*Day 61: Homesick :-(

Trip Start May 20, 2008
Trip End Aug 19, 2008

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Flag of Indonesia  , Sumatra,
Monday, July 21, 2008

In the Himalayas, trekking alone with a private guide had its drawbacks, mainly loneliness. This morning the drawbacks of having company on such an adventure surfaced, with five people including me to wake-up, we didn't get going until 11am. The coolest part of the day had come and gone, now we would be fighting a baking noon sun. Oh well, no experience is perfect. A pack of monkeys visited us for breakfast in hopes of stealing some food, but the assistant fought them off. These are some clever fuzzy little things, one of them managed to sneak away a bag of fruit before throwing it into the bush as soon as the assistant threw a stick at it. Props to the monkeys.

My local made, jungle-grade Bukit Lawang flip-flops were also proving their worth, despite leaving my feet vulnerable to mosquitoes they were perfectly adequate footwear for the terrain and had excellent traction. There was none of the slipping and sliding that occurred on the Nepal trek, despite this trail being twice as rough. Besides, I don't think my sneakers could take another even more brutal battering of this sort.

Lunch consisted of the local fruit fare, including some mini-bananas, passion fruit, rambutan (google them), and pineapple. I've never been much of a pineapple fan, thinking them too soggy and strange, but the pineapple here is crisp with a zesty, juicy tang, and I'm liking it a great deal. During lunch, Abdul's goofy sense of humor took a turn for the silly when he stumbled upon a gibberish combination of English slang that he (and only he) thought was hilarious. You see, Abdul loves barking famous English quotes and repeating them ad-nauseum because he feels like a badass when they come out of his mouth. The previous night, he repeated "deal... or no deal?" to us endlessly for no reason while laughing till he was red in the face. Today, his gibberish combo of slang was "wicked naked":

"Hey hey, Charlie... Wicked. Naked. AHAHAHHAH! Wicked naked, wicked naked wicked naked..."
He made me promise to teach it to my fellow Californians upon returning home. I promised, but can make no guarantees of keeping this promise.

About midway through the walk, we stumbled on a pack of black gibbons, one of whom approached a Dutch and I and took a swipe at my camera. Abdul motioned for me to grab a long stick, and thus began the saga of "Charles Vs Gibbon: Battle for Camera." I was victorious, but my camera's battery holder will never stay shut without the help of strong tape ever again. As long as I can officially say in complete honesty that I got into a fight with a monkey and won, I'm happy.

Following this incident, our wildlife luck took a turn for the worse and we saw no more animals for the rest of the trek. Only one hour was left anyway. The walk took us down a steep cliff (had to play Tarzan with some vines to descend it) to the main river, where after some brief much needed swimming we boarded inflatable tubes and journeyed the rest of the way to Bukit Lawang in style. Whitewater rafting wasn't on my agenda for the trip, its always kind of scared me, but it was a nice unexpected activity to be able to check off the list of life experiences. When we arrived back in the village, I bided farewell to the Dutch couple who were leaving at that very moment in an awaiting taxi, as well as to Jacques, who was immediately disembarking on yet another trek in a different direction. Bon voyage, my French wuv... you will be remembered with honor. Meanwhile, Abdul, Yolanda, and I made plans for a late night coffee house rendezvous to sign his guestbook.

I rested for a bit, then hunted down a warung (cafe) to supply my late lunch/early dinner. The riverfront warung I settled on was run by Ita, a 29-year-old mother of one whose English husband died from a tragically young heart attack four months prior. Also, another of her 20ish-aged tourist friends, this one French, recently drowned while tubing. Despite interaction with her clearly rendering me a cursed, condemned man, I wound up killing the rest of the evening and night chatting with her about this and that random thing. We bonded a bit over our mutual loneliness, and even ran through the rain together to get to the coffeehouse in time for my rendezvous with Abdul.

Turns out the coffeehouse in question was run by her guitarist brother, who later played and sang a respectable rendition of "Hotel California" to me. The sound of this song, a song frequented on my Dad's car tape player during road trips of old, really hit home just how homesick I really was, which I'm going to rant about for a bit now. Let me put it this way: While Bali was paradise, its beaches and scenery had nothing on the likes of Torrey Pines Beach back home. Even in the Italian Riviera on our Eurotrip, I told Mika "You know, for a world famous beach destination, I'm not impressed." Mika: "It's 'cause you're from San Diego." That stretch of coast on the 101 from La Jolla to Oceanside has got to be one of the world's singular most beautiful places, and San Diego's specialness has never been clearer. I miss the Coronado Bridge. I miss the trolley. I miss burritos. I miss friends. I miss family. I miss being able to trust new friends right off the bat. I miss being able to drink the tap water. I miss beggars who actually have dignity and style. I want to go home, and the homesickness is really starting to hinder my enjoyment of even the most basic things. Jeff's arrival will be more of a rescue than a joyous reunion at this point in my mood, hopefully solving the problem, and the most spectacular sights of the trip (Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and the islands in the south of Thailand) have yet to be hit.

The Internet bill is running high, gotta go for now. One more entry raving about Bukit Lawang is yet to come, along with three days of mildly disappointing Malaysia travel. Once Jeff joins, I'm not sure I'll be able to waste away whole hours in front of a computer any more, but I'll do my best to keep you all updated.

---#1 Reason You Know You've Been Traveling Too Long---
1. When the only thing holding your camera together is bandage tape from your first aid kit.

---Most Annoying Phrase of the Year---
"Wicked naked!" - Abdul

---Vital Signs---
Orangutan = NINE
Food Poisonings = ZERO

To Jeff, if he's even still alive = Flight info! NOW! 
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