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Bukit Lawang


Early morning roll call had us up at 7 after a restless night for me. Despite firing up a mosquito coil and supposedly safely ensconcing myself under the mossie net it had still been somewhat scratchy that night, and I woke to realise incredulously that in spite of my efforts the bed bugs had got me again. It seemed that this part of the world was just so crawling with wildlife that it was impossible to keep it all at bay. Tiny beasties had already pervaded my day bag and kit and you were forever slapping some kind of lotion on somewhere. We pegged it across the ropey bridge again and then 2Ks along the river, it thankfully feeling very fresh after the storm, eyeballing on the way more abandoned developments, some of which had once been sizeable quality retreats. At the end of the path we found the Jungle Inn, and though a very nice spot full of character, we were glad we hadnt tried to walk out here with our bags upon arrival as intended. We had to catch a dugout canoe from here in order to traverse the adjacent raging river to Gunung Leusar National Park the other side, but the local boys in attendance said that the water was too high due to the previous nights storm. We afforded ourselves a brekkie at the Jungle Inn then, prompted by me feeling nauseous after foolishly taking my anti-malarial on an empty stomach, later taking the opportunity of looking around their rooms and discovering little pockets of paradise. They had hand built the whole enterprise from scratch, right down to the fantastic one-of-a -kind furniture with intricate carvings of beasts and totems, with bathrooms boasting hitherto unknown stand alone bathtubs and bare bedrock walls, and caringly carved windows and verandahs providing views onto a beautiful adjacent waterfall plunging into a pool, surrounded by untarnished rainforest. Cheap as chips and yet seemingly more than mere money can buy. There was nothing for it but to readjust our focus for the prescribed afternoon session at 3 then, sceptical as ever whether the high water had just been a convenient ruse to force us to stay another night, and we filled out the day by first checking out Geoff's Eco-resort, nice but not a patch on the Jungle Inn. From there we had a choice of treks to amuse ourselves with, opting for the shorter 2K sweaty slog up to the "Bat Cave" as opposed to a waterfall further on. An old boy had set himself up rather cheekily as de facto guardian here, opportunism which we didnt grudge since he probably had little other avenue of income. There was a steep slippy descent into a gully, from where the approach to the cave was already apparent, a precarious narrow route over a sharp rock assault course, interconnected with bendy tightrope planks and the slippy step ladders were a real challenge with deadly precipices to either side. The hand holds were minimal and one could have proved a false favour, hiding as it was a gigantic dodgy looking centipede in its shadow. We made it safely inside though to find the veritable stereotype of what every cave should be, a high tubular funnel with just the odd narrow shaft of light piercing its roof from a small inlet upon high. As we entered deeper we found it unnaturally level to walk through, though large boulders the size of cars had to be squeezed past and moisture dripping down the walls made the going slippy in places. It was every cavemans dream. Despite our progress of maybe 200 metres into it I was surprised to still find photography practical, and the resident bats could be picked out squeaking away up high with the help of a torch. Even that short excursion past stilt houses hung over pools of farmed fish and a man freshly cutting taps into rubber trees was a job in the heat, there were many other natural wonders to savour in flowers and gargantuan leaves, but it was as quick as we could get back for a Mandi. After a quick siesta it was time to hoof it back to the Jungle Inn then, and it was with a juxtaposed sense of anticipation and trepidation that we waded out into the very rocky raging torrent. The small dugout was tethered to an insufficienty robust looking cable spanning the river, and once you had ran out of slippery stepping stones and finally risked the depths, you clambered into the wobbly canoe 2 at a time before the boy yanked the cable and you were launched out into a hair raising ride in a quick swerving dash through the foam. The water was fortunately a little shallower the other side, and soon we found ourselves at the ramshackle entry house where we paid our rip off "permit fee" and headed off for our goal. And the justification for all that? Well, to see the orang-utans of course!

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Indonesia

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