Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sumatra Day Five: Back to Medan

By the time our last day in Sumatra rolled around, Bryan was pretty worn out.  I was well-rested so I got up early in the morning and sat out on the hammock, watching the jungle and the town come to life.  It was peaceful out there, rocking in the hammock with my book, listening to the monkeys and birds playing in the trees, and enjoying our lovely view.  Bryan finally dragged himself out of bed (that is, I finally woke him up because I really wanted banana pancakes). While we ate at Sam's Restaurant, we watched a group of boys jumping into the river, splashing each other and swimming around.
Enjoying the early morning view
Banana pancakes and a view of the river - a good start to the day!
They kept throwing tubes into the river and jumping into them as they passed.
Sleepy kitty

After breakfast, we started to pack our stuff up in preparation for the drive back to Medan.  Our hiking boots were still pretty nasty, so we went and rinsed them off in the river, then lounged around down there for awhile, soaking in the end of our time in Bukit Lawang.  Then we checked out and met up with Obiwan, who led us to our driver, the same guy who'd driven us in from Medan, whose name I still can't remember.  Our driver took our suitcase and wedged it onto his motorbike, which he drove up to the car as we followed along, snapping a few more photos along the way.  Cars can't get around down in Bukit Lawang because there aren't roads that close to the river, but there are pedestrian paths.  The staircases all have these narrow little ramps built into them so people can ride bikes up and down the stairs. The ramps are so narrow that they look like balance beams, but the bikers navigate them expertly.
Bidding farewell to the crystal-clear Bohorok River
If you look closely you can see the ramp.
I love the old, reusable soda bottles still in use in Indonesia.

I felt a little sad as we waved goodbye to Obiwan and Amad, who had happened by us on his motorcycle.  Bukit Lawang had been so nice and I'd loved our time there.  I guess I wasn't quite ready to head back to Singapore.  Luckily we had one more stop planned for the day.

Just like when we'd driven in, the ride back was interesting.  We passed the palm plantations, a weekend rubber market, a lively wedding celebration, and lots of other fascinating stuff.
The standards of safety are a little different in Sumatra...
Rubber market
Rice paddies with palm plantations in the background
Baby on board.

Traffic was heavy on Sunday afternoon as we weaved our way into Medan.  We moved slowly through the congested streets, but eventually we rolled to a stop at our first destination- the Grand Mosque (also known as the Great Mosque, or Mesjid Raya).  The mosque was big and a little imposing, with its huge black domes.  By chance, we got there right at prayer time so we weren't allowed inside, but that was all right.  We roamed around the outside and snapped some photos.  Behind the mosque was an old, neglected graveyard.  Like a lot of the cemeteries in Indonesia, this one looked like it was mostly above-ground.  It was probably majestic at one point, but it was haunting in its current state of disrepair.  If only there had been an abandoned building around to match!
Entrance to the Grand Mosque
Side view
Love those black domes
Me in a head scarf
Old graveyard adjacent to mosque
Frangipani blossom next to the graveyard

When we were done poking around the mosque and the graveyard, we climbed back into the car to head to the airport.  We got to the airport early and grabbed some lunch at a place where no one spoke English and I exhausted my ten words of Bahasa trying to order nasi goreng, which they were out of.  Rather than trying to mime "I'm vegetarian," I just gave up and ordered french fries.  We hung around the airport, drinking  horrible coffee and looking through our photos until our flight left.  After flying through Jakarta and then into Singapore, then waiting forever with the hordes of people coming back from the long weekend and wanting a taxi all at the same time, we finally made it back to our apartment at about 1 AM.  In the morning, we got up and went right back to work!  As it turned out, I got to relive our trip every day for the next week as I itched my myriad of bug bites and washed and rewashed our smelly hiking clothes, trying to eradicate the jungle smells (hint: the solution was vinegar).  Even with the stinky clothes, itchy bug bites, and the need to remember to take my Mefloquine for the next four weeks, the trip was more than worth it! 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sumatra Day Four: Rollin' on the River

I expected to rise around sunrise like I usually do when sleeping in a tent, but all that hiking and delicious food must have really knocked me out, because I slumbered on after the sun was up and Amad was hard at work on breakfast.  When we finally got up, a huge breakfast was waiting for us and I was glad to see that the rains of the night before had passed over and the sun was shining brightly.  Unfortunately Bryan awoke with a tetchy tummy, so he just nibbled on his double-decker sandwich while I devoured mine.  A group of long-tailed macaques was hanging out next to our camp, but they were much more timid than the Bukit Timah monkeys, and hung back despite the lure of delicious food.  Bryan got his mind off his upset stomach by taking some shots of the monkeys and our campsite.  We were surprised to see a one-armed male monkey in with the group.  His injury looked old and almost completely healed, but it was pretty surprising that he'd survived something so serious out in the wild.  He moved with less certainty than the other monkeys, taking extra care to get good footing on the wet rocks, but we never saw him fall.
The campsite
Tent made of branches, string, and tarps.  Not beautiful, but kept us warm and dry!
Amad and Pi'in in the camp kitchen
Good spot for breakfast
Our monkey neighbors
One-armed macaque. He's missing his left arm, below the elbow.

After eating my monstrous breakfast sandwich I was digesting by the river while Amad was working on something top-secret in the kitchen and Bryan was poking around for photography opportunities.  The monkeys were getting progressively more curious about the yummy smells coming from the kitchen, but they still stayed a reasonable distance away, periodically standing on their hind legs to peer at the source of all the food aromas.  They weren't the only ones interested in our food - before long a fat water monitor lumbered over and stuck his snout right into the kitchen, grabbed up a scrap, swallowed it whole, then eased into the little stream next to our campsite.
Hey, you guys have anything to eat over here?
Going for a dip...isn't he supposed to wait 30 minutes?

Bryan managed to get a good shot of one of the miniature frogs that we kept seeing down by the river.  They were impossibly tiny and cute, and every time we'd walk on the stones, they'd hop away to take cover under the rocks.

After awhile, Amad emerged from the kitchen area with his masterpiece.  He'd created an AWESOME fruit salad. It looked like it could have been the centerpiece at a wedding and it was just for us to eat!  It had watermelon, pineapple, passion fruit, bananas, oranges, snake fruit (also known as salak), and a beautiful flower.
Isn't it lovely?!
Salak / snake fruit
We kind of had a fruit salad photo shoot.

After we'd admired Amad's culinary creation for awhile, we ate some of it but I felt bad taking it apart after he'd worked so hard.  Once we'd all had our share of fruit, Will led Bryan and I through the forest for a couple of minutes and we came out at a fast little waterfall feeding into a nice pool where we could swim.  There were a few people there from other campsites and I got a kick out of talking to a guy from Minnesota, which is where Bryan grew up and I spent two summers working.  The water was refreshing and I floated around awhile before climbing up to sit in the waterfall.  The water pummeled my back and it felt just like a massage!  It was great!  I climbed up behind the waterfall too and it was peaceful back there- you couldn't tell from the front, but when you got behind the waterfall, there was another, smaller one back there. Bryan relaxed on the side and dangled his feet in the water, still not feeling shipshape.
Waterfall massage
Will being a jungle acrobat

Fast water
When we'd had our fill of lounging around by the waterfall, we walked back to camp.  Will whipped up some ginger and lemon tea that helped Bryan's tummy feel a little better, as Amad and Pi'in poked around on the opposite bank of the river.  Eventually they started shouting and waving for us to join them.  Bryan stayed on the bank but I jumped in the river, swimming along the path that Amad had pointed out to me, presumably so I'd avoid the fast part of the rapids.  When I got to the other side, Pi'in grabbed my hand to pull me up onto the rock, but my hand was slippery and the water was moving really fast and I slipped out of his grasp. I had a moment of panic as I swept away from him, but Amad was right there, laughing and hauling me out of the water.  Nice save, Jungle Boy!

When I got to the other side, I got to see what the guys were so excited about.  They'd found a cute little baby snake!  I love snakes but I also like to keep a reasonable distance, so I stayed back while they watched up close.  Our little rock was also home to two plump frogs.
Oh no, I'm good...I can totally see it from here!
Any ideas on this snake's identification?  It was really small.

Swimming back across the water was easier.  The sun was out and the day was warm but comfortable so I crawled up on a big rock by the river and laid down to dry off.  Bryan joined me and we basked in the sunshine, watching the monkeys inch closer to the camp kitchen.  Nearby a group of butterflies flitted about in the warm breeze.  I think they might have been involved in a mating ritual of some sort, because one of the butterflies appeared to be secreting a sticky liquid.
A blue jay butterfly
Lots of butterflies and a bonus flying insect

While Bryan and I were relaxing, Amad was hard at work lashing inner tubes together for our trip down the river. I've been whitewater rafting before, and I've done lots of tubing down the Tuscarawas River in Ohio, but I can't say I've ever tackled any rapids in an inner tube.  I couldn't wait to try, but we weren't set to go yet.  We lounged around camp for a few hours, enjoying the river and the sun.  Amad used mud and leaves to turned me into an Indonesian princess.  He also showed us some more brain teasers (again, Bryan outwitted me), and Will pointed out some unfamiliar plants.
A real princess would've remembered to pack her hairbrush.

Before long, camp was all packed up and our stuff was stowed securely in plastic bags.  The monkeys had finally overcome their fear and invaded the kitchen to look for leftovers.  One walked right up to the fire, which was in the process of burning out, and stuck his hand right into it to retrieve a scrap!  He leaped backwards quickly, shaking his hand and staring at it in dismay.  Silly monkey.

Bryan and I took some photos in the tubes before everyone else piled in.  Originally we had planned for Amad and Pi'in to walk back, but in the end all five of us piled into the tubes with all of our stuff.  Tight squeeze!
He looks cozy in there all by himself...not for long!
Heading down the Bohorok River

Our cameras were stowed safely away in our bags for the trip down the river so we didn't get any photos of the actual tubing, but it was a ton of fun.  The water was moving swiftly after the rain the night before, and Bryan and I were squeezed into the center tube, holding onto each other and screaming and laughing all the way.  Amad was up front with a long stick, pushing us away from rocks, and Pi'in and Will were in the back, with Will expertly steering.  At one point, Will said, "Do you know cannon?" and I laughed, remembering the part of the New River that was referred to as the cannon.  Bryan said, "What's the cannon?" but by the time he got the words out, we were already shooting of a narrow part of the river at a breakneck speed, and his question was answered.  We hadn't seen many birds deep in the jungle, but along the water with the open sky above us, we started spotting more birdlife.  The guys also serenaded us with this song, to the tune of "Jingle Bells":

Jungle Trek
Jungle Trek
In Bukit Lawang!
See the monkeys,
See the birds,
See orangutan!

There was more, but I couldn't make it all out over the rushing water, shrieks, and laughter.  Anyway, it was all good fun and we were whizzing back into town before I was ready for it to be over.  We came to a stop outside of Will and Obiwan's place, and Obiwan was there to meet us.  He led us to the Jungle Tribe Inn, where we had a nice room overlooking the river.  I was excited about the hammock and our nice balcony, but mostly I was looking forward to the clean, dry clothes I'd left behind in our suitcase!  
The lovely view, marred by our gross clothes

After we showered and hung out our stinky wet stuff, we went back to have a beer with Obiwan.  We had planned to hang out awhile but despite the massive breakfast I'd eaten, I was getting hungry.  Bryan was finally feeling better and he was hungry too, so we headed out in search of a place called Tony's Pizza, recommended by both Obiwan and the yellow bible.

Tony's Pizza was located in a part of town that we hadn't yet visited.  The area appeared to be aimed mostly at tourists, with lots of little cafes and shops selling orangutan t-shirts.  Tony's was a small hut with about four tables.  It didn't appear to be attached to a kitchen, so we kind of stood there, confused for a minute, until a girl came in, smiled encouragingly at us, and handed us menus.  We got pizza and were impressed when it turned out to be much more tasty than what we can usually dig up in Singapore (I'll tell you now, Southeast Asia isn't exactly the place to be if you want a good pizza).  While we ate, we watched sheep run down the dirt road, chickens pecking around a yard nearby, sunburned tourists browsing the shops, and skinny stray cats scrounging for food.  We also discovered that the restaurant's kitchen was located somewhere across the street!

With our early dinner out of the way, we roamed town for a bit, stopping to pick up bottled water and beer.  As we lugged it back to our place, we spotted a group of long-tailed macaques and paused to watch them awhile.  We soon figured out that it was the same group that had visited our porch two nights before, because they were accompanied by that same pig-tailed macaque!  They all seemed very comfortable with the arrangement...well, most of the time, anyway.
Pig-tailed macaque on the left, long-tailed macaque on the right
Aggressive facial expression and posture

Bryan and I spent the rest of the evening on the balcony, drinking our beer and playing 500 Rummy.  We had two beers- the widespread Indonesian Bintang that we'd had in Bali, and another beer called Anker, which is confusing because there are two other Southeast Asian beers called Anchor and Angkor!  As the night grew darker, more and more geckos popped up around us.  They were eating the mosquitoes that had also become suddenly overabundant.  Before long, bats were swooping in to take advantage of the insect feast.  It was funny to see so much wildlife crowded onto our little balcony!  We kept trying to get a good look at the bats so we could identify them, but they were moving so quickly that we didn't get a chance!  It was a peaceful way to spend the evening, especially when someone nearby started strumming a guitar and singing.

Now, for those of you that have been agonizing over the solution to the matchstick puzzle from my last post, here's the solution:

You take the vertical matchstick from the second plus sign, and add it to the first plus sign, changing the plus sign into a "4".  Now, instead of  1 + 1 + 11 = 130, you have 141 - 11 = 130!  Neat, huh?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sumatra Day Three: Mud, Blood, Sweat, and Orangutans

Friday morning started with one of my favorite things about Indonesia- banana pancakes!  I don't know how they make them so good that they don't even require syrup, but they do!  After wolfing down our breakfast, we shouldered our backpacks and headed off to the rainforest, where we would hike all day, camp out overnight, and return to the town the next day.

Our first stop was the orangutan feeding platform.  Taman Nasional Gunung Leuser is home to an orangutan rehabilitation program that used to take in orangutans that have been rescued from the pet trade.  Although the program is not currently taking in any more orangutans, it continues to work with those already released back into the forest.  The apes are reintroduced into the wild habitat, but as they make their adjustment they are fed by workers at a feeding platform twice a day.  The diet is bland- just coconut milk and bananas- to encourage the orangs to search for food on their own.  In order to get to the feeding platform, you have to clamber into a rickety wooden boat full of rusty nails.  The boat is attached by a rope to a cable that stretches across the river, and the boat guys drag you across in about 30 seconds.  We asked them why they didn't have a bridge here since they have them further up the river, and they said that they wanted to discourage the orangutans from crossing the river and getting closer to town.  Neat!

Pretty view while we wait for the boat taxi

Once crossing the river, we went up to the Visitor Centre to get our permits, then headed up up up to the feeding platform.  Although a guide isn't required for watching the orangutan feeding, a guide is required if you plan to do any trekking in the forest.  Because we were leaving directly from the feeding platform to go on a hike, we'd already met up with our guide, Will, and his brother-in-law, Pi'in (I think that's how you spell it but Pi'in didn't speak much English).  Will was guiding us and Pi'in was coming along too, which turned out to be great since Pi'in had an eye for spotting wildlife! (Will was an awesome guide, and if you're planning on going to Gunung Leuser and need to book a guide, I recommend getting in touch with Will, Obiwan, and their team through this webpage).

The hike to the platform involved stairs, stairs, and more stairs.  We just kept going up and up as I began to regret my heavy banana pancakes that were turning into a brick in my stomach.  After about 20 minutes of steep stairs, we came to a cluster of hushed hikers, all standing at a low fence, intently watching two guys up on a feeding platform.  There was already an orangutan with a baby headed for the platform.  Apparently there are some days when no orangutans show up, so we were thrilled to see a mom and her frizzy little baby right off the bat!
Hand over the bananas.  Now.  Please?
Feeding platform

The guys on the feeding platform told us that there was a juvenile female orangutan hanging around in the trees off in the distance, but she was staying back because she was afraid of the mama orangutan, who apparently has a bad temper.  After mama and baby had eaten enough bananas, they swung through the trees and away from the platform, the adorable orange fuzzball clinging to its mommy's stomach.  After they had moved away, the juvenile moved in closer, tentatively looking around as she moved.  It was so fun to watch her move through the trees, sometimes hanging on by her hands and sometimes by her feet, equally comfortable either way.
Right at home in the trees

Eventually the young female, who the guys said was named Jackie, came right down to the feeding platform for some coconut milk.  As she drank it, she continued eying her surroundings suspiciously, as though that mean mama (named "Meana") might pop up behind her at any second.  After gulping a few cups of coconut milk, she grabbed a bunch of seven bananas, jammed the whole bundle into her mouth, and scooted back up into the trees as I laughed out loud.
What was that sound?!

Jackie moved up into the trees and sat a little ways off, in a place where she seemed to have a good vantage point of the forest around her. Up there, she looked much more at ease and the bananas were gone in no time.
Pensive Jackie

When feeding time was over, the guys who had been doing the feeding climbed off the platform, leaving some banana scraps behind.  There were still orangutans around- the mom and baby were visible in the tree off to our right, Jackie was in a tree to the left of the knot of observers, and another juvenile orangutan had swung into the scene.  The new juvenile worked her way over to the platform to scavenge some leftovers just as a male pig-tailed macaque showed up to do the same thing.  Despite the orangutan's obvious size advantage, the macaque was aggressive and made a few swipes at the orangutan, who seemed more amused than anything else.  She placidly swung from the tree, munching on a banana as the macaque postured, swiped, and raised his eyebrows at her.
Ape/monkey faceoff
Jamming those cheek pouches full!

The macaque didn't hang around for long, perhaps because Meana and her baby were also heading toward the platform. It was nice to see the mom and baby again but the guides all kept shouting at everyone to move back, warning that Meana can be aggressive, so it was a little tense.  Bryan and I moved toward the back of the crowd, but some of the people seemed unafraid and I kept thinking that they were behaving like they were at a zoo, where barriers protect the people.  But...this was the jungle.  If Meana decided she wanted to clobber someone, she could have easily done it.  Anyway, Bryan got some good photos of her.
Meana can be a little greedy with the grub.
Mom?  Can I have a banana?
Pleeeeeeeeeeease?!  Just one?!
Come on, Mom!  You have like 10 of them!

Eventually it was time to get moving on our hike.  We headed away from the platform and deeper into the forest.  The reasons for requiring guides in the national forest were immediately apparent.  Will was leading us along a path that we never would have been able to follow on our own- there were no markings or signs, and the underbrush was thick.  If we'd lost Will and Pi'in, I think we probably would have just sat in the forest screaming until someone found us or we wasted away.

As we got deeper and deeper into the forest, all the sounds of the outside world dropped away and we could only hear forest sounds- gurgling streams, singing birds, screeching cicadas, the steady hum of mosquitoes, and leaves crunching underfoot.  It made me think of how, sometimes when I'm at Bukit Timah I can hear the highway, or I can catch a glimpse of a mall's signboard through the trees.  It was nice to be truly isolated in nature - being out and away from the city is something that Bryan and I really miss about living in America, where it was a lot easier to get away from the hustle and bustle.
The gin and tonic tree

Will was an excellent guide.  He set a steady pace but we took lots of breaks, and he pointed out plenty of interesting stuff along the trail, aided by the sharp eyes of Pi'in.  He showed us a tree where some of the bark had been cut away.  He said that quinine can be extracted from the bark, and handed us each a piece to taste.  It tasted like a gin and tonic, which I dislike.  Will said that the locals brew up a tea with the bark and use it to treat malaria.  I was silently grateful for my tasteless Mefloquine pills.

At one break, Will pulled some fruits out of his backpack and we enjoyed a mid-morning snack of passion fruit and bananas.  We asked him a little about himself and his family, and learned that his father had also been a guide, and he had started teaching Will and Obiwan about the forest when they were very young.  I asked him how many siblings he had and he said that he has a sister and brother now, but before the flood he had three sisters and two brothers.  The 2003 flood had taken his parents as well.  I was horrified that he had experienced something so awful and Bryan and I both choked out the inadequate sentiments that people recite when you learn something tragic about someone's life.  Before long, we moved on.

The forest was peaceful but every once in awhile we could hear monkeys in the distance.  However, because the foliage was so thick, we couldn't always see them even though they sounded close.  We hiked all morning, up and down, up and down along muddy paths.  It was tiring work, especially in such a humid climate, but we just kept on trucking. 
Me following Will

Sometime around noon we heard voices up ahead and caught up with a couple of other groups of hikers who had stopped to watch some local wildlife- an orangutan and her baby relaxing right over the path, and a group of white-handed gibbons further back in the trees.  The orangutans were great, but Bryan and I were ecstatic about the gibbons!  We'd been hoping we might get the chance to glimpse some in the wild, and luck was on our side!  Plus one of them had an insanely adorable little infant clinging on for dear life.  One of the things I love about gibbons is that their big strong arms and their smaller, less muscular legs make them look like they were put together upside down.  They were difficult to get photos of because they were in the backlit tree canopy, but Bryan did his best and we really enjoyed just getting the chance to watch them swing through the trees.  I think the orangutans look a bit clumsy and awkward sometimes, what with their huge size and the way they kind of lumber around.  The gibbons seemed particularly graceful in contrast.
See that little baby arm reaching around her back?
Gibbon feet!
At ease in the trees
Baby orang

Eventually we stopped by a small stream for lunch.  Will pulled brown paper-wrapped packets out of his bag and handed them around.  Inside was my favorite!  Nasi goreng...mmmm.  We ate it with our fingers and Bryan and I polished off every last grain of rice.  As we ate, we watched a couple of turtles in the stream.  One was an overly friendly softshell turtle (specifically, I think it was a Malayan softshell) who kept hanging around like a begging dog.  I love softshell turtles, and I call them portabella mushroom turtles because I think their shells look exactly like big mushroom caps.  Man, turtles are awesome.  The other turtle we saw was completely different, but I haven't been able to identify it for sure.  I think it might be an Asian Leaf turtle.
Apparently looking like a mushroom is great camouflage
I love the red scales on his front legs.  He's like a dragon!

Leech foot
After breaking for lunch, we moved on and the terrain got steeper.  I thought lunch would re-energize me but all that food made me feel lethargic and I was cursing the constant incline.  After awhile I felt a strange pain on my stomach and lifted up my shirt to find...ewwww!  A leech!  I picked it off and started bleeding.  Pi'in ripped a filter off of one of his Marlboros and handed it to me to slap on my bloody stomach.  Pretty smart.  And onward we went, accumulating lots of mud as we trudged along.  After a couple of hours of hiking uphill, we started going down down down down and emerged at a gorgeous waterfall where we stopped to rest.  I peeled off my boots so I could wade around in the cool, refreshing water, and...ick!  Another leech had been feasting on my ankle!  Somehow Bryan made it the whole day leech-free...and that rat wasn't interested in him the night before either.  What's the deal?!
The sweaty couple
Nice place to relax

We'd descended into a valley to get to the waterfall and now we had to climb our way back out.  We spent awhile clambering up a muddy incline and Will promised that once we got to the top, we'd be done going up for the day.  I cheered.  Hooray!  No more up!!!  We ascended for awhile and then Will turned around, wide-eyed and said in a hushed whisper "Orangutan!"  Sure enough, hanging directly over the path ahead was a female orang and her little baby.  Will guided us in a wide berth around her and we emerged at a flat surface, overlooking an amazing view.  We stopped for a break and Bryan snapped some photos of the orangutans back down the path.  I felt so lucky that we'd spotted so many orangutans.  Obiwan had warned us before we left that sometimes people go out and never spot a single one.  We'd been incredibly lucky with all our sightings, and I credited the sharp eyes of Will and Pi'in.  We'd gotten lucky with seeing babies too, but that's a little less surprising when you consider that young orangutans stay within visual contact of their mothers almost all the time for the first five years of their lives, so it wasn't as though all of the orangutans we saw with their moms had just been born.
The nature photographer taking a break!
View into the valley
Everything was so green and vibrant!
Look at that fiery orange fur!
And those soulful eyes!

When we headed away from the orangutans and the killer view, Will told us that it would only be about another hour to camp.  I was feeling reinvigorated after our break and we all happily soldiered on.  We had one more bonus for the day- funky monkeys!  They're actually Thomas's langurs or Thomas's leaf monkeys, but they're locally referred to as funky monkeys because of their characteristic hairdo.  What fantastic mohawks!  They're so cute!  And that baby?!  So sweet.
Funky Monkeys!

We were going to be camping along the river, so that meant descending all the way down into a river valley.  Again, we made our way downwards, toward the sound of rushing water.  This part of the path was really steep and muddy.  I wondered how we ever would have traversed it if it had been raining, but luckily we didn't have to find out.  We finally emerged from the forest and into a campsite along the water.  There was another group at that site, and Will said we'd be camping across the river.  A bubbly, enthusiastic guy named Amad greeted us with a black inner tube and encouraged us to take our boots off.  Once I was barefoot, he got me to plop down in the tube, told me to hold my boots up, and he jumped into the river, dragging me behind him in the tube.  I had a moment of fear when he disappeared under the water, but he bobbed back up, laughing, and dragged me safely to shore on the other side of the river. Just like that, we were at camp!  There were two structures- one tent was up on a hill and had sleeping mats in it and another structure was closer to the river and had a fire and delicious food smells wafting from it.  It looked like Amad had been busy.

As soon as we got into camp, I went up into the woods, peeled off my sweaty clothes, tugged on my swimsuit, and raced down to the inviting river.  I waded in and laid down in the cool, refreshing water.  Just as I heaved a sigh of supreme satisfaction, the skies opened up and released a torrential rainforest downpour.  Bryan was sitting on the shore with his feet in the water and we both laughed, grateful that the rain had held out long enough for us to reach camp.  After such a hot, sweaty day, the cool rain was absolutely delightful.

After enjoying the rain and water for awhile, it began to get dark and we changed into dry clothes and got comfortable in the tent.  Will made us some fantastic lime tea and we sipped it and chatted with him awhile.  Before long, Pi'in and Amad came into the tent, carting tons and tons of dishes.  They spread out all kinds of food on the floor of the tent and I was amazed at what they'd done over an open fire in the middle of the woods.  Amad had lugged in all this kitchen stuff while we'd been hiking and he'd done amazing things with what he'd managed to carry to camp.  I've never eaten so well on a camping trip in my life!
Feast in the forest

We ate until we were stuffed and almost as soon as I put down my fork I felt ready to go to sleep.  But it was still early so I struggled to be sociable.  Amad asked us if we knew any tricks and Bryan and I both laughed, a little confused by the question.  Soon enough, we found out what he meant.  Amad had a whole assortment of card tricks, which he began to show us, one after the other.  Now Amad is an awesome chef, but as it turns out, he may have missed his calling as a performer because he was quite a showman and he had a serious library of tricks.  Once he'd exhausted the card tricks, he pulled out a box of matches and began brain teasers.  Bryan was pretty good at the brain teasers but they were clearly not my forte.  Even with Will and Amad giving me generous hints, I was not doing so hot.  What can I say?  It was a long day.  Let's see how you do:
Move ONE matchstick and re-place it to make the equation true.

Currently it says "1 + 1 + 11 = 130" and you can move and re-place one matchstick one time to make a true equation.  You cannot break the matchstick.  I'll post the solution when I post the next day of our trip.  This was just one of Amad's many matchstick tricks, but I'm only going to post one- I can't ruin all his secrets!

After we did tricks and brain teasers for awhile, we taught Will and Amad how to play "Bullshit."  Unfortunately, Pi'in didn't speak much English and our Bahasa is pretty limited to "Thank you" and "Good morning," but maybe sometime Will and Amad will teach him the rules.  Anyway, he seemed to get a kick out of us shouting "BULLSHIT" at each other periodically.  After a few rounds of our game, Will and Amad taught us to play a game called "Shithead" (it was a classy evening, what can I say?) and it was pretty fun too.  But after a couple of rounds, I found myself struggling to keep my eyes open.  Bryan and I ended up tucking in pretty early, and I slept like a baby despite the hard ground.  Surprisingly, even after all our hiking, Bryan had trouble sleeping, but luckily the next day wouldn't be as demanding as the one we'd just had.  The next day, we'd tube down the river!