HORAS to Lake Toba – North Sumatra, Indonesia

Lake Toba - Ocean Lake

Lake Toba is a crater lake formed due to the Toba eruption about 67500 to 75500 years ago. This is a site of the supervolvanic eruption. It is described as Yellow Stone’s bigger sister. This lake is 100 kilometres long and 30 kilometres wide and 505 metres at its deepest point and a surface elevation of 505 metres. It is the largest lake in Indonesia and the largest volcanic lake in the world.

Toba Lake from our Resort

This lake is formed in a volcanic crater. The water within these kind of volcanic lakes are often acidic, saturated with volcanic gases, and cloudy with a strong greenish colour. This being a dormant or extinct volcano tends to have fresh water and the water clarity is exceptional due to the lack of inflowing streams and sediments. The eruption here was a massive climate changing event.  According to the Toba catastrophe theory to which some anthropologists and archeologists subscribe, it had global consequences, killing most humans than alive and creating a population bottleneck in Central Eastern Africa and India that affected the genetic inheritance of all humans today.

To reach Lake Toba you have to fly to Medan and drive 5 hours to reach the lakeside town called Parapat, which is beside Lake Toba and it is a jump off point for the ferry to Tomok and the other resorts in Samosir island. The ferry ride from Parapat to Tuktuk and Tamok is pictureque. The ferry drops you at your resort since each resort has a jump off point.

A Batak in his field taking a smoke break

Most of the people who live around Lake Toba are ethnically Bataks. Batak is a collective term used to identify a number of ethnic groups The term is used to include the Toba, Karo, Pakpak ,Simalungun, Angkola, and Mandailing found in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The Bataks are settlers who probably evolved from the Austronesian speakers who first reached Sumatra from Taiwan and Philippines through Borneo or Java about 2500 years ago. They were ritual cannibals. In Marco Polo’s memoirs of his stay on the east coast of Sumatra from April to September of 1292, he mentions an encounter with hill folk whom he refers to as “man-eaters”. He passed on descriptions which were provided to him, in which a condemned man was eaten: “They suffocate him and when he is dead they have him cooked, and gather together all the dead man’s kin, and eat him. And I assure you they do suck the very bones till not a particle of marrow remains in them…And so they eat him up stump and rump. And when they have thus eaten him they collect his bones and put them in fine chests, and carry them away, and place them in caverns among the mountains where no beast nor other creature can get at them. And you must know also that if they take prisoner a man of another country, and he cannot pay a ransom in coin, they kill him and eat him straightway.”

A Traditional Batak House

Samosir Island

Batak in his traditional costume

Samosir Island is a large volcanic island besides it is the largest island within an island and the fifth largest lake island in the world. This island offers fascinating history and panorama. The island is a centre of Batak culture, and the tourists resorts are concentrated in the small town of Tuktuk. Tuktuk is a one hour ferry ride from Parapat. The island occupies nearly half the lake and is joined to its western shore by an isthmus, at which point is the island’s principal town, Pangururan. In the east, the island rises to 5,350 ft (1,630 m), but the level of the surrounding water is 2,989 ft. The mountain Dolok Pusubukit on the isthmus joining Samosir to the mainland is believed to have been the home of the first Batak.

Museum Huta Bolon Simanindo

Rice Barn

Huta Bolon is a  small Batak village. Huta means village. It is a small square surrounded by ramparts on which tall bamboo trees grow. The society of Huta consists of three different groups. Margas is the group of the founder of the village, Boru is the group which take their wives from the Margas group and Hulahula the group of the founder’s wife. There is a row of houses situated at the lower side of the square facing a high mountain  which is believed to be the residence of the communal God. The big House – Ruma bolon is the King’s house. There is another row on the opposite side called Sapas, or rice barns. In the centre of the village, there is a Boratan – slaughter pole decorated with various kinds of leaves to represent the tree of life or banian tree. It has the restored house of the Toba Batak King, which has been turned into a museum and a row of ancient Toba Batak tombs of the the ancient Simanindo Kings with christian motifs on them. Next to the kings house is a replica of a traditional Batak village where the Bataks perform their traditional batak dance Monday till Saturday 10.30 till 11.10 and 11.45 till 12.30 and on Sundays 11.45 till 12.30.

Gondang Siboru is a dance by women who hope that during the dance a young man will come and propose to one of them. Gundang Sidoli is when the young man approaches the lady of his dreams and as a sign of his love he gives her a sum of money.

The traditional Batak music is  called  Gondang. Played by using traditional instruments during ceremonial dances on all occasions be it sad or happy.

Ambarita Village

Stone Chair in Ambarita

This is an interesting village with remains of a couple of stone chairs where the village elders held council. The elders of the village invited the rulers of the neighbouring villages to a conference when an enemy was captured to determine his fate.  This prisoner is held behind the bars under one of the houses. The guide said that if the victim deserved death then he was taken to the dining table where he is clobbered to death. This place is a short distance away from the stone chairs. There is a boulder where the victim is beheaded and chopped. His flesh is cooked with buffalo meat and served to the fellow tribals who complete the meal with a drink of the victim’s blood. On the hill above are the graves of the tribal elders. From the appearance of the monuments and graves, we guessed that the tribal elders have embraced Christianity.

Tomok village

A Stone Sacrophagus in Tomok

As a mark of respect to enter the Sidabutar tomb (Sidabutar is the ancient ruling clan in the Batak village of Tomor), they provide you with a sash to wear and then return it after the visit. Here there are a row of stone sarcophagi. When the king died he was not buried in the ground but had a sacrophagus carved in stone and placed at the centre of the village. Seven days later his descendants would plan a Hariara tree at his grave site.


Water of the Mount Belirang Hotspring

Panguguran is the capital of Samosir on the west coast, here the island is attached to the mainland by a small bridge. It is a small little town on the way to the Mount Belirang Hot Springs. The sulphurous gases and water of this hotspring has killed the vegetaion on the hillside leaving a white residue.

The white residue on the hill


Horas is the traditional greeting of the people, and the best-known word in their language. In addition to being a greeting, it can also be used to express ‘good health’ and ‘goodbye


~ by Uma & Ganesh on May 11, 2011.

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