Day 7: Later on Saturday April 18th 2015
The lunch stop before we hit Berastagi was fun.We chose not to sit on the bus, like most of the passengers, as our driver hoes into a huge meal. None of us wanted to eat but it was just nice to stretch our legs and hang out with the locals. Soon chairs were produced for our comfort and we were sitting outside the restaurant with an ever-growing bunch of adults and children who were trying to communicate with us and pinching the cheeks of the boys. The particularly friendly, plump restaurant owner took to us and suddenly pulled out several wedding albums. We were shown relatives and relatives of relatives. We couldn’t understand very much but smiled at the colourful photos in which our lady featured. This seemed to make them all happily excited and then we started being offered things to eat and drink. When our driver finally exited, he was told to sit down and have another drink. He complied. Eventually they sadly let us and the rest of the bus depart.
Yes, some moments of travel don’t go as planned and it takes a bit more effort to get it right. This turned into one of those times…
After the friendly delights of Sidikalang, we found ourselves tumbling off the bus in Berastagi in the rain. Not much fun at a busy intersection, shielding kids from traffic and bags being flung off the bus into puddles. We quickly found some shelter in the local “tourist information office”. Now it was raining even harder. Talking to the man at the desk set our “spider senses” tingling.
Spider-Sense presents a psychological awareness of Spider-Man’s surroundings. It allows Spider-Man to detect danger. The greater the danger or how close the danger is increases the tingling sensation. It also allows Spider-Man to navigate when unable to see or disoriented…Thanks to his Spider-Sense Spider-Man can typically dodge physical attacks, laser blasts, and even explosions. – Wikia
Here we were in a new town: all our accommodation contacts had come to a dead end. Our boys had just been on a long 3 hr bus ride, they were getting hungry too. We didn’t trust the man at the desk. He was trying to push a particular German owned guesthouse / tours and we could tell it was in his best interests ie. he was getting a large kick-back. But we couldn’t walk out and would get soaked trying to hail a taxi. So, against our better judgement, we asked if the guesthouse he recommended would pick us all up, free of charge? He made the call and soon a car pulled up to the door. The sullen faced man didn’t even get out of the car as we hauled kids and baggage into the car. Our friendly attempts to speak to our driver, who was slowly filling the car with even more cigarette smoke, was met with closed answers. Not a good sign.
The car creaked up the hill and we pulled into an old residential house. Our driver started to open the boot to access our bags but we stopped him and said, “Could we please look at our room first?”
On entering the house we were met with the stench of dogs. Dogs were hurriedly being shoved into a side room, out of our way. A dour looking wife greeted us with a fag hanging from her lips and showed us through muddled common areas to a dirty room. She assured us that the room would be cleaned but we could see that nothing much had been cleaned for quite some time. The bathroom floor was wet and puddled and the sheets were grimy too.
So despite the rain, despite the fact that we were now some distance from town, despite that we had three tired kids in tow – we left. We weren’t going to spend one more minute in that hell hole.
On the street, we hurriedly slipped on raincoats and after a short walk another guesthouse let us shelter in their garage, even after we had decided we weren’t going to stay there either. This wasn’t looking good: the boys were tired and really how much bargaining power did you really have in the rain with three boys and a bunch of bags in tow. We weren’t going to head back into town as it was too far, so Graham waited with the boys while Prunella endeavoured to use her bargaining powers on the road uphill, away from town. Dodging traffic and puddles, Prunella tried several guesthouses, all unsuitable due to price or lack of a suitable room.
Finally she found herself huddling from the rain at a gatehouse to a huge hotel complex. Many other hotel staff were there and she soon explained our dilemma. Eager to help, a negotiation was started with a reception staff member about to start his shift and eventually a simple, affordable room secured. What a relief.
So it was that Prunella returned after 45 minutes and led her family through the diminishing rain to our new haven, Sinabung Hill – a majestic large, traditional hotel with fantastic views. Soon we had peeled off our damp clothing, indulged in warm baths and were chilling out in our clean hotel room.
Refreshed and elated that we had landed on our feet, we soon re-grouped and headed into town in search of dinner, to explore and to organise our volcano climb. Towards the bottom of the hill, we sheltered from yet more rain in a tiny funky cafe and decided to eat there. The owners were friendly, there was good coffee, the food was tasty and their were cartoons on TV. Everyone was happy.
Back into town we headed to a travel agent we had heard about. Eventually we found it and after a short discussion agreed we would contact them later that evening if we decided to take their tour. So we caught a cab back to the hotel, put our boys to bed and after some internet research and considering our options decided to book. On ringing the agency, they sent someone down to take payment and complete paperwork. By late evening we had finally secured a guide and tour for the next day.
With a safe, clean room and our major goal of seeing the volcano secured, we could finally sleep peacefully after our trying day. Sometimes it’s worth trusting those Spider-senses.