Sunday, 22 March 2015

Homestay in the Harau Valley

Our cabin at the Homestay with a waterfall behind

Two whole days without internet, what has happened out there? Has Steph had a baby?

Collected by Ikbal and his brother Iwol and taken to the valley, all worked a dream, though they were earlier than we’d expected, we’d just ordered some food when we got a text saying they were 20 minutes away! Wolfed down dinner and away we went in the pouring rain, seems to be wet most afternoons!

Sitting in our porch on the first night. It's very dark here! By the way Helen and Ian, Jackies holding the Cadburys wrapper containing the last of your wedding chocolate. we'd saved it, but now its gone!
The Homestay cabins amongst rice paddy fields
There are six rooms here and a kitchen with a small building attached used as overflow accommodation, all the huts were full, one with Mike who we met on our last day at Lake Toba as he was about to get the 15 hour bus overnight to Bukittinggi, while we wimped out and got our flight. “How was it?” We asked, looks like we made the right decision, a lorry broke down and blocked the road, for 10 hours, making his total journey time 27 hours! Made our unexpected early start not such a problem after all!

Inside the cabin, mozzie net draper behind the headboard
The homestay is rustic, but it is a lovely place to stay, comfy bed, dark, peaceful, electricity, but no running water or wifi. It has been comfortable, though probably enough is enough, I would like a hot shower! We still don’t know how much it is costing us, 150000 rupiah for the bed and possibly breakfast (£8) but the food, which has been very good, seems to be on a pay what you think it’s worth basis! How on earth will we decide?

And this is the bathroom. No sink and the bamboo shower didn't work. The big tub on the right is the reservoir and there's a small bucket with a handle. You fill the bucket from the reservoir and throw it down the toilet to flush, you throw the bucket of water over yourself for a shower, which of course soaks everything. We're not sure about the sink replacement, but we put a full bucket of water on the floor and used it as a sink. The light above is completely open to the outside, there are monkeys locally, spiders and, of course mosquito's who can all get in quite easily, but only mozzies did! Rustic or what?
The Homestay cat, who quite liked it in our cabin!
Our first day we walked across the rice fields, to a waterfall and up to a panorama point which was very pleasant, back to shower while it was still warm and sit and chill, the view one way of the cliffs and the monkeys playing and the other way of a mountain and rice paddies. Not bad.

Cinnamon drying in the sun
A coco tree, or as I said, a green chocolate tree!
Yesterday we went on a day out with a Swedish couple, first we stopped in a typical Minangkabau village to look at the architecture, and somehow got invited in to day three of a wedding, we didn’t see the bride and groom but were photographed by the official photographer sitting in the wedding chair and invited by the brides brother in law to a very strange drink, grass jelly in coconut milk and to have some gado-gado to eat – vegetables with a peanut sauce, very pleasant and most unexpected.

Sitting in the bride and grooms chair
The rather strange but actually quite nice drink
Next stop was the Kings Palace, though not the original palace as that burnt down five years ago but has been completely rebuilt. A very impressive building, glad we went, though it wasn’t high on the list of ‘must sees’!

The main reason for the day out though was the cow racing! One man, two cows each with a wooden harness on not to hold but to stand on while holding the cow’s tails, while the cows were made to run through a rice paddy, imagine water-skiing! To make the cows go faster? Bite the tail! Not many people made it the full length of the field without ending up face down in the mud, but apparently it’s not about the people, it’s about the cows, showing them off to see which they can get best price for! It’s crazy but quite entertaining, and muddy even for the bystanders as Brian’s trousers were testament! Have a look at this short Youtube video of a couple of cow races:

Our very hospitable hosts at the wedding
Even time for a bit of cooking. Serious cooking for a lot of guests mind!
Quick stop at a coffee factory which was interesting enough, but we were all a bit jaded. Though coffee/tea made from the leaves of the coffee bush was worth a taste. We also bought some cinnamon to go with the palm sugar we were given by Mery and Abdy, mix it with ginger and there you have the best ginger tea apparently! We got about 10 x foot (300mm) long lengths for 60p. Anyone want some cinnamon?

Flower arrangements for the happy couple Yon and Vera. What a shame we didn't meet them
At the Kings Palace with our Swedish friends
Little walk out this morning to see the three waterfalls we didn’t see the other day, which were very pretty, and very busy, well it is Sunday, but still worth the walk. Many photos with many family groups, what will they all do with pictures of funny white people? The advantage of it being a Sunday was the reptile rescue people being there with snakes, lizards and an owl to make a fuss of. Writing this while we sit and wait for the driver from yesterday to come collect us. Three buses in the heat with rucksacks? Perhaps we are not proper travellers!

A local wanting her photo taken with us. This happens very often, they must think us white people very strange!
Jackie with almost no shadow. It's midday on the equator
Have we enjoyed it? Yes, on the whole but we are leaving with a slightly bad taste in our mouths, not really quite sure why though, they are all lovely, free flowing tea and coffee and bottled water, Iwol and Noni are very friendly as is Ikbal, though we can’t decide if he doesn’t like us, or if he is just a little more reticent. We asked our driver yesterday if he was going straight back to Bukittinggi, “no” he said, “tomorrow”, “you can give us a lift then” Only he did go back yesterday, so 250000 to return today, oh well, the three Italians are going back, we can go with them, only their car would be too small, so cancel their car and go with our driver. This however was vetoed by Ikbal as they had made a commitment, and it would reflect badly on him! We weren’t sure about the day out yesterday as it was a bit expensive we thought, but he spoke to the Swedes after he spoke to us, and they were keen to go, so he reduced our price a bit, as long as none of us talked about price!

I’m also not convinced that the bedding is changed between every set of visitors….
Corrine, our Swedish friend also showing from the shadow of her umbrella that the sun is directly overhead. It's Spring Equinox at midday on the equator, one of only two times a year this happens.
Getting ready for the cow races.....
And they're off! What do you expect when you bite a cows tail in a muddy field?
He seems to be struggling to stay upright
But he's looking pretty good, albeit a tad muddy!
But he wasn't so luck, it all went wrong for him!
To see them in action click on this link:
A rice nursery, prior to planting out in that very muddy field
Brian with a snake
And Brian with an owl, after he had nibbled my ear
What a handsome fellow he is. Not sure what he is though
One of three waterfalls we walked to today
Jackie found a little goat to stroke, in preference to a nearby cat I have to say (but the cat did 'deaf her out')
This is one of those coco pods that has been broken open to show the beans
And here's some coco beans she did earlier, now drying in the sun
Bye-bye Abdy Homestay it was an interesting rustic experience. We think we enjoyed it but we'll be glad to get back to civilisation for a proper hot shower!

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