The jungle village that we traveled to is only 80kms from Medan, but it takes almost 3 hours.
The roads are not great and they’ve been carved up by the many palm oil trucks carrying their heavy loads from the plantations along the way.
The boys didn’t mind the journey. In fact, they were all big fans of the Indonesian road trip because they had pretty much free run of the car. I tried to keep them in seat belts, but without too much success. Baby A was particularly a fan of being able to nurse whenever he pleased (has taken his some convincing on our return that it can’t happen here!).
This particular village is also where I met my husband, so going back is always a special occasion.
But a sad one too. We always remember the more than 200 people who perished when there was a flash flood there in 2002. We were living in London at the time, but we owned a small bookshop cafe which was washed away in the flood too, but fortunately my husband’s family were all safe.
The village has been rebuilt and is looking beautiful once more. The river is crystal clear and borders a large National Park which is home to some of the few surviving wild orangutans in the world. Huge ancient trees line the river and you can’t help but feel in awe of Mother Nature.
We stayed right at the top end of the village, with our own private little waterfall. Both S and M enjoyed a very ‘brief’ dip in the water but found the power of the waterfall a little hairy.
Twice a day, the orangutan feeding platform is available for tourists to visit for ‘feeding time’. As part of a rehabilitation program, orangutans who were once stolen from the jungle and have now been released back into the wild are offered food at this feeding platform.
We decided to take in the early morning feed. First we had our own breakfast of fresh tropical fruit, juices and muesli.
Then we walked the short distance to the river crossing.
And waited our turn to cross the river.
Then after registering with the Park ranger, we started the long climb UP to the feeding platform. B (the boys’ dad) and his brother took it in turns to carry S. He really wanted to walk, but it’s a muddy, steep, uphill path with giant tree roots to climb over and puddles, leeches and giant biting ants to avoid. And it’s hot and very humid. It’s pretty much about as far away from ‘accessible’ as you’d imagine.
I had a moment of sadness thinking that there will be a time when S might be too heavy for us to carry him up into the jungle, but then was reminded of the incredible feat of Paralympian Kurt Fearnley who crawled the Kokoda track last year. And I was reminded that I should never say never.
I carried M most of the way who was not so keen on the climb and just wanted to go back to the restaurant for another banana juice. (Baby A stayed back in the guesthouse with Aunty J)
At the feeding platform, sometimes no orangutans turn up, sometimes several do.
We were still catching our breath from the walk up when we could hear the first orangutans moving through the trees above us. They move so gracefully, quietly with just the rustling of leaves alerting us of their arrival.
Their arms are so long. Their grip is so precise. We watched silently as they moved effortlessly from tree to tree right above us. And down to the feeding platform where milk and bananas awaited them.
We were very lucky to have 3 adult orangutans turn up, 2 of which were carrying their infants with them.
S was enthralled by the orangutans – especially when a rather cheeky monkey try to steal their bananas and was quickly shooed away by a young orangutan. S’s giggling even got the attention of the mother orangutan who looked up to see who was making such a racket ;-).
M, on the other hand, spent the WHOLE time playing on his dad’s iPhone….But I am confident on our next visit he will be just that little bit older and he will appreciate it more.
We feel very blessed to have this connection with the jungle and for the boys to be able to have this experience.
Sumatran orangutans are endangered. There are believed to be less than 7000 left in the wild. It’s terrible to think that their numbers are so critical. Here’s a link in case you’d like to know more about their plight and how to support them. And here’s another which looks also at the fate of the beautiful Indonesian rain forests.
S tells me he wants to help save the orangutans. He wants to raise some money to help protect them.
It would be a terrible thing if the orangutans and the rainforests disappeared forever.