The Bus Journey Medan to Bukit Lawang:
Have a look at our YouTube video of the orangutans. It lasts about 7 minutes:
|On our Becak to the bus stop|
Up bright and early to get this bus, having been fretting about it in the night, I even texted Thomas at 01.30 to find out how often the bus went. I’m glad he didn’t reply till 06.00 though!
Waited for our becak (tuk tuk) but he didn’t turn up, amazing we felt loyalty to him even though his bike was the slowest, ropiest going, and the seat the least comfortable with no padding at all! There was one loitering outside the hotel, but his English wasn’t as good as our first man’s but beggars can’t be choosers, so we pointed out to him on a map
|Busses outside Marwar bakery (complete with loaf of bread on the wall!)|
(which may have been the first map he’d ever seen) where we wanted to go, and kept saying Mawar Bakery over and over, though it didn’t really help! He dropped us off outside of a collection of bakeries, none of which was Mawar but was about where we’d shown him on the map. Sadly our helpful tourist man hadn’t been quite right and we needed to walk a couple of minutes down the road towards the bus station, where the touts pounced! It was actually worse here, 100,000 they started at so we laughed, said we were paying the driver and no more than 30,000, this was obviously still slightly too much as the tout eventually persuaded us to pay half now, half to the driver, so he got a cut of some sort!
|Our balcony at Bukit Lawang. Not a bad view!|
We were confident we were on the right bus though, thanks to the conversation with Thomas – medium sized orange bus with B.Lawang in the window. Goes about every 20 mins so we were going to stand our ground till we got a sensible price! I’m just amazed that the bus goes so often and that there are that many locals wanting to travel. Do the touts try to get a cut from the locals too because if they are just trying to scam tourists there aren’t enough of us to make a living from!
|Breakfast at Thomas' Retreat|
|The walk to the bat cave|
It’s a real shame though, once we were on the bus with the window open (no AC) talking to our tout he was a really nice guy! The bus wasn’t great, our bench seat at the back wasn’t fixed so we had to keep pushing it back, but it didn’t break down, people got on, people got off and we arrived in good time 2 ½ hours later about 11.30. I was about to ring Thomas when a ‘friend’ of his rung him for us, said we should go with his friend who put us in a becak followed on his motorbike and then carried my rucksack the 10 mins or so through the town and over the bridge to the guesthouse! So eventually got here for £5 compared to the £30 a private car would have cost! Tight? Us? Well the difference was the jungle trek for one!
|Rubber trees on the way to the bat cave|
|I have never seen a pineapple growing before|
It was like a breath of spring arriving, it’s beautiful, right on the river looking at a few buildings and then jungle, we are in Thomas’ new rooms with probably the best bathroom in the resort, proper flushing western toilet (many apparently you have to bucket flush) proper shower, albeit cold, but that really doesn’t matter, big, spacious, with a quiet fan that sounds like a turbo prop come the morning, it’s fabulous.
|Arriving at the bat cave|
|Creepy crawlies in the cave|
So when to trek? We had already decided to only do one day (locally called the chicken trek) rather than spend a night in the jungle as we’d read much about the campsites and the thinness of the mattresses, and that at least one of them was right by a guesthouse so only 45/60 mins from town so why bother? Then talking to a couple of guys said they really only saw animals in the first few hours of their two days, had a good group and enjoyed the overnight, but didn’t sleep and then just rafted back the following day, cost twice as much money!
The Bat Cave:
|Bats in the bat cave|
Glad we put it off from the first full day as our first evening it poured down, the electricity went off, but fortunately came back before bed as the generator doesn’t power the new posh rooms. The rain hadn’t made much difference to the ground as we walked to the bat cave, eventually finding our way after a few detours to a tout who wanted to guide us into the cave as well as charge us ‘entry’, we declined his kind offer! It was a cave, but the wildlife was interesting, cute little bats, hideous big spiders, long legged centipedes, and cave crickets, an interesting climb in and on exiting we were lucky enough to find six Thomas’s monkeys hanging around picking fruit. Back by 1400 just before the rain came in, so again, glad we weren’t trekking!
|Thomas' monkeys outside the bat cave|
Our Orang-utan Jungle Trek:
|The funny jumping bugs on a stem|
Woke up the next day raring to go trekking, sadly we weren’t going with Thomas as he has some family issues at the moment – his cousin, her husband and their son were all killed on a motorbike last week, we’ve seen so many families all riding together so it must happen, but horrific to meet someone it’s happened to! Plus he has some horrible infection on his leg! His stand in, Sadi, was a great guy though, good English, very entertaining and very good eyes! We saw loads of things, from bugs that looked like fungus on a stem till you realised each one was a discrete being, and that they could jump! To bugs with yellow clown noses!
|And some fairly big ants|
Then, there in the tree a mother orang-utan with an infant swinging about, amazing. If that was all we saw, we would probably have been happy, but no, a big male close by to another mum and young, then a lone female who was very entertaining, a guide was already there with his German clients and was putting out a little fruit. It’s great how the guides all talk to each other, either calling through the jungle, or on their phones, so if someone has a good experience we can all go and join in.
Suddenly we were in a big group seeing mum and baby, but they had obviously been with her for a while, so she went in one direction while they went in the other, we followed for a moment before our guide got out some sugar cane to give to Tuni to share with her baby, she took it so gently and didn't mind me stroking her, or her baby! Should I have done it? Should we interact with them that close!y when they are 97% human so could catch any bug I've got, I don't know. But I am a sucker for animals and if there is the opportunity to touch I'll always be at the front of the queue, even if it means elbowing small children out if the way!Then there was a hand in my pocket looking for the banana that had appeared there.Amazing. B came up and gave her some passion fruit which she also seemed to enjoy. We were really happy bunnies!
She left because we heard a male approaching who may not have wished her baby well, so we all tried to talk to him while she went on her way, again we were joined by a huge group, so we thought we’d go and have lunch. The tables turned and he followed us, so as we were eating our lunch, he was having his – bananas, sugar cane, our pineapple and melon skins. Not many have shared lunch with a semi wild orang-utan!
|Jackie with Sadi and a guide from another group|
Another mum and baby, who had the last half of our water melon which they loved, later we had just about had enough, not of the orang-utans, but of the tromping up and down through sweaty jungle on steep, slippy, muddy slopes. So time to head out. Our guide was pleased with us though we may be old but we are a lot fitter than he expected us to be and no moaning, and we were pleased with him as we had a fabulous day. How many we saw in total we’re not sure, maybe 12, maybe more, but for us, more than enough! In the real wild feeding of the animals is frowned on, but here because it is a rehabilitation area for mistreated pets or zoo animals so although some of them are wild, some of them are only semi wild it is just about acceptable.
|The big male comes to lunch|
We got back very sweaty so straight into the river, pausing only to empty the pockets and take the shoes off, everyone here bathes fully clothed and I had felt bad going in in my bikini when we first arrived, and the clothes were all going to get washed anyway. Fabulous. What a day. Chilling today then off to Berastagi where apparently we are going up a volcano, only one as the other one that used to be climbed keeps erupting!
|And he gets given some lunch|