Deb in West Sumatra 2012/2013 travel blog

About to cross river to visit orangutan feeding platform

crossing the river to visit the orangutan feeding platform

At the feeding platform



Lake Toba


Trisna, Elsa & myself

Batak traditional house Lake Toba

vehicle ferry crossing Lake Toba

crossing lake toba

bus broke down at this food stop

note the space behind the seat - second bus driver sleeps here



A flying visit to Medan North Sumatra, we caught a bus on Saturday for Medan from Bukittinggi. The bus would arrive in Medan at about 1030 on Sunday. Tisna’s uncle met us at the bus station, to help with the extra parcels of food that her mother had sent to the Medan family. Of course we would have as many parcels on the return trip for Trisna’s parents.

I liked what I saw of Medan although it was old and decrepit looking, there appeared to be a more relaxed atmosphere as it is not staunchly Muslim with a good mix of Christians living throughout North Sumatra. While there I don’t recall hearing the call to prayers and Trisna’s uncle did say that there is more tolerance there for non Muslims and respecting each others’ beliefs. Because of this there were many women who did not wear the jihaab and were less conservatively dressed.

As it was such a short visit we had to make the most of our time there and be selective of the places we would visit.

On Monday we visited Bukit Lawang, a couple of hours by bus from Medan. It is set on a river on the edge of a national forest. The setting of the river with the national forest on one side and a narrow strip of accommodation on the other was quite lovely. The river was clear and people were having fun rubber tubing down the river and swimming.

We crossed the river in a dugout canoe on a pulley system so that we could visit the feeding platform for the Orangutans. The platform has been stationed in the forest for the orangutans to supplement their diet while they settle back into their natural habitat from being released back into the forest. The station takes in injured, sick or captured orangutans in a drive to preserve them. There have been about 200 orangutans released back into the national park up until 2005. As there is currently plenty of fruit available in the forest the numbers of orangutans feeding at the supplementary platform are less.

The day we visited there were 3 orangutans that came in out of the forest to eat the extra fruit set out for them. We had to walk about 20 minutes into the forest up a hillside. You will see from the photo, that it was hot and humid, a dip in the river looked very welcoming.

The following day we visited Lake Toba which really needs a number of days. The lake itself was much bigger than I anticipated and we had time to lunch and catch a ferry across to one of the villages. Where we visited one of the burial sites and a traditional bulding. The Batak people are local to this region they don’t believe in cemeteries, but bury their families on family property. The gravesites themselves are very large and ornate, the larger the better and well loved was the deceased. Many of the Batak are in debt for many years if not their lifetime after the burial of a deceased family member. The Lake Toba area is also a strong Christian area with many churches scattered around as you would see mosques in other areas and few if any mosques.

We had an interesting bus ride back to Bukittinggi, at about 2 am the bus broke down and after a while it was able to limp into a foodstop. We ended up staying there until 1700 the next day which is about the time we were originally due to arrive in Bukittinggi. Presumably they were dispatching another bus to transport us for the rest of the journey. However, when it arrived it already had passengers on it, so there were not enough seats for everyone. Which of course caused a few arguments in the Indonesian way of not shouting or showing anger, but talking with a slightly raised voice and more hand waving. Eventually the company representative was able to sort it all out to most people’s satisfaction.

We stayed another night with Trisna’s family in Payakumbuh and then returned to Muaro the following day to prepare for work again.

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