Bukit Lawang is located north of Medan in North Sumatra on the edge of the Gunung Leuser National Park. It is a popular tourist destination for Westerners and Medanese alike. Its primary feature is the Bohorok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Center which has public feeding's of the Orang-Utans from a platform within the park.
We spent 4 days in Bukit Lawang, spending our first day looking around the town and organising a two day trek into the Jungle. We had been talked into the idea of a trek by one of the enterprising locals (many people in Indonesia seem to spend the majority of their time simply drumming up business) and thought we might check out the cost most of the guides were charging. Although every second person in Bukit Lawang seemed to be a licensed guide, most of the licenses tended to be somewhat out of date. However, we managed to get a good range of pricing and talked the price down so that our guides ended up lowering their price as well as paying for all our accommodation for the period of our stay in Bukit Lawang, which would have been more impressive if the accommodation hadn't been so darn cheap..
On the morning of the second day we headed out to the feeding platform to see the orangutans feeding. Actually we had a better look at the orangutans on the walk to the top of the hill where the feeding was taking place - there was one small animal that was hanging from a tree barely a meter above us on the path.
Once we were at the top of the hill there were so many tourists it was harder to get close to the animals and the orangutans seemed very used to the photos and people - one orangutan seeming to pose for the cameras with her baby hanging off her at various angles. The baby was very cute - hiding its eyes from the camera flashes and making faces at all the tourists..
After returning from the feeding platform we headed straight off on the trek. We had asked for an easy trek, but as soon as we started off it was pretty clear that there was no such thing - the first hill we encountered was steep and muddy, and this proved to be one of the easier hills we were to climb.
It turned out we really didn't need to go to the feeding platform - we saw so many orangutans throughout our walk it really didn't seem worth it in the end. The animals were very tame or, at least, very used to the guides who walked through the jungle. The orangutans came down from the trees as we approached and stuck out their hands to take the food before it was even offered by the guides. Apparently the orangeutans become quite angry if the guides don't give them food so the guides are very quick to get the bananas out as soon as they see the animals in the trees.
After trudging up many muddy slopes, and finally down a very steep slope we eventually reached a fast flowing river that was little better than a whitewater run. At this point the girls I was travelling with all but boycotted the whole thing - refusing to cross. I cant say that I could blame them, the water was very fast flowing and the river bed was covered by smooth, slippery rocks that made it hard to stand. I made it across o.k carrying my bag above my head, but the girls waited until the guides came back to help them across. After this and the tough walk in, we were all very happy to stop for the day and have some hot tea. Despite the somewhat tougher than expected conditions I quite enjoyed the trek - it took me back to my days as a cadet at school... ahh, those were the days..
We had a difficult nights sleep - I was lying with a tree root poking into my ribs and the noises of the jungle arent quite as soothing as you might think, also I'm sure I felt something crawl across me while I was lying in the tent on more than one occasion. I don't think any of us were too concerned about sleeping in, getting up pretty much as soon as it was light and looking for breakfast. The guides cooked some really nice food while we were camping out, some really nice Indonesian food - traditional Indonesian food seeming to consist of 5 minute noodles and chilli.
The trip back to Bukit Lawang was somewhat easier than the trek out - we all jumped into a raft made up of inner-tubes and floated back down the river into town. As long as you kept your ass off the shallow bottom of the river and protruding rocks the ride was really fun - kind of a mix between floating and white-water rafting.