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With one of the Quebecois chicks obviously shagging one of the local pretty boys and the other not very forthcoming, it was fortunate that I also had company in a Kiwi and a South African guy who had met whilst snowboarding in Colorado, but they had all been there for days and had done all the local jaunts. I was quick to escape then lest I succumb to the time sapping Toba chill out factor, and took a walk around the southern bay of the Tuk Tuk peninsula to another small village called Tomok. There was very fine scenery in waterfalls tumbling down a sheer lush escarpment, water buffalo and fine lake vistas, epitomised by encounters with many excellent rustic examples of traditional Batak houses. Their most distinctive feature the roofs were very high, with sharply pointed gables connected by corrugated tin which markedly sagged in the middle. They were also elevated upon stilts with outsloping walls, and typically with wooden steps leading up to doors only high enough for a small child. Very unusual and fantastic to savour. There were more prominent tombs dotted around, epitomising in their sculpture the Batak's unusual blend of Christianity and traditional animalist symbolism, some were adorned with geckos, skulls and headstones literally carved into heads. I rewarded my walk with a quick Bintang beer, foolishly thinking I would just be left in peace to savour it, but the locals were way too friendly for that. I'd hit upon a pleasant spot facing onto the diminutive ferry pier, which blurted out more Batak song accompanied by video dancers, and it wasnt long before conversations were engaged and a telltale sash wielding wifey tried to drag me up into the mix. I politely told her to go foxtrot, only to be hit upon by 2 young sweethearts desperate for photos with me and a proposal of marriage. They even dragged me onto one of the attendant ferryboats to set the right photogenic scene and I quickly had to scarper as it pulled away from the quay! They sailed off to Parapat blowing me kisses, man the people here were fantastic. I was surprised to find a generous plethora of souvenir shops in Tomok despite only spying one Western couple on a motorbike, and it was a happy realisation to learn that the locals still somehow managed to eke out a living from domestic tourism. I suspected this place must be a big drawcard for wealthier Malaysians too. I ran the gauntlet of the trinket sellers to find a very old looking circular stone enclosure which harboured some ancient historic tombs, notably of a still revered past tribal chief. I thought the attendant was trying to push it on me but the free obligatory sash was only proferred as a sign of respect, and before me I found some really otherworldly and ancient looking sarcophogi. Besides a more modern Batak house stylised one, the major draw was a line of tombs carved into heads and skulls, looking very intimidating and not unlike the giant Moa of Easter Island. Batak country had only come into contact with Western influences in the late 18th century and tales had subsequently flooded back to Europe at that time of warfaring cannibals and sacrificial rituals. This was the original "Heart of Darkness". Most unexpectedly after that I came across the Batak Museum, a small but excellent collection housed in a particulary fine traditional house. There were tremendous wood carvings of suitably scary looking figures as well as incredibly complex and intricate intertwinings of beasts and devil figures. The museum's most endearing feature though were the attendants, 2 teensy tots who could have been no more than 3 or 4 years old, and who giggled incessantly whilst pestering me for photos alongside the exhibits. Sweet as you like. It was on my way back that I fortuitously stumbled across a sign pointing off at a tangent, promising elephants amongst other untranslatable offerings. It turned out to be another unexpected tomb gathering, this one a very similar Moa masked sarcophagus guarded either side by a brace of diminutive elephant. There was another stone circle here around a carved stone table of figures in prayer, some bearing spears, and a line of 4 regal looking figures looked on. Job done, it was only left for me to hike the 5Ks back to Tuk Tuk, passing on the way more friendly waves and greetings and an appropriate road marking saying "Finish 10K". I had expected the full on drunken sing song again that night but it was very subdued, maybe just as well since my tab was mounting scarily fast already.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Indonesia

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