Mount Sibayak is an active stratovolcano located in North Sumatra. Its accessibility and its proximity to North Sumatra’s capital, Medan, make it a very popular destination for Indonesian, as well as international hikers who want to marvel at its seething crater and enjoy the astonishing views from its top.
Being, myself, in Medan, I wouldn’t let the opportunity to visit that volcano unexploited. So, a fair early morning I was out looking for some way to get to Brastagi, which is a small town situated right at the base of the volcano. It didn’t take long and I found a public bus to take me there for 15.000 IDR. If one doesn’t mind being squeezed between people, inhaling the smoke from the cigarettes the people between whom is squeezed will be smoking incessantly throughout the entire trip and listening to Indonesian hip-hop in a volume so high that causes the whole vehicle to quake, then this is the best way to get to Brastagi. The trip lasted for two hours. As soon as we arrived, I got loaded with my stuff and I started ambling in search of accommodation. There are plenty of fancy and probably quite expensive hotels in that town – how expensive, I cannot say as I didn’t bother myself to ask. I actually didn’t find myself in need to ask anywhere after all, as a few hundred meters after I left the bus, a man in a military uniform drove by me in a jeep and offered to drive me at his guesthouse where I could have a room for 60.000 IDR. It was a very nice and quiet place up on a hill with a great view to the town, so there I lodged, getting ready to head up to the mountain early the next day.
I got up a while before 4 am, I threw a few things into a small bag and at 4.10 I was leaving the guesthouse. Such is the proximity of the mountain to the town that the only thing I had to do was to start striding towards it. Only the half-moon of that night, which was soon to reach its climax on the equatorial sky, was striving to illuminate the northern outskirts of the town, wherethrough I was ambling. The roads were completely desolate, nothing was moving on them except a few dogs, who would every now and again come to bark at me so to boast their presence. It was one of those dogs who betrayed me, when about 3 km north of the town, near the village of Jaranguda, at the point where I had just left the main road, I was passing outside that little house which I found out to be functioning as a registration office. Notified by that dog’s yelps, the clerk hastened to roll the house’s yard door open and called me in, so to register me after collecting a 40.000 IDR fee.
From there on I got to follow the small road leading up the mountain. Step after step, the dog cries, and the rooster crows were gradually dying out in the distance, while the chirping symphony of the crickets was getting steadily amplified, nearing deafening extents. Soon, as I entered the forest, the dim moonlight got lost behind the tall, gloomy figures of the trees, and I was obliged to utilize my torch. On the way up I got to witness some eerie fluorescent centipedes, which I encountered at quite frequent intervals, flashing along the way, calling for my attention.
At 5.40 I had reached the end of the road. There were a small parking lot and some closed food-stalls, which probably operate there in the weekends. From there starts the short trail leading up to the crater complex. The trail first runs shortly through a muddy section, and then it continues on volcanic sand and rock, where the stench of sulfur starts dominating the air. At 6.00 I was standing on the rim of the crater, from where I could see the east horizon reddening up. I was in perfect timing with the sun. I found a comfortable rock to sit on, I lit a cigarette, and stayed staring languidly at the rising sun, while contemplating Zorbas’ last words: “I lived so many things and yet I didn’t live enough, men like me should be living for a thousand years”.
After the sun had already made some progress in its diurnal course, I got up and started to explore the crater area. I did the circumvention of the rim, climbing all the peaks formed around the crater, of which Tapal Kuda is the highest (2101amsl). The views to every different direction were gorgeous.I could see Sibayak’s jungly extension to the north. The numerous lofty mountains and hills to the east. The valley extending vastly against the horizon to the south. And the imposing neighboring Sinabung volcano, with its massive smoke-produce raising for miles up the sky, erupting in the west. Inside the crater, too, it is very interesting to see the small simmering lake located at its bottom, and the sulfuric gas-jets fuming out from the mountain’s bowels here and there, raising a kinda creepy uproar.
The actual highest point of the mountain, however, Gunung Pintau (2212 AMSL), is situated a few km further north. That part of the mountain is covered by dense jungle and there is no trail leading through. In order to reach the peak, a sharp machete would be indispensable and probably a full day required. Even though it doubtlessly is a very appealing expedition, I did not after all attempt it due to lack of time. Instead, after spending delightfully my solitary morning on the mountain, I flitted down, so to get ready for my next mountain adventure which was soon to follow…