Bukit Lawang, Sumatra - Weddings & Pachyderms... / by Mark Boyd

On the second or third night Tesen, the main man for all your needs at Ecotravels Cottages, took me along to an Muslim wedding.... It was quite the treat. We walked down through and across the village until we reached the 'party'.

I didn't see a bride. I didn't see a groom. I think it was some sort of after party. I was told to help myself to the buffet style food which was delicious.

We approached the stage.  There was a guy knocking out some tremendously awful singing, but he was enjoying himself.... Not sure anyone else was enjoying him though.

But that wasn't going to stop him!!!

Then the comedian came on.  A guy in his mid fifties wearing a Hitler style moustache and plastic sunglasses knocked out some humorous songs and then performed a comedy sketch with a a 'little lady'. All the kids were loving it.

He was obviously funny as the crowd were laughing a lot. I just couldn't understand a word he was saying. But his actions spoke volumes. He was no doubt funny.... and funny in a clean way too... no smut whatsoever.... apart from the air thrusting and losing of his trousers every few minutes.... Big laughs, small gags.... Simple humour for a very willing and easy to please crowd. Perfect!

Then it was the turn of the kids..... And the poor lad in this group of girls was taking a right roasting all the way through the dance routine.... His teacher was at the front shaking her head and growling at him.... Which made him look miserable too.... Tough times!  He was no Patrick Swayze let's put that way.... But he was a trier....

It was very kind of Tesen to take me a long. Dragging a tourist along to these things must feel like a bind at times.... But I don't think he saw me as your ordinary tourist, and I think Tesen and I were becoming friends.

 Easy Rider..... Who needs leathers!???

Easy Rider..... Who needs leathers!???

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I'd been really enjoying my days at Ecotravels Cottages. The location was perfect, the breakfasts were a delight and each morning I'd wake up just ahead of sunrise to carry out a yoga session at the riverside.

One morning a flock of huge hornbills (birds with huge yellow bills, like toucans... but not toucans... bigger!)  moved along the trees on the farside of the river, other mornings the common long tailed macaques (the assholes of the animal kingdom) took over the far bank, up to thirty individuals including cute (but you know they're just going to turn out like their parents) few week old babies 'ruled' the pebbles. Macaques are a problem in South East Asia, India and many other places. They steal food and other items, they become very aggressive and will happily bite you for whatever it is that you're trying to eat. Basically macaques spend their days, ahem.... hmmmm.... this is going to sound crude, so apologies, but these creatures are for the most part crude, where was I? Ah yes, they spend their time 'f*#king, stealing and eating'..... and some folks say when they die they'd like to be reincarnated as a house cat!!! Ha ha!!! Every time a female long tailed macaque stopped to look around, the nearest male to her rump would continue walking until he was up, on and inside' her, three or four thrusts later and that was it, job done.... The common long tailed macaques certainly don't go for romance nor do they seem to have any love making prowess. Those poor female macaques.... Funny to watch though.... Everytime I attempted to take a picture of the little 'uns, there in the background, foreground or off to the side a male would be mounting a female! Everytime! I gave up in the end! Ha ha ha!!!

 What's my name????

What's my name????

 'There's something on the back of your neck love.... Just stay there...'

'There's something on the back of your neck love.... Just stay there...'

That evening the Swiss girls asked if they could join me for yoga in the morning. I agreed to do a guided class.... The following morning they appeared a few minutes late (must have forgotten their Swiss time pieces) at 6.40am, we had a wonderful class as the sun rose along the river illuminating the jungle on the far bank.

And then it was elephant day.

We all walked down through the village of BL to our prospective vehicles. One group in a 4x4 and our group in a Suzuki Arena.... A kind of family 'van' for the towns. The road was rough.... Very rough... and it wasn't long before a little rattle turned in to a crack and a dead Suzuki. Five minutes later with a bit of 'engine tapping', my kind of mechanics we were back on the road...

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Two minutes later we weren't. This time the guys got underneath, mended what ever it was that needed mended and we were good to go. It was a long old drive to the elephant sanctuary, over two hours, almost two and a half hours. We stopped at a couple of average view points and then arrived.

We walked across the cable bridge which spanned the river to our eatery. The table of food laid on for lunch was tremendous.... Another feast! Post feast it was a short walk to the river for a dip to cool down. The elephant riders had a ten minute walk ahead of them. I joined them for the walk whilst the rest of them enjoyed the cool water. I was glad I did. The first group on the jungle trek got to see Thomas Leaf Monkeys... Our group hadn't, and I was a little disappointed.... But as we walked towards the elephant pick up area there they were up in the trees. No not the elephants! The monkeys. What beauties!!!

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After I'd had my fill.... Well almost... We walked on. We waited 15 minutes the elephants to arrive, but when they did, what beasts they were. Strong, healthy looking individuals. The guys jumped aboard and disappeared across the river. The guide and I walked back to the 'dipping pool'. On the way back we encountered more Thomas Leaf Monkeys, this time they were raiding the banana crop. They really are big monkeys. The female bounded out of the tree with a bunch of green bananas and her young one hanging on to her chest for dear life as she bounced and swung back up in to her tree. Amazing to watch!

Back at the river Tesen (head host at Ecotravels) was impressing the lovely Swiss girls with a well practised back flip from the rocks. They weren't the only ones impressed. Good job Tesen! It was time to go to the elephant bathing area.

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The elephants arrived on the far side of the river.... I stood in the water enviously watching a guy fishing from a rock on the far side. Whilst I was doing this a leech was attaching itself to my foot again... No one else got leeched, and they all spent half an hour in the water washing caravan sized mammals!

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'Oh Mark, our camera battery has just run out, can you please take some photographs of us both getting all wet whilst we wash the elephants (I added the 'getting all wet' bit).' asked Stephanie, one of the beautiful Swiss girls..... I thought long and hard before making my decision. It was a tough job, but someone had to step up to the mark, someone needed to help these poor European girls out. They had no camera for God's sake.  I took my camera and I faced those big grey elephants..... I did what needed to be done.... What a guy! 

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 Bless You!!!

Bless You!!!

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 Yuk.... The trunk distracted whilst the tusks went for the prize.... Naughty pachyderm....

Yuk.... The trunk distracted whilst the tusks went for the prize.... Naughty pachyderm....

At one point one of the elephants got a bit tetchy about one of the baby elephants.... Hell briefly broke loose. When an elephant wants to move two or three little Sumatran men are not going to slow it down.... The elephants chatted and everything was resolved.

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The elephants sprayed the onlookers, showered the washers, kissed the girls.... In fact the elephants were getting all the action! And they never forget right?!!! Awesome day for Sumatran elephants.

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The following day the girls booked an evening Indonesian cookery class and for my good turn they invited me to join them in the follow on dining experience. How could I refuse? Freshly prepared evening dinner with a pair of Swiss beauties.... and what a delight it was. The girls did magnificently. The food was delicious and the only way to celebrate such a culinary triumph was by dipping in to a local alcohol serving establishment on our way back home. A cracking night was had by all.

I spent 9 nights with the Ecotravel's crew in the end.... I loved it there. I got lots of work done in a great environment right on the edge of the Sumatran jungle. Thanks Ecotravels! I needed to get to Medan airport the next day.... I was dreading the 4.5 hour chop and change travel back to the city. Before my dread could kick in Kembar (the owner with his wife Christina) said they had a car doing a pick up from there today so I could get a ride. Kembar you are a legend! Thank you so much....

So where to nex?  Well in recent days I've decided to go to Taiwan. So from Medan airport here in Sumatra I'll fly to Singapore... I'll land in the evening and meet my friend Amy. Amy is from Singapore city, she heads off to Vietnam the following day.  So tomorrow evening she said she'll meet me from the airport and take me around the city which is great!  The following day is a full day in Singapore... I don't normally go to zoos.... but I've heard Singapore's is one of the best in the world. So I'm going to give it a try, first one in over 20 years I reckon. The following morning I'll fly to Taipei in Taiwan..... I have no plans... I know nothing of Taiwan... I'll be flying out of the arse of my pants as usual.  Taiwan bring it on.... But be nice to me.

See you all on the other side!

PS. It's 2.30am as I write this.... There's probably one million grammatical errors, speeling errors ;-) and general omissions, I'm really tired.... I'm sorry... But I've got to stay awake to overcome any potential jet lag....