Monday, June 3, 2013

Jungle Trek, Jungle Trek, in Bukit Lawang!

Ok, sing this song to the tune of "Jingle Bells" and you'll be in the mood for trekking, Bukit Lawang style:

"Jungle trek, jungle trek, in Bukit Lawang
See a monkey, see a bird, see orang-utan!"

The song has like 3 more verses, but these are the ones that stuck with me...  I think we captured video of our guides singing the song, so expect that here soon!

In the meantime, here are some photos of our jungle trek, which started at the river in Bukit Lawang, traversed many slippery and mudd-covered hills, and ended further up river in Taman Nasional Gunung Leuser.  Above is us crossing the sketchy bridge across the Baharok River... this thing was moving side-to-side, up and down...

In this shot of the hill above the town, you can see that it is surrounded by jungle, but the jungle is interrupted by palm oil plantation.  The patch of uniform palm tops are visible on the side of the hill:

Another big source of income for Bukit Lawang residents is rubber production... at the beginning of our trek we passed this guy who was doing his delicate thrice-weekly cutting of a narrow strip of bark from the tree to allow the latex to stream down into the coconut husk:

Our trek was pretty amazing... orangutans, monkeys, a couple wild boar.  The trees were insanely tall and wide, some with big buttresses, many with crazy vines and roots hanging down:

Here is our first orangutan siting!  This one, named Suma (I think) is semi-wild (reintroduced to the forest years ago by the rehabilitation center that used to be run out of Bukit Lawang), so didn't mind the human audience too, too much:

After a bit of gawking, we left her alone and continued on our trek, which was a muddy, hand-over-foot endeavor, basically climbing straight up the hill and then trying not to slide back down.  Our next orangutan siting was when we were halfway up one of those hills- she was a little bit further away, hanging out (literally) in a tree:

Our third siting was the infamous Mina... like Siswi, Taman Tanjung Puting's most famous resident, Mina is both well-loved and rightfully well-feared by the local guides and rangers.  She has learned to work the human/orangutan interaction such that the powers that be thought it prudent to have her relocated to a more remote part of the forest in 2011.  Apparently she found her way back.

She basically tracked us down and wouldn't leave us alone until satiated...  Mina knows the guides carry food (our lunch) and will follow/pester/attack until she gets what she wants.  Our guides had developed a system by which one stayed with us, urging us to run on his command if necessary, while the other gave her a packet of cookies one at a time until she was satisfied (verboten typically, for the health of the orangutans, but Mina is the exception because of her aggressiveness), while the rest of us quickly scrambled up a steep hill:

In all other cases, our guides were vigilant about not leaving any food or trash, even fruit peels, in the jungle, since human diseases are so easily spread to orangutans.  Interacting with Mina was the only time I saw them worried and/or even a bit stressed:


After our Mina adventure we trekked on... our guides were pretty awesome, stopping to point out interesting plants, including cinnamon (called "kayu manis" or "sweet wood" in Bahasa Indonesia), cloves, a white tree called "kayu putih" (white wood) or "malu tua" (embarrassed to be old) because it sheds its older bark, revealing bright white birch-like bark.  This one below should be a favorite of G&T drinkers, as it's the tree whose bark contains quinine, the anti-malarial compound found in tonic water.  Our guide, Jakka, whose English was otherwise great, pronounced it "queen-een."  We helped him with his pronunciation a bit... 

After a bit, we stopped at a lovely little waterfall for a lunch of nasi goreng (fried rice) and fruit:


We were joined for lunch by some friends:

After lunch we soldiered on.  I "gave" Jakka camera duties... i.e. I had him take the camera because the climbing we were doing was a bit strenuous:

You may notice that we are sweaty.  So sweaty.  I cannot accurately describe to you how humid it was in this forest... all I can say is that we used the restroom at 9 am before leaving the inn, and none of us had to go again until 9 pm despite drinking a ton of water and tea.  

Here is the hand-over-hand climbing I mentioned, although I am pretty sure the photos don't really capture just how steep/muddy/slippery it truly was:

But the views from the top were lovely:

Colleen + absurdly large tree = cute:

Jakka took some "seksi" photos of Simon while he had the camera:

And some decidedly less sexy photos of us:

Ahhhhhhh, finally we made it to the river again, to our campsite:

The campsite consisted of several tents made from bamboo and plastic sheeting... they didn't look like much, but later that night when there was torrential rain for several hours, not a drip came in the tent!

Below is a view of the riverside cooking tent.  Our great cook didn't trek with us, but instead took the more direct river route straight to the campsite with the food.  I can't remember his name, but our cook was easily recognizable because he walked around the campsite clad only in his underwear.  To each his own, I guess.  He cooked a mean dinner, so I don't mind!

The riverside jungle views were just gorgeous, particularly with the mist thing that was happening:

The view from our tent... not too shabby!:

After some riverside lounging/rinsing off, it started to get dark and a bit rainy.  Our guides and cook treated us to a lovely candlelight dinner in the tent... rice, veggie curry, spicy sambal tempeh and tofu.  Yum:

After a long night (the ground was a bit hard), we woke up in the morning to the sounds of the jungle:

We were joined at breakfast by this lovely fellow (gag) below.  As a size reference, please note that he is almost as long as my footprint in the second photo.  Ew.:

This 5 foot long monitor lizard also made an appearance by our cook's tent, hoping to grab a piece of leftover toast (not pictured is the band of greedy macaques that emerged from the jungle, stole a bunch of food from a neighboring campsite and then mocked the guides from the trees):

Aaaand, that was our fun-filled jungle trek.  Coming soon: our morning jaunt to the waterfall and our tubing trip back to Bukit Lawang!


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