North Sumatra & Aceh in 10 Days (3): Stranded


It’s 2 AM and raining. I open my eyes, enjoy the rain for a moment, then get back to sleep. Don’t you like when it’s rain & cold, the next thing to do is pull your blanket and sleep with peace? At 3:30 AM, my alarm screams. 10 minutes later, I finally wake up with great struggle.

The rain has stopped, which means our “sunrise mission” will continue as planned. The mission is simple:  Enjoying sunrise at Puncak Tele. But to get there from Tuk Tuk isn’t that simple. The total distance is ± 60km and there isn’t any public transport until 6 AM, so a rented car or motorcycle is the only way to accomplish the mission. Puncak Tele isn’t part of Samosir so we have to get across the island.


With lazy steps, I walk into the parking lot, put my helmet and ride into the dark with El. The first checkpoint is Pangururan crossroad, 43 km from Tuk Tuk. The trip takes only one hour. From the crossroad, we take a right turn for another 20 km ride to Puncak Tele with many hairpins. Unfortunately, the road isn’t as smooth as Asmirandah flawless face. It’s mostly damaged from landslide, there are several big rocks on the roadside and a few spots are covered with mud. We climb up all the way pushing the rented motorcycle to its limit.

We’re the first ones to arrive at the viewing site, there’s a small kiosk where the caretaker lives, we pay the entrance fee and ordering two hot cups of tea and savouring the moment while the sun rises. The only thing that bothers me is the horizon is still covered with thick haze, and so is the sun, probably because of the heavy rain last night. Well life isn’t perfect, might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

We spend more than two hours at the site and it seems that the fog isn’t gonna disappear any time soon. The sun is already high anyway, it’s time to head back to Tuk-Tuk. On our way back, El spots a traditional house complex, so we enter the complex and ask for a permission to take pictures.

After several picture-taking stops, we’re approaching Tuk-Tuk at noon and enter a small restaurant near the hotel for lunch. I’m very hungry I feel I can eat a horse. Aren’t you gonna be super hungry too after traveling 120 km with a motorcycle in the middle of a chilly morning?

Long Road Ahead

With full stomach, we check out from the hotel. Well, it’s time to hit the road again. Now, our next destination is the legendary city Barus. Most of the people we ask can’t give clear detail on how to reach Barus. Some of the directions are vaque, some of them are confusing. Apparently, even for Batak people, Barus seems like an outside world, isolated.

One thing for sure, you can depend on the angkot driver about direction. On our way to a bus station at Pangururan, the driver gives a detailed information on how to reach Barus. The route is Simpang Tele-Dolok Sanggul-Barus. Sounds quite simple. Easy peasey japanesy.

After reaching the terminal, we catch another ride to Simpang Tele with a Sampri minibus. Sampri is the most famous transportation company known for their routes to the remote places in North Sumatera and dominates the market. Oh, and if you’re curious, Sampri stands for Samosir Pribumi, quite catchy isn’t it?

As usual, I choose the seat on the back near the window, just in case if there’s any smoking party. The minibus arrives at Simpang Tele in about 3 hours. It’s cool and fresh here, but the place is like some deserted town in a wild west movie. There are several small shops and restaurants but most of them are closed or just empty. We wait at a small restaurant for another 20 minutes.

Too Late, Too Bad

At last, the minibus to Dolok Sanggul arrives. We hop on to the rusty car. I doubt this piece of rusted tin will get us to Dolok Sanggul, but appearance can be deceiving. The “tin” is as tough as any modern SUVs, but without proper suspensions.

The road to Dolok Sanggul is interesting. Along the road, the car encounters many logging trucks. I can see dozens of reforestation places (young-homogen trees) and a lot of sites where the trees are completely chopped down. The road is pretty bad, heavily damaged, probably because of the extreme traffic of the monstrous logging trucks. Another interesting event is when we’re passing Hutagalung village, a remote and small village. I wonder maybe this is the home of the beautiful Nadya Hutagalung’s father.

At 4:30 PM, we finally arrive at Dolok Sanggul, a cold windy city. Without any hesitation, we head to Sampri’s pool to ride a minibus to Barus. Unfortunately, the last one just left at 2:30 PM, there is no more minibus available to Barus until 3 AM tomorrow. Well, isn’t it just dandy? We ask the pool guy about any minibus heading to Barus, well…unluckily, there isn’t any.

There are two options, option one: Wait until 3 AM tomorrow. The pool is closed at 8 PM tonight and they’re not accepting any kind of guest to stay inside. Since there isn’t any hotel nearby and if somehow we decide to wait outside the pool, it’s just not possible. The air is too damn cold, plus we don’t have any sleeping bag. I can only imagine what it feels like at midnight: balls-shrinking cold. Option two: Take a ride to Pakkat, a city near Barus. Stay for a night at Sampri’s pool there and continue the trip to Barus at 5 in the morning.


It seems that we don’t have any choice, we choose option number two. The bus leaves at 5 PM to Pakkat. It’s another bumpy ride through hills, forests and remote small villages. It’s 8 PM when we arrive at Pakkat. The town is very small, more like a transit town. Only a couple of bus pools and several small shops and restaurants that still open. I ask the pool guy about a room for passengers, he points to a group of rooms in the back of the pool and give permission to occupy one of the rooms. We decide not to take the room. It’s a mess and smells like a toilet. El thinks that if we’re lucky, there’s a room available in one of the restaurants near the pool.

We walk to a kosher restaurant for dinner. After that, ask permission to the owner if he’s willing to accommodate two stranded tourists from Jakarta in the restaurant. Lucky for us, he actually has a room. Apparently, he also has a car rent business and the room is originally for his drivers but today it’s empty. To hear such a good news is just like an oasis in the middle of Sahara. We can take a refreshing bath and rest in a proper room. It’s not what we have planned, a slight of change but nevertheless still fun and fascinating.

That’s it for today Pakkat, and now let me have a good night sleep.


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