Central Sumatra

Well here we are in shitsville again, camped out in a filthy hotel on the road between Bukkitingi and Lake Toba.


the view from the bed.

I don’t use the word filthy lightly, and am not usually fond of particularly nice hotels, but in this case the word filth is justified.  Nothing in this place has been cleaned for years, except possibly the floor, although that could be just that the parts that are walked on cant grow mould.

I won’t go into it too much, except to say that I had to drag Sal over to reception to see for herself, a dark brown patch on the (once) white wall caused by the owner leaning his dirty head against it over the years.

Sal has her t shirt wrapped around the pillow so she doesnt need to actually touch it, and the wall next to the bed looks like someone has been bouncing a mud soaked ball against it for hours.

“see babe, stick with me and I’ll take you to all the fancy places…”

Enough about that, the last few days have actually been a drastic improvement over Eastern Sumatra and Java, we’ve been riding in the jungle on windy roads leading to Padang, then onto Bukkitingi and the Harau valley, and today towards lake Toba.  The only shame, and it’s a big one, has been the constant smoke in the air from the fires in east Sumatra, it’s been gorgeous, but really hard to see anything.

What else…?

As I said, the ride today was really pretty, with the only hiccup being a flat tyre quite late in the day.  The end of a broken pair of scissors went into the rear tyre and cut a slice about 2cm long in the tube.  We arent carrying a spare rear tube, so I patched it and hopefully it holds until I can find another one.

The state of this room is quite distracting, I might add another picture…


this is the wall I was talking about, that’s the bed in the lower lhs corner.


and this is the bathroom…

“but where’s the shower?” I hear you ask.  Well let me explain.

That little trough in the corner is filled with water, and you use the filthy green plastic scooper that’s resting on it to pour water onto yourself to wash and rinse.

I have no problem at all with this system as a concept, it’s kinda fun to splash water all over the place and yourself, makes you feel like a little kid again.  However in this case the plastic scooper also gets used to flush the toilet.

Which is also not a problem.  So long as you stay a little distance away from it so any splash back doesnt get back to your hands or the scooper.

It’s the third use for the plastic scooper that leaves me feeling a little disconcerted.  If you’re particularly astute you may have seen that there’s no toilet paper, not even a dispenser.

“so how do you wipe your bum?” I hear you asking…

Well let me explain 🙂

Using your RIGHT hand, you take a scoop full of water with the (multipurpose) filthy green plastic thingy, you stand with your legs apart and lean forwards from the toilet, holding the scooper in front of you roughly between your knees, and place your LEFT hand behind you, and under the scooper.  Then pour some water from the scooper into your cupped LEFT hand and use that water to wash your bum.  Pour more water, splash some more, pour more, splash more and so on, until the scooper is empty or you’re satisfied that you’ve got all the poo off (sorry Mum).

Then still using your RIGHT hand get a few more scoops of water to flush the toilet, and return the filthy green thingy to the top of the filthy trough, ready to be used to wash the rest of yourself later on.

You have to try it before you knock it, and having tried it myself I can testify that it’s very effective, and actually leaves you feeling quite fresh!  It also keeps your right hand away from any hot spots so you can safely use it to eat with later in the day… (insert vomiting noise here).


If there were a different scooper for washing and toileting (genius?!), it might not be so bad, or if the scooper got a wash (or was replaced!) everytime the room was changed that might also be ok.

However using a scooper that’s covered in other peoples shit, to wash myself – is not cool.

Did I mention that the water in the trough has insects breeding in it?

Enough about that.

Another curious thing about indonesia is the numeber of Mosques.  They are everywhere, every kilometer of a built up area will have at least one Mosque, with as many load speakers as the local electricity supply can drive screaming out verses from the Koran at levels of distortion that defy my literary ability to describe.

And even where there are already so many mosques, they are building more mosques, built using the kind donations from passing traffic to pay for the construction.

Imagine this.

People lay lengths of thick rope across a road approximately 30m apart.  The rope is so thick that you really need to slow down for it.  Then this section of road is lined with people holding butterfly catchers in one hand, and a bucket full of money in the other.  Cars slow down, throw notes or coins out the window, and the people swoop it up with the butterfly catchers.  Of course they have already invested in loudspeakers set at maximum distortion, so loud that you cant understand anything they’re saying, and anyway no one else can either because it’s in Arabic of course, and most Indonesians can only speak Bahasa.  Brilliant.

I’ve started riding directly at the people who come towards us asking for money, it’s hilarious 😉

The last curiosity I’ll go into today is the holes in the sidewalk.  I call it a sidewalk because technically that’s what it’s there for, but no one here actually walks anywhere… Anyhow, there seems to be a nationwide project to install or improve the stormwater removal drains, that until recently were open drains, about a 2 feet wide and 3 feet deep along every bit of road in the country.

I guess it’s for health and sanitary reasons, but they’re putting tops on all the open drains, and just like magic you now have a sidewalk.  Which would be great, except that at irregular intervals, usually on poorly lit streets, the top is missing for a short section, which creates a pretty big hole to fall into.

So big, that Sal and I have taken to warning eachother about them by yelling “HOLE!!”   We’re both still here, so far so good.

We’re both looking forward to reaching lake Toba tomorrow, (where there will be cold beer and possibly even wine!), site of the worlds largest known volcanic eruption.  It’s very interesting for geeks like me, see this if you’re interested.


I think that will do for tonight, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite, which is a real possibility tonight 🙁

CDC_11739_Cimex_lectularius_SEMSelamat Malam!






4 thoughts on “Central Sumatra

    • We are a little short on romantic stories Shona! We got an actual double bed the other night and I think the sheets had been washed!!!

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