng, or fried egg noodles I’ve ever eaten. Like most restaurants or stalls here, it is family owned and operated. My heaping bowl of noodles was prepared by a kid who couldn’t have been more than thirteen years old. He obviously knew what he was doing because we came back to this spot on several occasions to enjoy this dish. The floorboards inside the shack-like building were completely warped and uneven. There wasn’t a single flat surface to walk on. It almost seemed like it was built around an old and unused pier.
Afterwards, we explored the town, stopping to buy some fresh pineapple and watermelon being sold from a bicycle with a cooler attached to it, the way ice cream is sold in some neighbourhoods back home in Canada. School children would always stop and stare at us, sometimes smiling, sometimes shying away. As we drove back to Tuk Tuk the way we’d come, schools were being let out and the kids were far less shy. They all held their hands out for high fives as I sped by. It was a lot of fun and all smiles. I love the friendly vibes in these rural areas. It was the same on some of the smaller islands in the Philippines and it makes me feel more than welcome in a place that I’m new to.
Teresa and I still had a lot more island to explore. The drive from Tuk Tuk to Pangururan isn’t a long one compared to the scale of Samosir. We wanted to challenge ourselves even more and take a tour of the entire island (on our own, of course) all the way around. We figured it was doable in a day, even though Eva and some of the other locals told us it wasn’t possible. It didn’t happen the first time we headed south of Tuk Tuk; we had to get a feel for the landscape and what lay ahead of us in that direction. Luckily, because the layout of the land allowed from some epic views from high up, we could plot our course and gain a broader perspective on how to map out our route. A whole lot of Samosir still stood before us and it just became more and more stunning each time we set out.