posted 19 Jun 2013, 23:30 by Heather Wyatt   [ updated 19 Jun 2013, 23:51 by ]
For the last two months we have been travelling through Indonesia. Indonesia is a group of about 13,000 islands (although all the books differ - some say more), stretching from northern Australia to Malaysia. We began our trip in Bali, which is a big tourist destination (particularly for Australians). It has some beautiful beaches, a rich Hindu culture and lots of terraced paddy fields to explore. We visited the Gili Islands from there - Gili Trawangan and Gili Air, as we were in need of a bit of a rest after non-stop travelling in New Zealand. It was very beautiful, and there's some great snorkeling to do there. We met some turtles and a lot of very colourful fish! There were also some amazing sunsets.


From Bali we headed west, through the island of Java. Java was very different from Bali, much busier as it has a much larger population. Java (like the majority of Indonesia) is mainly Muslim, and it was wonderful hearing the call to prayer from the Mosques. Our highlights in Java were:

- The city of Yogyakarta - home to many old Hindu and Buddhist temples; bustling bird markets and the Sultan's Palace. 


- Watching the sun rise over Mount Bromo (an active volcano which we then climbed to look into the steaming crater).


- Seeing a traditional shadow puppet performance (Wayang Kulit), complete with a Gamelan orchestra.


So from Java we then attempted to travel via bus and ferry to South Sumatra, but we had a few problems along the way - including spending an entire night sitting on the side of the road. Our very overcrowded bus broke down at 11pm, so they took out the engine, took the engine apart and then left it sitting next to the bus. At 9am the next morning nobody had come to fix the bus yet, we'd had no sleep and our patience was wearing thin (we had already been travelling 3 days non-stop to get to this point). So we gave up, hailed down the next bus going back the other way, went all the way back to Jakarta and flew to Northern Sumatra instead. And I'm so glad we did! Northern Sumatra was amazing.

Our first stop was Danau Toba (Lake Toba). The lake is 100km long, 30km wide and up to 505m deep. It sits inside the crater of a huge supervolcano that erupted about 77,000 years ago (an eruption that almost wiped out the human race). It's the largest volcanic lake in the world, and absolutely stunning. We stayed in a traditional Batak house, in Tuktuk (situated on an island in the middle of the lake).


Our second stop was in Berastagi, where we climbed an active volcano called Gunung (Mount) Sibayak. We almost got lost in the clouds at the top - but once they cleared the views were spectacular.


And that brings me to our final stop in Indonesia - and possibly the most exciting thing that I've ever experienced. 
Our final visit was to a town on the edge of Gunung Leuser National Park (the rainforest), called Bukit Lawang. It became a big tourist destination during the 1980s, due to a rehabilitation centre that used to be there to help put Sumatran Orangutans back into the wild. The rehabilitation centre has since closed down, and the park sees much fewer visitors now, but you can still go jungle trekking to see the Orangutans for yourself. So we did!

We did a 3 day jungle trek: sleeping under tarpaulins; climbing and descending huge ridges (it was hard!); being attacked by leeches (they get everywhere); climbing up waterfalls; having to dig a hole to go to the toilet (gross!); rafting down the river and enjoying all the amazing creatures of the rainforest. Below are some pictures of some of the animals and insects that we met - including Thomas Leaf Monkeys, a preying mantis, lantern bugs, giant ants, macaque monkeys, the beautiful orangutans and a huge monitor lizard.

      This is the lantern bug - possibly the strangest insect I've ever seen. 

Which leads me to the most exciting part of our trip so far. On the second day of our trek we came across a semi-wild orangutan called Jackie. She was sitting up above the path that we were climbing down. The others walked past her, but when I tried to pass she climbed down and took hold of my arm. Our guide told me to sit down, so I did - straight away. Her grip was really strong - they're much much stronger than humans. She sat down with me, and held my arm. She didn't seem to want to let go. Our guide tried to coax her away with some fruit, but she wanted to take me with her. At one point she got quite cross with him, and picked up a big stick and started hitting him with it - all the while holding tight to my arm. Eventually an apple tempted her away, but it really was an amazing and wonderful experience. Such a beautiful animal - they're facial expressions make them seem so human-like. I feel very lucky!

And that brings me up to today! We're in Malaysia now, wondering what to do with our last month away. We fly back to England on the 1st August - so unfortunately I won't be able to come and see any of you before the end of term.
I hope you're all enjoying the summer term and that school is going well. I'll try to write again before we head home!