I left the next morning from Crab Island just before 9 to Port Klang, where my motorcycle was waiting for me. I drove to the terminal where ferries leave for Indonesia and tried my luck again:
“Hello, I would like to take a ferry to Sumatra with my bike, where can I buy a ticket?”
“Do you have a visa?”
“You need a visa. And anyway, there is no boat big enough for your bike today”
“Oh … So I must go back to Kuala Lumpur?”
Damn it. I drove the 50 kilometers back to Kuala Lumpur and decided to go directly to the Indonesian Embassy, so I would not waste any more time. The process was long and the embassy was full of people. Amongst them, I recognized two familiar faces : 2 Friends (Indonesian and English) that I had met in Bangkok a few weeks earlier! It was a happy coincidence, and we decided to meet again later on. For now, I had to finish the long administrative process and wait 4 hours in order to file the visa application, which would not be ready until the following day, in the afternoon.
With my friends in Kuala Lumpur
I found a comfortable place where I settled down, and spent a pleasant evening with my friends. I got my passport and visa back the next day, and spent the end of the day with my friends again. It was Wednesday morning when I left to go back to Port Klang, adding another unnecessary 50 kms to my odometer. I got to the terminal, a visa in hand and a smile on my face:
“It’s me again, and I have a visa! Can I put the bike on a boat?”
“The big boat left yesterday, you will have to come back tomorrow for the next one”
I expected it a little, but the disappointment was still there. Another day lost! And I’ve seen enough crab for the rest of my life. I decided to find a hotel close to the port and wait patiently until the next day.
“It’s me again, I have a visa! And today is the right day! Can I put the bike on a boat?”
“Hmm … We will have to see if it fits …”
During one of my numerous visits at the terminal
Then followed a few hours of suspense. A really nice man took care of me and helped me go through the process. Steven had already helped several travelers on motorcycles to take this boat, and he was happy to guide me through the steps. Passport, carnet, X-ray for all my bags. His sister exchanged some money for me to I would have some local currency. Everything was going very well, and I was invited to ride the bike to the pier. Once the paperwork was done, I thanked Steven profusely and went to find the boat. This was a passenger boat, not the big ferry I had imagined, and I was now understanding their concerns about loading the motorbike in. They pointed at a ramp leading down to a floating bridge. “I do not mind guys, but my engine is really low and I will need pallets or something…”. That was better. I took a deep breath and slowly went down the stairs. First step done. I now had to go up another ramp to reach the boat’s main door. The action was hard, but everybody gave a hand.
The bike got past the door (with a lot of difficulty, but still did), and was strapped against the wall, in the middle of the hallway. I could finally breathe again and release tension. I had set sail to Indonesia.
Made it to the boat !
The boat ride took about 5 hours, during which I talked with a few passengers and took pictures with them. I could see the coast, and could not help but feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. Despite the remaining 3000-3500 kilometers before reaching Bali, I had finally reached the last country of my trip. The reason for all my expedition. We docked and the crew helped me unload the bike on this new land.
Customs clearance was done relatively easily, and everyone came for a chitchat to know about my story. A particularly friendly custom officer shook my hand as we exchanged a few words. I finally managed to go through the building with the bike and stopped in front of the main entrance to put all the bags back on, under the watchful eyes of around thirty passersby.
This was a long day, and I decided to stop for a night in a hotel some 10 kms away from my port of arrival, Tanjung Balai Asahan. Night began to fall and I did not want to go further for the day. Employees could barely speak English, but I was told a price and led into a room. The young man opened the door and turned on the lights, a big smile on the face. Two gigantic cockroaches ran across the room, disturbed by the light. “Room OK?” he asked me. “Room OK”, I answered resigned, and highly in need of sleep.
Sumatra is a huge island where few tourists venture. The distances are long, and the roads are in poor condition. There are only a few airports in the island, which highly filters the number of travelers willing to explore. An impressive lake was in the 90’s the second most popular destination throughout Indonesia after Bali: Lake Toba. It had lost the glory of its heyday, but not its beauty. That was the goal of my first stage.
And so I started the next morning the 158 kms drive that separated me from the city of Parapat, where I was planning on taking a small ferry to the huge island in the middle of the lake : Samosir, and its welcoming “Tuktuk Village”. The first kilometers of my first real day on Sumatra were not really nice, and the traffic was becoming more abundant. No traffic jams, but a lot of scooters. I quickly adopted the same kind of driving that I had adopted in India : zigzagging at all costs. The rain was inviting itself to the party and pouring heavily, reducing my visibility and my speed.
Photo break before the rain
I passed through a village, and saw a sort of small chicken, cackling gently on the side of the road. We looked at each other in the eye with attention, as the distance that separated us was getting dangerously shorter with every second. “Do not”, I said through my eyes. “Is this a challenge?”, it answered through poultry telepathy. I decided to use the horn 5 meters from it, seeing that it just kept moving forward. The rest happened very quickly: I saw it running towards me, and tried to avoid it. I did not really feel anything under my wheels, but definitely saw it being too close to have escaped. Looking in the mirror, I saw my rival on the road flapping a wing with difficulty, knocked over. What a horrible feeling. This was only a chicken, and I may have killed it. Maybe not. In any case, I could not afford to turn back: this sort of thing can become very dangerous in a small and poor village, and farmers could get very aggressive towards me and my bike if they caught me. So I did what any man would have done: I buried my inner feelings and kept going, hoping that it either died on the spot, or was okay with nothing broken. One thing was sure : I did not eat chicken for dinner that night.