After 5 peaceful and relaxed days on TukTuk, we awoke on Thursday morning at 6am to the sound of screaming, screeching kids and women. It was really confusing, but half awake and completely disorientated, I walked onto the terrace to look down and see a family of about 18 Indonesians in the lake clambering and fighting over a rubber ring directly in front of the accommodation. I looked on bleary eyed in complete disbelief. If I’d had a grenade on me, it was just a case of pulling the pin and tossing it over. They woke up everyone. We found out later that this was the end of Ramadan, the last day, and now it was time for celebrations. They had obviously got up before sunset to eat, and must have decided it was a great idea to have some family fun in the lake. Ramadan is a Muslim thing where they fast between sunrise and sunset. All very good, but we’re not Muslims and neither seemed to be anyone else on the island. Little did we know what was looming ahead. We watched aghast as Ferryboat after Ferryboat delivered more of these families, and by 2pm, the place was like Alton Towers with screaming bairn’s, shrieking wives, and loud teenagers. We decided to move accommodation, only to find out that every hotel and guesthouse was completely full. Transport was also an issue, as everything had been hiked up to Ramadan prices. We felt almost stranded.
Luckily, Richard (Really nice bloke from Swansea, with a new Orangutan wife) had already pre-booked an air conditioned people carrier taxi to Medan, and kindly offered us a lift. For a few megabucks more (£7 each), we negotiated with the driver to take us to the jungle village of Bukit Lawang, thus happily avoiding Medan altogether.
So after 9 hours of travel, we arrived at 11pm in the darkness, and were dropped off at Norah’s Homestead. Norah’s home is built on a swampy looking fish farm, with 4 timber huts constructed on stilts above the murky green jungle water, each providing accommodation with toilet and shower. The noises of the jungle surround you. We were only there about half an hour when we bumped into the only other guest, Lisa, a 28 year old nurse from London who had been staying there for a month. We all headed out for a much needed Beer Bintang or 2, and we sat listening intently to Lisa, who as it happens has spent a great deal of time in Indonesia, and can also can speak fluent Batak Indonese. Lisa is absolutely lovely, an instant hit, and we all seemed to have struck up a new friendship almost immediately. That’s Lisa in the pic above, she decided to come along with us, having done about 2 or 3 jungle treks previously. We hope to hook up again with Lisa in Bukkatingi this week.
We moved the next night to Indah Homestead about 2 miles up the road on Lisa’s advice. It’s family owned and all the locals hang out here, great food, and at night all the local lads play guitar and have a good old sing song. So friendly. This is where we met Ronaldo and Keano, our chosen Jungle Trek Guides. Ronaldo looks like, Ronaldo, and Keano looks nothing like Roy Keane. Ronaldo has the most infectious laugh, and Keano is like something from and old Cowboy Movie. Apache Warrior, quiet, no eye contact, I was sure he was going to scalp us at the pass. I decided to keep an eye on this bloke, and packed my Swiss army knife for protection (Gift from Pete & Lesley that’s been so handy, even in OZ). If he was skinning me, I was at least, taking one of his eyebrows. If he tried to scalp Michelle, and she needed a haircut anyway, I had shampoo and conditioner in my wee backpack. I was ready for anything Keano could do to us. 🙂
The Jungle Trek started off nicely, not too enduring. Michelle had visions of us with machete’s, slicing and scathing the foliage in front of us to clear a path. So did I to be honest. But the paths are well worn, or so we thought. 3 hours in, and this was complete endurance for me, I’ve done loads of this stuff before, but this was gruelling. I was so worried about Michelle’s knees, I really couldn’t relax. I have no idea how she managed it, if my best mate Mikey is reading this, Mike, it was a 7 star hike, rock climbing, 90 degree downs, with only roots and branches to hold on to, slippery, and in intense heat and humidity. Michelle did it all with a pair of Converse Sannny’s, Nae problem – She’s ex Lochee Fleet. At lunchtime, Keano prepared some Nasi Goreng (Spicy Fried Rice), followed by Pineapple, sliced with a foot long knife. If it was going to be a sword fight, the wee Swiss army knife made me feel at a slight disadvantage. I was still keeping my eye on this Apache warrior.
The wild Orangutan’s were quite frankly, amazing. We were so close, about 2 feet away, and they stare into your eyes and look so human. They seem to be so curious when you meet them. I was hoping to meet Jackie, the same girl that had got so close to Richard, but it wasn’t to be. However, there was one Orangutan high up in the tree with a baby, chilling out and looking down, she stared at me for a while, we made eye contact, and stared at each other for ages, I suppose were both curious of each other. The beard wasn’t doing it for her though, this dame obviously likes her toyboys. I don’t mind being 40 now, but at least a wink or something would have helped the ego somewhat. Biatch!
We were both shattered after the Trek, but the fun was yet to begin. Waiting for us was a rubber tube boat, a boat made from 4 HGV tyre liners tied together. We jumped on, and sailed for about 3 miles down the rapids with Keano singing, and Ronaldo stearing. This, if your imagination can run wild, is what these people have been doing for generations. The water soaked us, and it was so refreshing, as we sailed past high Jungle on both sides of the river, passing little monkeys that were watching us intently.
Further down, the locals would shout out and wave. We were soaked and shattered, but refreshed, and walked 5 minutes to Indah to have the best night ever playing cards, getting drunk and singing with all the locals.
Keano turned up, drank one beer, played and sang about 10 songs at our table, drank another beer, played cards with us, drank another beer, showed some of his card tricks, drank another beer, told some jokes, and had another beer. Life and Soul of the party. What a great guy. Glad I bought him a few beers, I bet he has shrunken heads on his fireplace for ornaments.
After 5 days at Bukit Lawang, we moved on to Berestaggi. The Volcano had erupted, and even from a distance it was worth seeing. Well, it was overcast when we got there so who knows.
We got the Chicken Bus to Berestaggi. The Chicken Bus is the local bus, where you cram 18 people minimum into a 9 seater mini bus. There are rows of 3 seats, you just get comfortable, and then they stop the bus, you look, and think, well this next lot are not getting on. But Oh yes they are! And just when you think, well that’s us full now, they stop, and another 20 Indonesians get on. It’s mental, but actually really good fun, you have no choice but to sit with your new travel companion while they ask you 1000 questions about home. Then they pull out about seven Rupiah 1000 notes that look like a bunch of used teabags and pay the driver 2000. When you’ve just paid 7000, you do feel slightly ripped off, until you remember that 1000 Rupiah = 7p. We really don’t mind paying over the odds, it really makes such a difference for these people. They are in awe of the West, I sometimes wonder if we’ve got it wrong, and they’ve got it right. It comes down to the basics, food, family and a roof over your head. Hold on, maybe an Ipod, free Beer Bintang, a hot shower and a Kebab Shop and life could be very sweet 🙂 Oops! Did I just mention Kebab there ? I didn’t. I didn’t. I didn’t.
Churches, there’s tons of them. Everyone seems to have their own. You could do a Church Crawl, Pat Collins and Aunty Margaret Mulholland would be hitting the town every night. 🙂
So after a 6 hour bus ride, we found accomodation, and headed out for the bright lights of Berestaggi. At about 9pm, we were just chilling with a beer and playing a game of cards when we approached by Ena, an international school teacher of English. She seemed really nice, and asked if she could join us. No problem, it’s always nice to meet people. Within the first 30 seconds after introductions, she then started talking about Jesus and Christianity. She seemed to have found a head of steam with this stuff, and you know that point when you realise you’ve been lumbered with the village nutjob? There was a short eye contact and a knowing glance between me and Lyndon – I wasn’t alone, we were on the same page.
Michelle, patience of an angel, listened intently and looked really interested but tried diplomatically to move the discussion on. And with all credit, it did, for the best part of 30 seconds until Bible Ena suddenly and somehow managed to segue from a topic about nothing in particular and digressed straight back into Jesus and Mary, Christians, Christianity, Christians, more Christians, she even looked at a the cards that had been sitting static for the best part of 20 minutes and said “This is what I teach my children, the King is God, the Queen is Mary, and the Jock is Jesus, Ha Ha!”
Yeh, Ha bloody Ha, how clever, you could just imagine my face as she looked at me while she smiled back ever so pleased with herself. This was the tipping point, and I was teetering on the edge. This was actually just about 2 seconds away from a blood vessel bursting, and I don’t think I was going to be able to contain myself any longer – I was preparing my next statement mentally, to tell this lady in the nicest possible way, it was time for her to go. Lyndon beat me to it with a very diplomatic yet authoritve “Well it’s been a pleasure to meet you!”
Bible Ena got the message instantly. She said her goodbyes and thanked us for listening to her about Christianity, then asked if we had any questions about Christians in Indonesia before she left. There was only one question on my mind. I was wondering if there were any lions in Berestaggi. I can understand now why the Roman’s had so much fun in the Coliseum. I held back and bit my lip, smiled, then wished her the best, already feeling sorry for her next victims.
Nothing against anyone’s beliefs, each to their own, but I hate being force fed like this, and to be honest, are these people really doing a great job of spreading the word when it’s like this? She’ll be really pissed off when she gets to heaven and finds out there’s no red wine or beer bintang, and just wait until she finds out there’s been a complete smoking ban that kicked in 2 days before she arrives. Actually, I don’t think she’ll get in, she’ll be like a Jehovah ’s Witness at the pearly gates, Jesus will be pretending he’s not in and hiding behind the couch, seriously pissed off that he’s missing the Celtic gem. 🙂
We have backtracked to Danua Toba, TukTuk, for a couple of days, the next stop is Bukkatingi.
So only 3 or 4 more days in Sumatra, then onto the next Island, Java, and our 1st ancient temple, Borobudur.
Fingerprints of the Gods.
Click Here http://wikitravel.org/en/Borobudur