The Daily – 2/5

Word of the Day: By-ways

Notable / Highlight of the Day: there is no direct route between Bukit Lawang and Lake Toba. They’re separated by a mountain and the straightest route brings you back to Medan and through a town called Beristagi.
Matt and I were in good spirits and hoping that we’d have the shuttle mostly to ourselves, but that was hilariously wishful thinking. It was a car the size of a Toyota Rav4 with three rows of seats and every single one was assigned.
The other group beat us to the car so Matt, our new Swedish friend Steffan, and I were squished into the back seat. Matt and Steffan are significantly taller than me and my knees were just about pressed against the middle row of seats, so needless to say they were a bit more cramped.
So, I was squished between two relatively large men who radiated heat like furnaces for nearly five hours while we twisted through the byways of Sumatra. Poor Steffan was getting carsick so I offered up some motion-sickness tablets which he gladly accepted.
About an hour and a half into our trip I asked if we could pull over to use the restroom at some point soon, and about an hour after that we finally stopped at a gas station.
I couldn’t take the drivers music and had not much interest in chit-chat so I spent most of the trip with my headphones on catching up on podcasts.We stopped for a quick lunch and chatted with one of the girls in the middle row who was just starting her eight-month adventure around Southeast Asia.
It took five hours to get to Beristagi and drop off the three middle row guests. And another four to reach the port. We had an hour to kill until our seven pm ferry so we grabbed some dinner and beers with Steffan.
The ferry ride was uneventful and Steffan and I chatted while Matt gabbed with one of the locals. He had a few hotel recommendations and was going to lead us to his friends hotel once we got there.
We waved bye to Steffan who was to exit at the first top and continued to the second port of call. We followed the local who had a crazy head of curly hair up and up to the hilltop to his friends hotel. He showed us the room for 200k rupiah ($15) and when I stepped into the bathroom there was no shower. I asked Matt if he had one and the guy said that we could just use the bucket.
No, not a chance, matt said and he then whisked us away to another set of bungalows that were only 120k rupiah ($9) and had showers. Yes please, I was sold. But they only had one room and Matt and I had to share once again.
We had an easy dinner at the hotel as we were feeling tumbled from our car ride and headed to bed early. A happy surprise was the our hotel even had hot water, even if it didn’t have a sink, just a spigot on the wall.
I couldn’t wait to see the island in the morning.
Current Location: Bukit Lawang to Lake Toba, Indonesia
Mood Emoji: 🚙

The Daily 2/4

Word of the Day: Makeup

Notable / Highlight of the Day: I was up with the sun as usual and took the opportunity to try and catch up on my blog a bit while enjoying the sound of the jungle waking up.
Matt awoke and came to join me about an hour later and wanted to know if I wanted to join him wandering down the river for a bit, but I was content in my spot and wished him a happy adventure. But he decided instead to enjoy the spot alongside of me for a bit.
Our guides made is some tea and brought over a pack of oreos to go along with it. We moved up to the dining area when he started making breakfast and cracked open the oreos. But they were not long for us. Before I got a second cookie, a sneaky macaque snuck by and snatched the entire packet from the table. I screamed after him that he was going to get diabetes, but it didn’t bring back those oreos. That monkey just sat there taunting me and eating our sweets.
After breakfast sandwiches we made our way up river, scrambling along rocks and trying not to fall into the river. Kitsu was carrying our towels, shoes, and a big inner-tube that he used to push us across the river. We piled out and picked our way over more slippery stones to a little tucked away waterfall. There were a few girls enjoying themselves and their guide had applied some lovely makeup from the clay and charcoal laying about.
Kitsu offered to paint our faces as well with fantastic results. After a bit of a swim and a photo session we headed back for a little more fruit and to get ready to float back down river.
After packing up and noodles to give us energy we piled back into a few tubes strung together to head back into Bukit Lawang. The ride was way more fun than my white-water rafting experience and we got quite a few cold splashes along the way. The guys also sang this fun song to the tune of jingle-bells. (https://youtu.be/stV6VxaxFWg)
When we finally turned the corner into Bukit Lawang our guide spotted an orangutan and her baby playing in a tree right in town. He couldn’t believe it, he said they barely ever come this close. I could only wonder what in the jungle was pushing all these animals so close to the people.
We watched for a while from the riverbank and then head back into town to settle back in for a late lunch and get showered and cleaned up.
We couldn’t go back to hotel orangutan and ended up instead in a really sweet homestay called ensiovo. They had lots of adorable kittens to play with and several very small shy children. There was even a kitty trapped in our room when they went to show it to us. I was sold.
We sorted our stinky and wet clothes from the general clothing population and took turns showering and scrubbing the dirt off our skin.
During the evening we just relaxed in the homestay’s restaurant and were treated to entertainment from the cutest two-year-old and her cousin who was about 18 and shared a few card tricks with us.
Current Location: Bukit Lawang, Indonesia
Mood Emoji: 🐒🐈👧

The Daily – 2/3

Word of the Day: Orangutans!!!

Notable / Highlight of the Day: we were heading into the jungle!!! We still had to pack up, but today was the day.
We had both waffled on whether to do an overnight or two night trek, but Matt decided that he only wanted to do one night. I was fine either way as long as I saw some orangutans.
We each got a swimsuit, change of underwear, bug spray, and some other stuff ready and headed down with all our stuff to grab a breakfast before our guides led us into the thick of it.
We took a happy group photo with the staff and kidsu and Baloo introduced themselves as our guides. They were enthusiastic and explained we’d be moving through the jungle at a somewhat slow pace to make sure we could see everything. They also talked a bit about the orangutan rehabilitation program that took place in Bukit Lawang for many years and a few of the orangutans who never fully assimilated back into the wild.
We headed off in the opposite direction that both Matt and I assumed we’d be going in. Our first little bit was a hill climb into a plantation full of palm oil and rubber trees. And that’s when we realized our company would be about 20 other small groups we’d continue to bump into throughout the day.
There was a thomas leaf monkey just sitting in the tree at the entrance of the park. Our guide said he’s normally not there, but maybe recently got pushed out of his group and was starting to look for a new group to join. He literally was something out of dr seus with dramatic black and white fur and a head topped with a mohawk. He also didn’t care at all that he was surrounded by about 15 people all eager to snap his portrait.
And then as we rounded the corner there was another back up as a female orangutan had set up a nest for her young baby in a big tree. She was surrounded and hanging down to check us all out. Our guide said she was likely one of the females who had been part of the rehab program as she didn’t seem too bothered by all the people. Her baby even made an appearance to check out his adoring fans.
We continued on our way and eventually took a break to have some fruit when a clan thomas leaf monkeys made their way over to watch and patiently wait on our snacking progress in hopes we’d leave some sweet treats behind. And that we did, our guides dumped the leftover fruit in a pile behind the tree and the monkeys swiftly descended on the pile on pineapple and watermelon rinds.
As we got close to a jog in the path our guide Kidsu started telling us that we were coming up to an orangutan named Mena who was part of the rehab program. Mena has figured out that if she’s a bit aggressive and works things just right, she can get all the fruit she could ever want. So, she has bitten nearly every guide who works in Gunung Leuser park and each of them has a scar to prove it.
And he was right where they said she’d be and the group ahead of us was thrilled to have us allow for their escape. Our guide handed Mena so much fruit which she mostly ate but also shared with her adorable little orange baby.
It took us a bit of time but we finally made it past Mena when another group made their way along the path. We continued on our way crossing a small river where a Belgian family with three young kids (twins who were 6 and an 8 year old) were enjoying a break from their trek. It’s amazing to think that these parents are toting these kids around and these kids are getting such an incredible world view at such a young age.
Next we bumped into Jackie, another rehab program orangutan but with a sweet disposition and a curious and active son who bopped around on her back.
But she was scared and didn’t want to follow us. We learned it was because of the energetic and slightly crazy black gibbons that were swinging from the trees and having a ball. One of them even tried to steal my camera several times as I jumped away and missed some great photo opps.
Once they swung through we went back to find the Jackie had attracted a crowd. But she got overwhelmed and decided she didn’t want to be there anymore and took off away from our group.
We continued on for a while longer but the sky started to threaten rain and our guide let us know we could either head to camp now or wander for 40 more minutes. We opted to head to camp. And thank goodness we did, the descent was steep treacherous and would have been a nightmare in the rain.
The camp was lack-luster but sat along the river bank and had a family of macaques stalking the guests trying to steal any food that wasn’t in hand. There were also a few monitor lizards who were swiftly swimming back and forth across the river.
We spent the evening swimming in the river, eating yummy food, and hanging out with our guides. We chatted for a while about relationships and marriage, and he came up with lots of ways of having a relationship without being tied to marriage such as closely tracking spending and other protections for instances of kids or property. I still do not regret being married and said as much. His mind though was more on himself and other relationships around him.
At one point Matt saw something flashing in the woods and casually mentioned it was a tiger. Trying to joke I said, must be a fabulous tiger covered in glitter. And he was concerned and annoyed, replying, you know cats eyes shine in light, right!?!?! I’m not certain if he thinks I’m a bit stupid or if the reaction was from somewhere totally different.
Current Location: Bukit Lawang, Indonesia
Mood Emoji: 🐵🙈🙉🙊🐒🤷🏻‍♀️

The Daily – 2/2

Word of the Day: Bintang

Notable / Highlight of the Day: As usual I woke up way too early. But as promised by the Hotel Orangutan website, we were sitting at the edge of a dense jungle. The hotel was comfy and the bathroom was built into a huge rock wall with the faucet as just a hole in the wall.
We were both beat and also wanted to discuss trip logistics a bit before going on our first excursion. We first went for a walk down the river and to see the town.
Not surprisingly the town is very small. We walked about a 1/2 mile down the river but decided we didn’t want to spoil our trek tomorrow so turned around and came back to get some snacks, sundries, and lunch.
Because we had gotten in so late the hotel had put us in their lowest room. But we had to move up the hill, and up about 150 steep steps to our assigned room which felt like the middle of nowhere and was far far away from the little village below. The room was a bit fancier and the bathroom had one side that was screened in overlooking the jungle.
We were perched in an open-air cafe above a bend on the shallow but swift river through town. We started on some Bintangs and sifted through our list of things we wanted to see in Sumatra including Bukit Lawang and Lake Toba. Banda Aceh is on our maybe list.
We ordered some food and another Bintang and continues chatting. It was mid-day and all the campers were starting to float down the river after their jungle treks. There was lots of singing and hollering off the river and happy looking trekkers.
After our leisurely lunch and beers, we walked around town taking photos and checked out the other side of the town. It was a bit more bohemian, there was a large market, and we crossed several suspension bridges back and forth across the river and wandered through some market stalls selling souvenirs and fruit.
We headed back into town afterwards for some more bintang, river-watching, and dinner. There were two charming little girls playing with guests and having a good life.
We finally headed back and hung out on our balcony hoping for a monkey show before bed, but the rainforest delivered it’s nightly downpour and instead we retreated to bed.
Current Location: Bukit Lawang, Indonesia
Mood Emoji: 🍻🍻🍻

The Daily – 2/1

Word of the Day: Batik

Notable / Highlight of the Day: My alarm didn’t wake me up but I managed to wake up about 20 minutes after I had meant to and was still on schedule. Luckily I hadn’t really unpacked either, so packing up was a cinch.
I arrived at the airport to discover that my flight had been cancelled and I had been put on a later flight to Jakarta, which ensured I missed my connection to Sumatra. I wasn’t worried, but set in motion to let the hotel/driver know in Sumatra at everything was a mess already.
Matt’s flights were also delayed, so I was hoping we’d get in around the same time still, but wasn’t too hopeful. He had been traveling since the night before, so neither of us were having smooth trips. When I arrived in Jakarta I picked up my bags and found customer service to get booked through to Sumatra’s Medan Airport. The guy took pity on me and reassigned me to Lion Air’s luxury line, Batik Air for a 2pm flight, since Lion Air was all booked until the 7pm flight.
But it was not meant to be. The flight status board was showing the flight wasn’t leaving until three, even though my ticket said two, so I sat and waited in lounge five. Even Batik’s waiting lounges were nice.
Well, it turns out that the board was wrong and I missed the calls for the flight. I wanted to cry, I thought they misunderstood me, but no, I missed my flight by minutes.
So back to customer service I went. The same guy who helped me in the morning also helped me again. I think he saw how stressed I was and took pity on me by not charging me for the flight change.
So another three hours and one more flight delay rolled by until I was finally on my way to Medan at five in the evening. The plane was new and fancy and I even got dinner aboard. They also had a big selection of American TV and movies including Arrested Development and Modern Family. This was a bit surprising as I was not only the only white person on the plane but also the only one not wearing at least a head scarf.
The guy sitting next to me couldn’t believe his luck sitting next to a white American girl and proceeded to ask if he could take several selfies with me and even sent one to me once the flight was over.
At last, I was finally at the Medan Airport, eight hours late, but I was there. And Matt and the shuttle-bus driver were still waiting for me. Off we went to Bukit Lawang so we could at least wake up in the middle of the rainforest.
Matt and I gabbed away while we covered approximately 50 miles of sometimes well-paved, sometimes a good car massage. I finally gave into my exhaustion and fell asleep in the back of the car to the sound of rain pounding on the windshield. It took four hours and a 10 minute walk to arrive at our hotel. And the walk was dark and flooded. I had no idea what to expect when we woke up the next morning.
Current Location: Kuta, Bali to Bukit Lawang, Sumatra
Mood Emoji: 🤷🏻‍♀️

The Daily – 1/31

Word of the Day: Uber

Notable / Highlight of the Day: I did a little gift shopping, I had a leisurely breakfast and Yvette walked by and joined me for a bit, and I said farewell to the Uber Scuba team.
They were so sweet and encouraged me to do my divemaster on Gili T with them, and I’m considering it. I have a few months of travel already sketched out, so I have some time to think if Gili is where I want to be for a month or so.
My ferry, not surprisingly, was about 30 minutes late. Even after five months though, I still worry I’ve missed an announcement or something instead of just trusting that I’ve been paying enough attention and am not going to miss my transport.
And with that, I was sailing back to Bali. It took nearly three hours to get back because the sea was churning. And because Bruno and I had bought open return tickets on the Eka Jaya, the boat docked at Padangbai, a three-hour shuttle ride from where I was staying that night.
My hotel was $18 and was built amongst a bunch of temples. It was really nice and surprisingly comfy, even if I had to leave around 5:30 in the morning the next day to catch my flight to Sumatra.
Yvette and I caught up for dinner and hung out for a while drinking juice and chatting. Her flu wasn’t much better but she was working on cold drugs as she was heading to go diving in Komodo.
After dinner I walked back to my hotel and promptly collapsed in my bed.
Current Location: Gili T to Bali, Indonesia
Distance Traveled: 70 miles (guessing)
Mood Emoji: 🌊⛴

The Daily – 1/30

Word of the Day: Rescue Certified!!!

Notable / Highlight of the Day: We did a few more rescue drills at shore while waiting for the mid-day dive but only needed to do one more skill, which was hauling a body into a boat. I finally had everything else down pat.
Thank goodness Bill was hungover when I rescued him pretending to be a ‘panicked diver’ because he definitely would have caught me and pushed me under the surface otherwise. The current was super strong and it took some effort to actually get him to shore.
underwater photos courtesy of Mike!
So, the dive was mostly a fun dive/photography dive. We were at Turtle Heaven which is exactly what it sounds like, an area that has all the turtles you’d ever want to see. To give you an idea of how many turtles there are I was watching Mike take some photos of a very chill octopus who wasn’t hiding and a turtle nearly swam into me.
This guy (a green turtle…their named for their skin color, not shell color) was busy scratching his chin on the blue marlin statue, and, while it’s a bit tough to tell, I’m basically on top of him. I’ve never gotten so close to aquatic life before unless they approached me. He had the most incredible pattern on his shell. It looked like someone had painted cloud patterns or Arabic script on him before the brown splotches started to form.
We also saw this adorable, squee worthy, little cuttlefish hanging out and this shockingly large and ugly stonefish that could easily kill a man. There was even a happy little family of clownfish with a whole lot of babies sticking close to the anemone. The papa fish (maybe mama) was navy and white and very protective of his/her offspring.
The photos make the conditions look so good but the visibility was shit, that camera is amazing. If you look closely you can see a trumpet fish hiding in the back of this ‘cell’.
Once we got to the surface I had another ‘diver emergency’ and Robin had to be rescued and hauled into the boat. It was a bit confusing at first because another group had popped up and so there were two people floating face down, but once it got sorted, I went to rescue Robin. I accidentally grabbed her boob at one point but I’m pretty sure I finally ‘saved’ someone.
Mike and I celebrated my passing the test on the way back and I started to get super hungry. We had a late lunch at the shop. I was beat and really needed a shower so I finally said my goodbyes and thank-yous to Mike and Headed home for a couple hours to rest and shower.
I was going to Mike, miss the crazy, energetic, and slightly off-kilter Kiwi who’d I’d managed to not actually kill during my training – in equal parts by failing to save and managing to not choke for being such a nudge.
I met back up with the Uber team and bought a few large Bintangs and we all hung out and ordered some pizzas. Yvette came to hang out too but wasn’t feeling great.
Afterwards, Bill, Dan and I headed to Lava for a drink while everyone else headed home, but I decided that I was not interested in staying out and headed home after a quick drink.
Current Location: Gili T, Indonesia
Mood Emoji: 🐙