Bukit Lawang, Indonesia
Shortly after touching down in Medan, Indonesia on the island of Sumatra we were on a bus headed to the jungle town/village of Bukit Lawang. The town is best known for its orangutan feeding complex and the national park that accompanies it. It’s located along a river in the mountains and much of the village can only be accessed on foot. There are 3 bridges crossing the river to connect the two sides of the village, only one gives me any confidence when using it.
The first evening after dinner we decided to unwind in the river and cool off from a hot day of traveling a cramped bus. We went to the best swimming area we had seen and enjoyed the cool water. Soon after some of the children came for their evening cool off swam with us showing us their flips and tricks on the water-worn rocks in the middle of the river. After about an hour they started their bathing and were kind enough to give Chris and I some shampoo (single use packets of Pantene pro-V). After our swim/bath we headed to bed since we had a 2 day 1 night jungle trek ahead of us.
The trek was a blast. It was led by Eddy, who dubbed himself Jungle Eddy or Captain Eddy depending on a few things—I’ll get to that later. We trekked with 2 Australian med students and 1 kiwi med student that was traveling with them. The jungle trek was more exhausting and spectacular than I was anticipating. We were able to see a number of orangutans (and their babies) up close. It was incredible to see the way they move through the trees and build their nests. We also saw black gibbons as well as white gibbons (a type of monkey). The black ones are supposed to be quite elusive according to Meredith which I can agree with since they eluded my knowledge of their existence completely for the first 22 years of my life. After the orangutans the most impressive part about the jungle was the vegetation. We say some rubber trees (and hiked through a rubber plantation to get to the jungle) and a 350 year old tree. The trees were absolutely massive and the sun hardly made it to the jungle floor because it was so dense. That night we camped on the riverside in hut made from bamboo and tarp. A semi-permanent structure that did a great job of keeping us dry for all 12 hours of continuous downpour we experienced that night. In the morning Jungle Eddy (trading in his trousers and safari style button up for a sleeveless T and sarong) told us that the river (which had risen considerably) was impassible further up so we could not go much further into the jungle. Exhausted from the day before, our group met the news with an inward sigh of relief and relaxed by the river for the morning. Luckily we didn’t have to hike back to town because we tubed back on the river. Eddy, now sunning by the river in his sleeveless T tighty whities, had become Captain Eddy, overseeing the tubes being packed and tied with our bags. In the end we had 3 large tubes and 2 small ones all tied together with 6 trekkers, 1 guide and 2 cooks/tent pitchers/sailors. The river has rapids, small ones but still a turbulent ride, and this is where Captain Eddy shines. He is sitting Indian-style between 2 of the large tubes and yelling “Go!” when we need to hang on especially tight while somehow keeping his balance the entire time. The tubing was the perfect way to end the jungle trek, and at the end of it, when we were swimming in the river and Eddy was getting ready to go back to the office chris and I noticed something: The difference between Jungle Eddy and Captain Eddy is a pair of pants. Its not the natural surrounding as you would thing, but when Eddy is managing 5 tubes and 6 tourists down rapids while sitting Indian style in his underpants he is Captain Eddy.