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Asia » Indonesia » Sumatra » Bukit Lawang
September 28th 2014
Published: September 28th 2014
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I visited Sumatra a week ago, and it was amazing. I got plenty of opportunities to practice Bahasa Indonesia (the local language) with the people in Medan. Medan is a city with an international airport, and it's the biggest city outside Java in Indonesia. I arrived at 9am, in the city and proceeded to explore. I was disenchanted, mostly because I live in a city in Java, and wanted to see some greenery, rather than the grey buildings and smoke that epitomise an Indonesian city. I stayed a night in a 3* hotel (for about 3 pounds sterling, and I haggled a free breakfast in too!) and went on to Bukit Lawang the following morning. I got a bumpy 3 hour bus ride out of the way, and arrived in a village next to the jungle! I booked nothing ahead on this trip except the flight, as Indonesian people usually just turn up and haggle, which is what I did. No sooner was I off the bus than a guide came over. His name was Tam, and he spoke English, and had a bedroom free in a lodge a short distance away. The price per night for a 3 person bedroom was 70,000 (less than 4 quid). He complimented me on my Indonesian (which I was using to try and haggle) but explained that it was a flat rate, and that he could go no lower. After a 10 minute ride in a Bacuk (like a motorbike and sidecar, but the sidecar has a roof) I arrive at the lodge, situated next to a rubber, chocolate, and palm oil plantation, which you had to walk through to get to the jungle.
That same day, I paid 200,000rp to take a 5 hour trek to a bat cave, there and back, with a guide. Belan was his name, and he and I got on well instantly. He asked me about English girls, and I quote "are their boobies as big in real life?". I replied "yes". We climbed quite a few rocks to get to the bat cave, and I was huffing and puffing a little once we scaled a sheer surface of about 12 feet to get in. I noticed shortly after this that Belan was doing the whole thing in flip flops. Belan and I sat in the cave and ate some fruit we'd brought along, whilst chatting. On the way back, we saw an orangutan. It's the first time I'd seen one, and I was a tad awestruck. Belan kept telling me how lucky I was to see one here, as the bat cave is on the outer fringes of the Sumatran jungle. I took some photos of him (a 70kg male, by Belan's reckoning), and then we sat and stared up at the wonderful beast for the duration of his stay in the trees above us. Maybe 20-30 minutes. Having thanked Belan a very British number of times, I suggested we get back to the lodge before nightfall so that I could buy him a beer before I went to bed. We did just that, and saw some grey Sumatran monkeys on the way. They were more common, Belan said, and explained that we'd see lots more tomorrow; I'd agreed to spend the night in the jungle the next day. After a mammoth 10 hour sleep, a breakfast fit for a king (egg on toast) and a last check of the lock on the door of the lodge, we went trekking towards the jungle. We joined with another party; a German couple, and a French girl. The German man and I had a fair amount in common, and got chatting quickly. We trekked for 8 solid hours in the jungle. Up and down, over rocks, down steep, slippery slopes, and over 40ft drops with nothing but a tree root at your feet, and a branch to cling to. This was my first trekking experience, and I was shattered by the time we made it to the lunch stop at 2pm. On the way, we'd seen a group of the afore-mentioned grey monkeys, a poinsonous snake, ants the size of a 2p coin, and the claw marks a honey bear had made whilst it had been climbing a tree. At the lunch stop, we sat on a log that was filled with a beehive. Cue bees. Lots of them. Us Europeans were immediately unsettled, but the guide calmly remained seated, and started eating his meal. He explained that they wouldn't sting unless we provoked them. So we sat down, and bees crawled over us as we ate our lunch. (Rice, egg, and vegetables)
We trekked the next 2 hours to the overnight camp, and saw some black gibbons not far from there. Hooting and calling, as they were, they made me feel very much like I would be sleeping in the jungle that night. The camp was situated next to a waterfall and natural pool, so that was our first stop. The pool had fish in there that ate dead skin, (and didn't mind live skin either apparently!) And they found me to be very tasty. My feet have never looked so healthy as they did after a dip in that pool. After a night in the jungle, with about 4 hours sleep, or so, we ate breakfast (rice, with an egg, and vegetables, again.) in the camp, we saw a crocodile, monitor lizards, and a lot of butterflies.
A 5 hour trek beside the river followed, and I saw little wildlife. We arrived at the lunch stop, and ate (guess what!) Rice, egg, and vegetables. We then watched as the guides fashioned a raft from a few big, thick rubber rings, and some rope. They proclaimed it ready for us, and we jumped in, to he rafted back to the camp with only two long sticks for steering; being used by the guides, of course. The raft trip was maybe 30 minutes, and the water was quite rough. It was fast and furious, and very fun. We dipped, hit rocks, and cried out from excitement several times as we negotiated the twists and turns of the river. We returned to the lodge, had dinner, and also a few beers, all of us agreeing that it had been a brilliant experience.
I started the long journey home the next morning at 8am, and slept like a baby in my bed in Sidoarjo.

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