Back to Indonesia
Nov 05, 2001
Back to Indonesia
Everyone told me to get the hell out of Indonesia and I did. Then I came right back. There were a few more places that I really wanted to see. Maybe I'm stubborn, but Indonesia is a great country - great for travelers. So much natural beauty, friendly people and due to the current exchange rate it's the cheapest place in the world to travel right now (maybe tied with India, but a step cheaper than Central America and Thailand).
Medan is a moderately big city with out much to see. Conveniently my hotel looked down on the one major tourist attraction - Mesjid Raya. It is a beautiful mosque.
Lake Toba has been hyped and built up as the most popular tourist destination in Sumatra. I was pretty disappointed. Unfortunately 2 years ago the tourists stopped coming. Now with the current crisis it has become a ghost town. It was spooky with 40 hotels and only 10 tourists. On top of that I wasn't impressed with the view. A few days playing cards and watching bad American movies and I moved on.
Welcome to the jungle. Bukit Lawang lies on the edge of a massive national park (jungle) and is home to the orangutan rehabilitation center. This is my first real jungle and in addition to the orangutans has elephants, rhinos, tiger and leeches.
The 1st night in my hotel room I'm preparing for bed and I see a mouse run across the room. Upon closer inspection I learn that it's not a mouse, but a mouse sized cockroach. Welcome to the jungle indeed. I kill him and two of his friends before going to sleep. did you guys know that cockroaches are smart enough to play dead. I didn't know that, but sure enough you squash them, they lay there motionless for a while and then get back up. I wake up in the middle of the night to find that the cockroaches are no longer dead and instead crippled cockroaches are limping around my room. I kill them again and this time throw them outside. Haven't seen too many cockroaches since.
On my third day here I visited the rehabilitation center to see the orangutan feeding. Thanks to the war in Afghanistan I was the only tourist at the feeding and because of this they brought the orangutans right to me instead of feeding them on the platform. It was amazing being 2 feet from a semi-wild orangutan (with it's baby on it's back). It was amazing watching an orangutan reach into a bucket and drink with a cup - they are some human-like. I took a ton of photos I'm hope that some of them came out great. I certainly made the right choice in coming back to Indonesia to experience this.
The following day I sign up with some friends for a 2 day jungle trek. A few hours into the trek we find an orangutan hanging out in a tree. I was more impressed with the feeding the day before, but now everyone else takes lots and lots of photos. A short hike later and we see a bunch of monkeys having a good time jumping from tree to tree. During a snack break there is a monkey watching us eat. Exactly like you are not supposed to do I throw him some orange slices. A few bananas later and we have a new friend. We're amused to find that he is following us, walking on the path behind us. We're even more amused to discover that each time we stop and look at him, he coyly pretends to not be following us - looking away and playing with some leaves or something. When we stop for lunch an hour later he's still with us. He gets a bit aggressive - they have huge fangs - but our guides fend him off. After some more bananas he eventually wanders off.
I really wanted to see a leech. To me the leech symbolized real adventure and real jungle. In the afternoon I got my wish. I find a large worm like creature attacking my shorts. Someone grabs it and throws it to the ground. My 1st leech and I didn't even get bit. Two of the girls weren't so lucky. Ashly's foot got attack during the day and Louise's arms was attacked at night. Second hand I can tell you that it isn't that bad. No pain, no swelling, no itching, just a lot of blood.
The place where we camped for the night was beautiful. Beside a stream with waterfalls on either side. An orangutan (they're always with a baby) camped next to us. In the morning we fed it bananas.
It is the middle of the monsoon season, but we were incredible fortunate with the weather. It didn't rain until the last hour of our trek. But when it rains in Asia, it pours! Some of the trekking that we had done was flat, but most of it was fairly challenging. Up and down steep hills using trees, roots and vines for support. The last descent in the pouring rain was very memorable. Struggling down a steep hill where streams of water have overtaken our path. Some parts were so steep and slippery we repelled down them with vines. It was an exhausting hour, but eventually we all made it safely to the river.
The very high fast moving river swollen from the storm. The last part of our trek involved taking a raft made of intertubes tied together down this river back to town. In one of the rapids our captain loses the stick he is using to steer the raft and keep it off the rocks. The boat is dragged to shore and we walk another half hour back to town. The trip was a great time.
Now I'm just hanging out in Bukit Lawang. I might be here for a while. I'm not bored yet and for less than US$5 a day for food and accommodations I can afford to stay. I don't know when I'm leaving or where I'm going, but my next stop may or may not be Palau Weh and island off the north coast of Sumatra. It's supposed to be beautiful with great snorkeling and of course almost no tourists.
Everyone - if you read this you're probably friend of mine and I probably don't have your address. Please send me your addresses and you'll probably get a postcard.
This is a good site 4 satan
Ashley Alden - May 31, 2004
Wow! I feel honored to have been mentioned in one of your stories. And yes, for the record, the leeching wasn't that bad at all:)
Good to hear about the leeches. In all of my travels, I still haven't been leeched.