Welcome to the Jungle
Trip Start Oct 17, 2009
19Trip End Ongoing
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
blue angel medan
greenhill guest house, Bukit Lawan
9am we arrived in Medan Airport, the sole purpose of being here so Danielle can get back to nature in a small town called Bukit Lawan, go trekking in the jungle and see orang-utans in the wild. We arrived at our hotel quickly and without fuss set about looking for transport options onwards to Bukit Lawan. It was not the best day to arrive though, it was a Sunday so everything was shut, we had nothing to do but wait out the weekend. Danni was tired so I left her to chill out at our hotel while I went for a walk around.
So off I went for a Sunday walk in Sumatra, the streets were relatively quiet compared to the majority of Indonesia, (a result of it being a Sunday).
Everything might have been shut outside, but it must have been because everyone was in this shopping centre, it was absolutely packed. It felt a little strange as I was the only white skinned person there, we hadn't seen a single foreigner since we left the airport. I wandered around the shops and ended up in a market section out the back, with rows and rows of stalls, full of people selling t shirts and stuff. Then all of a sudden an owner of one of the stalls cried out and pointed in my direction, not in the usual way trying to sell me something, but more of a scream of objection, like 'who the hell is that!' or something to that degree. Then all the people around followed his lead and started yelling and pointing at me with angry looks on their faces, I freaked a little and ran away, I still have no idea what was going on. I went back to our hotel feeling a little defeated, and decided to chill out there for the rest of the day.
Our hotel was in the Chinatown district of Medan (yes there is a
Chinatown everywhere you go), down a little alleyway full of food stalls
selling a variety of Chinese noodles and dumplings. The food outside
was the only nice thing about the place, there were no windows in the
room, a permanent musty smell clung to everything, and the staff
swindled us out of our deposit
The next morning the city came to life, roads were absolutely crammed full of motorbikes and assorted other vehicles. We booked a van onwards to Bukit lawan for the following morning, and used the rest of the day to post some stuff home (playing charades with the workers at the post office was an experience), and do a little exploring. The next morning we left for Bukit lawan, a 3 hour drive on a road full of pot holes, good fun. The first hour or so was just getting out of Medan, followed by kilometres of rubber tree plantations, then the road got decidedly worse, full of potholes and the occasional couch or table left in the middle of the road (the villagers attempt at slowing down the trucks transporting rubber).
Soon enough the plantations turned to jungle and we arrived at our destination, Bukit Lawan, we found ourselves in a little town at the edge of the jungle, it's huts straddling either side of a fast flowing river. We looked around at different lodgings with a small group of guides following us from place to place, going from one side of the river to the other, the means of getting across the river a series of rope and bamboo bridges. One of the signs on the bridges stating that a maximum of 8 people at a time could cross, not reassuring when my Schwarzenegger like physique weighs 110kg and my backpack weighs 20kg, totalling 130kg. One of me could easily account for three little Indonesians. Keen to see what else was available we followed a path upstream away from the main village and found ourselves at Green Hill Guest House a little place nestled in the side of a hill, with dense jungle all around, good enough for us.
Our flight from Jakarta to Medan had taken us from the southern to the northern hemisphere, and although we didn't notice any significant changes to the temperature (or which way the water goes down the drain), we did notice that every afternoon like clockwork it would suddenly pour down rain for an hour or two. It was a pleasant routine as it would start off nice and cool in the morning till the sun hit our little valley and turned everything steamy, then around 4 or 5 in the arvo it would bucket down and cool everything again, just in time for sleep
We slept rather well despite not being able to fit my legs inside the mosquito net, and woke the next morning to birds chirping, the odd rooster crowing, and the locals splashing into the river for their morning bath. It was a nice change from the 4am call to prayer we were used to. After breakfast the guides that had gathered were told that we didn't want to go trekking that day either, and I spent the rest of the morning utilizing the hammock on the balcony while Danielle did the washing.
One of the main draw cards for travellers to Bukit Lawan is the rehabilitation centre for orang-utans that have been in captivity, here they are taught how to fend for themselves and live in the wild again. That afternoon we went to the rehab centre to watch the feeding session. After walking upstream, we jumped into a canoe that worked as a ferry, manned with two local lads, and crossed the river. We paid our fee at the park office, at what was good timing, before we got too far we were called back as an orang-utan was swinging down through the trees looking for food, the park officers gave it a few bananas, we watched it eat, then we followed the officers up the trail to the proper feeding area.
It was no small effort, the trail was a continuous path of steps leading up the side of the valley. We lost our breath quickly and were reduced to a slobbering mess on the side of the trail, we were quick to blame our state of health on the amount of cigarettes we were smoking in Indonesia, which of course was Indonesia's fault because they were so cheap
When we arrived back at our bungalow we found our balcony covered in trash. Earlier that day there were heaps of massive angry looking ants patrolling our balcony. I thought it was prudent to leave our bag of snacks outside (an assortment of biscuits, noodles, nuts and fruit juice poppers), as to not encourage these ants to go in our room. While we were gone a gang of monkeys had come past, discovered our bag of munchies and ripped it apart, eating every last thing, even opening the poppers, leaving it all scattered around the surrounding hill. A few stragglers were still sitting up in a tree with a box of arnott's shapes munching away. Feeling pretty damn stupid I shooed them away and proceeded to clean up the mess. After that we kept a very close eye on what we left around, as there was always a few little monkeys watching what we were doing.
That evening over dinner it was decided that we no longer had to go trekking in the jungle, we had seen orang-utans in the wild and we could see all the wildlife we wanted from our balcony. Danielle had lost her Dr Dolittle urges to live with the animals as reality had dawned that camping in the jungle for the night wouldn't be fun for her. A spider in the bathroom stopping her from going to the toilet and monkeys watching her have a shower sealed the decision. We told the guides hovering around our dinner table that we would not be trekking at all now, which proved to be a massive burden lifted as they all abruptly stopped pestering us and left us alone to finish dinner. That night the power went out in the village and our hosts, a group of young Indonesian boys in their 20's got out their guitars and Bintang, and we sang the night away. Bloody hippies.
The next morning we enlisted the help of one of our young hosts, who along with our Canadian friends, all went tubing. Tubing is where you get in a blown up tyre tube and use it to float down a rivers rapids. It turned out to be heaps of fun, though not without danger. I flipped my tube a few times in white water sections and once landed my back squarely on a rock, which I think, I was pretty lucky to do. If I landed on my head it would have knocked me out for sure and the current would have taken me under, It now made sense why we wore helmets and saftey vests when we went white water rafting. Once wasn't enough and we ended up walking our way up the river a good distance further to ride down a second time. The second effort resulted in all of us falling off our tubes, and some rather frantic paddling, but we survived it and lugged our tubes back home, feeling a little battered and sporting some pretty good bruises.
Nothing a few beers and some food won't fix. We've done nothing but eat and drink while we've been here, all the food is so new and different you end up ordering twice as much every meal, that said we are still well within our budget. After paying our bill at the end of our stay at Green Hill we had spent just over 1 million Indonesian rupiah. Our bill was a one off payment of rent for our lodging, all meals eaten and all the beer we drank, There may be no hot water, you may have to flush the toilet with a bucket, but after dividing it down it worked out we had been living on 150 000 IRP a day (17 Aussie dollars), that's accommodation, all the food, all the beer, everything, that's awesome.
An Indonesian visa is a short one and we had cut it fine, with only a day left before it ran out. We decided to leave the next afternoon, after checking out the local markets where the villagers sold their rubber, we grabbed our bags and jumped in a minivan headed for Medan. A couple of hours later we were back in the thick of the city, where we piled out of the sardine can of a van and into a taxi bound for Medan's main street. We got out at blue angel guest house, a relatively clean abode on the main drag. A quick meal and we went straight upstairs to bed, a call to prayer pumping out of a mosque sound system down the road.
Indonesia has been a lot of fun but we were ready for something different....
Days since last shave: 29
Over and out from Sumatra, Indonesia.