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Published: August 20th 2008
early morning view
looking back down the mountain, before the hunting party caught up with us
The first thing I noticed upon entering the gates of Mt. Sibuyak Park on Sunday July 20th was a hunting party playing with their rifles, and their 3 dogs running doing laps around the pickup truck in anticipation of the hunt. I turned to our guide and asked, "what are these people doing?"
He looked a little uncomfortable and answered a bit hesitantly, "uh...they are going hunting."
I stopped. "Hunting here in this park?"
"Yes, this is not a national park, so it's not protected."
"But," I stammered, "but...we're going hiking in here right now, and surely there are other tourists in the park. Do you think that's safe?"
"Yes, it is safe."
"How is it safe? They're going to be shooting in here and we'll be walking around?"
"They will go shooting in another section, not on the main trail."
"Wow, that's brilliant," I replied. "What will they be hunting in here?"
"Anything," they guide answered.
My brother and sister were disturbed by this.
"Anything? Are there orangutan living in here?" I wanted to know.
"Yes, but just a few, maybe 3 at the most."
from the side of the trail where we heard the first mystery monkey
can shoot them?"
"Yes, because this isn't a national park and it's not protected. Also, it's Sunday, so the police don't work. If it was Monday through Friday, the hunters would probably have to go to work and more police would be around. But today, they can get away with it."
"What exactly does the government in Sumatra do besides make deals with the palm oil companies to allow the forest to be cut down?" I questioned.
"They do nothing; they sit in the office."
I couldn't believe there were going to be hunters in here popping off shots while were were trekking around. I was tempted to call the whole day off and head back into town.
"Are you sure there are orangutans in here?" I asked.
"Yes, there are 3: the silver one, the blue one, and the orange one."
"Three different kinds?"
"Do the scientists know about the silver and blue orangutans?" I inquired.
"I'm sorry, I don't understand..."
"Are there gibbons in here?"
"Orangutans, but no gibbons?"
"How about tigers?"
"No, no tigers, but...the smaller one."
...the other, taller one in Berastagi...I don't have my Lonely Planet book on me, forgot the name...
"The clouded leopard?"
"Yes, that one have in here."
We walked up a paved road for about 40 minutes, stopping to look over our shoulder at the view of the forest and of the town below. We came upon an opening in the trees, and my brother and I hopped over onto a ledge to get a look of Sibayak Volcano smoldering across the valley. Just as I reached for my camera, some sort of primate crashed down through the tree before us. The foliage was thick, and we couldn't get a good look at him. For the monkey's own safety, we made a lot of noise and scared him farther down the valley.
"What kind of monkey might that be on this section of the trail?" I asked.
"I don't know," our guide answered. "I have never seen a monkey down this low before."
We didn't make it 10 steps before the hunting party pulled up, now with 2 trucks. The vehicles stopped, dogs jumped out, barking, and laughing, smiling hunters poured out with their shotguns. It reminded me of a scene in the beginning of The Deer Hunter.
"Wait," I said. "I
but it's not the other volcano
want to have a look at this."
"No, come, come along." Our guide advised.
"This is really messed up," my sister lamented. "I mean, you can't be serious."
I questioned again if it would be safe for us to go hiking here. Finally, the guide went over to the hunting party and talked to them. I saw him pointing in the direction we were headed in. The hunters looked over at us, smiling and waving as if they were the nicest people in Sumatra.
We carried on, but this dampened our mood.
The trek up to the fumaroles, while affording a couple of outstanding views of some of the forested valleys and peaks in the area, was basically a tedious slog up a paved path for 1.5 hours. I noticed several signs written in both Indonesian and English that were wrapped around trees warning others not to cut them down.
"University students came here and posted those signs," said our guide.
It warmed me to know that there were people -especially some in the younger generation- who cared about the natural heritage of this area. More than any other place I had seen
in Sumatra (granted, we only visited Bukit Lawang, Lake Toba, Berastagi and Medan) this park and the life within it seemed to be under the greatest threat from poaching of trees and wildlife.
Sadly, heaps of litter abound in the park, with some local visitors unable to see why they shouldn't try to plug the fumaroles up with soda cans and other trash; many visitors also carved their names into the mountainsides, sullying what is a moonscape world totally unlike the lowlands and the forested valleys.
My advice to anyone coming here is to go back down the same way you came up, as the trail down the back side of the volcano is very rough and pitted with holes. We heard 2 gunshots coming down this way, as well as a troupe of monkeys (not macaques, not gibbons...I don't know what, and neither did our guide). It was an eerie voices echoing through the foggy trees. The silver orangutan, perhaps? Or maybe the blue one. I will probably never know.
I have since done a little web resesrch and found out what those monkeys were. They were a group of Siamangs (which means that
they are apes -like orangutans- not monkeys (like macaques), which you can learn more about here: Gibbons
You can also listen to that eerie call described above here: Listen to the Siamang Gibbons hoot and call
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