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    Tropical Storm Tour: Sumatra Part 12

    Saturday, August 15, 2015
    Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia

    Mother and child in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Mother and child in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Alex takes a rest break in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Alex takes a rest break in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    At 8:00 am, an old Australian guy knocked on my door and started asking questions about the quality of my room. He mentioned he was traveling with his family and was looking for a place to stay. Basically, I told him Fido Dido was a little bit on the pricey side, but was worth it because it was a really clean place. After a little more chit chat, he shook hands with me, which was nice, except for the fact that he was brandishing a clammy, sweaty hand. As soon as I closed the door, I marched straight into the bathroom and washed my hands.

    A tiny Wagler's pit viper in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A tiny Wagler’s pit viper in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Around 9:00 am, I met my guide out in front of the trekking agency’s office down the lane from Fido Dido Guesthouse. As it turned out, the guide I talked to yesterday when I booked my trek assigned his brother, a much older man–probably in his 60s–to me. He was small and seemed pretty mellow, unlike his brother, which was a relief. After I slathered on some mosquito repellant, we crossed a footbridge over the river to a guesthouse, where we joined another traveler, Alex, from New Zealand. He had his own guide, because he planned to trek for five or six hours, while I was only scheduled for three.

    A creek bed in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A creek bed in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    After passing by a few more guesthouses, we entered a small opening into the thick of the jungle. Straight away, we began a steep ascent up the side of a ridge, followed by a seemingly never-ending roller coaster of up-and-down climbing and descending hills. Some of these faces were incredibly steep, pitched up at 60 to 70 degrees, easily. Climbing up tree roots embedded in the trails as if they were ladders, grasping vines on the way back down as if they were handrails, slipping on the ever-present mud, it was all a great workout.

    Orangutans in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Orangutans in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    I had no idea the trekking would be this technical. It was both challenging and fun at the same time. I wish I would have left my messenger bag with all of my valuable electronic gadgets locked up in my room, as it really slowed me down during the climbing sections. But, at least I still have it! Also, my whole shirt and, especially, my pants were completely soaked with sweat. It looked like I had just dove into a swimming pool.

    The trail heads up a tree root step ladder in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The trail heads up a tree root step ladder in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    A couple of different times, we spotted orangutans way up in the trees, probably 50 to 75 feet straight above us. I somehow managed to snap a pic of one hanging out with its baby. From the looks of the photo, I don’t think National Geographic will be calling anytime soon. We also saw a Thomas leaf monkey and several macaques, one of which was also toting an adorable baby. At one point, I heard the strange electronic-like whine of cicadas. I wanted to record it so badly, but I accidentally left my mic back in the room. Argh! Next, Alex and his guide spotted a three-foot long monitor lizard in a stream, but it was gone by the time we got there. Double argh!

    Two local Indonesian guides and Alex take a break in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Two local Indonesian guides and Alex take a break in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    A couple of hours into the trek, we stopped at a T intersection, where the two guides laid out some fruit for us to nibble on while we took a much-needed break for 15 or 20 minutes. As we sat there, I spotted a really bright brownish red little critter that looked like a cross between a squirrel and an anteater. At that point, my guide and I went one way on the T, while Alex and his guide went the other, as my trek was only three hours and his was way longer. After several more extreme ups and downs past looping vines, a huge fallen tree and even an enclosed pavilion (maybe for camping?), we finally made our final descent into the valley of Bukit Lawang village.

    A gnarly jungle scene in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A gnarly jungle scene in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    As we walked up to Junia Guesthouse, I told my guide I was going to head in there to eat. He hit me up for a tip, but I declined, because I felt like I had already paid enough for a three-hour trek and did not get exactly what I requested when I booked it, which was a trek with a licensed guide who spoke good English to explain the sights that I would see in Gunung Leseur National Park. Before the trek started, I asked my guide if he would show me his license, but he said he left it at home. I also requested that we go through the gate of the park, but we just walked straight into the jungle, possibly because he wanted to pocket the money that was supposed to pay for the pass that I provided my name and passport number for yesterday and never received.

    It's all uphill from here--okay, not really--in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    It’s all uphill from here–okay, not really–in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Although the guide did talk a little bit about a few of the sights and animals we saw, I got the feeling he was probably unofficial and operating on the sly. But, I’ll never know for sure. Maybe he does have a license. Who knows? If I ever do another trek anywhere again, I’m not going to wing it like I did in Bukit Lawang. I’m going to book it online ahead of time with a reputable agency that gets good reviews. Having said all of that, the trek itself was still fun and rewarding both mentally and physically, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the great outdoors and finds themselves in North Sumatra.

    A fallen giant in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A fallen giant in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    After lunch at Junia, I headed over to my room at Fido Dido to take a much-needed shower and wash my clothes, which were completely chock-full of sweat and mud. Much to my dismay, the Australian guy, his wife and three little kids had moved into the room right next to mine. I was not looking forward to hours and hours of shouting, shrieking and screaming–both at night and early in the morning. Luckily, they went out to eat dinner for a good long while and only made noise for an hour or so before bedtime around 10:00 pm. From about 11:00 pm until past midnight, a crazy amount of motorcycles kept driving by Fido Dido, heading up the hill. I figured there must have been a big shindig going on. Right after that, I fell into a blissful sleep under the mosquito net with the fan aimed right on me.

    Spiraling vines in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Spiraling vines in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

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