This is a quick little post just to wrap up our summer travels. We ended with a bang in Pulau Weh, an island off the coast of Sumatra. Two things of importance about the days spent there:
a) We stayed at my absolute favourite accommodations we've ever stayed at, Freddie's Santai Sabang. No, it was not glitzy or anything like that. It was simply run by one of the nicest men I have ever met! Freddie (the owner) makes an amazing, elaborate feast every evening for his guests (you have to pay for it but totally worth the money). Freddie also went above and beyond with helping us buy tickets to the island since the Indonesian Airlines were rejecting our North American credit card. And the cottages and beach front are also just so beautiful. What a place!
b) We all got our PADI (scuba diving) certification out there. I'm totally an anxious person and not super athletic so it was honestly very tough for me and very nerve wracking. Crazy emotions - one morning I broke down and cried, another day I had a little panic episode during a skills test and then another night I couldn't sleep at all because I was so worried about our skills tests. But I did it! I still actually get a little anxious thinking about scuba diving again, so clearly I'm not a natural or a lifer, but I'm still so happy I did it.
Anyways, that's it for Indonesia. Next up on the blog will be some photos from when we went to Seoraksan National Park here in South Korea!
Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world and the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia. As I mentioned in the previous post, we drove to Parapat and then took the ferry to Samosir island which is right in the middle of the lake. Lake Toba apparently used to be the place to go to (like a full moon rager in Thailand) but tourism has definitely taken a nose dive and it was extremely quiet. But amazing! I don't know if I've ever been somewhere so relaxing and chill. The lake was beautiful (more of that in the next post) and the food was ah-mazing. And we stayed got a little room right on the lake for $8.50*!
We rented a scooter one day and went a bit more inland. We didn't make it up to the hot springs but still got to poke around a bit. The Batak people of the area are quite well know for their weaving so we hunted around until we found a beautiful blanket to take back with us. Apparently it is fifty years old and used to be used to carry around babies. :) We got it dry cleaned once we came home and I couldn't be happier with it! I think it's my favourite thing we've bought from our travels. (Here's a picture of it!)
*Romlan's Guesthouse. I highly recommend it!
Where did the last month go? Well, I got hit hard with report cards, parent conferences and a nasty cold. But I made it through and I'm happy to be back here so I can (finally!) wrap up our summer travels this week.
Once we finished up in Bukit Lawang, we got in a van to had to Parapat. We ended up having the most insane driver who seemed to get a thrill out of driving into oncoming traffic in order to pass other vehicles. There were a few genuinely frightening experiences so I was so thrilled to finally make it to Parapat. Once we got there, we had a few hours to kill before taking the ferry to Tuk Tuk.
I had forgotten that Mike and I took these photos while we were bumming around, waiting for the ferry. That's the nice part about going through photos months later! :) Next up: beautiful Lake Toba!
After a rather stressful experience with monkeys in Bali, I wasn't sure how I would handle being in close range of orangutans. But I loved it! These strange, furry, orange creatures are just unreal. It was so cool to see them up close.
But let me back up a bit. I had scoured the internet for information on Bukit Lawang and I found countless reviews (especially on tripadvisor) praising the guide Rhaman for his fabulous jungle treks. He is now working with an eco-tourism travel agency called Harimau Sumatra. We signed up for a trek with him, only to find out that he hurt his foot the morning of our trek and couldn't take us. I was majorly bummed. But they sent a fabulous replacement and it ended up being one of my favourite days of our trip!
Our guide (unfortunately I can't remember his name) filled us in on the orangutan situation in Sumatra. About 20 years ago, orangutans had been common pets. The government then made it illegal to have them as pets, so suddenly there were all these domesticated orangutans that needed to live back in the wild. So one of the purpose's of the Bukit Lawang Rehabilitation Centre was to re-integrate these orangutans into the wild. Our guided used to work at the centre, so he actually knew all the names of the orangutans we encountered. The orangutans also knew him and knew that he wouldn't give them any food so they didn't attack us. Win! :)
We saw tons of orangutans on our trek but they were all semi-wild (orangutans who had been re-integrated into the wild). It's pretty rare to see a wild one on just a day trek, you'd usually need to stay overnight to see one. We also missed out on seeing gibbons, but I still considered the day a success! Also, as an aside, this was the longest hike I ever did so I was pretty wiped at the end!
Then we ended the day with a raft ride down the river. We weren't brave enough to have our camera out but it was a great time. Fellow blogger Brittany was actually in Bukit Lawang just before we were there and she has a great photo of the raft ride in this post. Actually check out all her Sumatra posts - so good!
a rare group photo! ;)
We said goodbye to my family in the busy, crowded Bali airport and flew to the island of Sumatra to meet our friend Kevin again. We spent one horrible night in Medan and then drove out to the jungle. Our destination was Bukit Lawang - home of orangutans!
After driving a few hours, our driver stopped in front of a little shop and told us that was as far as he could drive us. He pointed down a path along the river and explained our guesthouse was a ways down. So we dragged/carried our luggage down the long river path. We were hot, sweaty and tired but it was certainly worth it. Kupu-Kupu Garden was a really lovely, quiet spot, although its lack of electricity was something to get used to. The morning we left, we had to pack up outside since it was pitch dark in our room!
Anyways, our first afternoon there, we headed further down the river path and found a perfect swimming spot. It had been well over a year since we had swam in non-salt-water so it felt like quite the treat. Us Canadians are used to cold lakes and rivers so we all found it surprisingly warm for a river. Mike and Kevin spent a long time fighting the current, playing with rocks, and jumping off the rocks, monkeys by their sides.
I'll never forget the moment when I turned and saw Mike getting carried away briefly by the current, struggling to keep our camera above the water. Oh man, that almost gave me a heart attack. Glad we didn't lose our baby! :)
dreamland beach, bali
Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm a beach person. However, these photos document my worst beach experience ever! I know, it looks so beautiful. However, I woke up that morning not feeling that great so I was just hanging out on a beach chair, taking these pictures. My younger brother came out of the waves exlclaiming that this was one of the most fun things he had ever done in his life! Well, I'm always afraid of missing out on really great things, so I reckoned I should play in the waves at least a bit.
Mike led me out to the waves and told me to jump under a wave so we could get past the point at which they were breaking, but I wasn't ready so I totally got caught up in it. Next thing I knew, I was getting whipped around by these waves. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't get out of them. I yelled to my younger brother (the one who had convinced me to go in in the first place!) to help me get out and he tried, but then I got hit by another huge wave. Eventually I pawed my way to the shore. I was almost hyperventilating, I had sand EVERYWHERE, my bathing suit was definitely askew - I'm sure I looked like a huge mess. I sat on the beach and just cried. It was so scary!
But you know as a prairie girl with nary an ocean in sight, it's probably good to get a good lesson from the ocean once in awhile. You don't mess with the ocean!