Meeting my Orange Cousins

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
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Trip End Jan 31, 2012


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Where I stayed
Idrah Guesthouse

Flag of Indonesia  , North Sumatra,
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 1 - Transfer to Bukit Lawang, Wandering the Town
Headed to the hostel at what I thought was 15min early only to find it was 1hr 15min early. Seems I had forgotten to change my watch the day before at the airport. At least I was 1hr early and not 1hr late.

Killed some time on the laptop then jumped into the car with Emma, Silke and a german couple who were also heading to Bukit Lawang. Had around a 5hr drive to get to the town and then got escorted to the guesthouse. Passed through a small town before reaching the village by the river near the National Park and depending on where the public bus dropped you off it would have been interesting looking for a guesthouse from the public bus stop.

Ended up checking in and had lunch with the girls who were also doing the two day trek (german couple doing just one day). They decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in the restuarant while I headed into the village for a wander. Seems the whole place is geared towards tourists and there were definately a lot of indonesian tourists around. Guess with the end of Ramadan holidays a lot of locals are touring around.

Wandered towards the road where we had originally walked in from then the other way towards the national park. In the river saw lots of locals tubing. Along the way saw lots of other guesthouses where you could stay. Also found a women throwing stones at a monkey that was after something from her house. While I watched I saw him scramble onto the roof in an attempt to get away. Am guessing that monkeys scavenging for food would be something the locals would need to discourage.

While walking saw lots of smiling faces and got a number of hellos. On a first impression people here seem to be friendly and on the whole a happy people. The general attitude reminds me a lot of the people in Guatemala.

Eventually wandered far enough up the river to the National Park entrance which requires you to cross the river via a ferry boat. Here I saw some monkeys by the river and while the village ended the trail continued. Kept following this through the jungle til it ran out at another river crossing but this one without a boat. Seems you can only go further if your staying at the lodge identified on the nearby sign.

Started to head back and passed a trail heading up the mountainside.decided to follow this but the trail started to get steep and was extremely wet and covered in muddy clay. Decided it wasnt a good idea to continue and was proved right a minute later when I slipped on my way down and landed on my butt.

Seems that heading up hill was a bad idea for another reason. Not long after I started heading back it started to rain. Then it started to pour. At one point I hid under some shelter and then the sky really opened up. Waited for a while and while the rain eased up it didnt look like it was going to stop any time soon. Decided to head back in the rain and by the time I got back was soaked through. Chatted with a guys a while but then headed to my room to put some dry clothes on. Got wet again heading back to the restuarant but nowhere near as bad as I had been.

Had dinner and spent the afternoon chatting with the girls before calling it an early night since I was feeling a bit tired from my previous late nights and early mornings. Seems Emma, like the aussies I met in Russia had also done the Mongolian ralley a year ago. She though did it in an ambulance rather than a less than 1.2litre car. After having initially read about the ralley and talked to a couple of people who have done it, it seems like it would be an interesting way to spend 6 weeks and raise some money for charity.

She also mentioned that she had done the Gibbon Experience in Laos and how much see liked it. This is teh second person who Ive met that has recommended it highly among. Seems like it would be worth at least trying even if I end up with a different opinion. At the very least it should be interesting provided I dont start having any expectations.

All in all found the river side village to be a nice spot. Just a pity no one has discovered hammocks. Would be nice to just lie and hang by the river.


Day 2 - Meeting my Orange Cousins
Headed out for breakfast bit early so went for a bit of a wander along the river first. After breakfast we started our walk into the jungle to look for orangatuns. Besides the Girls and me there were also a couple of slovekian couples joining us for the two days.

Was asked if we wanted a beer in the jungle and rather than pay extra for the beer I bought one and carried it out by myself. Basically wandered into the jungle from near the guesthouse and wandered around in circles for a while.

Our first encounter on the trek wasnt an orangatun but rather some monkeys. The guide was calling them thomas so at first we thought that that what what he had named them. Found out later that their actual names were thomas leaf monkeys. Found these monkeys to be interesting since they seemed to have a mohawk. Also the guide managed to get them to come closer with the offer of a bannana which they tentatively accepted.

Kept walking along and came across a large tree that was engulfed in vines which were parasitic rath than simbiotic. As a result they were slowly killing off the tree they were living on.

Our first orangatun encounter happened a little while later. This orangatun was actually found by the german couple from the day before and their guide. Found out that they had been following it for over half an hour. Unfortunately for us, at this point the orangatun had decided to head up high into the trees so that we could just barely see him through the foliage.

After about 10minutes, with a bannana on the ground for temptation, the orangatun came down. Were told to give it the orangatun a wide berth since it was a large male that the guides didnt have a name for. As a result of not having a name I am assuming that the guides are unsure of how the orangatun will behave around people. Would make for an interesting fight if it decided to charge.

Watched him for a while and then continued on our way. Basically walking round in circles through the jungle in the hope of coming across more orangatuns. Had a snack break of fruit and then continued on. After a while, came across Nina and her 4 year old child. Seems that orangatun kids stay with their mothers until about the age of seven.  At one point the orangatuns came down to the ground and went walking along it. Watched these guys for a while before continuing on down a steep hillside and then up another.

Just over the top of the hill came across Jakie and her one year old child. Warned to keep our distance but not as urgently as with the previous two orangatuns. Here could see why the orangatuns need their long arms and feet like hands to get by in the jungle as they moved from one tree to the next. Bending branches and grabbing hold.

Were told Jakie liked to hold onto people and after she came down to the ground found that this was true. Another group of people were walking in the jungle near us and she decided to grab onto on of them. At this point the guys wife went running. Me on the otherhand would have been happy to of had the orangatun grab on.

After letting go of the guy she then basically went for the guides backpack and pull the remaining fruit out and bagan to eat it. Guessing this is why she grabbed onto the guy since she wanted to check his pack for food. Personally think that its bad when an animal starts to associate people and their belongings with food. Am guessing one to many guides pulled out food to attract her and she caught on. Got some nice shots though.

Continued on from here up a hill and had a nice lunch of Nasi Goreng. After that walked a couple more hours or so up and deown soem step ascents and descents. While we heard some oragatuns high overhead we didnt actually spot any more of them. Ended the day with a long and steep descent down to the river.

Here we though we were at the end and jumped into the water to cool off but found we still had a little way to go down river to reach out sleeping hut for the night which was a black plastic shelter with some thin sleeping mats.

Ended up going for a swim here and then finished the day with beer and some match stick and card tricks performed by the guide. Have seen some of these before but always seem to forget hem. Chatted with the other guys on the tour and started thinking about whether I wanted to do something else in Indonesia other than just Sumatra. Given the wet session would be starting soon doing it now would be better than doing it later.

Note that you will find a number of orangatun videos attached to this entry for viewing

Day 3 - Waterfall, Rafting and the Bat Cave
Woke up and went down to the river to wait for breakfast. After Breakfast headed up river to the waterfall for a swim. This involved one deep water crossing where I would have been happy to cross myself but rather then stress the guide out I decided to just let him take me across on the tube. Along the way also saw a really strange bug. As you can see in the photos this one looked like a blue moth with an elephant long nose topped with a yellow blob.

While this is the first time I have worn the thongs I bought in Malaysia it sems that the vynal straps arent much good since one of them broke while walking. Basically meant walking back with one bare foot.

Everyone went for a swim in the pool by the waterfall and a couple of us went under the falls. Stood and sat under them for a while and found that when I got out my shoulder were red. Like sun burn. Guess all that pounding got the blood flowing.

Had expected that we were going to have to walk back to camp but instead found that we would be rafting it. Here the raft was basically a number of tractor tires tied together with some mesh in the middle. Given we had an odd number of people I ended up not being in a tube but rather sitting one top of the spot where a couple were tied together. Probably a good thing since the girls said their but where hitting the rocks as we went along.

Once back at camp we stopped, the bags got tied on and some foam matresses were used as padding in the hole tires so that it would be a more comfortable ride. We then jumped back on and had a nice relaxing 30min or so ride back to town. Am guessing that at the end of the wet session a lot more water would be running through the river and so it might be a bit more exciting.

Once back headed back to the guesthouse and I stitched my thong strap back on. Had lunch and then went for a walk with the girls through town. Still lots of Indonesians around swiming and relaxing by the river. Am guseeing that with the end of Ramadan here this makes a nice vacation spot away from the heat. Ended up going as far as the national park boat entrance before heading back.

On the way back ran into Ali-G who met us on the first day and chatted for a while before heading off for our torches and the bat cave. Managed to eventually find our way to the cave even though the path semmed to forget to have signs at some strategic locations.

In the end we basically only got as far as the entrance which unlike most sights like this did not have stairs or a descent path. You basically had to scramble up through a steep gully to reach the caves. This made for a nice change. Unfortunately it was starting to get close to sun set and not to confident about not getting lost on the way back. While the girls waited at the entrance I quickly scooted into the first part of the cave for a look with my once again broken thongs (thats what I get for walking through sticky mud with them).

Probably lucky I went with the girls since I am sure that if they werent there I would have push it for time and headed further into the cave for a look. Dont think I would have liked spending the night in the jungle if I had ended up getting lost in the dark. We made it back before dark and with little problem.

Ended up having dinner at the guesthouse with the girls and the older Slovekian couple along with a few beers after. The Slovekian couple seem to have made it up to Sumatra from Bali and am thinking more and more that it might be a good idea to do Indonesia now before the wet session really kicks in.

Later that evening a whole bunch of locals showed up and started to sing and play. Seems like this was the place to be for entertainment. Found that the music and singing was really good with a wide range of voices from the different people singing. Pity I am not likely to find any of it on a CD somewhere, even if it has been recorded by someone, since CD players dont seem common.

While talking with Emma she mentioned that it seems to be a normal thing for indonesians to bring out a guitar and start singing. Made for a nice evening in a pleasant atmosphere. Also found it interesting to note the ratio of girls to guys that the locals seemed to have invited along.
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