• Home
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Print
  • Art
  • Photos
  • Live
  • Features
  • About
  • Sale
  • Instagram
  •  

    Tropical Storm Tour: Sumatra Part 20

    Sunday, August 23, 2015
    Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia

    A coffee seller makes her pitch in a village near the Rafflesia flower north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A coffee seller makes her pitch in a village near the Rafflesia flower north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Hiking through a valley toward the Rafflesia flower north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Hiking through a valley toward the Rafflesia flower north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Rice fields near the Rafflesia flower north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Rice fields near the Rafflesia flower north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    I hired a guide name Armando, who frequently hangs around the Hello Guesthouse, for 80,000 rupiah ($5.78) to give me a lift on a motorcycle 10 kilometers north of Bukittinggi to a small village called Obyek Wisata Bunga Raflesia that is known as the gateway to the Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower. After weaving in and out of the hectic Indonesian traffic and narrowly missing a head-on collision with a big ol’ bus or two on a 180 degree hairpin turn, we finally pulled into the narrow lanes of the quaint little village.

    Hiking through a jungle toward the Rafflesia flower north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Hiking through a jungle toward the Rafflesia flower north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    The magnificent Rafflesia flower north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The magnificent Rafflesia flower north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    The Rafflesia flower hangs out on a cliff in the jungle north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Rafflesia flower hangs out on a cliff in the jungle north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Our first stop was at a small home / shop where people produced homemade coffee and tea. Straight away, a petite, smiley lady came out and gave a long, detailed presentation about how the coffee was made with the help of droppings from a small mammal called the civet. At 200,000 rupiah ($14.45) for a small package, the coffee was quite expensive–even by Western standards. I didn’t buy any, because I’ve always hated the taste of coffee. The two other foreign visitors who were there also declined to make a purchase, forking over a small amount for a cup each instead.

    The magnificent Rafflesia flower--shown here with a human for scale--north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The magnificent Rafflesia flower–shown here with a human for scale–north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    A weathered wall near the Rafflesia flower north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A weathered wall near the Rafflesia flower north of Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia..

    Fruit sellers in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Fruit sellers in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Next, a local guide, whose name I didn’t catch, took me on a short motorcycle ride to a trailhead, where we disembarked and hiked onto a narrow trail that meandered through a lush valley filled with bright green rice fields and small shacks dotting a few picturesque farms. As we entered the jungle, the terrain became more challenging and technical with occasional climbs over rocks, tree roots and up or down steep. slippery mud slopes. After approximately 45 minutes, we arrived at some waterfalls that were cascading down a huge rock face. Next to it, a few yards away, the splendor of the glowing red Rafflesia flower took me by surprise.

    A young lady channels Alice Cooper in front of the clocktower in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A young lady channels Alice Cooper in front of the clocktower in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    A thrashed wall in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A thrashed wall in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    A street musician drones away on a traditional Minangkabau instrument in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A street musician drones away on a traditional Minangkabau instrument in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    There were actually two of the flowers nestled together 15 feet up on a muddy cliff. It was precarious climbing up there, as the whole face of the cliff was composed of wet mud. Luckily, there were a few vines to grab onto, or we may have never succeeded. It was amazing to get up close and personal with the world’s biggest flower, to feel its rubber-like texture and stare into the eye of its deep crimson floral hurricane. There’s no other way to say it: the Rafflesia flower looked straight up primeval! As I peppered the guide with questions, I learned that this flower only blooms for about a week or so, then dies. At that point, the guide has to search several local jungles until he finds a newly-blooming one elsewhere to take visitors to.

    Four Muslim beauty queens in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Four Muslim beauty queens in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    A couple of sweet signs in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A couple of sweet signs in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    A carving of a traditional Minangkabau woman in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A carving of a traditional Minangkabau woman in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia..

    As we made our way back through the rough terrain of the jungle toward the trailhead, I was taken aback at how the guide casually sauntered along with his hands clasped behind his back as if he were on an evening stroll down the boardwalk. Yet somehow, I could not keep up with him no matter how fast I walked. The fact that I was wearing hiking boots and he was wearing flip-flops didn’t even matter, because this little man was a lean, green walking machine! After I paid him his 50,000 rupiah ($3.61), he sped off on his motorcycle and left me to walk back to the village. Funnily enough, Armando showed up a minute later and whisked me back to Bukittinggi. On the way out of the village, I noticed some kind of info center on the Rafflesia. I wish we could have stopped there, but it was already too late. We passed it, and I didn’t feel like asking Armando to backtrack.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *