A Day in the Jungle

Shortly after arriving in the exotic jungle village of Bukit Lawang, where Orangutans roam freely and different kinds of monkeys are easily spotted without effort, I met a couple of Dutch girls in my guesthouse. After talking for a couple of minutes, I agreed to join them on their one-day jungle trek the following morning.  The two nice, relaxed guides were than happy to have another paying customer.

The one day excursion included a surprisingly tasty lunch made up of cold rice and veggies wrapped in banana leaves, a white water tubing experience, and optional cannabis to enhance the already colorful and abundant jungle milieu.

This guided trek, which would be very difficult or virtually impossible to do on one’s own, cost about U.S. $7. This was way back in ’98, during the Asian economic crisis, just before Indonesia was about to get economically pummeled. However, the reason the tourist population was sparse, is because of ill-perceived worries of forest fires which had actually been long gone.

Upon entering the lush jungle, the two Dutch girls, our two local guides and I were greeted by a sizable troop of monkeys that seemed to be human rodents. Human rodents didn’t really exist, but if they did, I’d deemed that they could take the form of monkeys foraging for food, hoping we’d throw some bananas their way. Our two guides started swinging sticks and their bodies around.  This caused the monkeys to disperse, giving us a peaceful path, at least for the moment.

About a-half hour into our full-day trek, a seemingly relaxed orangutan walked past one of the girls. She stood immobile.  I noticed her urinating through her shorts in fear.   I thought this to be irrational.  Then the muscular ape causually walked past me and suddenly dove down at one guide’s leg.  I stood in complete shock while the other guide jumped on the orangutan, smashing its head into the ground. This enabled the victim to get up. With a little chunk bitten out of his calf, he and the other guide said:

Walk up that hill as fast as you can.”

The two girls, our two guides and I went straight up a patch of conveniently steep terrain, grabbing roots of trees to help hoist ourselves up. I learned at that moment that humans have the natural ability to move faster than apes while going uphill.

Roughly a-half-an-hour later our guides said:

OK, we’ve outrun her, we’ve outrun Mina, it’s time to stop for lunch.”

We were told that Mina was a bit of a crazy ape, and that most of them are not like that.

As we cleaned the wound with some of my extra drinking water, and used a t-shirt as a makeshift bandage, we assumed that it was time to find a way out of the jungle and get this boy some medical attention.

Absolutely not! We came out here to give you guys a tour of our jungle and we are  just beginning!

There would be no way to convince these guys to go back to the tiny town. We’d paid them. They were giving us a service. By all means we’d get our money’s worth and hopefully tell other travelers about their great service.

Thus, we ventured on. We witnessed landscapes that I’d only thought existed in fairy tales. We saw more orangutans walking near us and hovering in the trees above and in the distance.

Our guides tried their best to show us as much as they could. They pointed out Gibbon monkeys miraculously flying very high up in the mammoth tree scape. They were literally ‘flying’.

They pointed out trees that were infested with red ants, making sure that we didn’t lean on or touch them. They wrapped our stuff up in plastic and carried it across refreshing rivers that had to be crossed, while we swam.

For the culmination, we met up with three friends of the guides. They provided us with tubes and tubed through the jungle with us until we were back at the village. An hour after we returned from an amazing day, our guide who had been bitten came and informed us that he had been to the doctor and received gamma globulin shots. All was well in the northern Sumatran jungle.

I wondered who Mina’s next victim would be, or if the attack had been in retaliation for something, as the ape did not seem to be choosing its prey at random.


2 responses to this post.

  1. ‘Hmm, not sure, but I’ve had 12 years to think about this. I believe that perhaps my guide may have harassed Mina prior to the bizarre attack. Unless this guide, Bronti of Bukit Lawang -who must remember the incident- miraculously comes across this post and comments, we’ll never know.


  2. Posted by Maida on December 30, 2010 at 16:14

    wow – don’t think i’ve ever heard that story before. maybe a turf war?


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