Trekking to find Orang-Utans in the Sumatran Jungle {Cath}

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November 21st 2008
Published: January 21st 2009
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Our first campsiteOur first campsiteOur first campsite

An exquisite riverside in the Jungle
… After our delay at the HQ we eventually arrived in Ketambe at 10:30 - somewhat later than we'd planned. Still, even with the later start, we managed to sort out our permits, organise a guide and get into the jungle by 11.

After a few steps into the dense medley of thick vegetation it was as if the jungle had swallowed us, instantly blocking the road and all other signs of the small town from view. Rolley, our guide, lead us along the muddy paths deeper and deeper into the jungle, all the time encouraging us to be as quiet as we can. After about an hour of cautious walking Rolley stopped and gazed into the tree tops about 30m above us and told us to wait right where we were. He wanted to check something. So we did, alternating our glances from the spot where Rolley had disappeared to the tree tops to the ground where the dreaded leaches roam.

Now... just a quick word on leaches.
Trecherous and revolting, slimey worms with one end a sucker and the other a mouth - they prowl, they stalk their prey. Ready to pounce, they wait on the tip
Huge treeHuge treeHuge tree

On of the beauties in this primary rainforest
of their gooey tails, their mouths ceaslessly hoolahooping in the air hoping for a scent, or better still an opportunistic mouthful of some poor unsuspecting victims trousers or socks. Once latched on, they sprint, mouth to sucker and stretching out again, whippng around frantically for an open piece of flesh to bore their alien heads into.
Once in, they stick to you like ticks on dogs and inject an anti coagulating agent to make your blood flow freely into their fiendish bellies. So effective is their injection, that long after you've battled their slippery bodies off, the wound continues to bleed for hours.
They are loathsome, they are vile, they are ... uuuugh!

So, anyway, a few moments after we started worrying, Rolley returned, smiling all over. He'd found orangutans! When we got to the site, clumsily breaking branches and rolling tree trunks on the way - despite our best efforts - there was a small gathering of another trekking group. And there, way up in the top branches, was a gorgeous red orangutan minding his own business picking at leaves while we watched in awed silence.

What a highlight!

We walked about another hour in the
Monkey skullMonkey skullMonkey skull

A friendly welcome to the Sumatran jungle
jungle before we got to our campsite by a river. It was absolutely beautifull! We went for another walk later in the afternoon, similar to the route we walked earlier.

The following morning we hiked up to our second campsite. It was so nice just enjoying the sounds and smells of the jungle. We popped out of the jungle at another river, but this time the river seemed to be steaming! Rolley said that they were hot springs, so, eager to test out my first natural hot spring, I dipped my fingers into the water. It was so hot I almost burned them! The further upstream we walked, the rocks got hotter and hotter. Again we set up our tent on the clearing just above the stream. A little further down the stream the boiling water mixed with the cold water from the stream (someone had cleverly placed stones to dam the water, controlling how much of the cold and warm water would enter the pool resulting in us gingerly goldilocks-ing the water until we found the right one 😊 good times 😊

There was one spot just behind a large rock where the the biggest group of butterflies that I've ever seen lived. It was surreal. It was a fantastic feeling walking through the middle of the gathering and watching them as they fluttered around our heads.

We went for another walk in the afternoon, this time by machete. Rolley lead the way, we were hoping to see a waterfall and the route he took us was completely off the path! We started off heading straight up the hill behind the tent, and right back down again, across the river and up the other side. By this time we were well and truly off the path, and Rolley and his machete were way ahead of us, leaving us scrambling after him, hoping to catch a glimpse of his read shirt so we knew which way to go. I did think at times that he'd gone and gotten lost and he just didn't want us to ask him about it... it really felt like an adventure!

We did come out at a waterfall eventually, and it was really impressive. I climbed into the pool at the bottom of the waterfall and I felt like I'd just walking into U2's 'Vertigo' music video! The force of the
There he is!There he is!There he is!

The first Orang-utan we spotted high up in the canopy
waterfall created a really stong wind blowing away from the falls.

That night it began to rain, and then it started to rain harder, and then we noticed the river swelling... It was pretty crazy, Darrell and I started chatting about what we would do if, on the off chance, the river was to flood 😊 Rolley seemed pretty relaxed about the whole thing... so we tried to do likewise... tried 😉 The river did rise during the night, and we did stress a little more, but never enough to cause any real damage.

In the morning we woke up to a far gentler river and with a heavy heart, packed up all our belongings for the hike back home.

Awesomely enough, on the path back, Rolley, again told us to wait while he went to go and see something. This time it was a mother and baby orangutan! Unfortunately, at this point, our camera had died, so we have no pictures to prove it. But it was truely amazing!

What an adventure. What an awesome trip.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


Fried noodlesFried noodles
Fried noodles

Rolly kept us very well fed.
Looking for the right springLooking for the right spring
Looking for the right spring

Some were actually boiling!

Relaxing in the perfect pool
Banana pancakes!Banana pancakes!
Banana pancakes!

What a treat to wake up to in the middle of the rainforest

Trying to keep up with Rolly as he hacked a path through the vegetation

A huge waterfall where we swam on our second day
Bloody messBloody mess
Bloody mess

All of that from one leech bite!
Perfume toesPerfume toes
Perfume toes

The butterflies just couldn't resist my dirty slops

7th December 2009

Brave people!!
Wow, awesome pics. Beautiful Orang-utan's! Watched a programme last night on Nat Geo on Sumatran Tiger;s - keep your eyes peeled!! However, I personally would rather face the big predators than the little one's - the leeches and bugs and vampire moths(???) would give me the creeps!! Good luck, happy trekking, go find those Orang-Utans!!! Debbie, South Africa

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