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Published: June 26th 2013
First Glimpse of the Man of the Jungle
Yes it was wild orang-utans galore at Bukit Lawang, maybe over a dozen spotted within a span of just a few hours.
Having enjoyed the cool mountain air of the highlands for over a week now, starting from Bukittingi to Toba and Berastagi, it was time to finally head back down to the reality of the infernal heat of the Sumatran lowlands. And so from Berastagi it was a 5h journey to Bukit Lawang, a small village tucked away from the bustle of the provincial capital of Medan, and which has been receiving tourists to its the nearby Leuser National Park and orang-utan rehabilitation centre for the past several decades.
What's that, another orang-utan rehab centre, you say? Didn't I already visit one just last month in Sepilok, Sabah, East Malaysia? Indeed I did. But I'd come to Bukit Lawang for the trekking, much vaunted by LP, and also the hopes of catching a sight of the red-haired creatures in the wild, and not just semi-wild.
I still distinctly remember first hearing about Bukit Lawang about a year ago, just a few days into my travels, when I met the two Dutch girls at Kawah Ijen in East Java. They told me they'd just arrived from Sumatra, and raved about the jungle trekking at a place called Bukit Lawang. At the
time, mysterious and uncertain as it was, just a few days into my year-long journey now, I wondered whether I would one day visit this place too, and here I was now!
As for the trekking itself, well, at some points it didn't feel so different from my brief experience in the Singapore military, but at least there were no screaming drill sergeants. Hot, humid, sticky, with steep slopes and slippery rocks at several points, it wasn't particularly relaxing. But we did manage to see not one, not two, not three but....twelve (?) or so orang-utans in the wild! One of them was even the "aggressive" kind, which started chasing us, and we had to flee quickly as advised by our guide. Hard to believe, but yes three fully-grown adults scrambled about in the jungle thicket trying to evade one small red-haired orang-utan. Even harder to believe, our guide actually tried to appease it and throw it off our tail (pun intended) by tossing it a couple of bananas. And it worked! Classic.
Stayed at Wisma Leuser Sibayak.
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