Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Road trip through West Sumatra

This weekend I took off driving. I didn't exactly know where I was going, but I packed a weekend bag and figured I would end up wherever I ended up.

I drove north toward Bukittinggi because I knew the road there was beautiful, but I didn't know how far it was and whether I would make it all the way. It actually wasn't a bad drive. About 2 hours later I was checked into a cute little hotel (with hot water!) and ready to see this city that everyone had been raving about. Bukittinggi is on a hill so it is temperate and has wonderful views. So I checked out the panorama and wandered through the town.The hotel travel agency tried to get me to hire their guides, but I just got their advice and took off the next day. I went to Palupuh to see the world's largest (and smelliest) flower. It is hidden very very (very…) far in the jungle. I was led to believe it was a hike. More like rappelling down mud slides hanging onto vines and using those same vines to slide back up. Definitely an adventure. In contrast to the fun getting there, all I can say about the flower is that it is, um, big…

On the way back I got to try a real treat. Civit coffee is made using the following process:
1. Grow coffee
2. Allow civets to eat the coffee beans
3. collect poop
4. Wash poop to get the beans out
5. Dry beans
6. Roast beans
7. Make coffee and serve

It is apparently the most expensive coffee on earth because the civets are choosy about getting the best beans and doing fun fermentation processes in their stomach. I have been told that Oprah raves about the stuff. I have to say it is pretty good coffee. I bought some to take home (Even with the local prices it is still pretty expensive!) so anyone who comes to visit me can try it out! :)

After my jungle "hike," I went to Harau valley which consists of large cliffs boxing in a little valley.

On Sunday I woke up with every intention to go home. But then I had breakfast and ran into an Australian guy who talked about how great this place called Maninjau was supposed to be. He also pointed out that the 44 hairpin turns would be awfully fun on a motorcycle. And there went the best laid plans.
Maninjau is so beautiful. The bends take you down the mountain into a valley surrounded on all sides by hills and with a huge volcanic lake in the middle. The area is covered with fish farms and rice paddies with buffalo wandering through. I ended up driving 60 km around the lake on this gorgeous road just built to provide beautiful views of the lake and an obstacle course to keep it interesting (logs laid over rivers rather than bridges, trees in the road, various animals wandering through the road, people playing sports in the road…).

I was very sad to come back to school on Monday. I didn't even get a chance to swim in the hot springs. But I know where I am going to relax next time I want a break! Lake Maninjau is definitely the most beautiful place in West Sumatra (and after my little tour I speak with authority!).

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Indonesians like their holidays. Every religion gets to give all Indonesians a few days off. So, thanks Allah for Wednesday.

Because the entire plan was made in Indonesian I had no idea when we were going, where we were going or what we were going to do. But the Padang couchsurfers are pretty awesome so I said I was going without having any idea what the plan was.

So Tuesday one of the organizers asks me whether I want to take public transportation or try to drive. Of course you know what I said.... I made sure she was willing to drive if I got scared, and we took off. We drive south along a road that curves along the coast and the mountains -a really beautiful view for two hours down to Tarusan.

I ended up staying at her workplace and getting an introduction to how development works in rural West Sumatra. And then Wednesday a ton of couchsurfers showed up (there were 12 of us altogether) and the party got started. First we had some amazing fresh caught fish for lunch.

Then we drove to the top of a hill. The road was theoretically paved, but in reality coated with clay that was freshly wet. This did a great job of caking onto tires and terrifying poor Susan who apparently missed the lesson on how to off-road on a scooter. Once we got to the top, we enjoyed the view and took a ton of photos. I noticed the trees looked good for climbing and started up. At first everyone was a little suspicious of me, but fairly soon I had 12 people in 3 trees. The kids particularly enjoyed being light enough to get much higher than us old folks.

Then we went down to the beach. There was a little boat you could take out to a cute little island. We swam and played there. We only made it back to Tarusan at 10pm! So we turned it into one large sleepover and went home in the morning.

I had a great time celebrating Muhhamed's birthday!