Barbed wire and Orangutans!

Trip Start Aug 28, 2004
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Trip End Oct 01, 2005


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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Sunday, December 12, 2004

Selamat siang from Indonesia, an unexpected addition to our trip!

As we said in the last entry, we were getting a bit bored of bronzing the bodies (or not in Guys case - his words not mine) in Thailand, and we noticed that Sumatra (a big island in Indonesia) wasn't too far away so we decided to give it a try. When we booked our flights back in England, our travel agent told us about this really nice lake in Sumatra so that's where we decided to head for.

So the day after we did the last entry, we got up extra early and got a boat back to the mainland and 3 buses down to the island of Penang, off the coast of Malaysia. We didn't get there until about 11pm so we decided to stay in Penang for a day so we could have a nice long lie in - it was about 3pm when we finally got up and ready to go out, so all we managed to do that day was go up a train/tram thing to the top of Penang hill to watch the sunset. The views were pretty good, but the highlight of the day for us was when we accidentally found a Pizza Hut - not very cultural I know but the food everywhere else was disgusting so we decided to splash out!

The next day we got a boat over to Medan in Sumatra, which was a pretty grim city so we left straight away on a bus headed towards Lake Toba - it used to be a big volcano, but the last eruption caused it all to cave in so now it's just a really deep lake with a big island in the middle of it - 'Samosir Island'.

We got to Lake Toba at about 10pm and didn't have a clue where the bus had dropped us off. The ferries over to Samosir Island had stopped at 7pm, so we tried to find somewhere to stay - the only thing we could find was a hugely overpriced, rat infested dump with no shower. Thankfully we bumped into two stoned surfers from Florida that also wanted to get over to Samosir Island, so one of them managed to charter a speedboat to take us over there for a pretty reasonable price - it didn't turn up until about midnight though, but it was really good fun speeding across a lake in the darkness!

Unfortunately, the boat driver failed to mention that he didn't know where the ferry place was in Tuk-Tuk (the area of Samosir we wanted to go to), so he spent about 15 minutes cruising along the front trying to figure out where to leave us. Then he noticed that there were nets in the water, so turned off his engine and insisted on using a plank of wood as a paddle instead! The two surfers kept trying to persuade the driver to turn the engine back on and the things they were coming out with were hilarious...'Dude, this is such a major f**k fest' and 'Captain, come on, crank up the seventy' were amongst them! In the end they dumped us at a random hotel on the water front so we got out and tried to make our way through the grounds of the hotel towards the main road behind it - unfortunately, after scrambling to the road, we found we were separated from it by some serious barbed wire! Well we had no choice but to climb through it, and thankfully we all came out unharmed!!

The two Americans had been to Samosir before, so they took us to the guesthouse they wanted to stay at - it was about 1.30 am when we finally got there and had to wake up the poor owner! He was so nice though, he even made us banana pancakes because we hadn't eaten since 7am and were starving - they were seriously nice pancakes, the best we've had in the whole of Asia!

The next day we just wandered around Tuk-Tuk and admired the views - the lake was absolutely gorgeous, but not too different to ones we've seen in Europe, a bit like the Lake District but with Palm trees and sunshine!

The day after that we decided to be energetic and got up early to go on a bike ride. It was cloudy when we left the guesthouse so we completely forgot to take any suncream, which we are severely regretting now because we got burnt to a crisp! We ended up cycling for about 4 hours and didn't realize how hot it was until we got back and saw the state of our faces - panda eyes is an understatement! My nose has gone all bumpy because it's that burnt and Guys hands are more than a touch pink! Ha ha - Guy broke his bike too! He'd raised the seat too high so the frame bent and we were still about 15km away from the guesthouse - he had to ride all the way back standing up, but he still made it back before me (I had to walk up the hilly bits!).

We stayed in the coolest little bungalow - it was in the traditional Batak (local people) style, and had an upstairs bit just for the bed...well I was impressed! Guy was chatting to one of the men that worked at the guesthouse - he offered Guy some weed and Guy said no thanks and the bloke said 'Don't you smoke?' and Guy said no - the man then replied, quite seriously 'I like to smoke (weed) when I get up in the morning......and in the afternoon....and in the evening too.'!! No wonder the food took so long to arrive!

Yesterday we got a bus to a place called Bukit Lawang, in the jungle. People go there to see the Orangutans, but there was a huge flood there last year, which killed 300 people and pretty much swept away most of the guesthouses so now very few tourists go. There is an Orangutan Rehabilitation centre there, where they take any Orangutans that have been kept as pets and reintegrate them back into the wild. Every morning they take some food into the jungle to feed some of the ones that they have recently released and that may not have figured out how to find enough food by themselves yet - we went to watch this morning and it was amazing! We were the only tourists there, and we had Orangutans literally less than a foot away from us eating bananas and playing - I want one, they are soooooooooooooo cute! We could have gone on a trek through the jungle - apparently you get to see loads of Orangutans and monkeys and other wildlife, but I just couldn't handle the thought of being sucked by leeches all day so we chickened out!

We've really enjoyed the small part of Indonesia that we've seen - it is probably the cheapest place we've been (we've spent about 10 quid a day between the two of us including our own bungalow - and we've eaten like pigs and had the odd beer). The buses are appalling though - there were 18 of us packed into a 12 seater minibus before. Guy had the pleasure of having a bloke's elbow in his crotch for 3 hours this afternoon (the bloke was asleep)!

We're now back in Medan (aka hellhole) and are going to get the boat back to Penang tomorrow. Then we're off to a place called the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia to drink some tea and play in waterfalls!
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