TRAVEL GUIDE FROM THE UNDERBELLY------5
Lake Maninjau is a magical lake
deep in a volcano caldera,
and ringed with lush tropical forest.
It lay 16 kilometers
from where I sat drinking strong ginger tea.
I was conversing with a Dutchman.
We sat on rough wooden chairs
in a shaded cafe.
He'd been living in Bukittinggi
for a number of years.
He ran a guide business into the forest,
where pale white-skinned (on the verge
of full-out cancerous sun burning)tourists,
enacted their personal nature fantasy's
before rushing back to their hotels,
drinking ginger tea and discussing
their life and death encounters
with lethal man (and women) eating spiders
which they bravely confronted
from a distance of 200 meters.
He was explaining to me that only an Indonesian
could own a business in Indonesia,
and that his was listed
under his Indonesian wife's name.
He also told me that only a Muslim
can conduct business there,
which means circumcision.
He was 26 years old at the time he got his.
I asked him how long "IT" hurt,
after the operation.
I was cringing at the thought of "IT",
all cut and blooded.
He flashed me a look
and stared out at the mountains,
like he was watching a dancing memory.
He said, somewhat ironically,
that it hurt so much while they were cutting,
that by the time they stopped
he'd felt no pain at all.
I asked him what he meant.
He'd gone to the local hospital he told me,
where he was assaulted with a monstrous
pin-pricker the size of a large snake,
which the locals called a hypodermic needle.
He was administered an anaesthetic
and told to wait 10 minutes,
after which the doctors returned
to verify his lack of feeling.
They stuck him sharp and deep,
along the length of his manhood.
He screamed, so they began to cut,
and cut, and cut some more.
There was'nt much to say---I got the point.
The conversation turned to Lake Maninjau.
He told me it was a volcano caldera
which erupted about 50,000 years ago
killing all life around it.
Now it was a beautiful lake.
I liked the sound of it
and decided to ride out.
Bukittinggi was a lively little city
of just under a 100,000 people.
It's the largest city in West Sumatra.
It had far too many tourists for my tastes.
I hadn't met the buggers
while in the Riau Archepelago,
and I didn't want to start now.
You can notice the difference
between people who travel the world,
I was ready to move on.
I took off with plenty of water
strapped to my pack.
It was hot and the journey was mountainous
as is most of Sumatra.
The predominant culture was Minangkabau.
The Minangkabau are matrilineal,
which means that mama was the boss.
She was in charge of the house and the kids,
but papa was still his own boss.
He was a man after all.
Their name is thought to be a conjunction
of two words.
Minang which means "victorious"
and kabau which means "buffalo".
They tell of a tale set many eons back in time.
There was a dispute with a neighboring tribe.
To avoid a bloodbath,
they suggested a lethal combat
between two water buffalo.
Their neighbors brought in the biggest
and baddest buffalo they had.
The Minangkabau threw a hungry
baby buffalo into the ring.
The tips on the end of baby buffalo's horns
were sharpened to razor sharp points.
The big, bad, and very dumb buffalo
from the neighbor charged into the ring,
and breathing anger looked around for it's equal.
The hungry baby was paid scant attention
When the hungry baby pushed it's head up
under the big bad buffalo
looking for tit's from which to suckle,
it gored the buffalo's belly and killed it.
The Minangkabau have a distinctive roof design
resembling the horns of a bull.
I pumped my pedals up steep mountain roads.
Sweat gushed out and soaked my clothes.
I felt great.
A mountain bike is a good means of transport
in that part of the world.
For longer trips a bike is easily thrown
on the rooftops of buses and barges.
Upon disembarking, one is in possession
of a wholly independent transport.
This is no small thing
as one is literally assaulted by taxi drivers
and all means of transport providers,
upon disembarking from buses and ferry's.
"Hey tourist, you want a ride?"
"NO, NO, Man, come wid me!!!! ".
I was given the directions to Lake Maninjau;
"ride till you get to the big tree
that looks like a mocking monkey
and then turn right".
I turned left at the frivolous frog tree instead.
Then I turned right at the slumbering snake tree.
All this turning right and left,
brought me about 30 kilometers
in the wrong direction.
By the time I arrived at Maninjau
I had turned a 16 kilometer bike ride
into a 60 kilometer marathon
up madly steep mountain roads.
Don't mountain roads ever go downhill,
or is that a luxury reserved for car drivers?
Entering Maninjau is breathtaking.
From deep within a strangling tropical forest,
one crests the caldera with it's remarkable lake floor, sparkling in the sun.
The drive down is like no other I've known.
The caldera walls are too steep
so they have made a series of 44 tightly looping, hair pin turns. What a ride!!!
I rode along the lake
till I spotted a cluster of bamboo huts.
I pulled in and was met by the owner.
We haggled over the price for a little while,
and in the end we both had a smile on our faces.
He, as he pocketed my money, and me,
as I unpacked my load
and stumbled into my new abode.