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Students in a long tail boat in Indonesia. Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Semester.

Welcome To The Jungle

Day One: Five days ago we all woke up for an early breakfast at 7:30 AM. After munching down on some delicious Indonesian food, we divided into “slow” and “slower” groups for the 4 hour trek into the jungle. The hike was full of slippery, muddy peaks and slopes with roots and rocks all along the windy paths. Due to rain the night before, the leeches were out and ready to latch on! Thankfully only a few of us got them. Only 15 minutes into the hike we all saw a mother and baby orangutan swinging from branch to branch. We were lucky and very happy to see that. We arrived at the campsite around 1 and were soon joined by a group of 30 or so high school students. We took many selfies with them, sang our national anthem as they sang traditional Indonesian songs and chatted about our hobbies. The three girls who sang to me had very beautiful voices. After our many chats with the students, we ate a delicious ramen lunch, washed the dishes at the river, collected fire wood and headed for a swim. The water was cool and refreshing as the rapids came flowing by us. We eventually headed back to the campsite for dinner of rice with vegetables, tofu, tempeh and rice.

Following dinner, games were played with guides. One game involved placing three sticks on the ground to make a triangle. You have three extra sticks set aside. Now how will you use those three sticks to make three more triangles. You can not believe how long it took myself and others to figure out. In the end, you placed the three sticks up in a 3D formation. The guides were great company and brought lots of laughter and smiles to us.

Tonight all 10 of us Dragons students and our three female guides (Keshet, Rita and Olivia) cramped ourselves into an intricate tent built by the guides. That tent was full of bodies layered upon one another and leech-phobia as we starred up at the stars in the sky.

 

Day Two: We awoke to see an adult orangutan in a tree directly at our campsite. It is very rare to find them at a campsite due to the noise and people, but a wonderful morning surprise it was! 🙂 Next thing to do was eat. The guides handed out these amazing pretzels, wheel shaped-cookies with peanut butter on the inside by the brand “Hatari” (they have been a MAJOR hit ever since!). The sweets were followed by fried rice, eggs, papaya, and pineapple. We packed our swimsuits, journals, books, sunscreen and water bottles and hiked up to the Hot Springs. Parts of the water were freezing cold while others could be boiling hot. Both Peter and Izzy sadly burned parts of there feet, but it was minor and there feet are now in perfect condition. We all washed our hair with Liv’s mini Dr. Bronner’s bottle (thanks Liv!), relaxed in the hot water, then laid on the rocks in the sun. This may have been poor planning as the majority of us got somewhat sunburned. After we turned a little red, ramen was the best solution! Noodles, green beans, carrots in broth. Yum! We chatted with the guides and read books by the water for an hour, then hiked back to the camp site.

Dinner came later that evening – eggs, the best carrot curry on earth, tempeh, and rice. The guides proceeded to teach us a dance involving a lot of head thrashing, hand and leg clapping. They would make a pattern by where you hands hit your arms, chest and legs and then repeat. Maybe I’m not describing it at my best, but it was amazing to learn and see another aspect of there culture that was so sacred and different compared to America. Thankfully this night, we were able to have more room in the women’s tent as Nina and Romina were able to sleep in a newly built tent. This brought us a better night’s sleep.

 

Day Three: The final morning we awoke rested. A morning hike was optional and those who went saw adult and baby mohawked, long tailed, gray monkeys known as “Thomas Leaf“ langurs. The rest of us chilled back at the campsite or by the river, reading, chatting or playing cards. In the afternoon we packed our bags and all the equipment that was brought to the campsite; tents, dishes, mats, food, etc. We took the short 35 minute exit out of the jungle to the road and we walked back to the Ketambe Hotel, where we had been spending our orientation week. More peanut butter Hatari cookies where eaten, courtesy of “The Boys”: Peter, Matt and Jacob. At 6 we had a closing ceremony for orientation, followed by a beautiful rain storm that continued into the night. As the rain was pouring buckets, an orange sky appeared as the sun set. It was a beautiful way to end our last night in Ketambe.

The next morning we slowly awoke our drowsy selves around 5:00 AM for a 10 hour bus ride from Ketambe to Medan, where that evening we took a flight to Yogyakarta.

We are onto our third day with our homestays and have begun our ISPs! More posts will be coming your way this week.

Smiles and love from your children and friends – Kate