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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Cross between Survivor, Fear Factor, and just plain insanity!

Apologies to those who were waiting as Sumatra is NOT the easiest place to find internet access.  Went back to the one in Bukit Lawang to find the proprietor had shut early because he and his family were watching a movie.  And there was none in Tangkahan.

Anyway, the little overnight jungle trek I was supposed to go on in Gunung Leuser National Park ... right.  We're talking climbing up and down steep ravines with sort of kind of a "trail" but not really.  Getting to the top of the canopy was incredible, looking down and realizing I'd have to get back down to the river terrifying.  In keeping with my usual tradition, none of the shoes I have are ever appropriate, including the TWO pair I brought on this trek.  Actually, more likely, I need different feet, ankles, and legs to go with the shoes.  I'm not sure why I seem to keep forgetting I'm officially disabled from my injury when I decide these things seem like a good idea...


Of course what made it worth it were the people I had for company (Andrea, Mbra, and Phii, the latter two of whom absolutely and totally saved my life multiple times),


and the wildlife I got to see -- the great argus which is like a giant peacock singing its amazing song which we caught on video!

and sadly no orangutans while we were looking -- but I loved the Thomas leaf monkeys which are endemic to North Sumatra and look like rock stars with little mohawks,


as well as the gibbons and siamangs.

No leeches, thankfully!  I I will always be grateful for that as well as it not raining during my hike -- I would absolutely have been dead.  In fact, there were many instances during which I wanted to be dead, since that would have been preferable to my imagining falling to my death.  There were a number of times I just had to abort my imagination in order to get through the next 10 steps.  They were endllessly patient with me and kept saying "pelan tapi pasti"-- "slowly but surely!"Phii actually held my hand for a lot of the way down and showed me where to put my feet for each step.  Andrea says that my acknowledging that he saved my life means that I need to marry him now.  We'll see ;)  I don't know which of the above reality shows this is most starting to resemble!

I sweated sooooooooooooo much during this hike, that despite starting out at 9 am and drinking about 1.8 liters during the hike, I did not have to go to the bathroom at all.  Till the next day.  22 hours.  I shudder to think about what my electrolytes must have looked like,  but that was better than getting up in the middle of the night where we were camping to use the nonexistent squat toilet.  The sounds of the jungle were beautiful though and not stressful at all, and we did not run into the Sumatran rhino or the rare Sumatran tigers. (However, in town, people noted that there are "many small tigers" -- the town cats).

The next morning, we tubed back to Bukit Lawang via inner tubes along the Bohorok River.  In places it is a bit like white water rafting.  We got repeatedly drenched and had all our stuff in dry bags and it was great fun with no damage incurred! 

That afternoon I went to see the orangutan feeding, another hike and a half up to the feeding platform.  I felt that since I had missed them on the actual trek, I should see them up close and personal.  Unfortunately only one showed up for free bananas and milk, but I got a few good photos, and the rangers assured me that that was actually a good sign that this season there is enough food in the forest that they don't really need the supplements.  Good for them, sad for me!



That night was the beginning of Yom Kippur, and I realized that my adventures had been fully in keeping with the notion of "torturing my soul" and making my body uncomfortable so I could atone for wrong deeds and actions done over the past year.  ;-)  I think I have fully atoned now, but also went ahead and fasted for the next 25 hours just in case.

I have to thank all the incredible gang at Green Hill for humoring me despite my whimpering and making it an incredible time!  Check them out at  I was sorry to say goodbye to them -- they felt like true friends by the time I left!


More installments hopefully to come soon!  :)