Star Date:  September 2014
Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia



Hello Dear Family & Friends!


"Horas. Nga boha kabarmu?  Denggan.
(Hello! How are you? I'm fine Batak )







"Change. It has the power to uplift, to heal, to stimulate, surprise, open new doors, bring fresh experience and create excitement in life. Certainly it is worth the risk."
(~Leo Buscaglia)


'Ka-boom'!!!!!  That would be the last thing you would hear as a cataclysmic event changed the world forever.  Lake Toba, Danau Toba, was created when a super volcano erupted, approx 70,000 years ago.  One of those "oh-sh#*t situations, it is the largest known explosive eruption on earth in the last 25 million years.  We like to think that we as a species have this world under 'control' but remember it was events like this that have shaped our existence, and will again. According to several scientific theories, it had global consequences for human populations: it killed most humans living at that time and is believed to have created a population bottleneck in central east Africa and India, which affects the genetic make up of the humans world-wide.  This hypothesis has been disputed because evidence is lacking for a decline or extinction of other animals, including species that are sensitive to changes in the environment.

What has not been disputed is the fact that this massive eruption led to a volcanic winter, with a worldwide decrease in temperature between 5-9 degrees F and up to 27 degrees F in higher latitudes. One of our memorable stays in East Africa, Lake Malawi, shows significant ash deposits from the Lake Toba eruption, half way around the globe.  Climate temperatures were seemingly affected only slightly in East Africa unlike the devastation on the rest of the planet.  The pyroclastic flows of the eruption destroyed an estimated 7,700 square miles with ash up to almost 2000 feet high near the vent.  S. E. Asia was covered in ash with the layer being 20-30 feet in some excavated locations.  Sulfuric acid and dioxide were blasted into the atmosphere affecting the whole planet.  Living in Hawaii, one of the current active volcanic sites on earth, we appreciate the problems caused by 'vog' in the air.  Luckily the volcanoes in Hawaii aren't volatile like pyroclastic explosions, but mainly like a candle melting (shield volcanoes) just build up layer after layer with each eruption.  Having lava slowly creeping towards your home, as is happening now in Puna on the Big Island, is probably so nerve wracking that some would wish it was just a single explosion to determine the future.

Over at the other end of the "Ring of Fire" in Sumatra, Indonesia the afore mentioned giant explosion launched rubble into the air, with the present named island of Samosir falling back into the caldera (crater - like Crater Lake in Oregon, which when filled with water created Lake Toba around it.  This is the largest volcanic crater lake on earth. The lake is currently close to 450 sq. miles and the elevation is a pleasant 3,000 feet.  Like moths to a flame, visiting Lake Toba is a bit like going home.  We are definitely clearing out before the next estimated eruption in 70,000 years (or sooner with all this ridiculous fracking).  Such is life on the "Ring of Fire"!

Words don't describe the unparalleled beauty, tranquility, and simplicity of Lake Toba.  With a refreshing Mediterranean climate it is always a relief to leave the heat and congestion of Medan, Sumatra behind and travel 3-4 hours south.  The wind blowing through your hair while taking the small ferry boats over to Tut Tuk peninsula, on Samosir Island 20 minutes away, helps you unwind and flow into the slower pace and peace of Lake Toba.  Twenty minutes and a world apart.

Most of the people who live around Lake Toba are ethnically Bataks.  Quiet, soft spoken people, the Batak are helpful, welcoming and quick to smile. Even their dancing is gentle.  Men are still seen in their hand hewn canoes throwing nets and banging the water to scare the fish into them.  Fishing, gardening, shop keeping, guesthouse managing, and the time consuming cultural ceremonies for the everyday life events of birth, marriage and death; paints a picture of life in Toba.

A new phenomenon, "Ka-Boom" like a second cataclysmic event, has descended like a weekend plague on Lake Toba, especially holiday weekends.  Local families from Medan and area arrive Saturday, determined to party, make noise, throw trash and the worse part is to use electric microphones and speakers.  We couldn't believe what we were experiencing.  The only good news in this department is that noisily they sail off into the sunset on Sunday leaving less than a ripple behind.  From Monday to Saturday night  life once again stands still in Toba and tranquility perseveres.

Tuk Tuk was a traveler's spot in the 70's but then lost popularity due to it's remoteness but if remote is a draw for you then this is the place. Everything a traveler needs is available, but then again what do we really Need?  I remember the lady we greeted everyday on our 3 mile walk around the peninsula.  She had a small table selling toilet paper and 1.5 liter bottles of water.  When she made a sale she closed shop.  After all why spend all your day working?  The Bataks work hard when they have to but they know how to relax.  They have perfected the fine art of doing nothing!  When in Rome do as the Romans so we work on our art of doing nothing, with grace.  Usually arriving tired and a bit bedraggled from traveling and just getting there; we read, write, catch up on computer work, while sleeping and eating at our favorite lakeside Romlan Inn, carefully managed by Marion.  We are able to be hermits or talk with the slow stream of international visitors passing through.  A daily walk is a must for health and exercise and soon we have friends along the way we greet daily on our circuit.  We first came here on our honeymoon in 2001 and have been back many times since.  This is a must when in the 'neighborhood' of S. E. Asia.

Traditional Batak houses are known for their distinctive roofs (which curve upwards at each end, as a boat's hull does) and their colorful hand painted decor.  We met a local couple from the other side of the lake staying in one of the 6 units near us.  They invited us to ride with then for a wild and crazy trip across the Island of Samosir.  Definitely 4 wheel drive we barely made it in several places.  Past old wooden Batak houses and authentic 'tugus' or tombs we caught a glimpse of life on Lake Toba unseen by most visitors.  Guaranteed many of the people we met had never been out of their isolated villages.  Isolated villages above remote villages that is.  We went through Ronggur ni Huta - village of Thunder and on to Lake Sidahoni.  Invited into an old post card hand hewn wood house we saw life as it was 100 years before.  We passed many, many unique, large colorful tugus and saw an ancient Batak house, ornately painted in traditional style.  Originally the house was painted not with paint but with the blood of slain enemies.  Once back down by Lake Toba near Panguruan we were invited into our gracious host's family complex.  Along the lake most complexes consist of more modern concrete houses in front, with family tombs and the old original wooden Batak houses behind.  The original wooden houses were completely hidden from sight by thick hedges and carved rock banks.  Early occupants had to crawl through holes in the rock to access the compound inside.  As tribal fighting lessened the small passageway gave way to a path on which one could walk upright then widened to accommodate a scooter.  At least you don't have to worry about supplying the main ingredient for house paint.

We met Bill and Rose back in 2001 and have been friends ever since.  They are kind, helpful and one of the reasons we head back to the world's largest volcanic caldera.  We enjoy their company and visiting their lovely home, and a couple of outings in their new car.  He introduced us to Juliana's Laster Joni avocado chapatis and my mouth waters as I think of having one for lunch.  Bill is a bit crazy or eccentric, as are we, and so fits one of our criteria for friends.  And so we may end up spending more time here in the future.  Who knows?


Plans.  What are they?  We hear God laughing in the background as we annually think where would we like to explore next?  Such a big world - so many people to meet - so little time. 

Lately our world has been changing.  Before it was a matter of choosing a continent or a direction and an economy where it was exotic and reasonable to travel.  Like choosing amazing, reasonable Sikkim over Bhutan next door costing $250 a day.  We never purposely went into conflict areas but twice were caught in cross fire.  And so we left the Middle East on hold, turning around from our plan of overland through Pakistan to Iran.  Traveling under George Bush as the US President for 6 years found me saying, "Hi, I'm Nancy, from America, and I didn't vote for George Bush!"  George Bush was one of the most hated presidents internationally during his reign, which led to the decline of our once proud country.  Or simply saying we were from Hawaii solved a lot of problems.  People would ask where is Hawaii? and we would say an 'Island' in the Pacific.   They would nod, "Oh from Ireland!" which solved the problem immediately.

And so the current bully of the planet, the United States, continues to invade and do damage in it's wake.  Used to be that the conflict or invasion or war was horrible enough but now the frosting on the cake is the use of  legal mini nukes and spent uranium weaponry.  Testing of these weapons in Hawaii has elevated radiation levels downwind.  Geiger counters aren't emotional or take sides.  People lie, governments lie, the media lies.  Geiger counters don't lie. The radiation left behind in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria is killing the remaining residents, regardless of their political affiliation.  And to visit these countries, where these high radiation levels will remain for 200,000 years, is not a smart idea.  Once exposed to excessive radiation it is a battle between the radiation in your body and the strength of your immune system.  Unfortunately this radiation is now seeping across borders and continents, carried on jet streams, in storms and through oceans.  Asia and India are even being affected by radioactive clouds from these regions.  Sound like a hoax?  I wish it was.   Again readings don't lie.

Changes abrew.  Last year we weren't allowed to get more pages in our passports.  And surprise, now everyone is required to have Obamacare health insurance, living in the US or not.  Not cheap at $400 pp per month!  If not you pay a high penalty.  Trying to open a bank account overseas now involves a ream of paperwork for reporting to the IRS if you are an American citizen, unheard of 6 months ago.  What's next?  Mandatory vaccinations?

The disaster of Fukushima nuclear explosion in Japan   (March 2011) pales all these annoying changes in US policy.  Spewing tons of radiation in the air and ocean daily, the plume has radiated the west coast of the US and is extending towards Hawaii, the rest of the mainland (and now as far as Brazil and Australia).  High readings are reported at times over the whole country, some relating to the proximity of a nearby leaking nuclear power plant.  Radiation is changing the face of our planet.   Who would have thought even 5 years ago that buying a geiger counter was a 'must do' to protect yourself and your family?  (check out our radiation pages for more info and protective ideas.)

Our first plan 'foiled' was to fly to Florida last year and drive across the stunning S.W. National Parks, up the west coast and on to Alaska.  We would have visited the old  stomping grounds of Joseph in LA, San Francisco and Portland.  We would have visited friends along the way up the coast, all the way to Vancouver Island.  A great exciting plan. Sad that it didn't happen.  Normal readings are 20-30 c.p.m.  Used to be at 100c.p.m. it was an emergency and called for a special protective suit.  With San Francisco Bay registering 290c.p.m. we sadly changed our plans.  With 35 million people living in Tokyo, 100 miles from Fukushima, the government of Japan raised their warning levels from 100c.p.m. to 8000c.p.m.  End of problem and the beginning of an official gag order and a stream of lies.  The U.S. government has also dismantled their monitoring stations and raised their acceptable levels.  As produce, nuts, fruit, even baby food, test positive for radioactive fallout in California, citizens for the most part are unaware and consuming dangerous food.   At the same time some Californian businessmen madly and swiftly sell these radioactive products to guess where - Japan?!  Who can predict the future?  If radiation levels don't go crazy across the U.S. we will definitely make this trip.  Just as with the levels in Hawaii, we hope and pray that something will happen in the 11th hour, as with Shakespearean plays, and all will be well. Hope runs eternal. 

Luckily a group of dedicated grass roots citizens worldwide are monitoring these quite unbelievable events and trying to keep the truth known on the internet.  Radiation readings are increasing for passengers while flying.  Our jaws dropped when we heard the US had invaded Syria, neighbors of Turkey.  They did what??  Europe is still stuck with high readings from Chernobyl in 1986.  An estimated 1 million people have died in Europe from cancer and related diseases. Don't get mad at the people trying to share the truth (again geiger counters don't lie!) just do your own research, share with others, adapt your life as seems fit.  Take appropriate action - just worrying doesn't help.  Then LET IT GO and ENJOY EACH DAY!  What is happening to our wonderful planet, our dearest Gaia?  Many theories.  My heart hurts as I think of the ramifications.  And so I think I will go for a walk - and ENJOY TODAY!

I went for a walk around Toba to clear all this from my head.  I replaced thoughts of radiation with gratitude for my blessings.  Staying on Lake Toba in Sumatra provides an ever changing backdrop of light and clouds and rainbows against the blue lake and verdant green caldera mountains.  I saw flowers of orange, yellow, pink and purple.  I rubbed 2 fuzzy puppies and a wiggle butt dog.  I saw a proud cock, his hen and their tiny chicks.  Greeted by no less than a dozen smiling people I returned a now cheery "Horas"!  People here are totally unaware of the world situation.  They live simply and enjoy each day, sitting and chatting with neighbors.  Some are so poor that they wash their clothes and bathe in the lake.  And still they smile not burdened by the weight of an ever increasingly crazy world.  Relax - nothing is under control.  Sure I could teach them some global facts but I think they can teach me even more!


And so it goes.........................................Next month multi cultural neighboring Malaysia.  Until then Keep Smiling and let us embrace changes in our lives as Leo said.  "Change opens new doors, brings fresh experience and create excitement in life. Certainly it is worth the risk."  I heard Leo Bucaglia speak in University and he definitely had a positive life changing effect on me.   Take care and Keep in Touch!



Love, Light & Laughter, 

xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph




Travel notes:

1 US Dollar = 12602.80 Indonesian Rupiah.  It is nothing to withdraw 2-3 million for spending!  I thought millions were spectacular until a money changer showed me an authentic bill from Rhodesia for 1 trillion Rhodesian pounds. I used to have one for 50 million but someone stole it - worth about 1 dollar.
A great hotel in Medan is Carolina Transit - it is 100 meters from the junction of Jln Sisingamangaraja and Jln Juanda (close to Masjid Raya)  off Jln Juanda - past Musjid Raya JL Halat/ commplek Halat Senter  Blok 7-8
Phone # 061 7332500  Just keep asking, have the taxi driver call as it is tucked away down a quiet alley.  Clean, modern rooms.  A great place for your transit in Medan.

Share taxi from airport 85,000r p.p.
From hotel to airport (bluebird) 150,000r

Fly with to Medan.  Also a sometimes rough 5 hour ferry ride from Penang over.  Lots of share taxis from the airport to Parapat - roughly 75,000 per person or you can hire a private taxi (Kjang - SUV - MiniVan) for around Rp450,000 / Rp500,000.  The taxis seat 8 people including the driver.  You can share with other people or pay for extra seats to go sooner or have more leg room.  They drop you off right at the dock with 10,000r boats over to Tuk Tuk.  The boat stops anywhere you want on the peninsula.

Lake Toba:
Romlan Inn:
Marion and her staff and family make your stay pleasant.  The rooms are clean and well decorated and the balconies face the lake.  Meals and rooms are affordable and it is a perfect place to hide away from the world.  Great food and lots for vegetarians.  Occasionally the noise on weekends, from neighboring hotels is awful, but everyone leaves Sunday night. 
Just ask
the boat to get off in front of the Guesthouse.
(62) 0625 451386 ///+6281362228415












Lake Toba or Danau Toba. The supervolcano that formed Lake
Toba was the largest eruption since the beginning of time.


Joseph enjoying a refreshing swim in front of our hotel.


Rainbows and flowers abound.


Many beautiful sunsets to enjoy, followed by starry
nights and spectacular lightning shows.


A pleasant 20 minute ride takes you over to the island.


Local Batak women gathered for a ceremony.


At a local funeral people dance, eat, visit and exchange
 blankets with the family. 


Waterfalls following the rainy season.


Traditional Batak houses are known for their distinctive roofs
(which curve upwards at each end, as a boat's hull does).


Colorful hand painted and carved decor.


Interesting hand carved details adorn the houses.


Waterfalls on the steep sides of Samosir Island.


Our new local friends kindly invited us to explore the
top of Samosir Island.


Water buffalos with their usual attitude.


Lush forests up in the clouds.


The chow wagon.


Up here life remains as it was decades ago.


We were invited in many traditional Batak houses.


Betel nut and babies.


The neighbor.


Working in the garden.


One of the many 'tugus' or family tombs we saw.


Sorting dried beans.


The original protective entrance into the family compound.


Eventually the path was widened for walking, then scooters.


Tying bundles of shallots grown in their garden.


The old family home.  A new cement version is in front.


A colorful stall of vegetables at the local market.


Herbs sold by the traditional medicine man.


Shops abound on the way to the King's Tomb.


School bus full?  No problem.


Lunch by the lake with friends Bill & Rose.


Marion and husband, owners of the Romlan Inn, all
decked out to attend a local wedding.

The new family boss!  What a sweetheart.


 This gigantic praying mantis came for a visit and stayed a week on
our porch.  Maybe he liked the view from our 2nd floor room. 
He liked to crawl on us and go for a ride.





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