Indonesia Travel Stories
Trans Sumatran Highway Trip
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Story submitted by Scott from Australia 25th June 2009
This is an example of long distance travel in Sumatra. It takes around 17 hours to travel from Bukit Tinggi in West Sumatra to Lake Toba in North Sumatra. It would probably take a lot less time if it wasnít for most minibus drivers in Indonesia. Iíve experienced similar things to the story below in various places in Indonesia.
I had spent a few days in Bukittinggi and had booked my ticket for the next day to get the bus up to Lake Toba. I knew it was going to be a long trip though wanted to do it the cheap way rather than flying up to Medan.
I bought my ticket in the hotel I was staying in. The guy at reception told the bus left at 10am though it would come and pick me up first at 9.30am. I asked if the bus terminal was far away as I was prepared to make my own way there. He insisted that it was OK that the pick up service was part of my bus ticket. Back then (6 years ago) it was only 80,000Rp. I think it is a bit over 100,000Rp now.
So I get up in the morning, have some breakfast and am waiting in reception and the minibus turns up right on 9.30am. Wow that is prompt I think to myself. I get in and Iím the only person in the bus. We take off and the bus goes through one set of traffic lights, right next to hotel, then pulls up at an office about 100 meters away. He says that I have to wait here for my bus to Lake Toba. OK. I hop out of the minibus and look up the street to my hotel. I could have walked that in 1 minute!
At 10am another minibus turns up and a few Indonesian girls get out and sit with me on the seats outside the bus office. We wait around for another 30 minutes and a few more people arrive. At 10.30am the bus driver says we are ready to go. The bus is full with 12 people on board plus the driver.
The bus takes off and we drive about 300 meters down the road and pull into a petrol station and stop next to the petrol bowser. The driver gets out and starts filling up. Why didnít he fill up before he came to pick us up?
He pays for the petrol, gets back in the bus and we are off again. We drive for about 15 minutes to the outskirts of Bukittingi and we stop outside a coffee shop. Everyone gets out and we stop for a coffee break. What the?
After 15 minutes we everyone gets back in the bus and we continue on. We drive for another 15 Ė 20 minutes and we come to the marker for the equator. I am happy to stop here to get a photo. I take a tacky photo with a fellow passenger shaking hands over the equator - him in the northern hemisphere and me in the southern hemisphere. Tacky but it had to be done!
We travel on another 10 minutes and we stop for lunch. Oh well, everyone has to eat! After this stop we continue on pretty much solid driving. We stop for dinner at about 7.30pm, I have no idea where we were. We continue on a few more hours and enter into another town. The bus driver tells me I have to change buses as this one is not going to Lake Toba. OK, I thought it was. He drives to a bus ticket office and asks if they have any buses going to Lake Toba. They say no. He drives to another office, still no bus for me. Finally we reach a 3rd office and they say they have a bus leaving soon. I get out of the bus and take my seat outside the bus office. About 1 hour passes before the bus leaves. This one pretty much goes straight to Parapat on the shores of Lake Toba.
We arrive at around 2.30am Ė just on 17 hours after I left the hotel at 9.30am the previous morning. I walk into the closest hotel and have to wake the reception staff to get me a room key.
I have traveled from Bukittinggi to North Sumatra since. Though the last time I went to Padang and got on a plane for the 45 minute flight to Medan!
That bus ride was quite the experience.
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Contributed 25th June 2009
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