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That doesn’t flow as well as it does in the song.

A continuation from before where I had mentioned that we were going to Sumatra because there were coffee plantations there. Given that I work in a coffee shop, I started to think that maybe I could go there and my trip could be a tax write off. (Clearly, this is tax fraud, and I’m only kidding, Australian government. I will still be applying for another visa later this year so I hope you can take a joke.) But then with a bit of research I realized what a wealth of opportunity visiting Sumatra really is.

The idea of being able to see one the great apes in the wild is what really did me in. I’ve spent more time with orangutans then a lot of people (but not nearly as much as other people I know!) in a controlled setting. But it was just that-controlled. To experience an animal in the wild versus working with them in a zoo fulfills two different types of desires that animals lovers have by default. Zoos provide a false sense of security (there for multiple reasons) and this allows a foundation for people to form a relationship with an animal that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. And it is one of the most amazing experiences a person can have.

You lose that security and thus that opportunity for a relationship when you go into the field. There is not one part of me that is delusional enough to believe that an ape is going to approach me because I’m me, there will be no reciprocated love in THAT jungle.  We go on these trips to see these animals (birds, fish, whatever) to feel excitement, wonder and for the romantics- a sense that you are privy to the personal life of a creature that has a completely different relationship with the world that you can’t even begin to imagine. Not to mention the danger side of it all. The journey is an adventure, the location is a story by itself.

Anyway, so I wanted to see an orangutan in the wild. And I knew Benny Mac wanted to do a trek; we had looked into doing the Kokoda trail in PNG before we decided on this trip. The first place that popped up was Banda Aceh and Gunung Leuser National Park. Banda Aceh seemed like the easiest option, so I tried to find a guide. And what I found was a TON of guides who could show you a TON of orangutans for the LEAST amount of money. And Banda Aceh also sounded family friendly, which in my head equates to yelling screaming children, people walking the same trail to see the same orange guy in the tree, maybe even get a photo op with a baby orang. Not what we had in mind. (Apologies if someone went there and it wasn’t like this. Perhaps you had the best time of your life…if so, I stand corrected)

I found a blog by a German couple who had just gotten back from Sumatra. They seemed pretty hardy, but also very particular about everything. The highlight of their trip was this trek that they did through Gunung Leuser. They went through an Indonesian run eco lodge called The Rainforest Lodges and they had two different locations on the island:Ketambe and Kedah, neither of which are google earth-able. Also the drive to Kedah was 11hrs from Medan not because of distance (it is only 150 MI, or 250 KM) but because the road is a bit seedy. THIS was more what we were looking for. (I also heard there were banana pancakes for breakfast at the lodge. Clear winner.)

Like the Mau Ke Mauna site, this has some western influence. A ?German? guy named Sigi that has an obvious connection with the island handles a lot of the correspondance. He only handled the logistics, however, and he does it all for free for the lodges. He sent me pictures and helped Benny Mac and I decide which was right for us.

Kedah in the Morning-Provided by Sigi

Ketambe is a bit more touristy (if you can call it that) while Kedah was more for the longer treks, so that’s what we decided on. After that he got us in contact with a woman on the island named Maulida who told our guide Jally we were coming and arranged our driver Ramadhan to pick us up from the airport.

~If I can add here, I don’t ever think I will get over the way international, English second language people play with this language. I love it. I couldn’t figure out the international number Sigi had given me to contact Maulida, and after a few attempts she finally sent me a “I have received both e-mail and all text. Response has been responded.” And this e-mail:

Hai Natasha,

I will arrange Ramadhan to pick you up at the airport on 29th May. He will  write your name on a cartoon.
I also will inform Jally about your trekking schedule.
Don’t worry about your schedule. I will make sure that they are all inform.


Awesome. This is right up there when my Japanese friend K. told me to give Benny Mac a hug…but only if he craves. 😀 ~

Anyways, check out the place here:


Benny Mac wants to see a Sunbear. Hopefully Jally can deliver such a insane, yet possible, experience. I’ll keep you updated.

Also, we canned the coffee plantation. Its really uninteresting why-no time. And we’d rather spend some time in Bali. We’ll frolic through a rice paddock if we want some agricultural action. Maybe even pick a grain or two.