Sumatra day 9 -Medan
Today we toured some of the cultural sites of Medan with Zulham and his family. The first stop was the Grand Mosque. When we entered the grounds, we saw a school group looking at some of the signs around the mosque. The teacher approached us and asked if we could take some pictures with them. The elementary students were dressed in the standard red uniform, which added a nice contrast to the black roofed mosque. After taking many pictures with us, we all headed inside the mosque.
The Grand Mosque was built in 1906 and opened to the public in 1910 for worship. The Moorish architecture uses Italian marble in its construction, and is composed of contrasting white and green stones, with the black roof. Ths inside has separate male and female worship areas. We walked around the inside, took more photos of the various arches, and other stone structures, and then headed to the nearby Maimun Palace.
The Maimun Palace was constructed by the Sultan of Deli in the late 1880s, and is a blend of European and Moorish architecture and design. It is primarily a museum today, and is furnished with period pieces from the time of the rule of the Sultan.
After visiting the Palace we visited another CWY alumnus, who spent time in Smithers BC in 1983 and now now runs a school amongst other ventures.
We then headed to see Panute, another alumnus who started an Orangutan conservation society as well as a kindergarten school in his village. He did his Masters in the UK and met the Queen, the first non governmental Indonesian to do so. We joined him for lunch at a nearby restaurant where he told us more about his program. The lunch was probably the best meal we had on the trip. It was a Padang style restaurant, with an excellent array of fresh food.
Panute took Raida to the airport for her return flight to Pekan Baru, and we drove on to Bukit Lawang with Zulham, his wife and son.
The narrow winding road had a fair bit of traffic. It took us almost three hours from Medan to get to Bukit Lawang.
This was a quiet village that focused on foreign tourists. We asked where Green Hill was located and were told about 1km down the path. A guy offered to carry a bag for 30,000 Rp. I thought that we extreme given the cost of the accommodation but would have considered paying it after walking the 1km with the bag. Zulham helped carry some of the luggage so it made it a bit better. Our room was up some more stairs overlooking the river and facing the jungle. Quite a nice room with a huge bathroom.
Had my first beer of the trip here. No signs of Islam here. We ate dinner at the restaurant and then met up with Mbra, one of the owners, who was to be our guide in the overnight jungle trek. Seemed very casual as he didn’t seem to know that we had made the booking. However, it was not a problem as we paid our money and everything would be taken care of, which it was.
Sumatra day 10
Today was the trip to Bukit Kencir and the nearby jungle.
We met the two motorcycle riders at 9am, who took us to Bukit Kencir. It was my first ride on a motorcycle and I was impressed with how smooth the shocks made the ride seem, as these were rough roads that we went over. I was also impressed with the ability to go up some pretty steep hills with two of us on the bike. I was all set to look at getting one, but the ride back had us pass by two trucks and I realized that sniffing fumes for a long time was not my idea of fun.
We got to the village of Bukit Kencir and met up with Mbra. He and the two guys that drove us would be guiding us and looking after setting up the camp. The main local guide, Mintin, seemed to know the jungle very well, as we lost trail a few times due to overgrowth and he always found it again.
The first part of the trek was uphill. The temperature was in the low 30Cs, but high humidity. We were both sweating profusely on the uphill. Saw some unusual plants and herd cicadas and monkeys but didn’t see any larger animals. Saw quite a few Orangutan nests, but didn’t see any of them.
We had a few leech encounters, and Mbra poured tobacco juice over our legs and shoes, which seemed to work at keeping the leeches away.
Got to the river by about 1pm and set up camp. This reminded me of Jamaica, and I explored the river for about 20 minutes, after soaking in the cool water.
We had lunch – nasi goreng, and then went on a walkabout in the jungle for 45 minutes. During this hike we felt a moderate earthquake. We had no idea where this was centered or how strong it was. Needless to say our familiaes in Canada and elsewhere were freaking out about this and a possible tsunami. We were probably tint eh best location for surviving an earthquake in Sumatra, as were were far from any buildings or the ocean, and quite self sufficient with food and water for a few days.
I worked up such a sweat during the hike that I went for another soak in the river. The guides had a freshly killed chicken that they brought from the village, and proceeded to defeather it, singe the hairs, and then chop it up for cooking. We had fried chicken, chicken curry, rice and vegetables for dinner. We cleaned up in the nick of time, as it started to rain around 7pm, and continued most of the night. We had a lean to with tarps, but a very thin mat , which was the hardest surface I had slept on in a long time. We should have brought the Thermarest! I slept better than I thought I did, as I didn’t feel tired the next day.
Sumatra day 11
The rain stopped. Surprisingly, the river was only a bit higher than the day before, and the ground while wet, was not saturated. We got up around 6am at first light and had breakfast, nasi goreng. We were not too keen on trekking for too long, as we wanted to see the Orangutan feeding at 3pm.
We packed up and headed out by 9am. We went a different way back, saw more plants, including one with a bright orange fruit, and stopped every 5 minutes to do a leech check. Marg had leech bite her in the upper thigh, which created a real mess on her pants in a potentially embarrassing location.
We trekked out, stopped for a pineapple break after a couple of hours. This was the best pineapple I had eaten in a long time. We carried on, crossing two rivers and then reaching the edge of the forest where there was a rubber plantation. The trees were cut, and bled white sap which would be processed into rubber. I got a nice leech bit on my back, which bled into my shirt and backpack strap.
We reached the village around 12:30, waited for a few minutes and then got on the motorcycles for the ride back. About half way back we ran out of gas on my motorcycle, but were able to siphon enough to get us back to Bukit Lawang.
We bought the permits for the feeding, headed back to Green Hill. Had a shower, soaked our clothes, and then had a quick lunch before heading to the feeding.
The feeding station access was down the trail and across a river by wired canoe. This was an interesting way of getting across but seem effective. We made it by 2:55, and then joined the 25 other tourists up a trail to the feeding area. We had been met the entrance by an Orangutan in a tree who seemed to pose for the cameras.
At the feeding station we saw 5 more, including a male, a mother and baby and a couple others. They seemed to pose a lot, and we all got some incredible pictures of these animals from as close as 20 ft away. Truly amazing – including the very human expressions on their faces.
Headed back to Green Hill, had a beer and snacks on the patio and hung up our clothes. We hung out that afternoon. Marg had plan of eating elsewhere, but it started raining around 5pm and kept on going. We then had a power cut which lasted around an hour. We had dinner at 7:30, and then turned in for the night.