Picture the scene..staring out the window of a small minibus (where seatbelts where only a distant dream) at terraced rice paddies wizzing by, taking blind herrapin corners on the wrong side of the road at speeds only found on motorways, and a driver who was bribing every policeman in site… and that was only one small section of our epic journey from singapore to sumatra without flying… this is a quick synopsis of the journey to Sumatra with our new friends Britt, Ruan and Judith
What we hoped would be a day journey of two ferries turned into a two day trip involving four ferries, one bus and a mini van! Getting up early we got down to Singapore port for the first ferry to Batam and Indonesia, which takes around 50mins and costs $25. We arrived and walked across the few steps to the domestic ferry terminal and were greated by shouts from venders wanting us to go on their boat to a miriad of different islands. And this is where communication broke down! We worked out we had missed the one and only direct ferry to Dumai, in Sumatra, which left at 7:45am but thought we could catch an overnight boat leaving at 12. However, what the guy actually meant was we would have to stay overnight on an island called Selat Panjang! When we reached this island and found the ticket office closed and asked the local crowd in broken Indonesian if we could get a boat to Pekanbaru that night everyone laughed!
However, this detour was infact lots of fun. Clearly western tourists didnt often visit and we became quite the celebrities, with people asking to have their photos taken with us, waving and shouting. We found a hotel with an interesting toilet (hole) and shower (dripping pipe) but it was comfortable. So we woke up early for our ferry (which left at 8am) and walked through a busy market where huge fish were being sold and drank hot sweet koh-pi (coffee) before our trip to the main island. This did involve three legs: two ferries and a bus. But we made it to Pekabaru! Only a day late.
The place we wanted to go was south of here and because some of our campanions wanted to get there asap we decided to all try for a bus for Bukittinggi that afternoon. In the end we chartered our own car and set off with our crazy driver. His moto seemed to be if there are two lanes why not use them, even with cars coming the other way and its not a real corner unless you’re skidding around it at 90k an hour! I think we all lost some hair wondering how the car made that gap! But we did get to see some of Sumatra and the beautiful countryside, mountains, lakes and rice paddies stretching out. Food stalls selling fruit, cakes and even crisps with whole fish in each one. We eventually made it to Bukittinggi at 9pm at night after an eipic journey…but we shall tell you more of that next time.