When I finally arrived at my accommodation Wisma Sibayak in Berastagi after 7 hours with this horrible driver, I checked in. I had a small private room with shared bathroom (cold water only) for just 60 000 Rp/night (~3,80€). I had exchanged numbers with Sören and Claire – a German couple from Münster I had met in the bus and who also stayed in Berastagi just in another place. And we arranged to meet in half an hour in front of a church. Berastagi is a nice, quiet, not too big city in the mountains at 1330 m above sea level at the rim of the Toba highlands, just about 50 km north-east of Lake Toba air-line distance. Since it is quite high up it is also not so hot and humid which is very nice. I went to the church I thought Sören was talking about and waited there for more than half an hour. Obviously we had talked from different churches and they had no local SIM card, so no Internet outside the hostel WiFi. So I took off to explore Berastagi on my own for a bit. I had sent a text message before I took off not knowing if he would get it on his German number from my Indonesian one. I walked over the market and also accidentally ended up in the fish and meat section. It stinks horribly there and is rather disgusting, but also very interesting. I only took a few pictures but after being splashed on with I don´t know what when passing some bloody stinky fish stands I had enough and tried to find my way out back to fruit and veggies as fast as possible.
Checked my phone and saw that Sören had answered. So I went to where they were and we finally met like 1.5 hours later than planned. We explored the area and the other market – a fruit market – together.
Then we took off to Gundaling Hill – a lookout to see the sunset over Mt Sinabung. Took us almost 1 hour to get up there. We were treated with a beautiful sunset in the middle of which the volcano erupted and presented a nice dust/ash cloud in the sunset. It was amazing to watch.
When we started our way back down I realized and all my stuff and myself were full of ashes, quite sticky stuff. The couple had to organize a few things so I went back to my hostel alone. It was quite cold now and I needed to get some warmer clothes. Once I was wearing long sleeves I was too lazy to walk back all the way to the food stands and since the restaurant in my hostel was supposed to be decent I just ordered and ate there. It was of course more expensive than on the street, but prices were still ok and the food was nice. Next day I had made up with Sören and Claire to climb up Mt Sibayak (2095m). We wanted to do Sinabung (2454m), but since that was super active for a couple of weeks already, it was closed. We met at 8 am in front of my hostel which was close to the bus station and walked over there. We were supposed to get a green bus with Kama written on it. We found one pretty quickly, but there was no one around. A few minutes later another one arrived but the driver had no clue where we wanted to go and in the end send us to the other side of the street with the help of another guy who could speak a bit of English. There it took a while until we found a bus which stopped for us and took us to where we wanted. It had Kama written on it, but was blue. For 4000 Rp we got to the last stop from where we had to walk about one hour to the pay station for climbing the mountain. The buses used to go further up, but a part of the road got destroyed in one of the last eruptions due to a landslide. Climbing up is another 10 000 Rp (60 cent). We took a little bit more than another hour to get to the top. Close to the crater you can see lots of steam coming out, it smells like sulphur and you also see the typical yellow stains everywhere. The crater itself looks a bit like a dried out lake. We climbed up a little further to the highest point we could find and made a little break there for catching our breath, having some snacks and pictures. Then we started our decent.
Back to the pay station we turned right and headed to the hot springs passing many fields and a geothermal station for about another hour. It felt a lot longer since there was basically no shade and it got super hot. We finally reached the bus stop for getting back to Berastagi but hadn´t seen the hot springs yet. One of the drivers pointed out where we have to go. They were building a new road there and we had to follow that. The hot springs were also a bit of a building side but since we had walked all the way to here already and it was only 10 000 Rp entry fee we decided to try it anyway. It´s kind of a nice set up with different pools with different temperatures.
There we only a few locals as other guests. They usually swim fully dressed which is quite unhygienic, but if you worry too much about hygiene in this country you don´t have fun at all. We spend some time there to relax and then took the bus back to Berastagi for 7000 Rp.
This tour is perfectly manageable without a guide and you also get some nice view of Mt. Sinabung. At about 4:30 pm we got back to town after walking for 19.5 km and approximately 650 m of altitude. We parted and I went to the market to buy some fruit and Tempe and got some water at the Indomarket. Back at the hostel I wanted to rest a bit, but as soon as I walked in a guy approached me. He was a teacher and had his English class from High school at the hostel atm. He asked me if I could practice English conversation with them for a bit. So I was surrounded by teens for the next hour answering question over question and talking to them. Was quite nice and I was happy to be able to help. Later I went back to town for some dinner. Had a really nice chicken noodle soup and got a terang bulan (a kind of very thick pancake) with banana and chocolate. It was very delicious but very fatty and sweet. I could only eat about a third of it. I kept the rest though for breakfast the next day together with some fresh fruit. One of them was a dragon fruit. Not the one that is white inside, but the purple one. I had never peeled one myself and managed to make quite a mess including turning my fingers purple. It stayed on for half the day. Ups! I checked out and worked on my blog. Then I went to town for lunch. When I came back the bus to Parapat was already there, half an hour early. This time it was a kind, friendly and safe driver in a nice bus with working aircon and only 3 more passengers. Off to the next destination!