Saturday, 30 April 2011

To the JUNGLE!!

I was looking forward to Bukit Lawang, so I was worried that I would be disappointed. You know how it is - you get so hyped up about a place and it doesn't quite live up to your expectations and you feel let down. Well not in Bukit Lawang. I LOVED IT!!!!!
The drive from Medan to Bukit Lawang passes by a palm oil factory and many, many hectares of palm oil plantations. Sad when you know that these palm oil plantations are a major cause of huge reduction in rainforest/jungles in Sumatra.
On arrival in Bukit Lawang Bob had arranged his people on the ground to meet us, thus avoiding having guides hassle us. Certainly worth having someone take your bags for you as it's a bit of a hike to the river and if you are staying up towards the crossing to the orangutan feeding station, it's even further. We already knew that our original room (Jungle Inn honeymoon 'sweet') wasn't available as our itinerary had changed, so we would be staying at Jungle Lodge instead. Wrong. A group had booked all the rooms at the last minute, so just being the 2 of us, guess who missed out. We were offered the last available room at Sam's bungalows. We had no choice but to accept this room. I was mightily peed off and upset. The room was up a good deal of steps, and for someone vertically challenged like me, they were pretty high steps!! Big gaps in the floorboards and the view from the balcony marred somewhat by the rusting tin roofs in front and big gaps in the floorboards. But you know what? I grew to love that room!!

Just a FEW of the giant steps up to our room

Gaps in the floorboards, room for 'visitors'

Our balcony

View from the balcony

Plenty of room for the washing but watch out for the mischievous monkeys!!

Great mosquito net - keeps everything out

Ooh look, no cistern!!

Looking past the rusty rooftops, we looked straight across the river to the jungle where on our last afternoon we sat and watched orange flashes through the jungle!!! How amazing being able to sit on our balcony and watch the orangutans moving around in their own habitat!!! We had a fantastic, thick mosquito net which we were able to tuck in all the way around each night and I felt very safe from biting insects and furry rodents (a girl from the group who 'stole' our room ;-p, had something run across her face one night. She put the light on and saw a rat!!!) Did I say that I loved my room?! So funny trying to use the toilet in the middle of a rain storm, with the power out and the eaves ending just in front of the toilet bowl, so even trying to hold an umbrella over you, you still get soaking wet. I wish Rod had taken a photo of that, we laughed so much. Did I say I loved my room. We had to make sure the doors were kept closed to keep the menacing little monkeys out! One afternoon, Rod came in from the verandah and after shutting the door, he turned around to see one of the monkeys with his face pressed against the window! And we decided that maybe we did get the 'honeymoon suite' after all, as some the antics that the monkeys got up to in full view of our balcony were R rated, lol!!

Our room was right in the path of the macaques who came thundering over our roof each day

I think I can.......

Hmm, add your own caption to this!!

And this - R rated!!

I was a little concerned re my fitness levels, so opted for a 1/2 day trek. Had to have plenty of 'breathers' on the uphill bits but the rest was fine and we were well looked after with Ian taking my camera bag and Putu taking my hand and helping me along the way. So, what did we see? Thomas Leaf monkeys - they are just so beautiful :-). I love them; claw marks where the sun bears had been (I didn't even know that there were sun bears in Bukit Lawang). Lines of termites; butterflies; giant leaves used by the orangutans for umbrellas.......and yes, orangutans!!! It's such an awesome experience to see these wonderful creatures in their own environment. Don't expect to have them to yourself though. Once they are spotted the guides hone in on it so more than one group will converge on the area. This is fine, so long as people use common sense and manners. I couldn't believe it when I had people come and just step right in front of me and obstruct my view when they could have stood behind or next to me and had just as good a view. But our guides were great and would find another better viewpoint for us. I'm rambling, sorry!! We saw 6 orangutans in all, so I was extremely happy with that. Of course you could always opt for a longer trek with less chance of 'sharing' the experience with others.

Me, worried? Piece of cake!!

Mr Thomas Leaf monkey

Just so beautiful


Sun bear claw marks

First orang sighting

Wait for me!!!

Build a bridge

March of the termites

Hey mum, there's some strange looking orangutans down there

No photoshopping required
Loving it
No worries, with Ian and co looking after us

Waiting to cross the river

Across we go!

The next morning we went to the feeding station where we saw 4 orangutans including 2 from the previous day, Suma and Sumi.
Waterfall next to the ranger station

Of course the macaques are there hoping to get a feed too

Mother and baby

Having breakfast out today....

Here we come

How many bananas can one orang hold???

Thanks to our trusty guide, Ian

For something different, we went to the bat cave in the afternoon.
Now this is a better bridge

Collecting rubber

Hotter than the jungle!

To the bat cave

Better than this shows

More Thomas Leaf monkeys

Beautiful dragonfly

And another

And another

 It's across the river, past the children's garden and through a rubber plantation. We enjoyed this and particularly enjoyed being able to meet Saskia and her husband who run the children's garden orphanage. What amazing people and so dedicated. It's worth a visit if you are in Bukit Lawang and you may be interested in helping the orphanage in some way.

A well earned rest in the Children's Garden

It rained each night we were in Bukit Lawang, which was lovely. It cooled things down a lot, so we didn't have any trouble sleeping. The storms cut the power most nights which was a blessing in disguise. Sitting in Sam's restaurant in the dark we suddenly realised that the little flashes of light that we saw above the river were fireflies!!! If the power had stayed on, we wouldn't have seen them. It was the first time I had seen fireflies!!

We mostly ate at Sam's restaurant. The staff there were so lovely and the food and drinks were tasty and beautifully presented. 
A favourite, banana juice

Sign outside Sam's

Terong Belanda

Mmm, potato curry

What an amazing setting for a restaurant

We ate lunch at Ida's a couple of times. 

Another favourite, avocado juice

Another yummy currry

This place is also right next to the river but further down towards the 'swing' bridges. It was a good place to sit and watch people playing in the river, with kids hopping in tubes just above where we were and laughing and giggling as they floated past. We also watched the trekkers who had chosen the tubing option (which I had decided not to do - although everyone we spoke to loved it).

Tubing fun

Trekkers tubing

Kids doing what kid's do best - having fun

What goes down the river, must come back

No need for a truck here

Come on Dad, 

Food was cheaper here than Sam's, quite ok but I still think Sam's was worth the extra for the ambience and presentation. We did have dinner elsewhere one night (Garden Inn) and although it was fine, still preferred Sam's.

Vegie fritters, yum

I'm afraid I've rambled on but I just loved Bukit Lawang, there is just something special about it and I'm sure it's not just that it's one of the few places where you can see those amazing creatures, the orangutans. We also met lovely people here. The locals always have a smile and we chatted to travellers, all of whom were friendly people enjoying the delights of Sumatra.
Four nights in Bukit Lawang was enough but I could easily have stayed for a couple more. Another trek would have been good, once I knew I could do it!! And there is a waterfall a bit further along from where you cross to the feeding station that I would have liked to walk to............
Looking along the river to the village - and Rod pretending to grab the power lines

This monitor lizard swam along the little creek next to the restaurant, across the Bohorok River to the opposite bank

Sunned itself for a while before swimming back

Preparing some fresh fish for the restaurant

Ok, so they were not exotic but the sunflowers in front of the restaurant were lovely

Technically crappy but we were thrilled to see this orang and it's mother  near the waterfall
One their way to

The ranger station!!

Go see for yourself, I'm sure you'll be glad you did!!! :-)
Bukit Lawang sunset