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Bukit Lawang


I’ve always felt a little guilty about how little I’ve travelled around Indonesia outside of work. It really is hard to find the motivation sometimes when you actually live in the place. I also tend to prefer staying in nice hotels when I’m on a holiday too and having access to a nice café or bar helps. Not that I am incapable of ‘slumming’ it – for work I’ve had to stay in some pretty awful places so don’t really have any trouble coping with the 3rd world stuff. Yet still for my holidays I kind of like the pampered lifestyle.

My first holiday in Indonesia was well over a year ago when I went to Yogyakarta. That was a good trip but I did stay at a Novotel hotel. Some six straight months in a row living in Medan at the doorstep of Lake Toba and many other ‘tourist’ spots along the Barisan Mountains and I’d yet to visit any.

So it was fortunate that a copilot whose week off roughly aligned with mine asked if I wanted to go to Bukit Lawang – home to the largest Sumatran Orangutan sanctuary. Quite a few company pilots have been there in the past and all said it was worth the trip so I agreed as it would finally be a chance to experience some of the amazing things that this archipelago has to offer.

Looking to the river from the Ecolodge restaurant

Tourism in Indonesia is still largely misunderstood so to get there we needed to take a taxi to a Bus Terminal in northwest Medan and then find the bus to Bukit Lawang. After pulling out of the terminal the Bus stopped down the road and waited about 90 minutes to pick up more passengers. After the stop in Binjai, west of Medan we then drove uninterrupted to Bukit Lawang. The journey of 86km took four and a half hours. We met a guide on the bus who we agreed to use for the following days jungle trek and he helped us sort a Becak (Scooter with passenger sidecar) to take us to our accommodation. We decided to eat somewhere else for dinner as it would give us a chance to walk through the town. Everything was literally dead, although it is the wet season at the moment this isn’t really supposed to be the low season. We eventually settled on a place where low and behold were sitting a couple of kiwi’s from Dunedin. They were Political Science graduates who had been working in earthquake-devastated Padang and were about to head to Malaysia. it was nice to talk to them and share stories – one of them had suffered through Dengue Fever in Padang. After a nice ayam rendang (chicken curry), a few Bintang’s and good conversation we headed back to our lodge to get some sleep in preparation for the jungle trek.

Looking toward the town from the riverside

Our guide arrived at 8am and soon after we headed up into the hills. I won’t really go much into the trek itself but will let the photo’s do the explaining. It was a really enjoyable day and the jungle is a little similar to the native forest back home. Seeing the Orangutan’s, and we must have seen at least 12 was a real highlight and I’m just so glad I did it.

White-faced Gibbon


The Jungle

Happy after eating a Mandarin

In the trees

An older male

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