Published: February 6th 2010February 6th 2010
So we awoke after 3 hours sleep all rather nervous about heading to Indonesia as we had spent the majority of the night before discussing horror stories about how they wouldn't grant us a visa and how we were going to be mobbed and robbed after taking two steps out of the airport. We arrived in Indonesia at 7am in the morning and after safely passing through immigration we left the airport to descend into people shouting at us from all directions desperate to get the 3 out of the whole 5 tourists that were arriving in Medan. We attempted to ignore everyone and move to the ATM to get cash out at which point we became millionaires as RP1,000,000 equates to about 68 sterling.
After a quick taxi ride to the bus terminal we were left waiting for an hour whilst numerous passers by wandered over to us claiming to get us ‘good price for the bus.’ There was absolutely no order or logic that I could see as to how to achieve getting onto the bus, but I eventually negotiated a slightly less inflated price being still 3 x what a local would be charged (Tom ever the
gent, has decided that I am good at bartering because I am tight!) A tiny mini bus finally turned up, at which point all the locals were trying to take the money from us. We managed to escape them and gave the money to the driver and he gave them a 10p tip as commission. Once on the bus the driver started driving round seemingly aimlessly but in a rather manic fasion overtaking at the wrong times and threatening to knock over hundreds of scooters with small children on them all the time with his hand on the horn. He pulled over in a very dodgy place and informed us we would now be spending the next 3 hours looking for more customers. I turned round to see Ashley looking absolutely shell shocked in the back seat. Luckily it only took an hour to fill his max 10 person capacity bus with 20 people plus a few more sitting on the roof, everyone was packed in with people sitting all over each other, sweat running everywhere, people excessively smoking the most foul cigarettes and Tom having been accidentally spat on when smoke man’s spit flew back through the window and
onto his face.
It was fair to say it was an interesting experience. I loved it as it seemed so exciting, a real adventure, a really different culture and on a far less travelled route than anywhere else we would be going. The countryside was breathtakingly green and the only downside of the 3 hour journey for me was the smell of people burning cow dung which I could not get used to in the slightest and was making me gag. I think Tom might disagree as being 6’4 and having half of a seat with legs like those is not easy, his head was actually poking through a hole in the ceiling fabric and an old lady in front of him sat on his lap for a while... add accidental spit to the mix and he wasn’t in the best of moods.
Once we finally arrived in Bukit Lawang - gateway to one of the last remaining primary rainforests in the world we checked into a budget guesthouse. After having some lunch we were convinced by two guides to sign up to a two day trek in the rainforest, in which we hoped to see Orangutans in
the wild whilst enduring the less eagerly anticipated 7 hours a day of trekking. As there were many people from neighboring villages in Bukit Lawang we became somewhat of a celebrity, being asked to sign autographs and take photos with the kids which was quite sweet but slightly weird when I was ambushed by two soaking wet 20 year old girls who pinned me down (literally) for a photo and soaked me in the process.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon soaking up the atmosphere of the village. It was a public holiday so the river that runs through the village was filled with families playing in the water and tubing downstream, everybody seemed so happy, festive and friendly; the mood really was infectious even with only three hours sleep. We recovered from the hectic drama of the morning and really relaxed. Although I’m sure some people wouldn't have thought it was quite the paradise that we did, it was beautiful to experience such a different culture and witness that sense of community that sometimes feels missing at home. Now it is just down to a test of time to see how long we can survive the mayhem!
There are more photos below