Nestled in the palms of a super volcano lies the immaculate volcanic Lake Toba (Danau Toba). Once an explosive volcanic catastrophe zone, it's now a picturesque scene that is so peaceful and gorgeous that any initial impression is that of laziness and relaxation. Everything from the indigenous Batak people to the glassy top of the lake, induces a slow paced attitude and a license to clear the mind by doing as little as possible.
From the Northern Sumatran capital city of Medan, the journey to Lake Toba takes around five to six hours. Our driver attempted to maximize the velocity of our van, overtaking freight trucks at frightening speeds and gaining air on the potholes. Driving through the forest we eventually reached the outskirts of the main volcano and wound our way around the lake edge before arriving in the town of Parapat.
The nerve startling ride was the reverse contrast of the peaceful tranquility we were about to experience on the Samosir Island, located within Lake Toba.
From Parapat, we took the local ferry which dropped us off at our chosen guest house on Samosir Island. The ferry was so lenient that it allowed anybody to get dropped off anywhere around the lake that they requested. We dropped a number of people off at hotels, some locals off at their homes, a few people got out at a small water village, and finally the ferry came to a halt at our guest house. It was like handing me a plate with a slice of heaven on it.
Guest houses on the banks of Lake Toba are cheap and comfortable. Some offer traditional Batak style accommodation in huts that overlook the water. Our room at the Reggae Guest House was filled with at least four beds and was located so close to the lake that we could jump right off our balcony into the calm warm water.
I was delighted when the reception informed us that the grand total for our noiseless Shangri-La pad was a mere $3 per night, split by 2 (and there were 4 beds in the room!). I couldn't help myself from dreaming about spending the rest of my life in that very spot, on the side of Lake Toba. I would relax my life away, willing to see my bank account deplete, but here, by a micro drop in the bucket per month. My dreams shattered when I remembered my Indonesian visa that was about to expire, depleting my stay to only a few days.
In the few days on Lake Toba I was able to truly appreciate the relaxing and tranquil nature of the area. I would awaken at dawn to observe the sunrise that ever so slowly rose above the volcano ledges and ricocheted off the mirror of the lake.
A few lone fishermen would be casting their nets without making even the slightest sound, paddling their boats with silent strokes. The faint pleasing sound of bird chirping could be heard, but it was almost impossible to pinpoint as the sounds carried across the landscape.
For exercise we followed the trail to the mountain top of Samosir Island, whacking our way through thick brush and being rewarded with jaw dropping views of the lake. Along the trail we met a few Batak farmers, excited to see us and happy we had made the ascent.
Submersed by the peaceful atmosphere (just like on Mount Taal), it's a sobering thought that Lake Toba is the product of a violent blast of a super volcano. Today it remains as the world's largest volcanic lake at over 100 kilometers long.
Getting to central Sumatra and finally arriving to Lake Toba can be challenging to arrange, but the relaxing reward is unparalleled. Lake Toba remains one of my all time favorite destinations in the world!
Mark was raised in central Africa before migrating back to the U.S. for University. After graduating, he decided to continue traveling the world. On Migrationology, he shares the cultural side of travel from a slow-paced local perspective that often revolves around his love for eating all forms of food. Join him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @migrationology.