At the beginning of this month Tari Travel to set off on their yearly trip to experience their own tours in Indonesia. This year we headed to West Sumatra, where we would spend our time in the Padang Highlands. We began our tour in Bukittinggi, home to the ethnic group Minangkabau, who are known for their matriarchal culture. It was fascinating to see all the traditional houses and learn how the women of the family own them. This culture is female dominated and the houses are always passed down to the daughters, which contrasts hugely to the rest of Indonesia. Excited to see what we had heard about, we woke up bright and early on Saturday morning and prepared ourselves for our first trek of the weekend. Before our hike we stopped at one of the old Japanese tunnel where they used to execute Indonesians. It was shocking to hear the stories from our tour guide. After only a short time there we began our walk at Ngarai Sianok, an impressive canyon with steep walls.
The view across and into the canyon was incredible. We walked for two hours through rice fields, set deep in the valleys, up and down hills and forests on top of mountains. The views were stunning throughout this trek. We even got to have little conversations with local women who were working in the rice fields. They were so friendly and some of them showed us their apple trees they also had growing in their fields. Our walk back to the top of the canyon was very steep but worth every step. It ended in Kota Gadang, a place known for its silver and colonial houses. The roofs of these houses were interestingly shaped and looked sharp amongst the green landscape. Some of us saw more houses like these on our bike ride. However, some wanted to explore the bustling markets of Bukittinggi. So after our trek we biked through some picturesque villages where we saw traditional houses with beautiful carvings and colours all over them. The others ventured through the markets, where you could buy all sorts, from clothes and souvenirs to tasty snacks. Padang traditional snacks include Krupuk Merah, which is bright red, and Krupuk Sanji, which is made from tapioka. We even got to see how they were made in the home-factory.
Evening finally came and as the sun set we were lucky to see flying foxes. These megabats come out every evening at 6pm to search for edible fruit. They are very graceful as they glide across the sky. By this time we had all worked up quite an appetite and went to enjoy a delicious dinner at a local home. We were served so many dishes it was like we had our very own personal buffet. One of the tastiest dishes, and most popular in Sumatra, was Rendang. Rendang is a curry, which is rich in spices and includes ginger, turmeric and lemon grass. Once we had eaten we made our way to watch a traditional dance performance. We saw a lot of traditional dances, which included music from Gendang drums. Padang’s dances represent many different types of situations, for example the first dance we saw was their welcome dance. One of the dances even involved smashing plates. It was very exciting and even more so when we were invited on stage to join in with their dance. Their costumes were brightly coloured with parts that shined golden. Our night ended on such a high and we couldn’t wait to start the next day.
We woke up early again on the Sunday morning, all ready for another trek, this time at Harau Canyon. Harau Canyon is slightly different, as deep inside there is a waterfall. To get to the canyon we had to take a bentor and it was most enjoyable. Bentors usually only fit two people but these fit five. It was so much fun driving through villages and winding roads. The landscape was spectacular. When we arrived we trekked down into what felt like a big hole. The atmosphere was cool and it felt like we were in the middle of a new world, looking up at the canyon walls around us. Our long walk ended at the waterfall and it felt so refreshing to dip into the water. That night we stayed in a homestay set right in the middle of the canyon. The view was beautiful, as we looked out onto trees and up towards the forests. This was not the end, however, Tari travel staff had already fallen in love with this place.
On our last day we made our way to a beautiful stretch of white sandy beach, north of the city of Padang. On the way to the island we stopped at Pagayurung, the name given to a palace, shaped like all the traditional houses. This palace was huge and had very royal designs. We also saw some stunning outfits worn by the women. These traditional dresses included a massive crown full of jewels. The place was fascinating, it has burned down several times but restored to its original glory. Before we left we tried on these traditional dresses and felt like queens crown.
Although still located on the mainland we needed a boat to reach our small bounty beach! It took a trip of around 45 minutes passing small islands on the way. When we finally arrived at our destination we got set up in our rooms and went snorkeling. Our room was right in front of the beach, so we only had to walk out the door and we could go for a swim. Directly behind the rooms was a protected forest home to five difference primate species. The elegant silver crested langurs where already finding their sleeping trees just behind the rooms. Such a wonderful place with an isolated white sandy beach and a tropical forest filled with animals. As the evening drew closer, and our tour came to an end, we relaxed on the hammocks and enjoyed the peacefulness of this magnificent place.