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Published: September 11th 2008
Mother & Baby!
They just strolled straight past us! Pretty gorgeous
We rejoin our adventure on the rainforest clad island of Sumatra a land of Wild Orang-Utans even wilder volcanoes and a real feel of adventure.
Well actually we had to reach Sumatra first from Penang which involved a six hour journey on a small ferry across the open sea and up and down waves I could swear were 10m high! Plastic bags were handed out throughout the journey and just as quickly filled, I managed to keep my breakfast down and was gently rocked into slumber serenaded by the sound of hurling in stereo!!
Eventually we made it to Sumatra (Laura looking a fetching shade of lime green) and the sprawling city of Medan, there isn't much good to say about Medan as a tourist destination but it proved a good place to lay our heads after the gruelling boat journey.
From Medan we made the bumpy but fascinating journey through endless palm oil and rubber plantations to the village of Bukit Lawang, a beautifully scenic place surrounded on all sides by jungle and one of the best places in the world to spot wild Orang-Utans.
We based ourselves at Jungle Inn, a fantastic place with
rooms, choc-full of character and originality, our room was actually built into the cliff face and we had our very own waterfall below our balcony.
We travelled up to the National Park HQ, a 2 minute walk from Jungle Inn in order to witness the feeding of semi-wild Orang-Utans who have been released into the wild in the surrounding area but are still not totally self-reliant. It was our first encounter with the great apes and it was magical, They came within a few metres of us and we watched as they tooked into their feast of Milk and Bananas!
We saw around 8 Orang-Utans, including one that was caged up as it was in quarantine before it could be released back into the wild. Unfortunately a baby Orang-Utan took an interest in this particular ape and managed to get his poor little head stuck in the bars of the cage.
The wardens battled to free the little mite whilst its mother attacked them with rocks, fists and even a garden rake it found and continually launched javelin style at the poor wardens!
The sound the little Orang-Utan made was piercing and horrific but eventually he was freed and within
10 seconds was playng in the nearest tree as if nothng had happened!!
The next day we set out on our real adventure, a trek into the primary rainforest of the Gunung Leuser National Park, habitat for Gibbons, Tigers, Monkeys and of course those lovable Orang-Utans!
It has always been an ambition of mine to get to see wild Orang-Utans close up but I did manage to get a little closer than i had intended to when we set off.
We spent the first morning trekking through the jungle and had seen many Monkeys (including the fantastic Thomas Leaf Monkeys sporting radical Mo-Hawk haircuts) and even my first fully wld Orang-Utans,it was all fantastic.
Then as our guide (a great guy who sported impossibly small pants and nothing else for much of the trek) was visiting the great jungle toilet we spotted another Orang-Utan swinging through the trees towards us.
The other wild Orang-Utans we had seen would stop a safe distance away to check you out but this one kept on coming straight for us!! As I was retreating I could see out of the corner of my eye a huge mass of Orange bearing down on me and
then I felt a furry arm on my back and a lurch as my backpack was grabbed from behind. (Mugged i the jungle? Surely not? But it seems this particular Primate has turned to a life of crime and she was determined to have my backpack and all its contents!!)
Now you may see Orang-Utans as being cute, full of charisma and utterly harmless but they are in fact thought to be 7 times stronger than a human (or the equivalent strength to he-man if that helps?) and can have a mean temper where food is involved. Indeed one of the park rangers we had met a day earlier showed us how one of his fingers has been bitten off by a particularly dangerous wild Orang-Utan recently.
Therefore I gave the bag up without a fight and retreated to a safe distance to watch the Orang-Utan (Identified at this point as Mina, an infamous ape known throughout Sumatra for her bad-ass ways, by our guide who had returned in his near thong) unzip my bag carefully and with amazing dexterity and proceed to remove the contents piece by piece, sniffing each one, giving the clothing the odd lick and then
I Think he wanted more attention!
discarding the unwanted items over her shoulder with a tut of dissatisfaction! There was no food to be had for the grumpy Mina but she still seemed to like the Backpack which at this point we realised contained our passports in the front pocket!!
Eventually Mina was coaxed away by a cartoon style trail of Bananas and leaned the bag neatly up against a tree for us to retrieve and we could all breathe a sigh of relief!!
Certainly not the Orang-Utan experience I had come for but one I will never forget I'm sure!!
We spent the night by a beautiful mountain river in the jungle and were promptly joined for breakfast by an Orang-Utan known as Jackie to the guides, who enjoyed the smell of our eggs and toast nearly as much as she enjoyed striking a pose for the cameras! I crossed the river with the near naked guide to meet Jackie, a beautiful, gentle ape who we found pounding a leech into oblivion with a large rock after it had annoyed her once too often! She was a beautiful animal and getting within touching distance of her was an unforgettable experience. We then watched her cautiously
Our first sighting of an Orang-Utan
make her way along the river bank on her backside in a comic fashion before regaining her dignity by climbing up a large tree and swinging back into the dense jungle.
We were lucky enough to spot a pair of Rhinocerous hornbills and a family of wild Black Gibbons including a tiny baby, that came within a few metres of us to check us out again it was a fantastic experience to see them so close up and in their natural habitat, swinging, playing and just hanging about as only Gibbons can!
Our trek finished on the second day with a raft back down the river to the town. It was basically white-water rafting on rubber tyres that were tied together in a line and was a great way to finish our trek and our fantastic adventures in the jungle of Bukit Lawang.
After the adventures of the jungle we travelled to Lake Toba, a giant volcanic crator lake, formed after the last yellowstone sized volcano destroyed itself.
The island in the centre of the lake, Samosir, where we stayed, is itself the size of Singapore which should give you an idea of the awesome size of
What you looking at?
Not sure that this is their normal diet?
the lake and how big the volcano would have been!
The scenery was fantastic and we enjoyed several relaxing days here, swimming, walking, cycling and just watching the fantastic views from our balcony.
We did visit a few of the local sites on the island including some traditional villages and some ancient stone chairs used in ritual ceremonies of the past.
If sheer beauty is what you are looking for, Lake Toba has to be worth seeing, surrounded by calm water and soaring cliffs with Volcanoes piercing the horizon in the distance it is an awe inspiring place.
We left feeling refreshed and loving Sumatra.
Our final stop in Sumatra was to the town of Bukittinggi, set in the shadow of 3 soaring volcanoes which consistently remind the local people of the power of Nature.
Indeed the main tourist attraction in the town itself is Panorama Park and its views over Sianok Canyon, a huge canyon formed by regular earthquakes (the most recent large scale quake occured in 2006) which pull the two sides of the canyon apart, its a pretty impressive sight.
The countryside around Bukitinggi is equally as impressive. It glows an irridescent green thanks to
Swinging in for a closer look!
incredibly fertile volcanic soil and is home to many exotic species including the worlds largest flower Rafflesia Arnoldii which grow to a metre across.
We decided to go on another trek to find one of these fly eating giants. They are notoriously elusive as they only bloom for around 4-5 days each year.
We were lucky enough to find one that was just finishing its bloom as well as the huge bulb of another that was ready to bloom close by, it was however past its best and was loosing its colour and beginning to droop. It was nonetheless a treat to see.
A flight the next day to Jakarta the capital of Indonesia brought our time in Sumatra to a close and it had proved to be the adventure we had hoped for.
There is so much of this great, wild island I would like to see but onwards we must go to the smouldering land of mighty volcanoes and large bustling cities, Java, known by some as the heartbeat of Indonesia.
Love to everyone at home, I hear the weather at home is dreadful. I hope that improves for you all.
Steve & Laura. xxx
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