To Encircle Samosir

One of my fondest memories is the day Teresa and I drove all the way around Samosir Island just to say that we did it. The distance between Tuk Tuk and Panguruan covers a small percentage of Samosir’s circumference. This time, we wanted to head south, away from Pangururan and down the rural, mountainous coast we’d yet to experience.

The beginnings of the road in this direction, after leaving Tuk Tuk, were difficult to traverse. The cement began to break up until it was a bumpy mixture of rocky protrusions and gravel. A consistently gravel road is bearable, but a destroyed cement road is about as rough as it gets on a small motorbike.

We worked our way through this for about half an hour or so. The road began to ascend and provide a wider view of the surrounding landscape. Lake Toba began to span below us, as well. As we ascended further, the road began to solidify and become more easily traversable. The beginnings of awe set on us as we realized the scale of our surroundings.

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When the road began to level out, we came across a patch of grass leading towards a steady drop off, down the side of the mountain. We stopped here for a breather and took in the scenery. Pictures don’t do it justice, but they certainly try to.

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We had a long way to go from here. If we craned our necks enough, we could still see Tuk Tuk poking out of the greater landmass that was Samosir. We hopped back on the bike, but not before I lathered on some sunblock; the afternoon hadn’t yet arrived and it was already warming up considerably.

As the drive progressed, the road branched away from the coast just enough for the view to be blocked out. Instead, we were treated to sights of tiered farmland, the inner peaks and valleys of the mountainous terrain, and a variety of flora that pulled everything together. It was a very peaceful setting to drive through.

As the view opened out once more, towards the southeastern bottom of the island, clouds of dust rose from the road, unleashing a haze over the glittering blue lake. We banked to the right and were now beginning to curve back north, around the other side of Samosir. This bottom stretch became a small village where the road was partly under construction. Locals walked along the sides of the roads, pushing wheelbarrows or moving alongside plough-bearing water buffalo. Everyone stared at us (we hadn’t seen any other travellers since leaving Tuk Tuk) and several waved, as well. It was essentially our first sight of human life besides the odd motorbike passing us on the road once in a while.

As the road straightened out once again and the village disappeared behind us, the dust had settled and the atmosphere became damper. It was also several degrees colder, by the feel of it. Teresa and I had taken the heat for granted earlier in the day, assuming it would continue to get hotter as the day progressed. On the west side of the island, though, the weather was more active. One piece of land opened out extensively, like a multi-acre field of land clustered in the surrounding mountains. With this wide open view, we could see rain shields in the distance, pouring down in select patches from the sky above. The wind had picked up and we were beginning to get very cold. My knuckles were turning white on the handlebars.

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We continued like this for some time, occasionally stopping at little stores along the way to get snacks and water, nourishing ourselves for the drive onward. The rain came and went over the course of a couple of hours. We were nearing Pangururan from the opposite side from which we’d last entered the city. After driving through a bustling outdoor market, perhaps the most crowded area we’d seen on the island yet, we stopped at the same noodle place we’d enjoyed on our previous visit.

We weren’t ready to head right back to Tuk Tuk though. We had some more exploring to do. We crossed the same bridge to the mainland that we took when seeking out the hot springs. This time, we banked to the left and around a mountain, out of sight of Samosir. We were now driving through Sumatran mainland and the mountains here were much higher. From one angle we could see a little village, nestled in the crook of two lush green protrusions. We wound our way up the sides of the mountains for some time.

We came to another village, high up, with a nice lookout point that provided the highest view of Samosir we’d witnessed yet.

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We headed back, beginning to get tired from the daylong trip. Passing back through Pangururan and along the coast we’d become so familiar with, we stopped again at a dock for one final break. Here, a group of young boys drove a little motorized vehicle on the dock and were each taking turns hauling buckets of water up and into a much larger bucket. I took a few turns helping with the loading process before we said our farewells and headed back towards Tuk Tuk for the night. Excuse the quality of the pictures, I snapped some still images from a short video Teresa recorded.

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There wasn’t much of a point in driving around the island other than the enjoyment of the ride itself. Perhaps when Eva had told us a few days earlier that it isn’t possible to do, maybe what she meant was that it was pointless to do from a practical standpoint. I suppose there is some truth to that. But I wouldn’t take that day away from my memory for any offer. It was a unique journey. It encompassed our love for the freedom the motorbike provides in all of these places in Asia. It included the natural scenery, each place different from the last, that has and will continue to draw Teresa and I to this part of the world. I would only have a few more motorbike experiences in Asia this time around. I don’t know if I was ever really ready to give up that freedom, even temporarily. All I know is I love it when it’s there and miss it when it’s gone.

8 thoughts on “To Encircle Samosir

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