Not only is Lake Toba the largest lake in Southeast Asia, it is the largest volcanic lake in the world. Nick, Larry, Kaitlin and I spent 2 days relaxing around the sleepy town of Tuk Tuk and were thankful we were not visiting during high season. We observed a local wedding, enjoyed local coffee, and (they) ate fresh water fish and crawfish. Lake Toba is home to Christain Batak people; we visited execution sites as Bataks practiced ritual cannibalism until 1816. We drove by numerous churches, tombs and traditional Batak homes. It felt like traditional homes were the affordable housing option for lower income individuals. The newer more elaborate Batak homes seemed to be built solely for tourism. We rented a motorbike, drove along the “coast” and visited some extremely hot, hot springs. The lush and volcanic landscape reminded Larry and Kaitlin of Hawaii.

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Lake Toba
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traditional Batak homes

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hot springs
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local wedding celebrations
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Larry & Kaitlin at Lake Toba

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We headed north to Berstagi, a small hill town that sat among volcanoes and that we came to cherish. The volcanic soil made it ideal for growing produce and we passed fields of cabbage, green onion, pineapple, orange, and coffee. Exploring the markets and street food were among our favorite activities. The highlight of our time spent in Berstagi was hiking Gunung Sibayak (volcano). We began hiking at 4 am in order to catch a beautiful sunrise. The crater and fluorescent yellow vents were a sight but nothing in comparison to the view across the valley of Gurung Sinabung (2,450 m). As I was posing for photos with some locals, Nick shouted “Look behind you!” Black smoke began to rise from the massive volcano, it was an eruption. For anyone that knows me, I began to slightly panic. I looked at the girls that I was taking photos with and asked if this was normal. They said no and that they were scared. Little did I know that it is an extremely active volcano and has small eruptions 2-5 times a day. I was being punk’d! The most recent large eruption was in May 2017 where 2 aid workers were killed trying to rescue residents. We hiked down the volcano’s backside through lush jungle and soaked in some hot springs at the bottom.

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Gurung Sinabung (2,450 m)

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On top of Gurung Sibayak
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BATMAN – bats sold at the local market (most often eaten in soup)
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bathing at the hot springs

Recommendations:

Sibayak (Lake Toba) – budget friendly rooms right on the lake, when you are ready to leave, simply flag down the ferry.

Wisma Sibayak (Berstagi) – cute rooms for 60,000 rupiah ($4.50) tucked off of main street, excellent find and strong wifi.

Family Baru (Berstagi) – try the coffee, ginger & egg white drink, you can’t go wrong with any of the food.

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kopi telor kocok – raw egg, ginger & coffee