Tuesday, September 02, 2008 Indonesia Indonesia

Around Bukittinggi

A typical street scene in Bukittinggi [Enlarge]

Next day we took a tour of the area surrounding Bukittinggi. The itinerary included trips to a sugar cane farm, a peanut farm, a silversmiths' village (where we got to see some cool flying foxes), and so on, before a 44-hairpin descent down to the Lake Maninjau, a vast volcanic caldera (crater lake). Dono was a good guide and showed and told us plenty of interesting things. The volcanic soil and abundant sun and rain make the area highly fertile. Rice grows all year round, as do mangoes, bananas, pumpkins, cinnamon, coconuts, peanuts, sugar cane, ginger, and probably lots more. We sampled a cinnamon leaf straight from the tree, and also bought some peanuts which had just come out of the roasting pan.

Flying foxes [Enlarge]

The rich volcanic soils come at a price. This area is part of the Pacific ring of fire, constantly poised on the brink of seismic catastrophe. In 2007 Bukittinggi was hit by a significant earthquake. Many buildings were damaged, but few lives were lost because fortunately the big one was the last of a series of three shocks, increasing in magnitude. The first two made people get out of their homes and on to the streets, so that when the final, devastating quake struck, hardly anyone was inside the buildings to be buried in the collapse. The stunning Sianok Canyon was reshaped by the quake. The whole thing is made of a light sandstone, and whenever the ground shakes the walls of the canyon collapse a little more. The 2007 quake stripped the canyon walls of all the trees and vegetation and left one pinnacle bare except for a single tree clinging proudly to the top. Dono estimated that two or three more quakes will destroy the pinnacle completely.

Maninjau caldera lake [Enlarge]

Dono found us a homestay on the shores of Lake Maninjau where we could get a tasty and very welcome lunch. We ate it guiltily as the staff and Dono did everything they could to avoid watching us eating, hungry as they obviously were. Dono borrowed a prayer mat and went into an unoccupied chalet to pray. Being out with us he'd missed one or two of his appointments with Allah.

Back in town after an excellent day we had an hour in a friendly, cheap web cafe which had both wifi and beer. Indonesian Bintang beer is good. Why do muslim countries all seem to be so good at fermentation?