Orang-utans and more pestering touts
Bukit Lawang Travel Blog› entry 210 of 658 › view all entries
People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)
Bukit Lawang was reached from Pulau Weh by a 2 hour boat journey, an 11 hour over night bus journey and then a 3 hour journey on a very rickety old local bus. It was therfore a bit disappointing that on the last bus i was approached by a tout, who couldn't even wait until we got to the town to begin pestering me. For an hour i had to put on a smile and answer all the usual questions, whilst secrectly praying for him to leave me the hell alone, so as i could at least try and get some sleep. I eventually agreed to come and look at his hotel and then closed my eyes without agreeing to any trekking that he was also pushing.
As it turned out, the hotel he took us to was ok, with the exception that there were constantly touts floating about and trying to sell you a trekking trip. After 24 hours travelling this really wasn't the peace i was looking for! Added to this, it was some sort of national holiday and the whole area was awash with Indonesian holiday makers charging around with their rubber tyres to jump in the water. Part of me thought it was really cute, the other part of me was aching to be back in a hammock at Ericks :)
In Sumatran style, the heavens opened that afternoon and evening, confining us to our hotel and restaurant. It was actually quite pretty to watch the area during such a storm, although i confess to been a little worried at the levels of rain, as there had been a flood a few years earlier that had claimed nearly 300 lives.
The following day as we walked to the ticket office to buy our ticket for the centre, we were chased by the tout from the bus, still trying to sell us a trek. I had to bite my lip, as he was really pushing the matter too far. Thankfully we managed to shake him off and took a 20 minute walk along the river bank to where a small canoe takes you across the river. It was tied to a clever little pully system, which secured it from been dragged downstream by the fast currents.
Once on the opposite side of the river, it was another 15 minute walk up to a viewing area and literally just as we were arriving, so was an orang-utan. Although i had seen the Borneo orang-utan, this was my first experience with the Sumatran one and it was a real buzz. I watched it climb onto a wooden platform, where it received some bananas and a drink from a helper. I was a little disappointed to see that they didn't just leave the food for it, but actually hand fed it. Saying they are trying to rehabilitate them so as not to depend on humans, it seemed an unneccessary contact that would surely result in the orang-utan becoming more dependent if anything.
The orang-utan remained on or around the platform for about 20 minutes and it was a real pleasure to watch it clambering through the trees with bananas in hand.
Two other things to really make me angry about this area was a guide telling us that on the treks they banged the trees with sticks, to make the orang-utans come out of their nests if they weren't visible. Also the day ticket to the centre was actually a one hour pass and if you wanted to go to the afternoon feeding then you paid again. The whole set up felt like it was solely geared towards taking the tourists money, with absolutely no regard for the orang-utans.
We had some lunch in a cafe overlooking the pretty river and bridge and decided that rather than give any more money to the centre, we would miss the afternoon feeding and take the bus back to Medan. I only hope that the centre raises its game and stops seeing the orang-utans as a cash cow, but animals that really need rehabilitating and preferably are encouraged to then leave the area rather than been dependent upon humans. Time will tell.