Day Twenty-Four - Bukit Lawang

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January 13th 2010
Published: February 1st 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

Total Distance: 0 miles / 0 kmMouse: 0,0


Day Twenty-Four - I’m A Crapple, Get Me Out of Here

I've done a lot of hiking in the Mournes and so liked the thought of trekking in the jungle an awful lot. However, I think the idea of trekking appeals much more than the reality though. I actually don't like hiking too much. The Mournes are fairly bland and a dander up Ben Crom has me content for the day. I did it for years strangely. And I actually don't like trekking much either or at least I found that out today.

We came to Bukit Lawang to see the orang-utans and trek into the jungle of Gunung Leuser. I pushed for this when we were considering itineraries and I happily agreed to a three-hour trek followed by some rafting today. I wasn't so keen on the rafting (tubing on a fairly unexciting river really) but knew the girls would like it so it was added to the trip.

The day started alarmingly for me. I had woken around 3am thinking something was in the bed but dismissed it as my brain wandering. Then again at about 4am I awoke thinking something was on my leg. I told the craziness to stop and soon nodded off again. However at 5am when I awoke and found a mouse staring at me, trying to nibble my ear, I jumped somewhat. It ran up the edge of the bed and through the gap in the window netting. I didn’t get back to sleep.

I also decided not to tell Angela as she would crack up. I told her I was up early to head to the Ranger Station to see how much a guide really was and set off. I was there before the Ranger but he was a helpful chap and he confirmed my suspicions that we were getting taken slightly. We knew it and it pissed me off but for the girls sake we got on with it. It wasn’t really that much in our terms but at about 1/3 more than it should have been it left a sour taste.

I was excited to go see some semi-wild orang-utans but wasn’t prepared for how amazing it is. They are 7000 Sumatran orang-utans in the wild but they are nearly always impossible to spot as they avoid human contact. They also are much deeper into the park towards Aceh and require a few days trek. The ones we would see are semi-wild in that they have been rehabilitated and are being encouraged to go ‘wild’.

To do this they feed them to make sure they don’t starve but they only give them bland food to encourage them to forage or go elsewhere. The have feeding platforms but move these regularly to force them out of habit-forming behaviour. At present, there are sixteen semi-wild orang-utans and although they look like King Louie, they’d rip your head off if you got close to their offspring. One has a reputation, mentioned on (Travelblog many times by others) of biting the guides…

We started from the Jungle Inn and took a canoe to cross the river to the park. After a steep climb, we got to the feeding platform and waited. On the way, we had passed one of the many monkeys in the trees staring impassively at us from just a few feet away. We could hear the macaques calling out and we were chatting about random nonsense with our guide when the trees started to creak and an orang-utan appeared.

She had a child on her back and swung gracefully through the branches to stop about five or six metres from us. We were warned to move back slightly, this was a biter if riled. As they mother their young for eight or nine years, they are fiercely protective. Assuaged with a banana she hung there majestically staring each of us in the eye in turn.

The aforementioned monkey tried to swoop in now and then to pick up a banana but a mighty swing of the arm soon warned him off. It was all so graceful and languid but you knew that it would floor a heavyweight boxer.

We watched for ages as she had a banana or three and surveyed us. Then, after a good twenty minutes, she swung back up to the larger trees and climbed to the canopy to her nest. Magic.

We then set off on our trek and within half a click found more orang-utans this time far up a tree/. It was another mother/kid combo although the kid this time was much larger and was swinging around. Neither came down though, clearly we were of interest.

Like I said above, I discovered trekking was not my bag pretty soon. At first it was fun swinging around fallen trees, climbing using vines and sliding down mud paths to rivers. However, as the heat built my ability to get any breath lessened. Holy crip, I was going crapple.

As I was not able to use the oxygen coming in, I was getting none through my body and I spent the next hour walking on acid. It wasn’t good and I hated it. I don’t know if it was my asthma or whether I just had too little sugar in my body but boy was it tough. Worse still, even Shannon was tumbling along merrily!

We took a few breaks and when reached our first snack stop our guide needed us to consider whether to continue on the three-hour route or take a shorter loop back. The former consisted of a few steep climbs over two hours and then a 45-minute raft back, the latter of an hour walk and a two-hour rafting session. I fancied the latter obviously but it was obvious Shannon and Angela were keen for the former. The rafting sold the latter to the water baby.

Concerned I was dying, Angela plumped for the latter too. At first I felt bad but I reckon they were all secretly happy not to be going to the vertical sections for another two hours…

The walk back was fine although I still could get no energy in. when we stopped for lunch I could eat nothing although the others attacked the egg-fried rice. We emerged from the jungle near the centre of the riverside village and despite Leanne falling climbing up to the footbridge, we all got safely back to the Jungle Inn.

I hit the shower and decided to recuperate in the hammock as they went off rafting. The swinging hammock soon had me happy again and drifting off to sleep.

Then that plan was interrupted - clearly not a day for my comfort - by various troupes of monkeys landing on the roof, running past my hammock and generally larking about by the waterfall. After taking a few pics I got down to patching up the netting with a plastic bag and found a load of sand. Angela had mentioned in the morning all the sand in our bed wondering how it got there. Looks like I’d just worked that out, clearly Mr Mouse and his mates had brought it in. Done, I trotted off to the restaurant for a quick snack, a bottle of water and some ginger tea.

When I returned the bag was ripped to shreds - clearly the wee bugger was inside when I started but I hope he was now out and I was determined he was staying out. A load of duct tape and a lonely planet blocked his way - scratch through that you fecker.

I was back in the hammock reading my book when Angela appeared a few hours after leaving. Wet, cold and a little bored of rafting she told of how they were taken to a locals eatery to warm up with noodles. All good until Shannon found a large ant boiled in hers, ah well it is the jungle…

Dinner was pretty good although we all hit the sack early. I swept out the sand and decided to finish my book all the time keeping my eye put for beasties. Thankfully, none were joining us tonight…

Today’s Highlights Being 5m from an orang-utan in the wild jungle, wow.

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