Two intrepid malaysian girls brave pub­lic buses in North Su­ma­tra erup­tion by just two days.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - OUTDOORS - Story and pho­tos by CHRIS­TINE CHEAH christinecheah@thes­tar.com.my

MY best friend asked me anx­iously: “Is it safe for us to climb the vol­ca­noes? It erupted just back in 2010 ....” I ca­su­ally brushed it off, say­ing that we wouldn’t be that “lucky”. Af­ter all, Mount Sinabung in Su­ma­tra, In­done­sia, had erupted 400 years be­fore the last time in 2010; so I as­sumed it wouldn’t hap­pen again within four years.

But my the­ory was proven wrong when, just two days af­ter I climbed the neigh­bour­ing vol­cano – Mount Sibayak – Mount Sinabung spewed thick smoke and ashes, caus­ing panic to the vil­lagers nearby on Sept 15.

Sit­u­ated in the Karo plateaus of North Su­ma­tra, Mount Sinabung is a stra­to­vol­cano that con­sists of an­desite and dacite vol­canic rocks. It has a to­tal of four vol­canic craters, but only one is still ac­tive. On Malaysia Day, it was re­ported that Mount Sinabung had erupted for a sec­ond time, hurl­ing red smoke 3km high, blan­ket­ing the neigh­bour­ing vil­lages with vol­canic ash.

To hike ei­ther Mount Sinabung or Mount Sibayak, tourists have to get to the town of Berastagi, which is 65km from Medan, the cap­i­tal city of North Su­ma­tra.

My buddy and I ar­rived by evening, af­ter mak­ing our way from Medan’s new Kuala Namu In­ter­na­tional air­port. With the heavy down­pour as we were tucked into the nar­row seats of a dimly-lit pub­lic bus, my first im­pres­sion of Berastagi was of a Cameron High­lands-like town amidst miles of lush primeval forests.

De­vel­op­ment seemed scanty and Batak women clad in ulos (tra­di­tional hand-wo­ven tex­tiles) walk­ing steadily along the muddy roads with bas­kets full of ba­nanas on their heads were com­mon sights. Ap­par­ently, the abil­ity to bal­ance fruits and veg­eta­bles on their heads (in hands-free mode mind you) was a must in yesteryears for Batak girls to be con­sid­ered el­i­gi­ble for mar­riage.

This trip was meant to be a get­away to un­wind in the wilder­ness af­ter a few weeks of be­ing thrown in the war­zone of a news­room. I love be­ing on el­e­vated grounds be­cause when you look far down and be­yond, you re­alise that the prob­lems re­volv­ing in your mind are just specks of dust.

Hence, we de­cided on an eas­ier hike to Mount Sibayak (2212m) which is also an ac­tive vol­cano in­stead of the higher Mount Sinabung (2460m). Lo­cated on the no­to­ri­ous Ring of Fire re­gion with al­most 130 ac­tive vol­ca­noes, In­done­sia is a pretty volatile area to live in.

In Au­gust, Mount Roka­tenda in the tiny is­land of Palue (near Flores in eastern

In­done­sia) change dor­mant earth­quake 250,000 Agung Mount Sinabung for



the fact, of ones

Breath­tak­ing: a pa­naromic view from mount Sibayak at dawn. to climb this peak, tourists start from the town

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