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! 

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