I can not believe I am in Bukit Lawang
Trip Start Aug 20, 2009
544Trip End Ongoing
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Well as if the craziness of yesterday was to live with me for the rest of my life...today only went ahead and ensured that it was not to be an isolated incident and infact was to temporarily (I hope) become normality!!
We arose early (I was up before M for the first time since I met her), although we still managed to somehow sleep through our alarm for HALF AN HOUR!! After a very short cold shower, and a brief look at my long lost pants, which had blown off the balcony in the monsoon rain (yes more of it) and onto the tin roof below, we left the hostel!! As we stepped outside I was greeted by the sight of a woman urinating on the corner of the pavement right next to the main road and then using the filthy filthy puddle water to wash afterwards...I thought after yesterday that nothing could shock me but I have only been up half an hour and already this day is looking as crazy as yesterday!
Roughly an hour later we arrive at the bus depot bound for the sleepy, but world widely famous, Bukit Lawang. Having agreed a price before getting into the cycle we find ourselves surrounded by 10 locals and our driver who is demanding more money than agreed!! This could be a sticky situation if you were on your own but we stuck together, stood our ground, paid up and left. Walking over to the rows of ummmm...buses (although I am not sure you would really call them that) we see a shop similar to the tuck shop from school and I find myself being lured by the delicious bourbon cremes!! This later proved to be a mistake as they are not bourbon cremes as you or I know them but hey that was trivial compared to the rest of the days happenings!!
So we are looking for a bus and are soon surrounded by locals all ushering us in various directions shouting different prices...and then as if from nowhere we see the first western tourists in the whole of the time we have been in the crazy but wonderful Indonesia!! They, a dutch couple, inform us that there is a mini bus we can take which is a little more expensive but air conditioned and quicker, so decideding to escape the melee which is unfolding we stick with them refusing the offers from all the locals!
After hailing a cab (when I say cab I merely mean the oldest banger you can imagine that has to be hot wired to get started) to an ATM we think we might be getting back on track until the driver starts filling the car with petrol whilst the engine is running!! We immediately leap out the car and, on doing so, realise there is a cash machine at the garage!
We eventually make it back to town where we find a tourist information along with several ATMs and we are instructed that there are mini buses that will take us to Bukit Lawang from the bus depot and so off we head in a taxi once more!! We arrive and the driver takes us to a street full of mini buses and eventually we find one which is available and after half an hour of heated price negotiations we go to get onboard!! Next thing I know my bag is on top if this little bus thing and the guy is refusing to get it down!! I plead with them but to no avail so then there is a stand off on the street while before the guy gives in and passes me my bag!! We hop into the 6 seater mini bus with our bags and the original Dutch couple we met 3 hours earlier and are almost ready to leave when we learnt that we are now required to pay for our bags as if they were people as they are taking up seats!! This is just insane!! Anyway we evntually get on the road (if you could call it that) and I soon realise just why it is going to take us 3 hours to do a journey that would take little more than an hour back home!! The roads are so narrow, not a white line insight and there are bikes driving towards you on either side whilst the driver is overtaking in the oncoming traffic lane beeping at vehicles to move out the way!! I would like to get to my destination alive thak you!!
After 3 hours and several pictures later we arrive in Bukit Lawang!! There is nothing here...not a sausage!! It's like a tiny hamlet with a HUGE river!! Across the swing bridge and up to the Eco Lodge we find that rooms are extremely expensive!! We are shown to a room and told to go back and check in once we have showered!! In the room we sit and discuss our options before taking a stroll over the rickety swing bridge to look for the rather aptly namd Jungle Inn!! After being informed that it is a 20 minute walk up a deserted track we opt to stay 'local', if you could call it that, and stroll across a grassy area with goats for company to so called tourist information!! Here we are met by 3 friendly guys with enough cigarettes to last them a week who inform us that the tour guides for the trek into the jungle all have to be licensed and there is a set price of 60 Euros!! Miriam could have cried as we had been offered this price by the guy at Angel hostel for the same trip but also including transport from the hostel here (which would have cut out the 3 hour nightmare with the buses/taxis/motorcycles this morning) as well as two nights accommodation and a bus back to Medan!! These guys kindly informed us that we should book the tour through them as they were official and there had been cases of abuse on trekkers by guides...
Back at the Eco Lodge we decided just to stay and after a cold shower went up to discuss the trekking trip with the guys who carried our bags!! After a long chat about Indonesia and the UK etc (I refrained from asking about the flood, fearing it may be a taboo subject round these ways) we got onto the subject of the trek!! The guy seemed really friendly and funny too and before we knew it we had paid up almost a million each and were officially heading off camping in the jungle tomorrow!!
With the deal signed sealed and delivered so to speak we grabbed a bite to eat served on the banana leaf plate we are becoming so accustomed to and then went down to meet Doni and his friend who had motor bikes to run as to the local shop (someone's garage) 1km away. Something made me hesitant to get on the bike, not that I didn't trust Doni (I had just given him almost a million rupiah after all), perhaps the fact it was dusk and fast approaching full darkness and also the fact that we were miles and miles away from any other settlement with 2 guys we had only just met in a foreign country a million miles from home. I opted to walk and M walked with me even though she was dying to get on a bike (there's nothing like travelling to teach you the lesson to watch each others backs). Not far along the road a motorcycle with side car came along and Doni hailed it for us and instructed it to take us to the sock shop!! Half expecting to pull up at a pub or something we were pleasantly surprised when we approached someones garage where they pulled out a random choice of socks, we made a few purchases and then back to the Eco Lodge. So it was fine after all...
A bite to eat and still no sign of Julia we feasted upon the most wonderful fruitsalad ever and then retired to bed for an earlyish night before our jungle adventure!! I can't believe I did't go and see Kings of Leon at T in the Park as there was no way I was camping, yet here I am getting ready to head off into the jungle with people I hardly know in a country that can only be described as a miilions miles away from home in both senses!!