Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lake Toba: Land of the Bataks

Lake Toba’s anesthetic vibe has lured many backpackers to North Sumatra over the years. 

Formerly a super-volcano until about 75,000 years ago, a massive eruption left a gaping hole in the Sumatran landscape. At 505 meters deep, 100 kilometers long, 30 kilometers wide Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world. 

The local Bataks hold firm to their history and culture. In a land of 95 percent Islam, the Bataks, which practice a blend of Christianity and Animism, have a reputation for being blunt and gruff. However, I did not see any of this while I was there. After being a life time New Yorker I am impervious to bluntness and gruffness. 

Before being colonized, the Bataks had a highly developed system of government with a strong judiciary branch and were cannibals. 

They are also historically renowned warriors who fought neighboring villages as well as the influences of Islam. German missionary Nommensen swayed the Bataks in the 1880’s by adapting his Lutheranism to local Animism. 

From Jakarta, it only takes a two hour plane ride to get to North Sumatra’s capital Medan. Next take a four-hour shuttle bus or chartered taxi uphill to Parapat and finally board a 45-minute ferry to Tuk Tuk or Samosir Island. Parapat is the gateway to Tuk Tuk and Samosir. 

Samosir is almost as big a Singapore and is technically not an island since it is attached to a peninsula.


Read more: Jakarta Post

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