How many languages does it take to climb a volcano?

For my second (and only full) day in Berastagi, I planned to climb Mt. Sibayak, the smaller of the two volcanoes near the town. Being in the highlands, Berastagi actually gets cold at night, and it was an effort to get out of bed for that reason, so I wasn’t ready to go until late in the morning. Since I hadn’t met anyone else planning to climb that day, I wanted a guide for both safety and company – but my guesthouse couldn’t get ahold of an “official” guide at that late hour. So they told me Vedro, a young guy who works for them, could take me instead.

I’d met Vedro the day before, and we had a friendly, if limited, exchange. But while he is making an effort to learn English, he’s just starting out, so his English is at about the same level as my Indonesian!

So, three hours up a volcano, trying to make conversation with someone using the dozen words you know. Talk about a learning opportunity… to get an idea of how the day went, here are some of the words I learned:

hujan (rain)

kabut (fog)

dingin (cold)

licin (slippery)

mendaki (climb)

jauh (far)

Yeah, so maybe it wasn’t the best day for views, or a good idea to climb with no rain gear but I probably learned more Indonesian over the course of a few hours than during the rest of my trip.

Vedro leading the way

When we got near the top and stopped for lunch, a Russian couple around my parents’ age was passing by on their way back down. Since they were the first Russians I’d come across traveling (hard to believe now that I’ve spent a few weeks in Thailand…) I struck up a conversation with them – and suddenly found it much easier than usual to speak Russian, a language I actually know!

Funky fumarole.

As we arrived at the crater, it started to pour, so we only checked out the steaming fumaroles and enjoyed the sulfur smell for a few minutes before skipping through newly formed rivers on the way down. Forget any chance of a view… all I could say was “air panas! air panas!” (hot [water] springs!) over and over again in anticipation of the springs a two hour hike away.


Note to self: a sweatshirt is not a poncho...

We finally got to the springs and soaked with the Russians for a couple of hours, as we watched local Karo Batak people come and go, fully decked out in their most ornate sarongs and headdresses for Christmas. It was pretty neat to see an authentic example of local costume in such an everyday setting (hot spring/swimming pool) when many people take special tours just to see locals who dress up for the sake of the visitors.

Some of the outfits on women waiting for the bus back to Berastagi... we saw more unique-looking headdresses at the hot springs but I didn't feel comfortable taking a picture in a bathing place.

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One Response to How many languages does it take to climb a volcano?

  1. Dad says:

    Приятно сознавать, что не зря я тебя учил русскому в детстве. А я благодарен моей маме, что она мне дала французский в детстве. Я чувствовал себя очень комфортабельно, когда был в Париже в сентябре.

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