Medan, the capitol of the second largest island of Indonesia. It’s where my 4 week adventure started last summer. Did you know that Sumatra is the fifth largest island in the world and that my great-grandfather was born there? Well, now you do. You probably already heard that the orangutan calls this island its home. It is the main reason people travel to beautiful Sumatra. Same goes for me.
I arrive at Medan airport, where a driver is waiting for me with my nameplate. It is the first time of the many confusions that arise because of my name. I appear to be a woman, while according to Indonesians Simone is really a boy’s name. Oh well, I withdraw some money from the ATM and continue as the millionair with a boy’s name. One million rupiah is equal to around 60 euros. Just a quick bathroom stop and a visit to a supermarket and we’re good to go. Bukit Lawang – the first stop of my trip through Indonesia – is a good 4 hour drive away. I just don’t know where to look! Scooters, cars, trucks, pedestrians, cows, tuktuks, chickens, everything is part of traffic here. It takes at least 2 hours before we even leave Medan at all. Along the way we also stop for the afternoon prayer and to pick up a package somewhere. Welcome to Sumatra!
A small village on the edge of Gunung Leuser National Park in north Sumatra. One of the few places in this world to see wild orangutans. Alright, semi-wild maybe. Most orangutans are used to humans because they themselfs – or their mother – once stayed in a shelter. This makes it relative easy to spot these great creatures in their natural environment. The village itself is also pretty nice. Surrounded by jungle makes it a green oasis of peace. Yep, we’re on holiday!
Bukit Lawang is probably the most visited place in all of Sumatra. Apart from the fact that there are a number of accommodations, restaurants and shops, there is little to be noticed from the crowds. I stayed at Back To Nature, a guest house just outside of the village – or atleast I thought. Turned out to be a 45 minute walk through the jungle. Oh, oops. Nevertheless I decided to go for it and I am glad I did!
If you are looking for a true nature experience but also enjoy the comfort of a mattress and shower, then Back To Nature is the place for you. This guest house really lives up to its name. Hidden away in the middle of nowhere surrounded by greenery and the sound of water flowing, birds singing, monkeys roaring and other animal sounds I want nothing to know about. I felt like Jane really, only Tarzan was nowhere to be found. Instead I had my personal assistent who had to carry my 20 kilo suitcase through the jungle for 45 minutes. Almost the same, right? Anyway, in addition to the peace and quiet you also (kind of ) help improve climate by staying here. Climate change is a serious thing you know. This guest house is eco-friendly which means they grow as much as possible themselfs, electricity is only availible a few hours a day and the (un)necessary toiletries aren’t provided. You are free to bring these yourself though. Nobody obliges you to throw your habits out the window. However, a good conversation with Aca will get you thinking. Aca build Back To Nature with his own two hands. With some help of other locals he even laid out the route to and from the village. Gotta have mad respect for the guy! I also learned that not only palm oil but especially the use of toilet paper affects the habitat of the orangutan. Makes you think twice about wiping your ass don’t it? I honestly admite: I still use toilet paper – sorry – but I am more aware of the effect it has on mother nature while doing so. I mean what on earth do I do with that bucket of water? But lets be honest though: the use of toilet paper isn’t really that hygienic either.
As if this wasn’t enough adventure, I decided to go for a jungle hike the next morning in search of some monkeys. Words can not describe how incredible magical this experience was. Yes, in Gunung Leuser National Park the orangutans are used to people. No, you will not be the only one looking for them. It is the most popular tourist attraction in all of Sumatra but it is still a very enjoyable thing to do. Really! In addition to the orangutan you will meet many other monkeys aswell. If you’d ask me: the Thomas Leaf is the coolest monkey out there. I do, however, advise you to do some research and to choose a guide who puts the welfare of the animals first. This mean you are not allowed to feed nor touch them. I understand that this may seem as a fun interaction but it will not stimulate the orangutan to become independent. That being said: definitely pay a visit to the park. It is an experience you will never forget. What a start to my journey…
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