capn_n_pye: (Pye)
[personal profile] capn_n_pye
The time had rolled around again wherein it was Pye’s turn to take students to Indonesia
The Wednesday before the Sunday they were due to fly out saw one of the staff withdraw, but fortunately Byron was on had to take over, and that was literally the only thing that went wrong, phew! While we are telling spoilers, the kids were high-maintenance and annoying, but not giant arseholes, so sometimes that’s the best a tour leader can hope for. Anyhoo, Byron grabbed his passport, shoved his toothbrush in a sock and jumped on the Gull Bus with us at 4:30am, which was terribly kind of him. The grabbing of the passport also put him a step ahead of one of the staff on the Italian trip, who made their bus turn around and go home when he realised he had neglected to pack it, but we won’t tell tales here, will we, heh heh.

We headed straight for Yogyakarta and were both relieved and surprised when our connecting flight and luggage were all fine. The very first activity involved getting up at 3am to be at Borobudur for sunrise, whee! The children were not very much comforted by the fact their body-clock would have thought it was 6am, but Moose was happy to take the opportunity to once again make a pest of himself and tell dirty jokes to his Buddha bro.
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There is no small amount of waiting that has to take place while the sun takes its own sweet time getting up, so Moose also incited the students to trot around and try and get photos of the worst possible fashion choices they could find – seeing as it was a holiday and there place was crowded within an inch of its life, there were many people to choose from.

Just like on the last trip to Yoyga, we then went to the nearby village of Candirejo, where we rode around in andong, had a go at making cassava kerupuk and played gamelan, when not distracted by the giant testicles on the village goats.
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We also hit up Candi Pawan and Candi Mendut, remnants of the giant Buddhist complex that had Borobudur at its centre. It is safe to say that the students were much more excited by the visit to the Alphamart after dinner!

Undeterred, the next day we forced them to be interested in the Pramanan temple complex. Moose enjoyed looking around, reacquainting himself with Ganesha and extending his bad influence to Lil Iggy…
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… and the students enjoyed feeling like rock-stars, with the domestic tourists to Prambanan engaging in a spot of Bule Hunting.
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In the afternoon we headed out the a Wildlife Rescue Centre in Kulon Progo, to see if anything had changed in the two years since our last visit. Unfortunately, aside from one fewer orangutan in residence (presumed dead), nothing much had. We presented them with a medium-sized donation cheque, even though someone had cocked up the dates and they didn’t know we were coming, so we only got the shit tour. Hopefully the Year 10s will remember some of what they saw by the time they get up to doing their detailed study in Year 12, but given what I now know about them, I’d be more impressed if they could remember what they had for dinner last night…

Our next day was our ‘hang around Yogya’ day, beginning with a visit to the Kraton (the Sultan’s Palace, dull as, but compulsory, alas), the nearby Taman Sari water palace and underground mosque. Byron once again took the opportunity to become a tukang becak, which people he rode past found fricken hilarious (even if the becak’s normal driver remained unmoved).
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Yogya is also pretty proud of the Pasar Burung Ngasem Bird Market, which might also be renamed ‘Depressing Animal Prison for Sad Animals’. Moose wanted to ask the baby otters if he could help them escape into the drains, but they were too intimidated by him to listen properly.
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Next we let the students stimulate the local economy on Jalan Malioboro. When asked their opinion of that, they confirmed that they were, indeed, big fans…
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They were less impressed with the durian flavoured donut discovered at Dunkin Donuts and shoved in their faces with malicious glee, but school trips are all about educational experiences.

That was the extent of our Javanese stay, as we steam-rolled on to contrast Java with another island. A Year 11 boy and his junior crew made us all prouder than we ever thought we could be by hanging back and getting Lil Iggy to meet the pilot of our Jakarta-Medan leg of the flight. The Singaporean pilot was also delighted and kept shouting 'There's a dingo in my cockpit!'
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We dashed straight from Medan to Parapat, on the shores of Lake Toba. The hotel was a very weird little place, much more Indonesian than the pristine hotel of Yogya, with WIFI only in the restaurant – you’ve never seen a group of kids lose their shit faster. One was heard to ask worriedly, “But what happens if we don’t have WIFI at the next place???” Calm down!

Having been admonished to abandon their ‘Elderly Japanese Tourist Mode’ and engage ‘Hipster Backpacker Mode’, we boarded a boat to hit up the main sights of Samosir island. First stop was the village of Ambarita, with its monolithic kings’ seats of judgment, a place that was so popular that dozens of other tourists were also there (which was a big contrast to last time, when we had the place to ourselves).
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Also different to last time was the inclusion of some traditional dancing for everyone to join in with. This version of Toba Batak dancing did nothing to change the notion that the ‘dance’ was actually invented when some olde villagers were shuffling home drunk from the pub, got busted and convinced everyone what they were doing was a dance. Anyhoo, Moose did his time in the village jail…
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… and risked poking his head out near the sacrificial stones – last year a grabby pregnant lady tried to moose-nap him there, which really shook him up, but he was pretty brave when facing his fears.

The next stop was Desa Tomok, where the kids were distinctly underwhelmed by the olde Batak Toba tombs (a situation which wasn’t helped by our elderly guide’s lack of charisma and quiet voice), before hitting the road (lake), returning to the mainland and continuing the road trip to Berastagi.

Along the way there was the obligatory stop at the tribal kings’ house of the Simalungun Batak in Pematang Purba…
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… which is slowly crumbling due to neglect, and Sipiso-piso waterfall, where Moose proved again what a classy gremlin he is.
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Berastagi is basically just a halfway point to break up the trip to Bukit Lawang, but there is a fruit market to ignore, and the hotel we stayed in had a whacky playground out the back, which was fun. The first time we came to Sumatra and stayed in that hotel we had a wee earthquake in the middle of the night, and the guide kept telling us about how both of the nearby volcanoes keep erupting and killing people, but we made it out in one piece.

The final stop on the adventure was Bukit Lawang, to stalk elephants and orangutans. They no longer do feeding platforms for the released orangutans, so if you want to see any, you have to go on a bit of a hike. One of the girls was feeling terribly ill (she had vomited four whole times in the space of 48 hours, poor sweetheart), so we made her go to bed and conserve her strength. Having wandered around the jungle in search of orangutans before, Pye heroically stayed back with her (or rather, once she was put to bed, Pye went to the Eco Lodge across the river to use the internet and confuse the overly excitable waiter who remembered Stinky from the year before).

The intrepid orangutan hunters spent a good four hours in the jungle, and were rewarded with spotting two mothers with their babies. Byron had a spiritual moment when Ratna and her baby came down to stare significantly at the humans in the expectation of some food. Oh, and she farted at the same time, what a great lady!
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Byron found the combination of soulful eyes, red hair and audible flatulence utterly bewitching, and was unimpressed to learn that Ratna is the only known case of an orangutan going cannibal, a fact that was documented by the bloke from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) who came out to give us a talk and accept a giant cheque representing the students’ fundraising efforts.
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The jungle trek also yielded other animals, including snakes, macaques and a photogenic Thomas’s Leaf Monkey, which started a caption competition…
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Other offering included, "I don't know where the toilet is, let me use my magic powers to find out"; "Will there be a rice for dinner?"; and "When you put too much confidence in a fart". Pye chose to not include, “When you go to the toilet and are surprised that it’s a squat” because she was working hard to not be disappointed in the students’ lack of resilience.

In order to stalk elephants, we jumped into jeeps to take 2½ hours to travel the 16km to Tangkahan (so glad to see that the palm oil industry is benefiting the local communities *cough cough*). Pye again confused a local by not being Stinky (in this case it was the lady at the visitor centre) and for a change all the students enjoyed the same activity at the same time! We followed the elephants down to the river, where the mahouts first cleared out their bums…
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… before washing the elephants…
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… and letting them wash us back…
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Then there was nothing left but to celebrate one of the students’ 16th birthday before spending the next day going home, via Medan (featuring the same shitty mall where Moose got his cool shirt last year) and Jakarta’s shiny new airport. When everything has gone smoothly for the rest of a trip, we always expect for something to go wrong on the final leg, but we didn’t miss any connections, everyone’s luggage arrived and customs waved us through with barely a second glance, hooray for everything!

July 2017

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