Sunday, July 31, 2016

Part Two - Chapter Five -

Place: Lake Maninjau (Sumatra)
Time: August 1994


Our tour continued, the days in Kersiktuo had been fantastic but it thrilled us to see more places. The following day after our tour to the volcano, we decided to leave the place and to go further North. Holger and Ruth wanted to stay some days in Padang to enjoy the luxury of civilization again. Something attracted me to Lake Maninjau that could not wait. I don't know what it was but I felt the urge to go there quickly. Maybe it was that I was keen for a swim. Maybe something else, I cannot clearly remember. However, I did not want to go to spend much time at a place with many people particularly tourists. 
 We had developed some immunity against the tortures of local bus rides. It was some kind of logical that the buses were overcrowded if there was only one bus into each direction a day. Nothing bothered us because we wanted to go back on the road again and if we had not found any fun in it why would we have come in the first instance? I had developed my own strategy for bus rides. I would close down my senses and be only in my mind. I would just neglect my physical presence. Then it even did not matter anymore how chaotic it was in such a bus. The most important thing was just to get sometime a place to sit to relax the legs. I could not see every single part of the country. It was just too large and the journeys too long. There is a lot of beauty on Sumatra. There are too many forests to appreciate every tree. There are too many mountains to watch every single peak passing by.  I usually fell into a status close to meditation. My brain had got used to filter all the overwhelming impressions and only pick the outstanding ones to remember. Perceptions of nature became normal, people became the sensations of change. The passengers in the bus representing the different tribes became for me the center of these tours. They made it interesting and no longer the sights outside of the window. They made me even forget that I had to travel sometimes for more than half the day.

Particularly, what started to disturb me increasingly was the sight of illegal deforestation when I looked out of the window. It was unbelievable that there was a national park and the people had nothing better to do trying to expand their farmland by igniting fires just close to its border. There was even an understandable part in it. Indonesians needed more space to expand their too large population. The loss of nature was not a primary danger for them. Their children needed to eat and they needed more money. Therefor, they could not be bothered by demands of indigenous animals or plants. It was a pity but yeah, thanks religion and modernization, that is what you have done to this beautiful planet all over again. I saw these fires on my journey nearly every day and it made me sad to see nature's suffering caused by us humans.
I expected the journey from Kersiktuo to Padang to be one of these ordinary tours. However, this trip was highlighted by two completely different events. The bus was traveling through the mountainous landscape and trying its best to maneuver the corners. It groaned over old moldy wooden bridges. Sometimes, we had the feeling they would not keep the weight. Sometimes, we edged on boulders or the bus went for seconds air-bound. The driver was clearly not able to get the ideal line for his driving. It was in the rainy season and the street was slippery. It was not of a surprise that the bus slid a couple of times through the bushes at the sides. Suddenly, the driver jumped into a full break. The standing passengers were thrown to the front. Somehow, it was nearly a wonder, nobody was ejected through the front window. The bus came to a full halt under squeaking breaks. I looked out of the window and suddenly saw the reason for this crazy move. One of the last Sumatran tigers made its way into the undergrowth.  I was very lucky that I saw this majestic animal. There were only recorded six of its kind in the entire Kerinci area. Already at this moment the tour had become something special.
The second event was even more dramatically and I am happy until today that there did not happen more. The bus had come finally out of the windy mountains. We had already sight of the next valley. This must have brought some kind of mutation upon the bus driver. He probably thought to be a formula one driver. Maybe, he wanted  to impress his foreign passengers, he did not have to. The attitude of Indonesian men is trying to impress. They always want to display in an exaggerated manner their masculinity. I swear that this driver smiled broadly towards us before he sped up his vehicle. He did not even waste time to make full usage of his clutch. The bus thundered down the hill with an enormously speed. Well, somehow one of his memories must have been blocked. Unanticipated he quickly jammed into his brakes as the bus slid dangerously close to the edge. He had overlooked a narrow hairpin corner. The bus just took it on two wheels. Nice stunt, mate! Was not necessary but you think you are, James Bond? Then the bus crashed down onto its four wheels again. A deafening sound came from the back. The bus did not shift back into balance. It hang clearly down at the back axis. The Indonesia passengers were screaming in fear. I looked at Holger who was grinning like he was just drifting away in evil thoughts. 
'He fucked up the bus.' was the only calm remark of the Belgian. It was the best and most suitable comment about this situation.
I looked out of the front window. Fortunately, we were now on a straight part of the street. Our vehicle was not able to use the brakes fully. The still sharp gradient of the street made it impossible to bring it to a full stop. It was lurching downhill. Only after a couple of hundred meters the bus was slowing down. But, what did the driver do now? Spotting that he was only a few hundred meters away from the next village, he did not stop. The bus had to be tortured until the first houses of the settlement. Well, fine with me. Now I had not only heard of many accidents on Sumatra, I had come close to the experience seeing them happen!


My journey was delayed by this event. The bus was beyond quick repair. We had to wait for a new bus for a few hours. I was not able to continue my journey further than Padang. I had to stay over night. Another city that I did not like. I wanted to go into nature. However, better beng delayed than being finished.

On the following day my journey could continue into the next adventure,at a spiritual place. I felt already strangely connected to Maninjau as I arrived. I felt like I had been at that place before. It was just like I didn't know that place but I felt familiar with the setting. The past had caught up with me again. This was part of the crazy semi-world. I had experienced it the previous year in Thailand, particularly in Chiang Mai and on Koh Phangan. It had not much in common with both places. Every other person would have not seen any connection. It was different for me. I felt instantly that this would become one of my most important stops in Asia. It was faith that I had always to travel to extraordinary mystical places to come closer with myself into a close connection.
I hope this place stays off the beaten path, it can drive people insane. A few components are playing their part to achieve this effect, the people, the nature and its heritage. It is a dangerous place, still a fascinating one.

The Minangkabau People are not very hospitable. Actually, they have a pretty bad reputation among other Indonesians. 
 'They are not honest people. They smile at you and you think that they are friendly. But they think only of making profit. Then they convince you to make business. As soon you have signed the contract comes a bad awakening. Unfortunately for you, a man signed the contract. They will tell you that in their culture the signature of a man does not count for anything. The woman has to sign. You have no female signature , you have no contract.'
This is how they were explained to me by the Karo Batak Camorra who I met there. I had learned on my journeys to respect the Batak most and should see that he was right. 

The Batak are straightforward people even if they can be dangerous, just don't fuck with them. If you have a Karo Batak as your friend, then he stays all your life your friend. He is very loyal to you and your family. If you have them as your enemy then you better run for your life. These people were for a long time the core of the Indonesian Black Ops. They are very strong people. In 1993, police officers offended some Batak people and were beaten up by them. The Indonesian government decided that the Batak needed to be punished. So, they sent a few police officers into that village to find the guilty people. The villagers kept together in strong loyalty. They did not hand over the guilty people and told the police to disappear again. The officers did not listen but tried to get with violence the desired results. After a few more warnings of the villagers, the only thing that arrived back in Jakarta were the heads of the police officers separated from their bodies. In the following years the Batak became increasingly victimised by the Indonesian government through the Transmigrasi policy. This meant, thousands of them had to leave their region to live in other parts of Indonesia. They had become too strong and too independently thinking for the Suharto government. The Batak lost their leading positions in the Indonesian army and some of them had since then been on the run.  

Camorra was one of the people that had left their village and lived in hiding, it was good to have him as a friend. However, I first thought that the Batak had prejudices against the local people with his assessment. Then, I met Nogat. He was a former tennis professional and I was surprised to meet such a public figure. He was from Croatia and had come to Indonesia because of the Civil War in his country. I knew him from some tournament reports and photographs and he showed me even pictures with him in a tank. His story seemed believable. He had witnessed many people in his family and from his friends die in the war. He had enough of all the violence and  taken his chances. He had come to Indonesia to find peace. His plan was to build a business and made a contract with a man about some property. The site had been nice, directly at the lake. The perfect location for a guesthouse. Then, he wanted to enlist the property under his name at the public magistrate. There, he was told that the signature of a Minangkabau man was not valid and the woman needed to sign. You can call him stupid, but he was far from that. He had paid for the property. Could he possibly expect, coming from a western country, that in an Islamic country existed such kind of rules? He had lost most of his savings. There were slim chances to fight the opposite party with his lawyer. Camorra was not only his friend but his body guard. The Karo Batak, told me that Nogat's life had been threatened a few times already. This, the Batak saw as a good sign. Otherwise the other party would have had no need to actually trying to scare the Croatian. Another option, Camorra told me, was to marry one of the daughters of the owner. But, as faith wanted, all three daughters were extremely ugly. Then again, in the case of marriage, he would loose everything of his possessions. Minangkabau law stated that women had the right to claim whatever they wanted from the man. Now, that looked really wicked. In such a situation Nogat relied a lot on Camorra and he was happy to have him on his side.
I was already interested how things would develop at this place, but it was actually the lake that kept me in his spell. The landscape around the lake was beautiful and the climate was pleasant. Directly on arrival I was fascinated by the body of water and felt it had its own life, like a great force of energy. It was most of the times covered with dense fog and then the other shore could hardly be spotted.This combination of strange people and mystical nature should keep me at this place more than two weeks.


It is impossible to understand the area and people around Lake Maninjau without knowing the cultural setting. The Minangkabau are nowadays declared as Muslims. Actually, they have one stronger cultural drive. This is the connection to animism. It includes the belief of a soul that is independent from the body. This soul can disappear or take another form. So, the setting for this place was rather animistic which is very much connected with black magic.

Some belief systems of indigenous people all over the world seem to share some similarities. There are parts in many cultures that have shockingly similar components distributed even throughout different continents. In Maninjau, there were some of these concepts still alive such as belief in the evil sight and voodoo.

We are in nowadays cultural world dominated by science, education and religion all in the best interest to make us function in the best interest of main society. We have distanced from original belief systems and declare unproven events as hocuspocus. Partly we have closed our eyes and minds to anything that is mystical and call them tricks. However, if we open up again we can discover that there is more than only the material world. We have just to keep our distance to Hollywood movies, even if entertaining, and keep a skeptism to mass media than there is much more to real life. One of these connections is our spirit. It has never really been discovered and so we could just sometimes listen to people who are still closer to nature. These are actually our roots as science only explains the truth of life but never creates an own. There is nothing wrong in listening to people that culturally are much closer to mystic such as the people in Maninjau. 

The people around Maninjau believe in semangat which concerns a restless soul. It is based on the idea that everybody has two souls. These are the real soul and the so called semangat. It exists without the presence of a real thinking, feeling and experiencing form. The semangat is particularly connected with some parts of the body that need special care such as hair and nails. If these were thrown carelessly away and an evil person got hold of them then this person could cause harm to the body of the previous owner of these hair or nails. The Minangkabau still have shaman to cure people who have infected this part of the self. Camorra warned us to take care that we did not cut our hair or nails without taking care of them. He was pretty shocked as he saw me one morning clipping my fingernails directly above the lake. 
'Don't do this. The lake is full of evil forces'
'Ah rubbish mate, it is a lake not a person.'
'Then, explain me why boats disappear in these fogs above the water and are never seen again.'
I did not know at this time, that Minangkabau as well as Batak see certain places as locations where spirits reside. Particularly, it was true, in my time that I stayed at the lake two boats really disappeared out of view and I could not spot them anymore even that I watched the waters for hours. There could have been something true about his ideas but as I was stoned most of the times, I just blamed it on the grass. While we we still talking about spirits, Nogat came towards us
'Scaring again Europeans with your folk tales, mate?' he directed towards his friend.
'Yes, the same as I told you before you went to the registration of you property not to get a haircut only to look more handsome.'
'Nonsense, that was me being stupid and has nothing to do with your restless soul theory.'
Despite Nogat's denial, could there be some connection with the semangat and his failure?

Indonesians are widely known as Muslims but I doubt that the main part of the archipelago is free from any animism. I have come to the conclusion that Indonesia is still very close connected with the world of spirits. Probably even in the capital city Jakarta. So, it should not be of any surprise if my further discoveries and conclusions were not only tainted and created by too high drug consume or alcohol abuse. But you never know, maybe I am writing only about some strange fantasies of my rotten mind. However, it showed me that animism was as strong around Maninjau than centuries ago.


The area around Lake Maninjau was not the same at day and night. During the day it was peaceful, calm and laid back. In the evening and night some strange magic was spreading out. I perceived it mainly coming from the lake. I saw many people wearing amulets to protect their soul against evil spirits. Others had Sanskrit signs placed at the entrances of their houses.  It was too eerie, too strange, writing now about it makes me wonder if it was only a trip or a dream.

The lake had a unworldly fascination. There was a mystic energy coming from it. You almost could hear it whispering 'Come closer, I am good for you, have a swim, dive into me.' There were rumours about fishermen gone missing and tourists disappearing without a trace. There were stories about a sea dragon in the lake capturing harmless swimmers. This was rather a folk tale, rather an amusing part of it. There is no Nessie and there was no sea dragon here, fact! However, the dense fog about it in the morning gave it a very mystical look. Sometimes, the lake was so densely covered by morning mist that it came fully only around lunchtime into sight. On my first day here, I had already experienced some strange feeling as if the lake was telling me 'Stay here, find your faith. I am the truth you have been looking for in your life.' I was definitely slowly going insane.  It was like that an invisible beam was sent from the lake into every cell of my body.  With progressing days I felt how I got closer connected and tighter tangled into its spiritual web. I seemed no longer being able to have clear thoughts. What do I say? Thinking did not even matter to me anymore. In these days there were a lot of thunderstorms. The body of water was enlightened by the flashes breaking into it. At every hit, I shivered and felt the entanglement of my soul. I started to question my own ideas. My beliefs did not count anymore. I became a part, like a pawn, of this spectacle of magic. The thunder in the mountains became music to my ears. The rhythm of an eerie music bummed into my membranes. It was beautiful but scary as well. It played the rhythm of destruction. The dissolution of the old social chains of social structure and prejudices. I felt becoming free from old norms. These rules that restricted us were thrown away, exchanged against the understanding being only a simple small part of matter in the gigantic universe. The regulations that kept us away from the mystic sides of our planet were broken down. Barriers that not protected us but restricted us from seeing the ancient truth. My entire life time, I had the desire to experience what was the real truth. This place drove me insanely close to it. In these days I developed an extremely close understanding about the core and basics of life. I became visionary. Through my deep questioning of all that we had been taught, I processed to another mental state. I suddenly understood that we would be only living in the NOW. The past did not count that much. The future was screwed anyhow, so why to worry about it. One of the parts drove a deep rift between me and my life back in Germany. I knew that Europe was doomed. People there would not change anything in the coming years. They were mindless slaves of the system. I understood that people had lost there the real track of life. Television and other media had poisoned the brains. If I had to go there again it would feel too much like mental prison. On the other side I was far from ready leaving all the structures. I was just used to the comfortable mind fogging structures too much.All this was caused by the lake, particularly sitting at its shore in the nighttime.

It fit into this setting that I started to perceive all kinds of animals more intense, some of them not directly normal tho. The depressive climate brought flies as well and they seemed to be the omen of disaster. These little annoying pests that could carry any sickness with them. Sitting down on the food, pestling us by swarming around our bodies. Even keeping extremely clean did not help. They seemed to have the mission to just being nuisances. Other animals started to behave strange. The cats got amazingly affectionate. A couple of days before they had tried not to get close to people. Now, these animals showed very much a surprising fondness of people. They tried to find the last piece of remaining love of this planet. They started now even to follow into the rooms so that Camorra remarked one time 'Every person only one cat. You can be happy tho. They would not come into the near of somebody who is doomed to die soon. So, we have to be still very alive, mate.' 
With progressing time even this became normal, only a part of the environment. Maybe it were not the animals behaving strangely but myself becoming a part of nature again.

Camorra seemed to be in the middle of all these strange circumstances the most bizarre person. I believed that he was the son of a shaman and that his path would lead one day deep into the occult. Every time that there was a thunderstorm, he stood at the wall to the lake. He spread his arms wide over it. Every thunderstroke he accompanied by dashing movements over the surface. He must have gotten somehow a beat out of it. Then again, he was playing jazz on his guitar which was just the opposite of this madness,even he needed balance. It was a lovely sound. He was composing out of the elements. Then he played me some of his self-composed songs and tried to explain.
'Music is life. It is the arrangement of all the forces around us. The elements give us balance. There is destruction but there is love. If we find the right balance in our life then it will be good. If we neglect one side it will be bad. We have to embrace everything. You know, I told you I am the son of a shaman. When I go back to my people I will take my father's position. I am trying to find balance with nature. This lake has a lot of power, we have to treat it with highest respect.'
European thinking should have told me that the good guy had gone nuts. On the other hand I had been too long in Indonesia. I started to question my own beliefs. A man connected with the forces of nature seemed to be much more real than anybody who had committed his heart to modern world and science.

We Europeans had developed us too far away from our roots. We should not criticize the indigenous people of this world. We had closed with the time more and more doors behind us which had connected us to nature. Our focus had become to explore more technologies and called it civilization. I was reminded of words of the Dalai Lama. He had spoken about the West. It was materialistically developed but had no heart anymore. The East, Asia, had the heart but would not look for materialistic wealth. He already indicated in 1991, that this would change with the years. So, how could we understand South East Asian people, their culture, heritage and beliefs? We, Westerners, would have always an arrogance to doubt unknown occurrences. We trusted only so called facts which were explained by science. Most people with an academic background however knew that science was only operating in the best interest of the less than 5% powerful people. Here I was now being confronted with the original thought. I looked the origins of mankind into the eyes. We had developed away from nature. How should we understand rites and rituals of the last few original people on this planet? Europe had lost its track away from nature and there did not seem to be a chance of a return.

The environment around the lake created a ideal setting to make me understand that there was really truth in a lot of the animistic rituals and beliefs. Strange stories, usually told by the great storyteller Camorra became plausible for me. I somehow had put the European skepticism away and listened open minded. In these surroundings I listened, wondered but believed some stories that I doubt now back at my desk. Additionally, some things happened so crazy that I ask myself under which drugs I was as I visited Indonesia. Most of it was connected with the belief system of the indigenous people, soe things related to black magic.

Through his stories, Camorra put even some light on events that I had witnessed but not had not known previously what they meant. Most of his tales were personal experiences, some were reported to him. He told us about his years as a  tour guide as he had lead tourists around his village for a few years. He explained that it was always good to be prepared for the journey into jungle. Well, not only with the equipment. He indicated that it was always necessary to bring sacrifices and presents for the nature spirits to certain sites. This should calm the unsteady ancestors and the spirits of the nature. It happened on a few times of his tours that the jungle went dark around lunch time. There were no signs for rain or anything else which would have been natural. He knew that there were spirits around. They should never be messed with. He knelt down and made a sacrifice. It was a pledge to the nature spirits that he would worship nature and appreciate it. The shades over the jungle lifted again. It reminded me of something that I had witnessed at the Mount Kerinci. There, the guide had placed some items such as flowers and sweets at some locations. I had not spent much thought on that. Now, it became somehow clear to me that the belief was not only common among the Batak. There was a deep connection between the spirits of nature and his people. I had on my trip to Mount Kerinci suspected something like a sacrifice to nature of the tour guide but the guide had avoided the answer. I wondered if the guide had been a Batak, unfortunately I had not asked him.

Most of Camorra's stories were about mountains and the connection to nature. Sometimes, he lightened up his tales with some humour. He told me that even if a Batak has a slash at a volcano, he will ask the mountain for permission. Otherwise, the person will become sick and has to consult the shaman. Often, such a person is sent back to the volcano to make a sacrifice of flowers, sweets and a black chicken. The imagination of that made me laugh, so not everything magical had to be too serious.

A more tragic case is it that some tourists walk up a volcano and see a procession passing by. They follow this group of people up the whole mountain. Then these companions just disappeared and the travelers are left alone in the wilderness. Such a case was reported from the previous year as an English guy followed a group. These ghosts or spirit led him up the highest mountain in Batak land, the Mount Sibayak. Suddenly, they got enclosed by dense fog. He could not see the figures anymore and was running without any plan for days in the forest. Short before dehydration and exhaustion, he was saved by a search troop. I believed the story as I had been in a similar situation in the Lebong Region once. I had seen people but fortunately enough I had not followed them. I understood now as well for the first time why a group of soldiers had told me it was too dangerous to be alone on the mountains. They had even been so kind to take me with them back into the closest village. Who knows, maybe I would not be writing this if I had done the same mistake as the English dude. It taught me one thing, we had to treat nature with full awareness and full respect.

This deep understanding made the Batak extraordinary conscious about the environment. They hated it when people dumped rubbish into the forest. I saw Camorra even telling tourists to pick up their chewing gum paper. Many Bataks would have never thought of polluting the nature. Every piece of waste and plastic meant an insult to their ancestors. They condemned industry as it changed the environment.

 The strangest thing that Camorra implicated was that he believed strongly that I should have been born in Asia. He was convinced that something had gone wrong with my rebirth. Batak follow some strange mixture of animism, Buddhism and Christianity. He explained to me that the Christian part was only there because the priests had impressed them with their presents. Everybody wanted something and so they had only been happily enough to declare that they converted to the belief in God. Actually, they believed most in their animism. The Buddhism had been a long part of their culture. Particularly as a Buddhist is not only restricted to one single believe. The Batak saw everything in balance and so they tried to walk the Middle Path. There was actually not a big difference to Buddhism. The belief in rebirth they had then taken from Buddhism as it seemed in their eyes to make sense as well. I laughed at his idea of me being the victim of a false rebirth. I had been fascinated by Asia since the first arrival.  That was still not good enough to think that I was Asian and not European. Nevertheless, I was too scared to know more about it. I did refused him over a long time to read my palms. What could he discover in them? Definitely not the marks of a rebirth that had gone wrong.

 As longer that I stayed at this place, as more I got into the status of a mental dullness. I lived into the day. I did nothing except chatting with my friends and swimming in the lake. One day, I saw a strange looking man. His face was signed by deep holes. These could have been the signs of previous smallpox. His eyes were deep, but missed the expression of life. I first thought that he was blind. After a few times I doubted that. Nothing seemed to restrict his vision. The other villagers did not get even close to him. Then, my thoughts changed as he seemed to be always close to us. Somehow, I got the feeling that he was watching us. I tried to come to reasonable thoughts. I got trapped by the conclusion that he was spying on us. Nogat saw that I investigated that guy. His only dry remark was 'Too much black magic, mate. The guy is fucked, he must have gotten too close to a shaman once.'
So, this happened if you made one of the wise man angry? Or if a person was not strong enough to withstand the spiritual dark side of this world? I did not dare to inquire more. He gave me the creeps. I saw it as a warning. I did not want to end up the same. Not only drugs seemed to be able to burn monster holes into human brains. The surroundings occupied me every day more and I had sometimes no longer the feeling to differentiate between reality and trance.

 I had been already a long time at the place and I felt I had to leave soon or I would stay too long. Something kept me back to move on, many morning I got up and told me that this was the last day. Camorra and Nogat were already laughing about me and suggested I should pack my things in the night and just disappear without telling them that I was leaving. One evening we went home from the pub. We went through an eerie scenery. The dogs were barking into the dark. They stood in the middle of the weak shining street lanterns. They were barking at sounds. At sounds because there was nothing in the meadows. The cows were brought home every evening. There were no wild animals around. So what did they bark at? The people avoided each other. They tried not to touch any other person. They did not even look at each other. The affectionate cats from the previous day were aggressive. Something was going on. We moved forward struggling against the wind. It hindered heavily our forthcoming. It blew strongly in our hair. I just could not figure why the plants did not move at all. They must have been bend in these massive gusts. The shutters of the houses at the street vibrated. The little flowers on the windowsills stood contrary firmly their ground. They did not bend, they did not move at all. They were not affected by the storm. It was a bewitched atmosphere. I felt cold sweat running down my neck. We came to a cigarette shop. It was the only place with light. All other houses in the surrounding neighbourhood were dark. In the shop, a little old man with withered skin sat on a squeaking chair. His long grey hair had grown until his waist. He did not make any sound as we passed by. The smoke of his cigarette blew up to the ceiling. I turned around but I must have been betrayed by my perception. There was no shadow of him, only of the chair. I exchanged looks with Nogat and he was only shaking his head. It did not help that suddenly Camorra started to lick his lips, pointing at his Croatian friend and remarked
'You just do not know how delicious you are.'
What did he mean? I was clearly confused. Did the Batak appraise Nogat now sexually in the middle of all this twisted environment?
His friend seemed to be used to this kind of remarks, he just replied
'I know you would like to eat me.'
Well this did not sound less gay and so I just hoped to get home.
'1975', murmured the Batak
'What was 1975?', first I walked a few more steps but then I was eager to know the answer.
'I ate such delicious meat the last time in 1975. You Europeans were a delicatessen. You have very tender meat. Then, the mean Indonesian government prohibited cannibalism. What a waste of such good meat.'
I did not know if that should raise my mood. If it was a joke it did not fit here. I got goosebumps.  I was already afraid of loosing it. We continued hastily our way. Camorra giggled to himself like a mad gone rabbit. We went down the little path to our guesthouse.  It was all dark around us. An unappreciated torch light was pointed into our faces. It was the scarface that had been around.  Camorra greeted him and exchanged shortly in Indonesian. He spoke so quietly that I could not understand the conversation. After we had passed him, I could not keep to myself
'Camorra, you are talking to him?' 
'Yeah, why not? Don't tell me you are scared of him!'
'I thought he was spying on us.'
'He might even do that.  This poor guy is under the spell of a shaman. Tomorrow, he probably will not even remember that he was on the street. He is not dangerous. There are other people around that you should be scared of.'
The Batak was pointing around him and suddenly I understood. The whole set-up had nothing to do with us. We had only been accidentally witness of this strange happening. Now, that we had met the guy all seemed to calm down. What was going on here? I was not keen on an answer. Of course, there was the thrill to dive deeper into the surroundings and explore the darkness. Then on the other side I did not want to become a helpless victim of black magic. Some things are better being left alone. I made the final decision of leaving soon.



Thursday, July 21, 2016

Part Two - Chapter Four -

Place: Lebong Regency, Gunung Kerinci (Sumatra) 
Time: August 1994



There are places which are fortunately not included in travel magazines, books or on the internet, one of these places is the Lebong Regency in South Sumatra. I was really off the beaten path at this extremely stunning location back in 1994. In the first ten days of my journey I traveled through the beautiful landscape of the territory and hardly saw any other tourist. This territory still had in 2014 a mere population of 105,000 people. This makes it one of the least dense populated areas on Sumatra. The people there are very kind and simple. At some places I had the impression that civilization was hardly touched in its original conditions. It is one of these places where you go for inner peace. This is when the incredibly backward infrastructure does not shock you. In 94 it was difficult to find any guesthouses and you will go around on not very convenient vehicles. The outstanding beauty of this region however compensates a lot for the obstacles even getting there. if you are only planning a quick hop into different locations in Indonesia this places is nothing for you, it is too time intensive to really enjoy it just for one or two days. Places like Curup and Muara Aman are dream destinations only for the traveler with plenty of time. Despite its beauty, a look on the transport connections will probably keep many of you away from this pearl of Sumatra. This is in this case a pity because this region, as many of the locals told me, really needs investment and would appreciate tourism a lot. 

If you are ready to exchange comfort against adventure and do not mind all the complications that you will face on the way to get there then Lebong Regency might be just the Eden for you. The hospitality is amazing and the density of sites with natural beauty is overwhelming. There are lots of beautiful waterfalls with crystal clear water, large hot springs occupying entire benches of rivers and even a few wonderful, still active, volcanoes. The area has an aura which transfers you into another world. You will be able to wander through moon like landscape without meeting a single other soul. You can spend hours on your own along rivers which are heated by the volcanoes. There you can take whenever and wherever you want a nice relaxing bath. It is another world, don't be surprised if you catch yourself with the thought of suddenly getting scared of raptors. It was such as time travel back into long forgotten ages. I was even able to meet some gold miners who were washing their panels of gold in the rivers. You can imagine that only in your dreams of the Californian gold rush. I was in coal mines which missed any technology. The miners were still carrying the natural resource on their backs to the surface. Well, this was back in 94 and I could not give you any promises that you still find that. On the other side, you will never find your small part of paradise if you are not ready of torturing yourself with primitive transport to secluded places.


At the most uncommon places you may meet the best companions for your journey. If you meet people at isolated places then you share already a big thing in common. You try to get off the beaten path together. One morning in Muara Aman, I had my breakfast coffee in one of the small local coffee shops. I thought that I had made a mistake because a couple foreigners came straightforward to my table. The first sentence made me wonder if they were not only lost. 
'Finally, a foreign face!' exclaimed the guy with the name Holger.
'Erm, yes, can I help you with anything?'
The guy grinned broadly and took a seat without an invitation. 
'Yes and no. It is not normal to find foreigners so far away from civilization. The only person I have talked with in depth was my wife Ruth.'
Okay, that were now Holger and Ruth. They had been off the beaten path similar to me and were explorers of the same kind. They wanted to speak English with somebody. Somehow, I could understand them. The only thing that I had shared for the last eight days deeper thoughts with was my little journal. I was already afraid going slowly nuts. I believe, if you are only talking to yourself and try to get two different points of view to have a conversation, with yourself, then you might be close enough to going crazy. So yeah, I did understand their desire to talk with somebody else and they were interesting people to travel with.
If you meet some interesting people then you might even make compromises on your journey and get some new ideas for your tour. I had planned to hit up to Lake Maninjau next but changed my plans as Ruth came up with a great plan for the next stop. All of us agreed that we wanted to avoid the noisy, polluted, crowded and rancid cities of Indonesia. However, between Muara Aman and Lake Maninjau was on half way the massive volcano Gunung Kerinci.(1) This is the highest volcano of entire Indonesia and the highest peak on Sumatra. If I could master this volcano, I could even beat my best mate the Yeti on elevation of climbing any mountain on this planet. It promised to be a great challenge. I had overlooked initially this site but now with the right companions, I was ready for the task.
The biggest obstacle was the big question how we could get to that place, it should be an exciting journey. On the following day, I made the discovery that there was a van going to Lubuklinggau. We did not plan to stay in the town but wanted to continue directly on our way. I had been apart from civilization and mass tourism for ten days. In that city, it hit me like a hammer how the agents of the different tour agencies stormed towards us to propose us their offers. We decided to ignore them to find on our own the best and cheapest connection to Bangko. The way to that town lead us over the Asian Super Highway. According to Holger it was the street with the highest amount of traffic accidents in entire Asia. We got an impression of this as bus drove with mad speed over partly not even finished streets. We were able to reach this next town in the early afternoon. There, we had the problem that no direct connection to Sungai Penuh was in day time. We would have to wait until the evening. It was scary to go through the hills in the night. We considered short to try our luck with a Microlet. These share taxis can be hired also by smaller parties. They have a cabin for the two drivers and an open loading platform with a roof for the passengers. It is possible to drive with a small group of up to eight people easily in these vehicles. They are larger than the Thai Tuk Tuks but essentially smaller than the Songtaeos. After a short discussion, we decided to make the entire journey of 138 kilometers with this kind of transport. After we had checked on the buses, they would need around eight to twelve hours for this distance. The ways at this time were difficult to pass as it had rained for a long time. The roads lead over mountains and heights on windy roads with extremely sharp corners. The option by going with the much smaller vehicle provided somehow more security. However, initially, the locals considered us as being completely nuts. They told us that we were probably able to master half of the way with a Microlet but never the entire distance. We started our journey and were clearly ahead of the scheduled buses. We had mastered half of the distance already at sunset. In the dark the streets were getting insecure. However, after haggling a bit with the driver he suddenly declared that he would risk it to go through to Sungai Penuh. After a while, we clearly understood why he had first refused to go the entire distance. The streets got worse with increasing distance. Sometimes, we bumped hard into deep holes in the street. It got cold in the back of the vehicle and the now incoming rain was draining us as well. In the middle of this madness, the driver suddenly stopped his vehicle and ran to the back. He had found a little monkey. Now, we were already skeptical what would happen next. The Japanese liked monkey brain. What was with the Indonesian? Fortunately, as I asked the driver, he replied that he had a little boy at home who had always wanted to have a monkey. Well, wild animals as pets was not even half as bad as wild animals as delicatessens. After three hours of the journey, we made a stop at an interesting seafood restaurant and the driver invited us to eat with him the delicious indigenous whitefish. This was a real delicatessen, much more delightful than the idea of monkey brain. As we were eating, the grinning driver pointed up the mountain. There, a bus was stuck in a corner and tried his best to master it. All the passengers had gotten out of it and the driver was working heavily. Then, the bus got stuck in the mud and all passengers had to help pushing it forward. The driver remarked, whilst licking his fingers off the fish
'You were right to go with me. Buses are much too dangerous. If he gets stuck we can't continue the journey.'
Disastrous thoughts overcame me, when we stuck here then probably the driver would return back home. We were stranded in this area, a nice place tho. We would have to wait that one bus could pick us up the following morning. Fortunately, just as the driver paid for our meal, the bus jumped out of the mud and all the passengers climbed back into it.
 We arrived Sungai Penuh in the middle of the night. The journey had been excellent. In a small Microlet you can experience the nature much better than in an isolated bus. The trip had been safe as well, I do not want to imagine if one of the buses gets stuck. It would not get back on track again and could tumbles deep into the valley. This feeling of disaster never left me in Indonesia. People complaining about chaos in Thailand have obviously never been through situations that I witnessed particularly on Sumatra. I am a fan of the unexpected, it gives spice to my life and this journey through the mountains was one of the best spices I have tasted in my life.


When among people, behave genuine; when in society impress through strange behaviour. We stayed for two nights in Sungai Penuh. Cities did not give us any kicks but we had some business to do. Our distance to reality can be best described through the situation as we discovered that we had run out of cigarettes. Ruth came first on the idea that we could press out the old buttons and roll some cigarettes from it. Holger and I considered this idea as disgusting. Then, Holger came on the idea that we could ask the cops. As corruption goes in Indonesia, cops are usually the best provided people in every community. Not thinking of anything else then having a cigarette, I dared and went to the police station. They looked at me as they had just seen an alien. Then they barked that they were not a fucking cigarette store. Well, I was able to press out of them at least half a pack. The evening was saved and why did we bother, we wanted anyhow to leave the following morning.
W continued our journey to the village at the base of the Gunung Kerinci. This place, Kersik Tua, directly at the foot of the volcano, was still 30 kilometers from Sungai Penuh. The journey we completed in a fully stuffed van. Even we, as long term travelers, had a comparably low amount of luggage. Everything was transported in the vehicle, car wheels, sewing machines, sacks full of potatoes and rice and all the things that the villagers needed from the city. The path lead along kilometer long tea plantations where a lot of people worked with the harvest. The mountainous landscape got increasingly exciting and then the Kerinci got into our view. An impressive mountain towering above the surrounding nature. High and powerful and smoke coming out of its crater. Kersik Tua itself was a sleepy village without many tourists, actually at that time we were the only ones. (2) The next adventure awaited us.
The climb did not only become another highlight of my journey through this country, I would go as far to call it a highlight of my life. It was late August and there had been only around 100 people to the mountain top. The tour starts on 1,500 meters elevation in Kersik Tua or Kersiktuo, both spellings are used for the small village. In my eyes it is no sport if you do not carry your own provisions with you. Holger and Ruth took a Sherpa. I could not be influenced by this decision. Holger just wanted to enjoy being the first Belgian person on the mountain top. So, it was more important for him to reach the summit at all and not to go for a sportive competition. My luggage, including my backpack, had a weight of around 10 kilograms. At 8:00 in the morning, we started our trip and had first to walk through endless tea plantations to get to the forest. It entrance was the starting point of the actual climb. First, it was only a walk on forest paths until we made the first break for lunch. The nature was amazing with fungus covered trees, palms, lianas spanning over the paths and the sound of a hundred species of birds. In the afternoon, the paths became more challenging and we had often to climb over fallen trees. It started to cool down with progressing time and elevation. Particularly Ruth was not used to climbing and walking longer distances and so we had to make more stops. Holger kept surprisingly good in shape, considering that there were no hills in his country. Unfortunately, at the base camp I had to consider Eco tourism again as a joke. The rubbish that was left by tourist behind was ridiculous so that the guide and the sherpa had to spend first a long time to clean it. The sun was already setting and it got very cold. Fortunately, I had a woolen hoodie with me. The wind blew that heavily that the guide had problems igniting the camp fire . It was not late but we would have to get up the next morning at around 4 o'clock. 
Well, Holger and Ruth got their own tent but I slept in the middle of the guide and the sherpa. There was nothing gay about it because the temperature had dropped so much that any kind of body heat was welcome. The tour continued before sunrise and we had to walk first with torchlights up a real ascent where we had to use hand and feet to continue the climb. Ruth had decided not to get to the summit and wanted to stay in the camp. Holger was keen to succeed in his mission. As we had nearly reached the scree field around the crater, the sun broke through the clouds. I had never experienced standing on firm soil whilst the sun rose through the thick layer of clouds. It was an orgasmic moment that I have not forgotten in my life. The most beautiful scenery, below the forest, the clouds and then the sun breaking through them. I felt an incredible warmth in my body and I suddenly understood that life was amazing. I was high on it. No drug has ever shot me that high as the sunlight coming through the clouds near the peak of the Gunung Kerinci. Then the sun rose above the clouds and shaded them into the most beautiful red that I have ever seen. It was like in another world, above us the sulfur vapor rising from the crater of the volcano and beyond us the red lighted clouds and the sun. We had by far not reached the top yet. The guide told us that we had to hurry because we had to use the good weather conditions to proceed as quickly as possible. We continued our ascent through a deeper cut in the volcano side, probably in an ancient lava stream. The stones were extremely sharp and Holger cut his hands open. I had thick cornea at my palms which protected me. The wind caused so much pressure on us that we had to fight getting further. It caused turbulence in my ears and so I bound a sarong around my head to cover them. The last hundred meters we had to creep upwards on hands and legs but finally we reached the crater. Astonishingly, deep and with a sulfuric smell, this beast grinned at us. I do mountain climbing and I have seen heights but looking into the maw of the abyss was another outstanding experience. Deep below me, the sulfur seemed to bubble in a liquid form. I felt sick, the vapor going straight into my nostrils but I was too curious to turn my view away for a few minutes. The view from the top around the surrounding landscape was also impressive, we could look extremely far. The guide told us that we could only stay a short time as at 10 o' clock a heavy wind and fog would come up. Many people, particularly going without a guide had been trapped at the summit. They had lost their orientation in the thick fog and either fell of the mountain or becoming involuntarily sacrifices of the crater. The descent was not easy as well, we had sometimes to glide over the boulders because they did not provide any handle to climb down slowly and more patiently. At some passages I wondered how we had come up the mountain as it was already that difficult to get down. This experience did not change back in the forest as we came sometimes to real cliffs where it went for more than two meters sharp down. We arrived the camp again after more than one hour descent. Holger was extremely proud having been the first Belgian on the peak. I was very happy that I had been on the highest volcano in Indonesia, something you cannot do every day. We were already extremely exhausted but we did not have much time if we wanted to get back to Kersiktuo before sunset. The luggage pushed me now downhill and we had to balance sometimes over cut trees which made us nearly fall down into mud. The way through the tea plantation, after we had left the forest, seemed so much longer than on the previous day but finally we had reached the village again, short before sunset. I will never forget that day, even that my memories slowly start dwindling away, but the moments where the sun broke down and the views into the crater have shaped even my view onto life itself.


1) Distantpeak by Lynge Skrede - Gunung Kerinci 

2) Wandering On - Live to Travel - Climbing Mount Kerinci

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Part Two - Chapter Three

Place: Krui (Sumatra)
Time: August 1994 


I never had a high opinion about people that had actually no reason to go therapy but did it anyhow, I always wondered about their hidden reasons. So, if you consider going to one, let me frankly tell you, you are wasting a lot of money and time. Sounds too general? Well, I exclude from this statement the unfortunate group of people that have suffered real traumatic experiences in their past. I do understand that some people do not get over certain circumstances and shocks in their lives. I rather speak from these cases who like to dramatize small events as if they were catastrophes. In some countries going to therapy is really epidemic such as in the United States. I mean therapy is not a cult or a hip society thing. It should be professional help. Now, you might say to your defense that everybody needs some kind of professional help. Some people might rather be advised of getting a fucking pet, so shut up drama queens. This is at least the easiest way to handle it. On a second thought, poor pet. It will probably have to live up to all your fucked up fantasies, aggression and  bad mood. Yeah, forget about the pet. Just buy a blow up doll, that might work. However, learn  to take some responsibilities in your life. Most important, give your TV a good kick in the face. I really do mean it. This thing is frigging poison! Do not waste two hours of every evening by starring into it. There is nobody inside! It makes depressive because it even does not answer your questions! Worst, in the end you believe in all this paranoid nonsense. You might start listening to Donald Trump and believe all of that shite is for real! Then you want a therapy because you perceive your life as a burden. did you get depressive now because even my tips did not work? Just jump off the bridge. There are anyhow too many people on this planet.  I am not the first who tells you? Well, we might be even right! Oh, now you say that you have only considered therapy? Much, much better, atta-boy. Guess what, you are better than me! I had no reason to go but went, let me tell you, I am speaking out of experience.

Let's get through my advices so far to make you curious if I could be right again, this part is dedicated to all the non-believers. First, there was the story with the ladyboys. The people that wanted to prove me wrong probably took the hairiest woman with the deepest voice out of a club. Then they wondered why this chick had a dick. Then, I tried to give you some guidance concerning drugs. Some people wanted to show me that they were stronger minded heroes and even took crack. Well they suddenly got convinced that it was not the right thing. The following weekend, they decorated their room with vomit as they tried to get away from it. Well yeah no surprise their mother got pissed off and their girlfriend did not want to see them anymore. Then, there were the super cool dudes who thought it was more fun to let shrooms take over their minds. They ended up being fished out of the water as they tried to swim to Bangkok and were hospitalized. Now, they have to suffer under a cruel nurse who is reading this blog to them only to torture them even more. No wonder! If you were ever one of the border cases who only nearly disobeyed my suggestions, please listen now carefully. You do not need therapy only because you are kinda paranoid. Look, I believe that the National Security Agency of Singapore is reading my blog but still I would not go to a shrink again. Do you understand me? You are not crazy! It does not qualify you to call yourself mental imbalanced only because you read my text!

My own personal experiences with a shrink were eye opening but not problem solving at all. Yeah, really, I tried this therapy thingy! At the end I wondered if I had misunderstood the concept and failed because I could not help the psychiatrist. I hadn't known previously that people go to therapy to help the shrink, I had always believed it was the other way around. That is kinda normal! Well yeah, I went into therapy because I did not want to be one of these fucked up social workers. You know, I suspect that subject is unfortunately mainly studied by people who want to learn how to project their problems on others. I have met too many of this specific kind. So, I went into the treatment and tried to tell the guy my weirdest dreams and fantasies. Every time, his only response was that my feelings and thoughts were normal. You are reading the blog of somebody who was medical approved to be normal! After more than one year of therapy, I felt sorry but I had to give up on the guy. I could not help him! I mean as a sixth semester student of social work I clearly spotted that he had a bad childhood. He was probably still dressed by his mother. I could not explain why he pulled his socks always nearly up to his knees but had way too short pants. He was probably suffering under compulsive disorder, the poor guy. As I quit the treatment, short before I went to Indonesia, he was not surprised at all. As you probably can already guess, the words that he told me at the end were 'I told you all the time that you were normal'. Fuck yeah, compared with him I was even so normal that I was already weird again. So, do not waste your time. You do not need therapy only something in your life seems deranged as you are hopefully very normal. At least compared to most shrinks that dare to offer you their services. Medical treatment through a psychiatrist shall help to find to yourself. Spend some more money and go on a hard trip to find to yourself. Travel alone and go to places that let you face yourself. This is a much better way to see something else and experience new situation. That helps way better than going once or twice a week to a mental fuckwit and putting yourself on his sweaty sofa. Think alone of the bacteria that has assembled on this piece of furniture. The mean thing about shrinks is that we have to pay them even money. They get paid for listening to our stories. They should pay us for coming to them. At least if they cannot give us any help. Of course, again, I do not mean the people that really need professional help. My personal problems were still the same after that therapy, maybe I did not have any after all.


So far, I had kept myself in rather civilized surroundings, I hoped that Sumatra would change that. The first three days of my trip through the utmost South of Sumatra became temporarily the climax of my face-yourself-you-coward therapy. Bali was only somewhere a piece of memory and Imam was left behind. I was on my own again on a 650 kilometer lag with local buses surrounded only by Indonesians. My Bahasa which I had mainly learned so quickly because of Imam came in handy now. On the first day, I set over from Java to Sumatra on a ferry where I spotted only one foreign couple. I was not here because of meeting Westerners, just the opposite. So, I lost sight of them quickly. Then, I was on my own, the real adventure of meeting myself had finally started now.

The following couple of days I occupied myself in talking to myself in thoughts about reality, me and reality, my perception of reality and pure reality again. The impressions of my surroundings became closer but I kept myself a mental distance. All my senses, if smell, hearing, seeing, taste and even feeling became more intense. This was Asia, I was the foreigner and the reality was that I somehow did not belong here. I was the only foreigner in the bus up to Bandar Lampung. I had expected the locals to be more curious. Instead they either gazed openly in shock at me or they looked shy into my direction. If I tried to make contact, they pretended not to understand or even to be deaf. After a while. I gave up looking for contact and limited myself on other perception such as the smells on the market, the voices talking in many dialects and smaller events that happened in front of my eyes.  We arrived in the city and it was not something I could seriously care for. A big, noisy, chaotic and particularly smelly place. I arrived there after a ten hour journey with the bus and tried to find a decent guesthouse at my budget. After two hours of searching I gave up and took the most proper looking one which was still terrible enough. If there had been any bus in the evening, I would have left the place immediately. Well, I chose the way up the coast and not the quickest route as I hoped to have some views on the coast. However, what will you expect from a metropolitan in Indonesia? Chaos! So, I talked to my alter ego in my mind that told me it was a mistake to come here. The other side of myself just denied that and stated that now the tow parts of my self had finally time to discuss with each other.

On the second day in South Sumatra, I spent again most of the time in the bus and got to a village named Krui. Another place that my best entertainment consisted in talking to myself as the population of that placed showed as rather hostile. I came even to the topic to discuss with myself the possibility if they mistook me for somebody else and if it could end dangerously. I don't want to talk bad about that place, maybe it was just only myself. Maybe, I slowly took a rather mad look in my unwashed clothes and with my large backpack. I have even heard the rumour that it was not such a bad place for surfing. Believe me, even as a non-surfer, there are better places. At least locations with higher waves which are easier accessible. It is just not worth traveling through South Sumatra only to get there. This village had not even an ATM machine and I was short on money.

I have come around a lot in South East Asia and what made this place special, was the behaviour of the people. I have never met such attitude towards foreigners at any other place in South East Asia. One of the most obscene things was that the adults of this village had no issue that their kids were throwing stones after me. Later, I heard that this happened to other travelers there as well, so it was not even personal. Another nuisance was that I felt watched all the time. In the evening, I saw sudden movement of my curtains and as I looked out of the window I saw some people running away. something was creepy about this place. 

The following morning, I hoped to get as quickly, before falling totally into madness, out of this crazy place. The bus was scheduled at 11 a.m. Indeed, to my surprise, the bus was there but it had some problems and had to be repaired. I had made already my experiences that Indonesians are not directly the most punctual people. We waited around two hours and no bus came into sight. I knew that I would need around eight hours to get to Bengkulu. I listened to the other people that waited for the bus. They got already concerned. This was not normal for Indonesians. But, they talked about that some of the bus drivers considered it as too dangerous to drive in the night. We had to be very lucky if there was not a too long delay. It seemed already there nearly impossible to arrive the city the same day. The sun grilled literally my brain and insane actions played inside my mind.

 There were too many weird actions happening in this village and there had to be a reason, my fantasies took me adrift. I imagined that I would not be able to leave that place and that all of the people around me were cannibals or even worse, they were vampires. Only a few people showed in broad daylight and maybe they were the ghouls. Looking out for some stranded journey man who had missed the bus and would be happy to be taken into one of their cursed homes. Suddenly, in this context, the stone throwing kids made sense. They were the messengers of 'Get into the houses, it is too dangerous in the streets. Our parents are waiting for their meal already.' Somehow, the stone throwing gang of kids did not show up here at the bus station. Had their parents already given up on their prey and saw them with dark minds leaving their nest? It was a strange place, in the dark they tried to watch you and in daytime you could hardly see any person on the street. It somehow became now meaning that the owner of the guesthouse had advised 'Do not go out in the dark.' That was then as well the time that the stray dogs showed their aggression. Did they turn into monsters like werewolves? Even if they did not change their look, they were extremely dangerous after sunset. The sun was definitely doing no good on me.

I fell into imaginations based on memories from weird circumstances back on Bali about the dogs. I had been surrounded by hordes of them many times. These lice carrying rabies plagues came only out when it was dark. They bark at you and are already ready to attack, then it needs a lot of self-consciousness, part bravery and coolness to avoid ending up torn into parts. Do not panic when they bark and snap at you. It looks worse then it is. The best method is to approach the leader of this pack. Go directly toward it and clap a couple of times into your hands. The noise will irritate them and they will run first a couple of meters away. Don't worry, they will come back to you and try the game again. Just repeat the action until you have come out of their area. It looks crazy or even stupid but it always has worked for me. Never show that you are weaker, they don't know that, they still believe your teeth are higher than theirs so you must be superior. This even helps with a pack of thirty dogs. Really smart creatures, they are not. 

If you are a stranger at a place you have less options and information then the locals, I started to be extremely confused. Finally, after a long time of waiting, a bus arrived and I hoped that it was the replacement for the broken one. It wasn't. I figured that there was one bus going south and the other one going north on one day. There were no more bus connections, only this one. I saw how they lifted the bus and checked on the brakes, then they changed the wheels. Following, the driver got into the bus and drove away. This had to be the trial, the bus should be safe before going on the tour. A further half hour passed but the bus did not come back. Instead two young guys got a motorcycle and drove away with some tools. The bus must have been broken down again. I got hungry but I had run out of money, my traveler cheques were here without any value. I had to change them in Bengkulu. First, I had to get to there. Without any money, the last I spent on the bus ticket, with an empty stomach and hardly any water left, I felt stranded in this damn village. One further hour passed, it was now around 4 p.m. Finally, the bus came back and was now ready to go. Half of the initial waiting passengers had left, they were probably locals and had postponed their journey for the next day. I had no other option then to leave and to try my luck, after Krui there had to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Sumatra is an extreme place with outstanding nature but amazingly many differences among its interesting people. I had left Krui and now I hoped that everything would run better. I checked with the driver if it was possible to reach Bengkulu still on that day. He smiled at me but did not reply first. Then, as I did not expect with an answer anymore, he told me that we would at least get to Bintuhan. I had never heard of that place. Could it be worse than Krui? One old man heard my inquiry if there were any cheap guesthouses and banks. He offered me instantly to sleep in his house and told me about his beautiful daughter. I was positively surprised to meetfinally original hospitality again. However, I had grown skeptical after Bandar Lampung and Krui. I was no longer in the mood of staying longer at places that might be heaven but could be hell. I felt also a little bit estranged by his offer. Why did he have to mention his daughter? In my narrow mind at that time, there were only two possibilities. His daughter was not that beautiful or he saw in me as a white guy an option to improve with my support his standard of living. Friendly, I rejected his generous offer. He did not mind that and informed me that I would have no problems to exchange money in his town. Now, on a second thought, I knew that he had no bad will to offer me shelter at his place. This guy had been extremely cordial. It gave me hope for further journeys. In the darkest hour, under the worst conditions, you could meet amiable people. You just had to stay calm, and be friendly and peaceful. Maybe Krui had just been the one bad place that spoiled my impressions of South Sumatra. Probably the people here were more friendly as at this cursed place.

If you really want adventure, you can hardly seriously expect to meet the challenge of your life if you hop out of the convenient plane or in a limousine. Try it with traveling the means of the local people. The bus made a stop after two hours drive through the winding roads along the coast. Suddenly, the bus driver had jumped the brakes. I heard some movements from the top. Had monkeys jumped on it? Worse, he had to stop the bus and climbed up. There was something about the luggage. He had to tow it again as it was short before falling off. Now imagine, you are going up a road which directly borders to an abyss to the sea. You have already run out off money and abruptly all your clothes say good bye to you. Wouldn't that be a fantastic setting? Well, lucky me, it did not come to that anticlimax. Instead at the next possible occasion, the bus made a stop. The luggage was taken care off one more time. Another piece of adventure that I only experienced because I had avoided all comfort on my journey.

Under described circumstances, I did not only find excitement and adventure but I saw another face of South Sumatra. I would like to go back to the southern tip of the island to see one more time if it was only the people around Krui that were strange. On this day, I started to realize that it was luck which made a trip pleasant. There was not a big chance to plan a perfect trip. I would also not trust any information of other travelers about certain places. Even Krui might have changed in the past years.  It is just your personal experience and also depends on your expectations, best to have none at all. On the journey between  Krui and Bintuhan, I had given up on prospects and that became the moment that everything began progressing much smoother than before. It became also much more fun to travel these roads. Small events gave me joy and made me happy. As an example, as the bus stopped and the driver took care of the luggage, out of nothing I was served good Padang food. I first declined as I did not have any money to pay with. I even did not know who had ordered it. I was first a bit critical as I believed that this was another trick to get some money out of me. I was again very wrong with my suspicion. I did not have to pay anything for it. Somebody must have covered the bill for me. This was again something that showed me South Sumatra could not be easily judged by only one place. The largest and most important part of my stay in South Sumatra made these unexpected events, that is why I still remember it very well.


There were a lot of natural impressions on my journey on these first three days through Sumatra's South, I really started to enjoy them after I had left Krui behind. Hundreds of kilometers of the street lead through endless rice terraces which were encircled by palms and pines. Sometimes we came through wealthier villages with amazing longhouses made from rosewood and stone pillars. These were decorated with engravings and had nice roofs. I could see a many richer families that had settled in these stone pavilions for a round of tea. We came through massive forests but unfortunately parts of them showed also the first signs of deforestation. Now on this bus tour to Bintuhan, It was close to sunset. A cooling breeze blew into the open windows of our vehicle, it was refreshing after the hot day.  The bus crossed smaller streams of crystal clear water and then we finally reached my next destination. Darkness had already settled and so the driver told me that he would not continue the journey. I had to wait until the following morning. The arrival in this village meant for me that I had overcome the deepest point in my journey. I felt like reborn again.