Today I spent twelve hours getting to the remote mountain lake of Danau Ranau. My lonely planet guide book is pretty sketchy with information about the southern part of Sumatra but I managed to work out the following plan: take the train from Bandarlampung bound for Pelambang which takes 10 hours but jump off after about 6 hours at a place called Bataraja. From there take a bus to Simpang Sender and then somehow get to Banding Agung which is right on the edge of the lake. As well as being worth visiting for its own sake, Danau Ranau is a sort of gateway to traveling up the west coast of Sumatra which I might do as far as Padang before heading over to the east coast to catch a ferry to Malaysia.
The plan started well when I managed to get to the train station at 8.30am just as the train was about to leave. There wasn’t time to buy a ticket so I jumped aboard intending to buy a ticket on board. When the ticket collector came round I discovered this wasn’t possible. He gave me an evil look but let me ride on the train for free even though I offered money. It was an economy class train, which meant very hot, stuffy, and crowded. Sellers would come through with everything from snacks and drinks to fans and childrens’ books. Buskers would also come through, perform, and collect money. They were actually pretty good and since I got on the train for free, I gave fairly generously.
As I jumped off the train at 3pm at Batajara, the strap on my shoulder bag broke and I was simultaneously swamped with taxi and ojek (motorcycle taxis) drivers. I managed to fend them off while holding my bag awkwardly and jumped aboard a minibus trying to explain to the driver that I wanted to go to a bus terminal to go to Simpang Sender. I had no idea if he understood me but we soon stopped at another minibus and I hoped this was going in the right way. It turned out it was, which I learned from a women on board who spoke a bit of English. She was really friendly and helpful, so much so that at a place called Muruadua where her husband was picking her up in a car to take her the rest of the way to Simpang, she offered me a lift. Rosetta, Harry, and their friend Dewi were nice company even though we hardly understood each other. The ride took about an hour and once in Simpang I got on an ojek which Harry had explained where to go to. I wasn’t sure the ojek-driver understood because within minutes we had stopped at a house and he went inside while I stood at the front wondering what the hell was going on. He soon emerged again and it turned out he was changing onto a better motorcycle. I’ve been on the back of a few ojeks since I’ve been in Indonesia and don’t really like them but they are sometimes the best or only way to get from A to B. This one was pretty hairy, weaving around potholes in the road through the dark and I was very glad when we pulled up to the Hotel Seminung Permai in Banding Agung.
Having enjoyed three nights in the comfort of the Amalia Hotel in Bandarlampur (possibly the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in), the Seminung was a shock. I thought my hotel at Kalianda was grotty, but this brings it down to a whole new level. Grubby walls and bathrooms, no windows, no fan. I can’t bring myself to brush my teeth here. At least there are no cockroaches so far. Since I’d like to stay at the lake a couple of days I will see if I can find another hotel tomorrow. Anyway, I made it here and having had a brief stroll around it’s nice to be in a quiet town. And being up in the hills, the temperature is very pleasant. Oh, and I managed to fix my shoulder bag. Tomorrow I will go and look at the scenery.
Harry, Rosetta, and Dewi