Challenges on Sumatra

In Indonesia Theo and I planed to travel together again. We went by boat from Klang, Malaysia to Tanjung Balai, Sumatra, Indonesia. Both of us were exited. I because I heard so many stories about this country. Theo because he was keen on coming back to Indonesia since he was here a few years ago.

As soon as we left the port we were surrounded by chaos, overwhelming people and crazy traffic. Trying not to crash into the honking motorbikes we made our way through the screaming crowd: “Hello mister!!! Hey mister!!! Sir!!! Where dor you come from???” When we finally found a room for the night there was still a crowd in front of our door waiting for us to come out again. Theo found a dead cockroach under his pillow. Welcome to Indonesia!


Next day we started cycling towards Lake Toba, the biggest vulcano crater lake of the world. In this area live the Batak people. Until 200 years ago they exercised ritual cannibalism and head hunting before the majority of them converted to cristianity. Nowadays they are great musicians and calm and friendly people. We stayed a few days on Samosir, the huge island in the crater lake.


Then we headed south towards Bukittinggi,  Pandang, Bengkulu. Often we where surprised by the beauty of the mountain range. Small villages surrounded by rice terraces and jungle. People working with buffaloes in the fields and rice, coffee and spices drying on awning fabrics on the road.


Sumatra is not as remote as we expected. In the valleys and along the coast we constantly passed villages and plantages. In each house seem to live a crowd of children of every age. As soon as they see us some of then start screaming with full power: “Hello Mister! Sir!!! Turis!!! Bulei (=white)!!!”  Sometimes the crowd of children runs onto the street in between the trucks, motorbikes and infront of our bicycles. Not only the kids fight for our attention. Young women constantly want to make fotos with us and older people ask the same five questions every time we stop the bicycle. But the young men are the only ones who approach us in an agressive way. When they scream “Hello!” it often sounds hysteric and they honk the brain out of our heads. They follow us on the motorbike with 5km per hour on a climb, constantly honking and making fotos. Others shout “Hello Mister, fuck you!” and once there was a crowd of about twelve of them hammering against our room at midnight, screaming “Mister,Mister!!!!” They tried to break into the room. Finally we went out fetch the bicycles before we barricated the door with the bed again. They kept on teasing us for far longer and we stayed awake almost all night.

Theo and I spoke a lot about the behavior of the young men here on Sumatra. It in very disappointing. In no other country we made similar experiances. But it is unlogical as well as they seem positively surprised to see us. They just loose any control of their behavior which is scary and sucks lots of our energy

This makes my journey on Sumatra less pleasant than it could be. Combined with the dangerous traffic, very steep hills and the tropical climate the last weeks were a big physical and mental challenge.


3 thoughts on “Challenges on Sumatra

  1. Hi Astrid, it’s Pascal, the french cyclist. I see you experienced Sumatra the same way as I did : crazy traffic, annoying people but beautiful landscape (and cockroach in hotels). I think now you are heading Java. People seem more friendly there.

    Hope you’re doing good. What’s the next country ?

  2. We had the similar experience last year with teenage males – obnoxious, gang mentality. And as you noticed the young women are just lovely. But crazy traffic? From Bandar Lampung – Padang on the coast road I was relatively impressed by behaviour of traffic – we were never forced off road or intimidated by larger vehicles. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but there is much worse in other parts of the world (eg; India, Egypt)

    • Well yeah… Probably there are places where traffic can be even worse. On the last bit to the ferry to Java traffic was quite scary. Same as on small mountain roads where old trucks overtook each other.
      All on all Indonesia was a unique experiance. Faszinating but though! 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s