844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Bukittinggi to Parapat (Sumatra, Indonesia)

For a revised version of this post, go here.

July 14th, 2009 - I think my ass is busted. It hurts. A lot. I just spent 14 hours on a motorcycle traveling from Bukittinggi to Parapat. That's 14 hours sitting in a seat designed for a petite ass (My ass is petite just not Southeast Asian petite). Did I want to drive for 14 hours? Negative. You can't always get what you wa-ant....

I asked a few folks in Bukittinggi how long it would take to drive to Parapat. I might as well have asked the Magic 8-ball. Throughout the course of the day I received no less than eight different responses, none of them accurate. Three people in Bukittinggi told me it would take 9 or 10 hours. One person said 12 hours. The book actually said 14 but was referring to public transport which usually takes longer than a self drive. After traveling a few hours a woman at a roadside restaurant told me it would take one night and one day, some dude said it would take 3 or 4 more hours, another person said 8 more hours. When I was 5 hours away a woman told me it would take 3 more hours. One gentleman said once I reached the lake it was another hour to Parapat. It took another two and a half hours. Feeling me?

Let me tell you what's not fun. It is not fun to drive a motorcycle at night on a North Sumatran road with a crappy headlight. The light functions but it is slightly askew and points a bit upward. I'd never really noticed before because I make it a point to avoid driving after sunset. So every yahoo coming at me thinks I have my brights on and starts flashing their headlights spasmodically. With each passing vehicle I'd scream, 'WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT FROM ME!!!!!????' into my helmet as they drove past. Let's just say I was a bit punchy. By following other vehicles at a slow rate of speed I managed to use their lights to view the track ahead and keep my bike on the road. Bonus.

When I did finally arrive in Parapat I stopped at a gas station to inquire about suitable lodging. I was directed to a fine looking set of buildings nestled upon a hilltop. It was like a beacon of hope. No angels or music but good enough for moi. I arrived in my room to find that the TV had no remote control. Oh, the injustice!!!

In the midst of my marathon cruise I passed through an area of North Sumatra that I perceived to be more devoutly Muslim than other regions. I saw dormitory-type buildings (indicating the presence of religious schools known as madrasas) and many adolescent boys milling about in traditional garb (dishdashas and skull caps) . I also came across the largest, most impressive mosque I have ever seen.

The truth is, and I hate to say it, this is not a place I felt I should linger for any length of time. There seemed to be an air of unfriendliness floating about. Not that I have anything against Islam but I got the distinct impression that the teachings in the area have a more fundamental theme. This is underscored, I think, by the very fact of the presence of such a community in a relatively isolated area.

On the other hand I could be guilty of paranoia and bias. I accept this but you should ride through the area on a motorcycle by yourself before passing judgment. It is quit possible that had I stopped and struck up a conversation with locals I may have found them as friendly and warm as all the Indonesians I have met, Muslim or otherwise. More often than not a grave countenance can be instantly dispelled with a kind 'Hello' and a hearty smile. Hard to believe but you would be amazed how much smiling can disarm people. I did make a few stops along the way (food, gasoline, etc.) and encountered some not so friendly characters. Perhaps, they were the exception, not the rule.

Due to my inability to determine an accurate time frame for my arrival in Parapat I was forced to pass up some superb photo opportunities. One in particular will haunt me for some time as it was the stuff of National Geographic. For some reason there is an abundance of motorcycles with small covered sidecars in this part of Sumatra. They proliferate and I have seen this nowhere else in Indo. Well, I drove by an elementary school and outside were a good 20 of these contraptions (Sumatran school bus?) all lined up with young passengers awaiting their chariot ride home. Imagine fitting as many rugrats as you can on, in, and on top of said motorcycle sidecar combination. There were kids shoved into every possible crevasse and, as I said, there were about twenty or more of these Indonesian 'clown cars' lined up outside the school. Stopping was impractical for more than one reason. In addition to my nebulous ETA in Parapat it would have been difficult to monitor all of my belongings in the midst of the swarm. Still, what a hell of a picture!

I am most entertained by the fact that many of the motorcycle/side combos are of the Vespa scooter variety. Why put a side car on a Vepsa? I think it is better to ask, 'Why wouldn't you put a sidecar on a Vespa?'. If anyone is puzzled and inquires as to why you took some particular action simply reply, "Why put a sidecar on a Vespa? Because you can, dipshit." 

Photo from the internet


  1. Sounds....

    Like I will never make THAT mistake.

    Sorry to divert Subject st. but, I am adolecent. But I try and manage raging hormones, unstopable pesky things. I can emit that I do do stupid things. What you put in you blog is like you putting your foot in your mouth. ;-) I just accessed this page in a Google serch "west africa culture and life" and I am finding it very time consuming...

  2. Not sure why the search lead you here. It probably has something to do with the side bar to the right that contains a chronological list of all of my posts by title. Then again, it cold just be that Blogger is a bit glitchy. 


'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim