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Term one holidays apparently seem to mean we go to Indonesia with family, so to up the ante, this time we took not just Andru, Robyn and the kids, but also D’admiral and Chuckles.
(also, to enlarge pictures slightly, click on them)
 Last year we had to leave G-Town ridiculously early, so were pleased by this year’s civilized morning departure (and we had cleverly taken care not to be hungover this time #sowise).

 Everyone else also cleverly made it to the airport, and Singapore Airlines cleverly departed as scheduled, unlike other airlines we might mention *cough*Jestar*cough* not that we’re still bitter or anything.

 With eight of us on board, we took up a whole row, bar one seat (hello, hapless rando!)…

 …and the cunning plan seemed to all be coming together!

We think it’s safe to say that Singapore airport is the best, chuck out the rest – it’s pretty nice how they treat passengers like human beings and provide all sorts of entertainment and balms for the soul. We had just enough time to stalk some schmetterling and have extremely expensive libations before the final quick jump across to Medan.

We were basically repeating the Great Inaugural Sumatran Adventure that we did with Adele and Carlo back in January of 2012, even to the extent that we had the same room at Hotel Deli River.

Adele still dreams of their splendid breakfasts, and in the morning we were pleased to find that was also still the same.

 Thus fortified, and in the capable hands of Erwin the Driver, we struck forth for Bohorok and Bukit Lawang, part of Gunung Leuser nature reservation. Travel times in Sumatra are always lengthy, on account of lots of traffic and appalling roads, so you have to find ways to entertain yourself. These Star Wars themed bottles were a splendid marketing idea for the Aqua tycoons…

 … and at a random market-stop, we learned the inexplicable practice of dipping lil chickens in bright colours extends across all of Indonesia…

Bukit Lawang and the Ecolodge, with its Indiana Jonesy access-bridge is always cool…

And we pretty much straight away went orangutan huntin’ – what better way to stretch one’s legs after a long drive?

It probably would have been a lot nicer if it were not persistently raining, but we were strong and resilient enough to not shrink from getting wet. Since we were on the edge of national park and world-famous eco-tourism destination, naturally there were rubber plantations to walk through first. The kids were just as fascinated as you’d expect by the process of collecting the latex...


…and we regaled them with the Tale of Mina and how the cranky-pants post-trauma orangutan chased us in 2012. Monkeys and gibbons and orangutans are apparently smarter than Australians, though, and our guide was not too optimistic of our chances of finding life any more exciting than fungus…


We eventually realised that needn’t have been concerned, thanks to the fact all  the local guides stay in touch, and as soon as one finds a ranga, they call their mates. Surya, our guide (whose name ironically means ‘sunshine’) got a hot tip of a mamma and baby nearby, and sure enough, we found her. Surya went down the path a-ways, then came legging it back at an unseemly pace.

“It’s Mina!” Surya said, “Run!”


“FAAAAARRRRRKKK!” said the children (but they phrased it differently), and we belatedly realised we probably
should have toned down our storytelling.


“Don’t worry!” Surya reassured us, a little further down the path, “She’s up in the tree now!”



Then she came down to the ground.


Fortunately, we were ready and knew exactly what to do next.


Thus began the game of the guides keeping an eye on Mina, calling us back, shooing us away, calling us back, telling us to run. She’s 45 years old with a 4 year old, so you’d be cranky too if it were raining and stupid-looking humans kept stinking up the place. We were pretty sure if she tried anything with us that Chuckles wouldn’t hesitate to punch on with her and valiantly defend her family until the end. Mina might have a
reach and weight advantage, but Chuckles wouldn’t be afraid to fight dirty or hit the baby* (“Nonna would totally punch a baby if it deserved it! That’s how I got my birthmark!” volunteered the Powder Monkey).
So thanks to having the right team on board, we were all perfectly safe and got to see a wild orangutan grumpily try to keep her hair dry in the rain.


*Chuckles has agreed that she would fight a ranga, but she wouldn’t punch a baby**

**well,not that baby***

***and probably not human babies. But macaques, jerks, and other arseholes are fair game, and they will almost certainly ask for it. MOOSE ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION??


Well, maybe we weren’t all perfectly safe – the soles of Robyn’s vintage sneakers decided that they’d like to stay in the jungle and gently slid off, one after the other.


She wasn’t too upset, since they were 17 years old, and Surya was more than happy to take them (it was a weird tip, but he was up for it). We thought for sure that at least one of us would go A over T in the mud as we were coming out of the jungle, but surprisingly, we all remained upright and un-muddied.

Upon returning to the Ecolodge and drying off (who would have thought we'd get cold on the walk?!), we joined the monkeys in the restaurant area and its upstairs chill space. The beanbag beans tell an
eloquent story of destruction that delighted us, although we refrained from joining our hosts in eating the beanbag beans.

The next day we again decided that staying dry was for suckers, so it was time to go rafting on the Wampu River, after first greeting the polite and well behaved Thomas Leaf Monkey at breakfast.

The journey to the entry point takes almost as long as the rafting itself, sitting in the back of a van (or in the case of our crew, on top of one – the Powder Monkey declined the offer to join them).

We made a brief stop to pick Stinky up from where she tumbled out on a corner in a local village to arrange lunch and wave at the locals. Old guy asked where we were going, and Stinky replied, ‘jalan jalan saja’ (just walking). He turned to the woman next to him and demanded to know from here where we were going. ‘They’re just walking!' she said. ‘How do you know? Where are they going?’ ‘That white chick just told you, they’re just walking!’ ‘But how do you know?!’

We trundled through mile upon mile of palm oil plantations, waving at the various colonies of road cows and trying not to get bogged. The cows are a pack (herd) of idiots, who hang out on the road like morons, sometimes trying to climb over each other. We only saw one that had been unlucky and must have been skittled by something -she was just standing there with her ribs all exposed,like nothing was wrong, ahhh pls go to a vet!

As there were so many palm oil plantations, it was a nice break to stop and see how the palm oil is harvested – those dudes are strong! Also, did you know that aside from the obvious environmental implications of un-restrained palm oil plantations, that each palm draws at least 70 litres of water a day? Now, we know a lot of rain falls around here (Pye's hat and bra alone absorbed at least that amount on the ranga hunt), but surely that [rafting-tour-leader-provided] fact alone should be a warning of an unsustainable product! And again, we are compelled to ask why none of the seemingly endless profit generated by this incredibly useful plant seems to have been invested into the local community, hmmm why is that?

Eventuallywe came to the entry point and kitted up, while admiring the confluence and dodging around the chubby bee who was trying like crazy to make love to Chuckles’ shorts.

After a thorough and detailed safety briefing (lol, yeah right!), we were off! Thanks to all the rain we’d been walking around in, the river was a lot, lot, lot higher than in 2012 (it’s almost like it’s the wet season or something). This just meant that we got to our first stop quickly and with minimal paddling, score! The hot springs were just as stinky as we remembered, though it was harder to swim this time, given the current.

It was delightful having the whole river to ourselves, and we quickly spotted the promised monitor lizards, kingfishers, eagles and monkeys. We also observantly saw the new dam being built, with the water rushing through fast enough to cause concern even for Indonesians. They took the raft through without us (almost flipping it in the process, apparently!), while the rest of us hoofed it round the building site to get back in on the other side. Safety first!


 We were a little bit slow getting around to the re-launch spot, on account of running into an impressive patch of a putri malu plant and getting sidetracked with making it all close, despite its spikes, but pfft, who is in a rush anyway, this is important.

When the raft-guides who weren’t risking their lives getting the raft through the dishwasher expressed concern that the children and their aunties weren’t at the rendezvous, they were sagely told ‘They found that poo-tree plant and will be some time’. And we were, and it was worth it. And we’d do it again! Also, we were very, very grateful we weren’t navigating some rafts though the washing machine below!

Outside of the Death Channel there were lots of bouncy rapids to enjoy and it’s hard to think that we’d ever get tired of splooshing around. We have held the memory of the lunch stop dear since 2012, so we were delighted to find we had not exaggerated it in our memories. There was the cool waterfall to tool around under, and a veritable feast laid before us.

Moose took the opportunity to pop out of the waterproof bag and make a pest of himself, but what else is new?

Prior to lunch the Cabin Girl and Andru were in a separate raft, but they quickly learned it was leaky as a sieve – but then they also learned that their endlessly ingenious crew could and would pump it up on the fly!

Consequently, post-lunch we were all in together in one party boat, whoo!

Dede the Raft Boss (who happened to be the same guide as last time!) enjoyed entertaining the kids along the way, but probably regretted telling us all we could flop out of the raft and swim when the time came to get us all back in, lol.

(That splash there is Chuckles not losing her glasses while jumping in). Upon attempting re-entry of the raft, while not graceful, we were at least successful, which was rather a relief, since if we’d washed off down the river we would have missed out on hanging out with elephants the next day.

do so, we got up stupidly early and spent another ridiculously long time on
terrible roads to get to the small village of Tangkahan. It was a logging village in the past, but now is a conservation centre for rescued Sumatran elephants. The lady in the shop remembered Pye from last September (just as she’d remembered Stinky from the previous one!), so it was a bit like a reunion
AND she was quite excited to see us both at the same time (we might have been the same person, lying to her, after all, so it was nice to disprove that particularly plausible conspiracy theory
). After the traditional Awful and Weird Indonesian Packed Breakfast Box and a Nice Cup of Tea, we all followed the elephants down to the river, whereupon they got the poo manually extracted from their rectums before having a play (only one started to get washed off downstream before he noticed where he was going). 

One of the little bubbas was feeling rambunctious and made a break for it on land, which was a delightful touch.


 Play time over, we tourists got down to the serious scrubber business…

…Followed by snack time…


…being a lil idiot time…

and lots of snuffley splurty kissies time.

Ifonly they could fix the damn access roads, more people would have the fun we

The thing about getting up ridiculously early is that it feels like you’ve done a full day’s work by lunchtime. Post-elephant washing lunch seems to always be across the river at Mega Inn, a simple and frills-less place where Stinky and her girls stayed in 2015 (and subsequently we elected not to stay this time around).

Stinky was pleased to renew old acquaintances, such as this idiot dog, last seen eating a box of washing powder…

...and we were pleased to have a nice cold beer (and in the case of Pye, grow a mustache, apparently).

Later, we were also delighted to see the petrol delivery system when our jeep filled up on the way home.

Being strong and adventuresome and also possessed of only a short time, instead of having a nap when we got back, the grown ups struck out for the Bat Cave near to the Ecolodge. We’d tried to visit it in 2012, but (like a lot of that trip), we hadn’t thought anything though, so had just showed up without a torch or anyone to stop us getting hopelessly lost in the dark. We’d also been chased by an angry turkey on the way, but this time there were no irritable fowl in sight.

There was a young man hanging out by the path to the entrance who we could pay to show us around, which was also a step up from last time. Speaking of ‘stepping up’, they don’t go making the way in easy!

Veteran troglodytes every one, we ventured in further than last time, but still didn’t penetrate all that deeply on account of not wanting to crawl on our belies with giant spiders and other weird-ass bugs hanging around #weakAF
There was also a strange Dutch lady, just perched on a rock playing with her phone, who wasn’t going anywhere soon. She’s probably still there and we hope she liked our traditional cave-song, for surely all should know that "Every sperm is sacred"..

That evening at dinner the kids balanced all this nature by playing with a device or two…

…and the well-earned beers gave Stinky the fortitude to battle this giant beast which had decided to live on her shoe.

We managed to finish our Bukit Lawang stay without getting beaten up by any monkeys, even if it was touch-and-go on the last morning. Stinky was doing some pre-dawn WiFi-ravaging when she gradually became aware that the sun was coming up. Do you know what else gets up at sunrise? Monkeys. A lot of them. As she slowly became aware of the increasing light, she happened to glance up and saw them - the sneaky little bastards were massing along the rafters and handrails, waiting to pounce. It was like The Birds, but with rabies!

 With that, Stinky ran screaming from the jungle and the rest of us had no choice but to follow her. Next stop: Volcano land!
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July 2017


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