Trip Start Jul 08, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  , Sumatra,
Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bukittinggi is the sleepy town that comes to life twice a week on market days. Orginally the town was formed from five local villages. The market seems to rotate around the local area as I also caught in my next town. Bukittinggi is the starting point for treks up the surrounding volcanoes. As I had a chest infection from my cold unfortunately trekking throughout the night in the cold to reach the summit for sunrise did not seem a sensible option but it was nice to hang out around the town.

When I arrived the lady in the guesthouse advised that a Raffles flower had just flowered. Raffles is the largest flower in the world and takes almost a year and a half for the bud to grow then eight to nine months for the bud to flower. After all that effort the flower only lasts for four days. The smell of the flower is meant to smell like rotting meat hence its other name 'corpse flower'. I was tired from my overnight journey so decided that I would check it out the following day. The overnight journeys are quite draining. It's hard to get comfortable on the buses and roads are shocking so you usually only get bouts of sleep and then we you are so exhausted that you think you can sleep the bus stops at 05:30 at the nearest mosque and everyone gets off for morning prayers.

The place where the flower was was approx 12km out of town so whilst I was waiting for a local bus out of town Ribwan came over to talk to me. He was a student from Padang but was in town to meet up with one of his lecturers. His lecturer did not show and as he was from out of town and at a loose end I invited him decided to come along as he had never seen the flower.

In the end we took a couple of hours walking there but when we arrived we were told it was another three hours into the jungle to find the flower. We headed to the starting point where we met a couple from Germany who was just heading out of the jungle. They advised that the path quickly disappeared and without a guide you would get lost very quickly. As it was late in the afternoon we decided to call it day. It was a shame not seeing the flower but I had a nice day with Ribwan and had a cool walk following the road through jungle on either side.

Ribwan is studying mechanical engineering and in the process of trying to transfer his studies to Germany. He spoke excellent English so during our walk it was a great chance to learn about each other's cultures. Back in town we had some food and Ribwan invited me to visit him in his village. It was market day the next day but I agreed to visit the day after as it was virtually on route to my next stop, Padang, anyway.

The following day I wandered around the market in the morning and then spent a couple of hours trying to speak to friends in the UK on awful internet connections. It was Saturday and in the evening I wandered up to the clock tower which is the main square in the town. It was really busy up there with everyone hanging out. Bukittinggi seems to have the trendiest youths in Sumatra. There are loads of skateboard shops trendy clothes shops around the market and in the evening the square was awash with everyone hanging out. There was a group of break dancers performing under the clock blasting loud music and about twenty sets of the ubiquitous buskers entertaining people around the square.

The following day in a little mini bus that should have sat about eight people comfortably I was squashed in with eleven others and on route to Pandang Padjang to meet up with Ribwan.

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