Strong Arms for Kids

 
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Ketambe, Sumatra

I spent three days and two nights exploring the jungles of Sumatra in search of Orangutans.  I went with two local guides, one hiking in front of me and the other hiking behind me, carrying the tent and all of our food and other random equipment for the three days.  I was really glad I wasn't carrying it, but I felt so bad for him.  The first day, we hiked all day, but stopping every 15-20 minutes so they could have a rest and a cigarette.  I think I became addicted to cigarettes after all the second hand smoke I inhaled.  I tried to ignore it, but, yes, I did feel kind of strange being out there in the middle of nowhere with just two strange men, but unfortunately it was my only option if I wanted to do this trip.  So after hiking to about 5pm, searching and searching for big orange apes, the lead guide, out of nowhere, turns around on the trail, looks at me kind of strangely, goes to grab my hand, and seductively says "you are a very lucky girl".  At first, I didn't want to know why I was so lucky (you know just in case it was something else) but then he points toward the sky and there is a huge male Orang staring at us from the branches above.  I just stared in amazement...It was like being at a zoo, but then you think "wait a second, I am in the middle of the jungles of Sumatra and there is no barrier between me and this huge creature, nor is there anyone selling cotton candy down the path.  THIS IS AS REAL AS IT GETS".  Pretty cool if you ask me.

Once I had enough staring we headed to camp to prepare for the night and cook some grub.  Normally they carry along live chickens to make for dinner but since I was a vegetarian they brought along fresh tempeh wrapped in banana leaf.  I also got to try some new fruits I had never seen before, one was a mangosteen, and the other they called a snake fruit (because its skin looked like snake skin) and it's Indonesian name was salak.  Anyway, for dinner we had a vegetable soup with fried tempeh with fried dry fish and rice.  It was really quite delicious.
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Fried Tempeh and fish with herbs and onions
After dinner, the night was spent watching the one guy making me bracelets with a special weaving technique and using a stiff grass.  It was actually pretty cool, and I had fun with my guides, even though the lead guide starting to get a bit too comfortable with me.   I just figured if I made it through this night all would be okay. 

Next morning came, and everything was fine.  We headed out early, just me and the lead guide to go find some more of the big orange guys.  Almost immediately we found one and spent quite some time sitting and watching him.  But as we were watching him, the guide thought it would be fun to make the orangutan jealous by putting his arm around me.  I stayed there, being as polite as possible but not enjoying it one bit...when finally it came...he says to me " Can I say something to you?" and in my head I am thinking OH NO, HERE IT COMES...and it did..."I like you...is that okay for me to say?"  Mind you this is after I met his wife and had his 2 year old son sitting on my lap at the guesthouse.  So an immediate NO came out of my mouth and reminded him that his behavior at the moment is really bad for his tour guiding business.  Luckily we left it at that and all was good from then on, besides him cooking my dinner that night in his bikini briefs, talk about unsanitary.

That night we camped at another site with some HOT Hot springs.  I am talking HOT!  They told me that the water was hot but I didn't grasp how hot they were talking until I put my foot in the water by accident and seriously scalded my foot. I still have a mark actually.  Then the next morning after catching some fish for breakfast and smoking it (which was really tasty), they boiled me some eggs, carrots and potatoes in the actual hot spring.  That is how hot was the hot spring.
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The hot springs
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Finally after I survived my jungle trek, we returned to the guesthouse, where I scrubbed and scrubbed in the tub until my skin almost fell off.  I have never in my life felt so filthy.  On my last leg of my trip, I was planning on just heading back to Medan and spending 2 nights there, but I ended up meeting these two really cool Austrian guys and spent the night hanging out with them in a random town on the way back to Medan.  The loved the local Indonesian food, so much so, there was absolutely no talking while they were shoveling the food into their mouths.  It was quite entertaining actually to watch them.  After they finished their dinner of a random assortment of all sorts of fried and grilled meats from a street vendor, they almost ordered this dessert which consisted of the thickest piece of what looked like Wonderbread on steroids with gobs of butter spread onto it.  They grilled that for a bit, then put chocolate sauce between two huge slabs of bread and top it with sprinkles.  I almost puked just watching them make it.

Then the next morning the madness continued.  We went to a local eatery for breakfast.  The local eateries in Indonesia have all the food displayed out front in a window case and then you just point to what you want and they give it to you.  After my other Gado-Gado experience, that was the last thing I wanted to eat, but thats the only vegetarian dish I could have, but all I really care about was trying the avocado juice, so as long as I had that, I didn't care what I had with it.  It was a feast, to say the least, and even though everything tasted pretty good, I wasn't so sure if I was going to make it on a bus after that, for an hour and a half, without a toilet (if you know what I mean), but luckily I did, and all was good til the end on my trip to Indonesia...except for my rash, buts that's almost gone, as well. :-). 
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It all cost about 3$ per person
 


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