Bukit Lawang



The Punk Monkey, (otherwise known as a Thomas Leaf Monkey).

We’re sitting by the side of the river in Bukit Lawang, Sal is writing her journal and I’m writing this, there’s half a bag of unshelled roasted peanuts between us, a cold bintang and the smell of insect repellant in the air.

The beer is terrible, but the scenery, peanuts and company make it quite nice, and we’ve just had an unforgettable couple of days walking in the Taman Glucier National Park, one of only two places remaining in the world where you can see an orange orangutan.

Orangutan is an Indonesian word, which literally translates as person of the forest, or jungle people, and seeing them up close it’s really clear how closely we’re related.

We set off yesterday morning on a 2 day trek as they call it, really it’s just a walk in the forest with an overnight camp and then a raft trip back.  Based on the experience I had here last time, along with the persistent sales pitches from the annoying guides we’d met, I didnt have high expectations.  As we were setting off, with Sal asking how we so often get ourselves into these situations, I regretted suggesting the whole thing.

But about an hour into the walk, the guides quickly ushered us along the forest paths in a new direction while making strange noises and muttering things  between them in bahasa, and there was Sandra, one of the Ornagutangs that lives close to the Bukit Lawang village.


She was quite tame, obviously accustomed to having people nearby, and the guides gave her some small pieces of banana and sugar cane while we took some pictures.  High in the forest canopy there was another shaking and we were showered with leaves and bits of tree as another adolescent orangutang approached playing with Sandra’s baby, a tiny male.  He then came over and hung off Sandra as she chewed some food and passed it into his mouth from hers.  Pretty amazing to see from a few metres away.  She eventually retreated back into the canopy and we continued on our walk.

Up very steep tracks in single file, and then down the next ravine, up and down all day.  Holding onto vines as we lost our footing, left dangling in mid air a couple of times, once I looked up hearing Sal screaming, to see her swinging from a vine like Tarzan, a few metres off the path and about 5m off the ground!

We frequently spotted Orangutangs, Pig Tailed Macacs, Thomas Leaf Monkeys, Long Tailed Macacs, Baboons, and many others I don’t remember the names of, but it was the last encounter with an orangutang that we won’t forget.


Jackie is a rescued Orangutang, reintroduced into the forest about 7 years ago, who likes to hold hands with other girls.  She came down from the canopy quite late in the day to see us, and as the guides tried to make us run away towards the next clearing, she took hold of Sally’s arm and walked with her to sit down on a fallen tree, together with her tiny baby hanging onto her back.

Jackie held Sal’s wrist with her left hand, while eating bits of potato and banana with the right.  Her baby then followed suit and grapped one of Sal’s fingers while trying to suckle on Sal’s elbow!!  I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen such a broad smile on Sal’s face, she was in heaven!


We were in a group of 6 people though, so after a while Sal tried to get Jackie to let go so someone else could sit next to her, but Jackie didn’t want a bar of it.  She just held on tighter and kept munching away while her baby swung around her head and shoulders.


Once the food ran out, Jackie took Sal’s fingers into her mouth and started to bite at her finger nails!  It was priceless.  The guides seemed a little concerned, after all, an orangutang is a wild animal, and an incredibly strong one at that, so they put a little pile of food about ten metres away to try to distract Jackie.


Which it did, but she tried to drag Sal over there with her, and got quite agitated when the guides tried to stop her, I was having visions of Jackie swinging in the trees, a banana in one foot, her baby holding on tight and Sal still held by the wrist screaming in the air!

“how am I going to explain this to Keith and Jules?!” I was wondering

“first the grizzly bear with Katie, and now Sal gets taken by an orangutang…”

There was quite a commotion, and the guides were all making monkey type noises and then one produced a slingshot, which made Jackie let go and Sal made her escape.

Apparently when she was captive, her kidnappers used a slingshot to hurt her, so just seeing one now is enough to scare poor Jackie.  Jungle Book style ending averted, we continued along the path towards our camp for the night…

They dont call it a rain forest for no reason, so when the drops started to fall the guides were prepared with big plastic bags to put our packs into, and on we went, completely saturated within seconds.

“Wear sturdy walking shoes, with long pants tucked into your socks”  the guidelines stated… so of course Sally was wearing shorts and flip flops.  Which she’d been doing amazingly well with all day (not wanting to ruin a pair of new Sketchers we had packed), but when the rain started it all got a bit too slippery and the new shoes came out, much to her dislike.

“I dont want to wear long pants and shoes.  Stupid”

We arrived at the camp around dusk, with just enough light left for a swim and a wash in the river.  The camp guides Ollo and Ali produced a feast for dinner and kept us entertained until late in the night with games and singing.

What an amazing day 🙂

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And right on cue, it’s 6:30pm and the thunder and lightning has started and the rain is pouring again.  Welcome to the rainy season!

Sally here…I’ve just read Deans entry and I just want to add that I was so excited to be held by Jackie and Dean is right…I smiled so much, it was like a dream come true 🙂

The jungle experience has left our Indonesia trip on a high as we ride tomorrow to the port where we will get a boat to Malaysia.

Aftér a couple of months here we’ll miss the smiling faces, the lush scenery and most of all the sambal.

We won’t miss the trucks, the traffic or the bintang beer, (although some of the traffic did still put a smile on our faces!)