Ooh ooh aah - Jungle Trek....

Trip Start Sep 09, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  , Sumatra,
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

We decided to come back down to Indonesia with Kate and Darren in search of the wild orangutans and to see Lake Toba. We had been told many good things about the lake last time we were in Bukittinggi but the 18+ hours bus journey complete with sick bags to get there put us off. There are only 3 areas left in the world where wild orangutans can still be found and in North Sumatra it is estimated that there are just 2000 left in that region.

Bukit Lawang is a very cute little village right on the river, the locals enjoy tubing downstream and chilling out on the banks.

We stayed in a massive lodge with enough room inside for 10 people, the only downfall being we did have to share - it just happened to be with a family of hungry, noisy rats!

The plan was to go jungle trekking to find monkeys and orangutans. We thought that a days drinking by the river first would prepare us nicely.... the weather obviously agreed as it chucked down with rain the whole of the next day - perfect pub weather!! Also Kate cut my hair for something to do...
That night we went to a little cafe for dinner, we placed our orders and the waitress went away happy enough then came back 5 minutes later looking a little distressed to tell us there was a problem.
"I'm sorry we don't have enough chicken for 3, because the cat come in kitchen and jump up and take chicken, now only chicken for 2". Poor Kate had to make do with vegetable noodles again!!

The next day we set off on our trek with Percy, Kate, Darren and our guides Amar and Amre.
My first big task for the day was the bloody big bridge that took you over from the main village to the jungle side: I spent the whole time to the bridge feeling sick but to mine and everyone else's surprise I was relatively quick going across (Kate and Darren had relaxed for fags breaks at the other end - after seeing my bridge efforts in Nepal they were probably expecting to be there for a while - but they hadn't even finished by the time speedy me got to them!). We walked through the village rainforest with its rubber plantations, chocolate pods and many fruit trees.
We entered into Gunung Leuser the 8000km2 national park and straight away the Thomas-Leaf monkeys came across to greet us. These monkeys are so, so cool with punk hair cuts and huge eyes. Amar took out a banana and drew the monkeys closer to us, although obviously these monkeys are wild so we only were able to give one banana so that they won't become dependent on free food. The monkeys came so close they were eating the banana from the top of our heads - not mine though I was far too scared!!

After a hour of walking through the jungle we saw a mummy orangutan with a little 3 month old baby who came so close up to us it was truely amazing.
We watched them for quite a while and were able to see the mummy teaching the baby climbing skills which was excellent - another orangutan came over to see what was going on and proceeded to pose for us and even spoke with Amar (this orangutan we were told was not as wild as the others and had spent a lot of his time in the rehabilitation centre also connected to the park, so therefore he was more used to humans).
Another wilder orangutan came over but he was alot shier than the others and only the boys got to see a glimpse of him.

On our way through the jungle we saw many different types of plant life, vegetation and wild life, including; Huge fungi the size of dinner plates, Chameleon, a pair of love struck rather randy ladybirds! anti-Malaria trees and the biggest tree in the world!

Our first break we stopped for some fruit and 5 minutes in Amar spotted another orangutan in the trees a little distance away, we were all trying to be quiet in the hope that she'd get closer as we didn't want to scare her off - we needn't have bothered though as within seconds she had leapt through the trees and came crashing down towards us. Amar told us rather hastily to grab our bags and move, we all did so as Amre ran off in the opposite direction to cause a diversion. I was unaware of the potential enormity of the situation, until Tom pushed me and told me that I needed to run - I was too busy trying to get the camera out for some good close ups! As we looked back down the path and saw a huge 300lb orangutan striding towards us I soon realised what was going on and my pace picked up somewhat. We were all still holding mangos so naturally I threw mine back down the path to distract her, Tom did the same, but Kate was obviously still a little hungry after the cat ate her chicken and ran along eating hers!!
We found out once we could take a rest that the orangutan is called Mina and she'd just had a baby, so the need to feed and protect her 1 month old, meant she made it very clear that vistors were not welcome. She also is notorious in pretty much the whole of Sumatra for her bad temper and every one of the guides we'd met had a Mina scar.

After lunch by a waterfall, there was a massive downpour which meant the rest of our trek up and down the hillsides through the jungle was considerably harder as the rain made a mud bath of the floor - it was like Fun House obstacle course but without the go-carts! A few more hours of trekking and we arrived at camp greeted with hot tea and cold river washes!
Tom had a case of burning balls which was to the amusement of the whole camp as he cooled them off with his river soaked bandana.
That night we settled down for the evening drinking Whisky and watching the fireflies dart about over the river.
We slept in open tents with only a sheet of tarpaulin between us and the rocks (it still wasn't the most uncomfortable bed on this trip!). I was a little worried about snakes and giant spiders and thought that i'd never be able to sleep - Tom of course was asleep within minutes, typical!

We woke in the morning freezing cold and wet through from the moisture in the air and Kate complained there was something wrong with her head and asked me to look at it for her - I dismissed it as bugs and even the boys said it looked like clay or mud. It was only when Amar came over and gasped that we realised it was a leech that had sucked on her brain blood in the night and her hair was matted by blood clots!! Back in the tent her sheets and pillow were covered in blood and when taking the tent down this little bad boy turned up....

That day the trek was a lot harder, up and down very steep jungle but unfortunately we saw less and our search for the gibbons failed, which was a little disappointing but 6 orangutans on the first day more than made up for it. The camp was again by a river which was home to lots of monitor lizards and long-tail macques which enjoyed stealing our food! The shower was a waterfall and the toilet again just a bush.
The next day we rafted back down the river on giant inflatable tubes through the rapids back for a few well earnt Bintangs and guitar jamming!

(to the tune of jingle bells!)
'Jungle trek, Jungle trek in Bukit Lawang,
see the monkeys, see the birds, see orangutan ooo ooo ooo!! '

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