What do you imagine when you think about Sumatra and you’ve never been there? Maybe it’s not that different from what my imagination was. I created a picture of thick jungle and exotic wildlife, even after seeing so much destruction all over the countries, we’ve already been to. Ok, keep your expectations realistic and wait for what’s going to come.

We take a night bus from Banda Aceh and change into a small mini bus, following a bumpy road. We share the backseat with an Indonesian teacher working in one of the schools on the way to our destination. He is an amazing source of knowledge and tells us about Indonesia’s history. He also knows parts of a german children’s song called “Alle Voegel sind schon da” and it’s so much fun to sing it together. Maybe a little weird thing for the other passengers.

After around 1 ½ hours we reach Bukit Lawang. It’s a small village located at the Barohok river and even after more than 13 hours busride it’s still northern Sumatra. Close Gunung Leuser Nationalpark and a former Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center made the place a famous tourist destination. But over the years the amount of visitors declined and it’s mostly just a few backpackers coming here. The atmosphere differs a lot from Banda Aceh. We feel like on an island of relaxation, happiness and easy-going. Significantly less women wear scarfs and people’s daily life seems quite different from other places on Sumatra. It takes some time until we find accommodation for the next days, because we want to get the best value to money deal after getting a dirty room for too much money in Banda Aceh. Finally we take a hillside wooden hut with great view on jungle and river and the first visitors, curious little monkeys, check out our balcony. They are not shy at all and I am quite scared after one comes very close. Seven is much more brave and has a lot of fun watching them.

Most people, who come to Bukit Lawang, join guided jungle trekking tours to see the Orang Utans and it doesn’t take long until guides offer packages to us too. But after jungle trekking in Malaysia we want to save money and feel a bit lazy. It’s easy not to feel missing something if you decide so, because even while sitting in the restaurant you are already inside the jungle. And than, it really happens. We are just having some food and do some work on the terrace of our guesthouse when on the other side of the river inside the trees something is moving. Yes, it’s our red-haired relative, the Orang Utan. It’s two of them slowly moving from on branch to the other grasping fruits and other things of interest. I am excited again, smiling and giggling unstoppable and a girl from US seems more entertained by my behaviour than by the Orang Utans itself. How lucky we are! It’s not that often that they come that close to the settlement as the locals tell us afterwards. Even around two hours later we can see them again from our balcony.

We really fall in love with the place and we decide to stay one more day. Unfortunately we need to leave our first room because it’s already booked. But right next door at Jungle Inn the host offers us a beautiful huge room for only half the prize and we allow us some luxury for one night. This day we go for a walk along the river. One more beautiful place we are happy to explore.

Unfortunately many places also in Sumatra struggle with illegal logging and many parts of the natural forest have been changed to palm oil and banana plantation. It’s not the wilderness it ones has been, but I know that there are a lot of people who want to make a difference and save the remaining beauty. We all can join them…..let’s do some first steps and reflect on our all-day behavior and consumption…. 

More love, less stuff. LSX