Bukit Lewang is a village on a river in the Jungle in Sumatra. It's super cool and probably the neatest place I've been to so far. It reminds me a bit of camping. There's no hotels or big buildings, just little cabins and bungalows built on the side of the river amongst the jungle foliage. The guys that build them are real artisans, too. Whether it's a driftwood spiral staircase, fine etchings in the concrete foundations or elaborate tile work, each guest house has a little personal touch that makes you feel at home. Even the room we had the first night (which was essentially a shack, tucked in behind the nicer, more expensive rooms) had decorative tiles inlaid around the mirror and sink. They didn't have to do that, but they did because it's sweet.
The main attraction in Bukit Lewang is the Orangutans. There is a feeding twice a day that you can go to to snap some quick pics, but the more adventurous people opt in for the Orangutan "Hunts" (usually referred to as Jungle Treks). Laura and I being the thrill seekers that we are, opted in. We shot so many Orangutans, it was great. Actually, everyone in our group was able to shoot at least one Orangutan... with their cameras, of course. I just realized how my language could have been confusing...
We went for the overnight Jungle Trek. This consists of an 8 hour hike, setting up camp by the river, sleeping in the jungle, hiking to another waterfall the next day, then riding in tubes down the river back to the village. pretty straight forward.
The hike was intense. This wasn't just a leisurely walk on a flat trail in the jungle. We scaled four small mountains on this hike. On the way up, sometimes it would get so steep that it was bordering on rock climbing. One wrong step and it would be 10-20 foot drop to the next flat spot.
And of course, what goes up must come down. And going down was no piece of cake either. It was just as steep going down and the recent rains had made the trail like a giant mud-slide. Plus I had a 20lb bag on my back the whole time! All in all though, it was a lot of fun. I actually liked the challenge, and was glad I made it through without much trouble.
Our party for the trek consited of two guides, Eddie and Robert, 5 dutch people and a french guy. They were all very nice and it was a good group to be stuck with for two days.
At one point, after the first Orangutan sighting, we stopped for a fruit break. Eddie told us tales of trekking past and dangers faced. One time, he told us, a girl misstepped and completely dislocated her knee cap. They had to get her to bite down on a kerchief while they twisted it back into place. Then, called for help and two guys came and carried her back to the village. Another tale was of a girl mistaking a snake for a branch resulting in a bite that sent her to the hospital in Medan. Apparently she came back three days later and completed a 5-day trek! And then there was the tale of the idiotic man who went on a hike in the jungle with his 10 year old kid, and a baby... without a guide. The only reason anyone knew he was missing was because his wife had just happened to stay behind and started to worry when it got dark and he hadn't returned. They found them at 4 in the morning, lost, but alive.
The last danger he told us about was about a particularily aggresive Orangutan named Mina. Mina is a legend in Bukit Lewang. She's been known to attack trekking parties and has bitten a reported 140 people. Our guides both claimed to have been bitten by her. Had we known this before, Laura and I may have opted to get a rabies vaccination. Needless to say, the rule is, if you see Mina on the trial, you run. And see her we did. Not 5 minutes after we got moving again, we hear Eddie shout, "Mina!!" from up ahead. At first I thought it was some sort of test, like a fire drill. It seemed too soon after he told us the story. But sure enough, we see Eddie running down the mountain shouting "Run!". So we ran.
After a few minutes of running, Robert went ahead and distracted Mina with food while we snuck past to safety. Crisis averted.
That night we shared a dinner of traditional Indonesian food the the guys somehow whipped up in their jungle kitchen. We sat in a circle lit by candle light as Robert and Eddie entertained us with Card Tricks, Matchstick Puzzles and Group Sing-a-longs. It was fun. It was kind of like being a kid at camp again. There wasn't any alcohol (because who was going to carry it on the hike) and we were playing silly kids games, but it didn't matter. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.
Our sleeping quarters was a tarp to keep the rain off (which is good cause it poured at night) and a wafer-thin yoga mat to sleep on. Sleeping that night consisted of about 20 minutes of sleep, followed by a repositioning, followed by 20 more minutes, and so on.
The next day we went on a short walk to a nearby waterfall. It was magestic.
Also, I found a centipede. Apprently only the red ones are poisonous.
Then we had lunch, and rode the inner tubes back to Bukit Lewang. Good times were had by all.