Steven// 11th May 2008
I have been traveling solo for a few days in Northern Sumatra.
First stop was Medan, a coastal city of 2-3m people. There is a beautiful mosque here- Masjid Raya- as well as a healthy Chinese presence- good chance to air my Mandarin and get some tasty treats.This first night in Indonesia for me felt edgy, it might just be that I am traveling alone for the first time in the journey, but I think that it has to do with what I have heard and read of this huge country. This is just a first impression, but along with it is the observation that the Indonesian people are welcoming, with broad grins, asking how you are and, oddly, where you're going.
I then went to Bukit Lawang for the orangutan exposure. This quirky little place is on the edge of the Gunung Leuser National Park. One piece of advice that I'd have for people visiting there is that , if you encounter a guide on the bus from Medan, the best thing is not to show interest. It's better to look for trekking in the NP once in Bukit Lawang and you won't hurt
Masjid Raya, Medan
any feelings ( my would be guide went out of his way, but I just wanted time to think), and also it helps the locals- everyone has a fair chance to pitch to you.
I didn't do trekking in the end, but I visited the famous orangutan rehabilitation centrre at feeding time. The aim of the place is to re-introduce those animals which have spent time in captivity to their native habitat. I also took myself on a walk to a nearby cave with bas roosting inside. This was nice- the cave was dark and eery and the bats presented themselves by swooping past me in the dark- all I could sense of them was the clicking of their sonar and the smell in the cave- from their pungent droppings!
I saw other animals too. A troop of macques, who were really very shy, darting off as soon as they saw me, as well as a species called "Thomas leaf-eaters". I saw these a few times, the first was when I went to invetigate the banging on the tin rooves of my guest house at 7am, and then later on a walk through the forest. The monkeys acted
ad a unit- the females snatching up the young and escaping, whilst two or three bold males stay behind to watch the intruder, one or two making screetching sounds to ward off the visitor and, I guess, to draw attention away fron the young.
Lelde has said many times recently that, on this trip, we are moving too fast, trying to see too much. In Sumatra I have begun to agree with this, as many places warrant further inspection and a longer stay, but, because of time constraints, I've had to keep moving.
Today I trekked up Mnt. Sibayak, an active volcanoe 2 hours from Medan. It was a meditative climb- 3hrs up- and nice to grin back at the locals on motor bikes whizzing past and shouting "hello mister" -a greeting that I can't get enough of. At the top, the clouds covered the view at times, and briefly revealed the smoking crater. The sound of the escaping, sulfurous fumes was like a jet engine- it was really other wordly. I had the whole crater to myself and time to clamber around taking shots of the bright yellow vents- hot and most, pretty smelly too!
After coming down the side of the mountain, I took a dip in the hot spring baths at the bottom, right near a geo-thermal plant. I then took a hair raising minivan journey back to Berastagi, hanging onto the side- public transport here is often packed to the rafters! I've met a couple of German guys. We'll all be going to Lake Toba tomorrow, South East Asia's biggest lake, formed by a crater,with an island in the middle the size of Singapore. Indonesia is turning out to be something really different and wild.
We are in Jakarta (Java) now- just arrived last night after spending 40 hours on a bus (economy class - no room for legs, stuffy, full with locals smoking all the time:), but i will write about Sumatra. When I first arrived in Indonesia, I was rather sad, I wished I'd have stayed in Malaysia and explored it more - it's a great place! I was rather lusky to meet up on the boat from Melaka (malaysia) to Dumai (indonesia) with a young danish couple, as we were, besides 2 other ladys, the only westerners there. And so we were surrounded by touts
who wanted to sell as tickets to Bukittingi (our next destination)... It would be hard on my own to fight them back and not to panic :)
Anyways as we started walking towards the town center a guy on a motorbike approached us (along with many others), but he was different, he was an English teacher, very devoted to his profession and he wanted his students to practise english with foreigners. He helped us a lot! He showed the way to the town center. That's where I found out that I coudn't take any money out of the ATM - that was the first time I tryed to do this in SEA as before I had money in cash or travelers cheques, but at that point I had no more money!!!! I was close to panic! But the Danish couple leant me some money as we were traveling the same direction (where I was supposed to meet up with Steven). I've been really lucky with people those 8 days on my own! Anyways, the teacher took us to his house, where he had a lesson at 4pm, we took part in it and then he took as to the bus
station and got us bus tickets for local prices. He welcomes all volunteers and can offer free nights stay and also breakfast. I'll write his email address if somebody is interested :)
Yeah, I felt a lot of attention from male locals in this country when walking on my own and sometimes I thought it would be a great idea to buy paranga(burqa?) or whatever it's called the muslim women cover themselves from head to toe.
The food is lovely here - I really love it! Many people (most of them) eat their food with fingers. Every time you order something you get a little bowl of water (no soap of course:) to wash your hands and a little towel. I tried it a few times, but it's not too appealing to me, or practical.
It's very muslim here and we can here prayers broadcasted from loudspeakers many times a day. At one point in Bukettingi they were singing and talking (reading the Koran) all day long, in the end it just got so tiring and irritating...
After I met Steven in Bukettingi we tried to see the bigest flower in the world - Rafflesia (it's about 1m wide when
A new friend
blooming), but didn't manage to. So we went to lake Maninjau - which was very beautiful, but rather dirtyish as locals are trying to earn quick money and establish a lot of fish farms on the lake , feeding those fish with some sort of unhealthy things for the environment not giving a second thought, that their children might not be able after their actions to fish there anymore in the near future.
We rented bikes and went cycling around the lake (70km)- it took us 5 hours- a nice ride, but the last hour was rather tough and my backside was hearting a lot! On our way we had to say hello or aswer questions "what's your name, where are you from?" almost every minute or so. Very friendly people. Only once a passing motorcycle people shouted Fuck you to us :)) And houses here are so nice - beautifull traditional architecture! In no other place I've been on this trip have I seen such a concentration of nice buildings! - a pleasure for one's eye!
That's it for now - it's late. We will publish an entry for Malaysia as well. It's without pictues unfortunately, but hopefuly we'll
add some soon.
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