Chilling out at the rainforest

Friday, November 18, 2016
Bukit Lewang, North Sumatra, Indonesia
After our over priced public bus up from Medan we trekked the final couple of miles with our back packs out of the main village and up along the river bank in the exceptionally humid 30+ heat.

Soaked in sweat we eventually reached the long string of guesthouses and home-stays that line the river bank interspersed with your typical tourist souvenir shops and travel agents . You can tell that Bukit Lewang is very much about the tourists as you wander the length of the river and you can imagine it's very much a party spot on a night particularly with the local tourists. However this is the most quiet month of the year here and it was beautifully quiet.

We had our pick of places to stay and were also in prime position to haggle for the cheapest price possible. Shattered from our two bus journey's, bad experience with the Bukit Lewang bus cartel and sweaty hike up along the river we stopped at a guesthouse for a drink and didn't move any further than that after checking the rooms and agreeing a price. Similar to Tuk Tuk on Samosir island we procured some local herbs within half an hour and settled in for a nice relaxing night.

The place we stayed at was really good for the money, around £6 a night but the view wasn't the best compared to some of the other places further up stream. So the following morning we headed another couple of hundred yards up the river and grabbed a room for the next few nights at a place called Garden Inn with a lovely cosy little bungalow with a balcony and hammock looking straight out onto the river and the protected rain forest on the opposite side .

Bukit Lewang is really nice despite the fact it is a tourist hot spot thanks to the rain forest and in particular the relatively healthy population of Orangutans that live there. Once sorted with our new digs we parked up on the balcony and relaxed looking out over the river and rain forest laid out in front of us.....and we relaxed.....and we relaxed some more....and before we knew it we had spent the whole day sat in the hammock reading and enjoying the sounds of the wildlife nearby and the beautiful view on offer from our little wooden balcony. It was beautiful. We must have seen no more than 10 people go past below us all day and it was all a little bit too easy and relaxing really. Very very tranquil and a great way to spend a day.

As night time drew in we headed down to the communal area of our digs and got chatting to Pino and Rio two of the lads who work there. Before we knew it we had shared a few smokes with the two of them and a couple more of their friends that arrived and after a lot of laughs it was suddenly the early hours and the day had slipped by quite nicely .

The next morning we headed out on a little trek of our own to see what we could find further up the river and closer to the national park. We didn't have enough money for the park entrance fee let alone a guide to take us in to the jungle on a trek but that was fine. We had a great experience in Borneo a couple of years back when we spent time with the Orangutans and we were happy enough just knowing that they were out there somewhere doing there Orangutan thing and living happily. We had hoped we may catch a glimpse of one or two but unfortunately not. The good thing about the Orangutans here is that a couple of years ago they stopped using the feeding station that was built at the edge of the forest. The station was built to help rehabilitate Orangutans and also a way for people to be able to see them. Now though thankfully there is a healthy enough population that they leave them to get on with their lives in the wild and the tourists hope to get to see them when out trekking as opposed to paying for a guaranteed experience with them at the feeding station . It's good to know that it's not all just about the money from tourism and that the animals here genuinely come first ahead of money. Despite not seeing any wildlife other than butterflies it was a lovely trek out and what felt like just a quick hours ramble as far up the river as we could possibly go was in fact several hours of trekking by the time we got back. And once back what did we do? We sat and enjoyed the peace and quiet of nature from our balcony again before joining the lads down stairs for our evening smoke and good banter.

We stayed on one more day in Bukit Lewang and despite not moving very far we could easily have stayed longer such was the satisfaction of the peaceful surroundings amongst nature. Our last day there was a total wash out of tropical rain and we loved every minute of it. Sat on the balcony watching the lightning crash down close by and the occasional and varied animal noises coming from the jungle.

I thoroughly recommend a trip out here if your in Sumatra but I suspect it would be a totally different experience during high season so be careful what time of the year you visit. Yet again the locals have been so very warm and friendly and genuine with it. The lads we enjoyed a smoke with were not bothered about trying to squeeze any money out of us at all but were happy to enjoy the company and a good laugh.

Our impression of Sumatra so far keeps going from strength to strength.

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