Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bukit Lawang: Jungle Trek

"Jungle trek, jungle trek, in Bukit Lawang. See the monkeys,  see the birds, see Orang-u-tan!" (sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells")
No trip to Bukit Lawang is complete without a proper trek through the Gunung Leseur National Park.  As we aren't the most intrepid of hikers, we picked a one-day trek rather than the customary two or three days.  We were also tipped off beforehand that the multi-day treks can get quite redundant and are pricey.  The morning of our trek, we made our way over a giant suspension bridge to the parks' lower entrance and joined our group.  The initial part of the journey led through rubber tree plantations, with freshly gashed trees oozing raw, sticky rubber into coconut shells for collection.

While rubber is quite lucrative, the trees must be cut down and replanted every 30 years, so farmers grow cacao trees (cocoa powder and chocolate) alongside rubber to supplement their income.

Past the plantations, we entered protected forest...

Within the first half-hour of trudging through thick tropical air we spotted our first semi-wild Sumatran Orang-utans!  A relaxed mom and her four or five year old.  Babies generally stay with their mothers until they are about five, so this little guy was already pretty independent!

The breeding and conservation program has been quite successful in Bukit Lawang, so there are apes to be seen.

Orang-utans share 96% of their DNA with humans.  Can you see the resemblance?

A Malaysian Sun Bear has been here.  Tell-tale claw marks on the tree.

This curious mother and baby duo got extremely close to our group, allowing us to rattle off quite the photo shoot.


Orang-utans are the largest arboreal mammal as they primarily live up in the trees and even build nests to sleep in.  They come down to forage for food (phenomenal opportunists) and pose for photo-hungry tourists.

As usual, the long-tailed macaques were roaming the forest floor.  I really can't stand these cheeky little monkeys!

A Soft-shell turtle hiding in a river bed.  Can you see his long nose peaking out?

This wild guinea fowl was on the hunt; chasing a huge, vermillion centipede that came crashing across our path just seconds before we noticed the proud fowl and his redolent plumage as he picked through the undergrowth.

Our hike was fruitful indeed, as we encountered a number of wild and semi-wild orang-utans, as well as some other species of critters.  However, we couldn't resist the feeling that we were just sort of walking in circles at many points and couldn't help but wonder if the many glimpses of the infamous "Aggressive Orang-utan Mina" (which induced panic into our group a couple of times) were all just part of the show conjured up by our guides.

After a few hours of trekking (much of which was spent running from Mina), it was time for our hard-earned lunch.  Several groups congregated on the top of a ridge to eat, only to be attacked by monkeys and great apes!  This duo of brigands abruptly swung into the clearing, snatching food out of peoples' hands and helping themselves to a nasi goreng.

Covet thy neighbor's food.

Those two were followed by a hungry male and another deadbeat mom looking for handouts.  As germs and illnesses can pass easily from humans to apes, this was a bonafide ecological disaster.

Things started to get hairy as more monkeys and apes started to show up.  Pretty soon Mina was on our trail again, running up towards the ridge.  We all had to flee the scene and our large group dispersed.  With our guide we speedly made our way deeper into the jungle and away from the mayhem.

When apes attack...
After the intrusion and subsequent escape, we were left covered in sweat and itching to eat.  Thus, we stopped for lunch a little later and although no more hungry orangutans were on the scene, we were joined by more macaques and a bumbling land tortoise.

After lunch we continued on through the labyrinth of trails and trees, seeing occasional wildlife and taking in the beauty of the jungle.  Over all it was a successful outing!

Rattan. The sturdy branches are used to make furniture.

Out of the jungle and into the fire.

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