I am chuckling on the backseat of the car. I think back of the first story I heard about Bukit Lawang and how much I had to laugh about it at that time. We’re driving already for five hours in a minivan over dusty roads full cavities. Leslie and I are on our way to one of Sumatra’s tourist attractions, which reminds me of the story. Friends of mine have been in Bukit Lawang before and at an unguarded moment an orang-utan gripped around the guys head. His girlfriend was intertwined in cane and the guide had a panic attack. Eventually they managed to free themselves and ran as fast as they could out of the jungle. A great story for in the bar, I silently giggle, but unintentionally I bite dubious on my lip.
When we get out of the car, I have to get used to the moist heath of Sumatra after winter temperatures the past week in Taipei. We wander through the village and arrive wet of our sweat, but happily, surprised at Jungle Inn. Jungle Inn is a colourful hotel, with nice, spacious, clean rooms with jungle shower. We are introduced to our guides and cook for our two-day jungle tour. Hornbills, gibbons, snakes and of course –for what we came- orang-utan are possible to spot. But, no guarantees.
We have breakfast with the best and most beautiful fruit plate in town and are full of energy to explore. As a final touch to my jungle outfit I tie a scarf around my head, always good for festival expeditions and I’m guessing also for a jungle one. Let’s go. We start immediately with a tough climb up and wander through a cacao plantation before we enter the jungle. In no time our guide spots the first orang-utan including baby. Marvellously we look up to these special animals. The O
orang-utan is threatened with distinction and are only living on Sumatra and Borneo. The difference in species is that because of the tiger living on Sumatra, the orang-utan here live high in the trees. In Borneo, where there is now tiger, their habitat is mostly on the ground. When my neck hurts from staring up, we continue our trekking and hike deep into the jungle. The sunlight barely shines through the dense foliage. We climb mountain up and down, firmly holding on to liana and bamboo to prevent of sliding down. When we arrive at a river there is no longer a path. With our shoes bind to our backpacks we walk further stream upward. Behind endless huge ferns appears a high waterfall with perfect pool to dive into. Leslie and I are laughing out loud and as quick as I possibly can I jump into the water to cool down.
After the last two hours hiking through the river we arrive tired but satisfied at our basic jungle camp. The cook, who is already waiting for us, serves us ginger lemon tea and a delicious Indonesian jungle buffet. From my canthus I see a huge animal crossing the river. A monitor lizard of at least one meter leers at us from the water. I quickly want to grab my camera, but by relieve of Leslie the animal disappears. At 20:30 we are ready for bed and settle in our jungle hut.
Because we sleep in until 10 AM we have breakfast quick. Our wet clothes from yesterday have dried above the bonfire. The sun is already up high and after a first climb up, my clothes are just as soaked as yesterday. ‘Mina, Mina’ shouts Anto, our most experienced guide. The deal is when we meet Mina, we walk with our second guide away and Anto takes care of her. Mina is the most notorious orang-utan of Bukit Lawang. Feared by tourist and some guides and the same ape that was gripped around my friends head. Quickly we wander with a detour around Mina, who climbs fast down out of the high trees. The sad thing about this situation is that Mina –born in captivity- is used to people and knows when she comes down she can get food. If she doesn’t get it, she sometimes attacks people to force her will. By feeding her many guides contribute to this problem. Mina won’t search for food herself and won’t be able to teach her two babies how to do so. We walk a bit further and stop at a point where we have good sight at both. I take two pictures and after we climb non-stop for ten minutes uphill, upon mine and Leslie’s request, until a save distance. When Anto arrives unharmed after a while we sight in relieve. From this point it’s only downhill. We arrive at the riverside where the tubes are yet ready to go. Yes! We jump in, ignore the screaming monkeys in the trees at the shore and float rapid back to our four-poster bed.