Bukit Lawang

Trip Start Sep 01, 2008
Trip End Sep 01, 2009

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Where I stayed
Garden Inn and Restaurant

Flag of Indonesia  , Sumatra,
Monday, September 22, 2008

Day 14:
We were picked up at 7am by a minibus to take us back to Padang airport.  We got on our flight to Medan without a hitch.  It was only a 45 minute fight.  From Medan airport we took a taxi to the bus terminal.  We then got on a bus to go to Bukit Lawang.  It was only 100kms to Bukit Lawang, but it took us 4 hours to get there because the bus stopped a number of times to try and pick up more people to fill up the bus.  In Indonesia this does not mean just fill the available seats on the bus, it means fill every possible available space left.  Needless to say it was a little crammed.  But 4 hours driving down a pot-hole filled road in a crammed bus was not so bad????  It was pouring down with rain the entire time and the back window in the bus wouldn't close.  We had to tape a plastic bag to the inside of the bus to stop it from leaking on us.  When we finally made it to Bukit Lawang it was still pouring it down.  We took a very wet motorbike taxi into the village from the bus station.  We ended up at a dive hotel which was the closest walk in the rain.  It was called the Bukit Lawang Inda, but for 40000 Rp ($4.40) we couldn't really complain too much.  That night we ate at Tony's Pizzeria, which was currently out of pizza!  We shared a room with Joel and Alex that night so we really only had to pay $2 for the night. 
Day 15:
Early in the morning we went to get our national park passes to go to the morning orang-utan feeding.  After crossing the river by canoe we met out first semi-wild orang-utans (Sandra, her 1 year old baby and her 6 year old child, Jackie).  It was a pretty awesome experience!  Later that day we went swimming in the river rapids.  We then went to the Jungle Inn to set up a jungle trek with one of the registered tour guides there.
Day 16:
Joel and Alex left.  We were very sad to see them go.  It had been great travelling with such like-minded people and crazy how fast we became great friends.  Hopefully we'll see them again on our travels.  Darwin and Remo (our guides) met us at 9am to start our two day jungle trek.  As soon as we got into the thick of the jungle we saw Thomas Leaf monkeys (or funky monkeys as the locals call them due to their Mohawk hair-dos).  We later saw Sandra, baby and Jackie hanging out in the tree canopy.  We hiked on through the jungle terrain which is quite difficult to climb, but nothing in comparison to Mt. Merapi.  After a couple more hours of hiking we stopped for a break in the tree canopy.  While minding our business trying to cool off from the jungle heat and aggressive female orang-utan snuck up on us from behind.  Mena is a 30 year old, 70 Kg massive orang-utan.  Or at least she seems massive when she's standing right next to you.  She has a track record of severely biting and scratching somewhere around 70 tourists (the story varies from one local to the next).  We had been pre-warned about Mena, so needless to say it was a very tense moment.  I've next seen Erin look so terrified!!  Darwin was great with her.  He kept her attention and focused on him while we made a slow, calm getaway.  We waited about 20ft away for Darwin to catch up to us, but Mena (with her 1 year old baby clung to her side) was blocking the path.  We stood and watched and Darwin was talking a-mile-a-minute with her to try and calm her down.  Everything seemed ok until she took one look back at us, and then started to run at us.  We took off like lightning!  Running for safety........... in the jungle........... YEAH!  I guess Darwin managed to cut her off from us so we waited for 20 minutes for him to catch up to us again after Mena let him go.  She really just wanted food from us, but the guides and locals at Bukit Lawang are very conscious about wildlife conservation and are constantly encouraging orang-utans to go back into the wild, so under no circumstances would they ever feed a wild orang-utan, so I guess after a while Mena realised she wasn't getting any food so she let him go.  So after that little adventure we hiked for a few more hours to our campsite beside the river for the night.  We had amazing food and played card games and matchstick tricks with Darwin, Remo and the cook and inner-tube carrier Sabul. 
Day 17:
We woke up to an amazing breakfast that Sabul had cooked for us.  We took a swim then packed up the camp to head out for some more trekking.  We hiked back up to the canopy passing some beautiful waterfalls and streams along the way.  On the way up to the canopy we caught a glimpse of the very fast and illusive white handed gibbons.  We hiked around the canopy then back down to the river to get on our inner-tube rafts to carry us back down the river rapids and into the village.  Erin, Remo and Darwin got tossed of the tubes on the first fast rapids.  Quite funny once we realised everyone was ok.  Erin looked petrified again when she surfaced!  Lol!  We came back to the Garden Inn that night and hung out with the locals and a few other tourists and played guitar, bongos and sang all night.  It was great fun! 
Day 18:
We decided that we couldn't stay another night in the Bukit Lawang Inda, so we packed our stuff up to go and stay at the Garden Inn, which is a little closer to the entry to the national park and has much more of a chance of seeing some of the wildlife in the area.  Plus the locals seemed much friendlier there.  Bukit Lawang is like a hippy hang out.  Everyone is very chilled all of the time.  Everyone was super friendly and always wanted to sit and chat with you.  Every night we hung around the local bars, playing pool and singing and playing guitar with the locals.  The nightly jam sessions were so fun and they loved Erin and I as we totally got involved in every jam.  We decided that we liked it so much in Bukit Lawang that we decided to stay for a while.  Also, there was so much to do there.  You could rent inner-tubes and go rafting down the river rapids, walk to the local bat caves and ship caves or just find a nice quiet spot along the river to swim. 
Day 19:
We went to one more morning feeding and really lucked out.  7 wild and semi-wild orang-utans came down from the jungle for the feeding.  Mena was one of them!  It was a little tense at first as Mena jumped onto the feeding tower, chasing all of the other orang-utans away and almost scratching the park ranger, but after she got her food she seemed quite content.  
Day 21:
We took the arduous bus journey back to Medan.  This time was even worse than getting to Bukit Lawang.  It took us 5 hours to drive 100kms.  Brutal!  And the bus was even more packed.  I think that my legs have gone numb more times in the last few weeks than in my entire life from being stuck in so many cramp places.  When we got to Medan is was pouring it down.......... PERFECT!  We got in to a motorbike taxi with a covered sidecar and took a blind trip to a hotel we found in our Lonely Planet book.  The Zakia hotel was recommended as a backpacker's safe-haven.  Must say, not quite the words I would've chosen, but by this point we were soaked and exhausted, so we made do.  We ate at McDonalds that night.  It was AMAZING!  LoL!  Never thought I'd hear myself say that.
Day 22:
We decided to change our itinerary and booked a flight to Bali rather that getting another 6 hour bus ride from Medan to Lake Toba which was our original plan.  Ocean and white sand beaches sounds much more up our alley.  
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