Men of the Forest

My last island in Indonesia was Sumatra, one of the indigenous homes of the orangutans. The orangutans in Sumatra have more protection than in Borneo (so I’m told) so as well as the wild ones, they also have semi wild orangutans being looked after by the rehabilitation centre in Bukit Lewang, where they get them healthy and then gradually give them less food every day to encourage them to go off and find their own dinner in the jungle. It’s possible to go and watch the morning feed at the rehabilitation centre, but if you feel like punishing your legs the top thing to do here is a guided jungle trek, on which you’re pretty much guaranteed to see several up close.

I’d originally planned to do a one day hike, sadly being a solo traveller bit me in the arse again with its private tour costs so I joined a German guy and a couple (not an actual couple, not that the guide believed that for a second) from Holland* on a two day trek. The first day was brilliant, we must have seen about 10 orangutans, including several babies. The hiking was tough, but doable. Unfortunately the second day went a bit downhill -almost literally – the guide gave us the option of doing a couple of hours hiking, then a waterfall and home or just straight to the waterfall. Well, we’d paid for two days so we picked the hiking. I think he was a bit disappointed that we picked this option as the hiking really didn’t seem very planned out and he seemed to be rushing us the whole way. Given that the paths on day two were much steeper, narrower and more slippery, this didn’t give us the greatest feeling of safety when he was striding so far ahead as not to notice us falling down the mountain. Even when I asked him to slow down and pay attention to his group. Hmm, not surprisingly Tom didn’t get a tip from us. But hey! Back to the good stuff!

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Taking a break on the trek – I believe this was just after I’d found a leech in my shorts, about half an inch away from being inside my underwear. Long shorts mind, and pretty thick fabric, so god knows how it managed to get there. That one bled a lot too. I actually still have a mark there nearly 3 weeks later (oh, hadn’t realised I was quite that behind)

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First time camping in four months. These looked like the most luxurious beds in the world by the time we got there.

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Our transport back to town. Fun for the first few minutes but there are a lot of calm spots between the rapids and when tubing you’re just lying down unable to do any paddling to help the boat move along faster. I think I prefer rafting, which is surprising to me seeing as I am not the world’s biggest fan of unnecessary exercise.

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Lots of wildlife on display in the jungle, including peacocks,

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tortoises,

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highly poisonous snakes,

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and fecking huge ants.

But of course you’re all waiting to see the orangutans, so without further ado, meet the family.

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By the by, if any of my readership are looking for hairstyle inspiration, this is the Thomas leaf monkey. You are welcome. (Male readership more appropriate, I think you really need the mutton chops to complete the look)

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*Out of all the people I’ve met since travelling independently Germans and Dutch far outnumber anyone else. I wonder why that is? In fact I was working out on the way back down the river that I’d only met one other English traveller since leaving the Madventure group, which makes me really sad that more English people don’t travel. Of course, immediately after working that out I met Dave from Southampton and spent the evening playing Scrabble with him and some locals. Playing Scrabble with locals is surprisingly hard as they insist that every word played had to be in their English to  Indonesian dictionary (the jungle rules bible). It’s incredibly frustrating playing a perfectly legitimate English word then having it disqualified because it’s not in there. This is the handicap we get for coming from a country which is traditionally too lazy to learn other languages though.

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