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BERASTAGI, NORTH SUMATRA, INDONESIA
By: Neneng Tarigan
I didn't recall, when was the last time I visited this Province North Sumatra; the place where my parents and all of us their seven children were born decades back. I have never been to Toba lake since more than 45 years to be exact and never been to Berastagi I think for more than 20 years. Well, I can't blame myself of feeling unbound with Berastagi since I am the product of mix blood of 4 ethnic groups, the Karonese and the Simalungun from my dad side combined with Ambonese and Mandailing from my mom side. Nevertheless, I feel so proud and happier with this condition because that means I have several kampongs or homelands to visit and for me they are all equally have special place in my heart because there came my ancestors who then brought me as I am today.
Mariott Hotel Room, for only US $ 60.- /night incl breakfast (promo price)
I landed in Medan on 15 September, 2010 and stayed at Mariott Hotel in front of TVRI (the national TV, Sumatra branch office) where my cousin Ferry Tarigan works. I planned to visit Berastagi and the grave of my uncle or our family tomb the next day while I would like to see also the damage caused by the eruption of Mount Sinabung a couple of days before.
The shool boys with Mount Sinabung as the background
There quite a lot of change in Medan as well as in Berastagi; no wonder if Indonesia nowadays is a primary destination for foreign people to trade, to invest and to visit since almost all parts of Indonesia are growing very rapidly aside of natural disasters that continuously hit this beautiful country. For those who believe in the Bible or Qur'an would say these are all the signs of the Armageddon or the end of the world, but scientist seen these as the consequences of the aging earth, human demolition on environment and the geographical location of Indonesia that lays along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped string of faults that lines the Pacific Ocean.
Berastagi or Tanah Karo (Karo Land) is located in a highland of North Sumatra about 60 km from Medan. We can reach this area by car, by taxi or bus that are available around at reasonable price and condition. When I was small the only place that we can drink water from the tab were in Berastagi and Medan. The water was quite clean and fresh, direct from the water deposit at the mountain slope on the way to Berastagi. There are some international hotels now in Berastagi, the air is fresh and cool. Tanah Karo is a very rich agricultural area that produces fresh fruits, flowers and vegetables for out side markets of North Sumatra and up to Singapore and Europe. We would fall in love with the flowers, the fruits and the vegetables as soon as we arrived in this area. I really love the breeze of my Kampong Tanah Karo. The scenery is fantastic, every where is green, only a little sign of dust left as the eruptions of Mount Sinabung occurred when I was in India and two days before I arrived in Medan.
I passed by the refugees tents along the way from Berastagi to my family grave in Kacaribu. My cousins told me, not to worry about the condition of the evacuees since the majority of them are rich farmers, and they run away from the mountain slopes with their private vehicles, they even ate first class rice from government support to this victimize area. I said in my heart: “No wonder because there is a very strong bound between the President to this area, since he was adopted as the head of this tribe a couple of years ago”. This is silly, of course that is not the reason at all, they were just lucky to get good rice from the donor. The refugees in my kampong were all in good condition, thanks God for that . This is totally different with the one I have seen later in my most favorite place in Indonesia, Yogyakarta! Yes the damage by Merapi and the Tsunami in Mentawai Islands were both massive! The death toll reached hundreds in number and the supporting facilities to the victims and the victimize areas are quite poor! In the case of Mentawai, lack of transportation facilities and unfriendly weather delayed all of the logistics to these islands, let alone the damage that totally required a full support, from housing and many other public facilities, such as schools, mosques, churches, clean water , electricity, etc. I n the case of Mount Merapi, the massive destruction created by the mountain has totally ruin and damage the mountain slopes. Thousands of people are homeless and hopeless, as their cattle and land are all sunk by the lava and the dust of Merapi with 3 meters high!
Mount Sinabung is relatively tame and in-active for so many years, unlike the adjacent Mount Sibayak Mount of the Rich), because we can see the cater of this mountain with our bare eyes from Berastagi. When I was small, I like to swim in the natural pools that we can find until today in almost every kampong (village) in highland Karo. The water is clear and cool, if we put our foot in, we can feel as if we were in the ice. The aroma of the air are so soothing like in a natural spa. What I rather dislike with Berastagi is, it has so many flies and people in the traditional market here do not care at all with the cleanliness, so I always prefer to stay away from the market just go to the hills around where the view is unimaginatively beautiful. Am I exaggerating here? Not at all , as you can see from the pictures I attached here. So welcome to Berastagi, Tanah Karo, North Sumatera.