By: Magus Kutabarat –
Billy Bob awoke at his guest house in Bukit Lawang to the sound of the Bahorok river and Leaf Monkeys playing outside. After lontong breakfast, he walked up the river path and crossed by raft to the National Park entrance. A small group of bule and local tourists were escorted up the steep and slippery track for 20 minutes to a place where orangutan would come for a free breakfast of bananas at a platform in a tree.
Four orangutan arrived by tree top. They made direct eye contact and appeared thoughtful. After a while they had enough bananas and bored of ‘orang human’ stareing at them so left via the treetops.
Some tourists continued for trekking, but at a cost of Rp 400,000 each in a group of 4 or more. This seemed rather expensive and the guide (or his agent) was earning more than a westerner, for walking in the jungle (or sitting in his office). But it included nasi goreng and raft tubing down the rapids.
The local guides were Batak Karo and trekking was their main source of income and they didn’t work every day. Considering Bukit Lawang is the main location in Sumatra to see orangutan, it didn’t seem very busy. Billy Bob had heard that Sabah Malaysia was more popular. Tourism is based on service and promotion.
He rented a large ban dalam ‘tube’ and carried it along the river path for 3 km, then floated down the river rapids. It was a great thrill. Along the way he passed an orangutan on the river bank. They stared at each other and ‘orang human’ waved, but orangutan only scratched his bum.
At lunch in the village, Billy Bob had barbeque babi panggang karo or BBQ BPK, and met Warwan in the warung. He is married to a Swedish woman and has a baby. They own a guest house and said that business was ok but sometimes a struggle.
At night they met for a party of drinking, smoking and guitar around a fire. Late in the night, they thought they heard harimau growl in the jungle. Warwan said maybe Billy Bob just made kentut, but he said that came after harimau. Lissoi lissoi.
Next day, Billy Bob walked to the bat cave. At the entrance was the karo batman collecting money and selling drinks. Billy Bob bought a mancis lampu for the cave. It certainly smelled of bat shit. That night he talked to some bule about Berastagi volcanoes so he decided to see for himself. (continued)