At the end of the map, I discovered not only the beauty of Sumatra’s natural surroundings but also the beauty of the human nature. Lucky to have a young and courageous boy as my guide, I discovered the beautiful area of Bukittinggi and the Sianok canyon.  

After my first days in Sumatra spent in the city of Padang, I went to explore the rural life and nature around Bukittinggi. I got there after 2 hours in a taxi van and immediately I decided to rent a motorbike and travel around by myself. The cheap gasoline and rental price for motorbikes makes traveling to Indonesia very affordable to be adventurous and spontaneous.

This is how I got to a peaceful village on a top of a hill nearby the Sianok canyon. I knew there is a view point somewhere at the end of the village, from where I could take some nice pictures with the surroundings. So I left my bike at the side of the road and I began to wonder through some backyards.

Just a few steps into my journey, my attention was caught by someone’s whispers, laughter and what sounded like a delicate voice greeting me with a “Hello”. Looking around in order to discover the source of these sounds, I noticed a few shy girls hiding behind a window drape while trying to follow and figure me out.

The kids. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
The kids. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

Out of all of them, the brave one was a little boy who came out of his house and started looking at me with big curious eyes. He caught up quickly to my goal and pointed me in the right direction. Even more, he joined me.

Just a few more houses away we got to the local disrepair building of the local school. If the banana trees and the continuous melodic sounds of birds were not enough to make me realize I am on the other side of the world, than the village’s school walls surely did. There it was a beautifully painted world map, but a different one that we are use to see in Europe.

Myself, a bit confused
Myself, a bit confused

The idea of other countries and continents does not relate to an Indonesian child, his idea of traveling to either Europe or America being as far as it gets. To them, the spot on which they stand on is the very center of the world.

Continuing on with my journey, I made my way through a few patches of jungle and ended up at a wonderful viewpoint of the Sianok canyon.

The trek through the jungle. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
The trek through the jungle. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

This canyon was formed by lava, after the eruption of a nearby volcano and its valley goes way beyond the traveler’s vision. At the bottom of the canyon I could see a small village near which a pack of wild buffaloes were roaming and a little farther away were a few patches of paddy fields.

Sianok Canyon. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Sianok Canyon. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

My traveling companion, the courageous  little boy from before, was trying to give me a little insight into his world by pointing to different things or places that we could see from our vantage point. Although I did not understand the importance of all of them, in the end I understood that he only wanted to show me his village and its surroundings. To show me that his life was good through his eyes and I am sure that, if I only had learned Bahasa Indonesia before coming to this place, I would have heard interesting stories from him.

The sunset came so we went back to the village (that I’d never knew its name). I wanted to thank him for being a great and spontaneous guide for me, so I offered him my just-in-case-you-run-out-of-food chocolate I had in my bag. His response was a sudden run back into his house and return with a beautiful piece of green papaya. I was delighted to get a fresh fruit as a present. “Therima kasi, kid! Maybe see you again in a few years somewhere around. Me probably hitchhiking to an unknown Sumatran destination and you driving a family car with your wifes and children. Would we recognize each other?”

Somehow I imagined he was able to understand my words, even more, trying to assure me he will do his best about that.  But the truth is he never talked to me in English more than “Hello”.

The little boy himself. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
The little boy himself. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
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