lima, peru
Into the White in Sumatra
September 25, 2015

Fasten your seat belt. The life west is stored under your seat.
And just in case you carry illegal substances, you risk death penalty.

Continent #2, yay! 17.500 islands in Indonesia, just waiting for me to explore them.

No way I am leaving the fourth most populous country on earth any time soon.

Jakarta Skyline
White sky over Jakarta upon my arrival in Jakarta

Let´s escape the big-city-smoke as quick as possible! But where to first…? Sumatra.

First stop, Lake Maninjau. They say “the first glimpse of this perfectly formed volcanic lake sucks your breath away”.

Lake Maninjau in Sumatra
Ooops, maybe at a second glimpse? At Lake Maninjau

I might be able to see that perfect shape from the lookout Puncak Lawang. It only takes a scenic ride up a windy road past green rice fields and tooting scooters. Happy on my scooter, only blocked by some monkeys and a group of locals, who are enjoying too many Bintangs at the last intersection before Puncak Lawang.

Entrance fee, really?! I’d rather not pay, bye bye 😉

Viewpoint of Lake Maninjau
No luck at the lookout. Misty sky all over Danau Maninjau

Well, there are also other beautiful spots to visit around Bukittinggi.

Fingers crossed I manage to leave the white sky behind in the Harau Valley

Harau Valley in Indonesia
Misty Harau Valley

Hmmm… no! Just another white layer covering the green hills and wide rice paddies of this gorgeous valley.

Have I already used up my share of blue sky in Zanzibar?

Rice fields in Harau Valley
Strolling across the rice fields in Sumatra

I guess I have had my dose of colorful sunsets in Africa. Hospitable Indonesians & good company – I love West Sumatra anyways.

Rice fields in Sumatra
Rice fields & palm trees all over the Harau Valley


And how can you not fall in love with this place if you call this bungalow your home?

Living the good life in Sumatra

Even so, what´s going on here? Who has colored the largest Indonesian island all white?

Are indeed the smokers to blame?

Smoking in Indonesia
No man without a cigarette. Bus drivers included.

Let´s try to escape the clouds at Danau Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world.

Ferry on Lake Toba
Ferry ride into the white

16 hours on the freezing night bus and a short ferry ride later, still white nothingness all around me on the quiet Samosir island in the middle of Danau Toba.

Cruising around Samosir island in Sumatra
Cruising around Samosir in Sumatra

Is it always that quiet here?
No, just since Mt Sinabung erupted again in June the ash cloud has blocked the sun and kept the tourists away.

Samosir Island on Lake Toba
Peaceful Samosir Island in Lake Toba

Active volcano? Here i come!

Let´s travel further north and hike up Mt Sibayak. From there I should be able to catch a glimpse of the nearby Mt Sinabung.

Sibayak Volcano in Sumatra
Into the white on Mt Sibayak volcano

Easy 90-minute-trek, no guide needed, olé!

Surrounded by the steamy gases of the volcano, putting up with the smell of rotten eggs – so let´s check out the view…

On top of the fuming Sibayak volcano

Whatever! I am excited for the ultimate Sumatra highlight. So much wildlife in Africa, but I still haven´t seen any apes…

Jungle village Bukit Lawang
Welcome to the jungle! In Bukit Lawang.

… there are supposed to be tigers, rhinos and elephants around?! Well, I am here to see… Orangutans.

Nice to meet you, Jackie & baby!

Out of the white jungle village and into the green Sumatran jungle for 2 days. Up- and downhill in the Gunung Leuser National Park and swinging-on-a-liana-is-harder-than-it-looks-like, I bumped into 6 orangutans 🙂

Floating in the jungle
Last time floating in the Sumatran jungle

Look who comes to say good bye! Again Jackie & her baby.

Unexpected visitors near my jungle camp in the Gunung Leuser National Park

Time to get out of the jungle and hopefully catch the blue sky in Pulau Weh, the cherry on top of Sumatra. Even if it takes another ride on the night bus.

Trick question: Why do the night buses in North Sumatra have a sturdy metal grill in front of the windshield?
Just as a precaution. For when they speed through the villages and people throw rocks at them.

Scooter waiting next to the road for the two night buses to take over

Good morning, Iboih!

Pulau Weh Island in Indonesia
Walking around the Iboih village in Pulau Weh

Apparently it´s always a little rainy up here, but who needs blue sky in paradise anyways? Or underwater!

Snorkeling over the underwater volcano in Pulau Weh

I briefly caught a glimpse of the blue sky during my four days in Pulau Weh.

It turns out that I wasn´t just unlucky, but that the white sky is actually a typical problem during dry season.

The fires are a seasonal phenomenon over much of Southeast Asia owing to traditional “slash and burn” agriculture techniques, though environmentalists say the problem has been exacerbated by illegal land clearances to make way for lucrative paper and palm oil plantations. Burning land for agriculture, for hunting, or just for fun is a favorite pastime of many Sumatran locals.

Sunset over Pulau Weh
Sunset over Pulau Weh in Indonesia



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