Posts tagged Sumatra
49 - Kalinda’s Other Plans (Sumatra, Indonesia)

There’s something to be said about just being. No camera. No packs strapped to the bike. No real destination. No need for an enhanced state of hypervigilance. Just ride. And smile. Feel the breeze on my knees. Take a breath before death. Chill without a pill before you’re over the hill.

The coastal road led me through a series of small villages, one picture postcard after another. Quaint and tidy with a touch of drowsy. Perfect place to dodder as the day winds down. The sun retreated, casting its orange glimmer across the rocky beaches, old stone houses, and rickety wooden harbors in one final act of rebellion. Beautiful. But, of course, I didn’t have my camera, did I? I wonder…

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50 - Kiss My Baby Krak (Mt. Krakatoa, Sumatra, Indonesia)

Seeing Baby Krak requires a boat. My hostel arranged one. Low season. Solo tourist. It’s never cheap to do things alone, so the “tour” set me back sixty dollars. Normally, you’d frolic with a group. Normally, I’d be thrilled to have my own private vessel, guide included. Normally, I’m down with “normally.” Buuuut one client equals small boat. You don't want the small boat. Really, you don’t. (Boat? More like watercraft as in “arts” and “crafts.”)

Come the morning, I drove to the home of el capitan and waited patiently as preparations for our voyage ensued. I sat outside a small shop sipping coffee with my guide and three unknown Sumatrans listening to what I can only describe as Indonesian prom music from a high school “Enchantment Under the Volcano” dance…

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51 - Honkey On A Harley? (Krui, Sumatra, Indonesia)

Case in point. Petrol stations were now few and far between, so mom-and-pop kiosk operations filled the void. I patronized a small roadside stand in my quest for fuel. Given the abnormality that was me, I was invited for coffee, free of charge. I sat and at once became the center of attention to four young males. A few months earlier, the scrutiny might’ve been unbearable, but I’d come along way since then. I even started to enjoy it. (This assumes the absence of perceived danger, of course.) I sipped. They stared. I smiled. They stared. I tried not to burst with awkward laughter. They stared. If all that wasn’t strange enough, there was monkey tied to a nearby tree for no obvious reason. PETA wouldn’t approve (nor did I), but it probably wasn’t the best time for a “Free Willy!” confrontation…

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52 - Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (Sumatra, Indonesia)

In town, I entered a restaurant for information and lunch. On the topic of park exploration, I received the Indonesian equivalent of No way, Jose. The owner said it wasn’t possible. If I wanted in, I’d have to enter from Kota Agung. Fooey. I asked around. Same answer… repeatedly. Not possible. I sulked over a bowl of chicken and rice, and then I asked again. (As in, “Are ya sure, sure?”) Still no. Fiddlesticks.

I straddled the Phantom and began my dejection tour back to Krui. I mentally flagellated myself for the defeat but wasn’t so self-absorbed in pity that I missed the park entrance I’d failed notice on the way in. So much for situational awareness, eh gov’nah? Across the road was a ranger station…

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53 - Liwa to Sungai Penuh (Sumatra, Indonesia)

I’m not famous and likely will never be so. I’m okay with that. Besides, I’ve had enough of a taste to get the flavor of fame and stardom. In Sungai Penuh, I entered a restaurant for lunch and thought I heard a record scratch. Not five minutes after sitting down, three Indonesian teenage males surrounded me. One politely asked (in English) if he and his friends could join me. I hardly got to the “y” in “yes” before they sat.

A teenage female sitting nearby saw this as the green light, pulling up a chair next to me. She was very sweet with kind eyes and a soft smile… and hellbent on a photo. She handed her cell phone to one gent, and the session began. One photo was taken with her standing and me sitting but this didn’t cut it…

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54 - Orang Pendek & Motivation Frustration (Kersik Tuo, Sumatra)

I also visited the national park office for information on Mt. Kerinci, receiving another wet blanket in return. The mountain was closed due to frequent eruptions. This confirmed what Yan had told me, but I needed to hear it from the horse’s mouth. The horse beat me down like a panda in a Chinese zoo. I remember thinking, How do you close down an entire volcano?

I was mildly optimistic about park exploration, and far too excited to take the rational step of waiting another day for lickin’ chicken to work its way through my system. The morning of my departure north was something of a poopfest…

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55 - Danau Gunung Tujuh (Sumatra, Indonesia)

Sahar managed an actual conversation on the way back. He was, in truth, an interesting guy with lots to offer. Just not then. And not to me. Still, I liked him. Really, I did. The only thing standing in the way was his work ethic. I wanted to do shit. He didn’t. Nothing exotic there for him. That was his life. For me? It was like driving to Wally World so I could tailgate in the parking lot. 

After our non-adventure, he invited me into his home and showed me pictures and videos of all the shit I yearned to see. (Ironic, much?) Pictures from his Orang Pendek explorations. Videos of Mt. Kerinci’s spectacular eruptions. I considered asking him where I could find that Sahar…

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57 - Pit Stop Padang & Backtrack Fever (Sumatra, Indonesia)

Turns out, I have some semblance of a conscience. Who knew? I let guilt be my diving rod. En spent three days surveying a route in the shit (i.e. the intended inclusion area). He’d spent his own time and money at my behest. I couldn’t leave him hanging. This wasn’t just business. I genuinely like En and considered him a friend. Sure, a shitload of things could go wrong, but I had to take the chance. The payoff was potentially huge. Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! (Minus the lions and the bears). Elephants? Tapirs? Rhinoceroses? Who knows? Only one way to find out, right?

Time was of the essence. He was only free for a week which included the three days for the trip.

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58 - Kerinci National Park (Sumatra, Indonesia)

En had a knack for the lyrical. After leaving the second “crime” scene, we encountered flower blossoms “snowing” in the jungle. White flower petals fell to the ground in sputtering gasps, taking on the aura of large snowflakes. En pointed to this and said he’d only seen it once before under similar circumstances (i.e. in the presence of slain tiger prey). He compared the blossoms to jungle tears, a land mourning the loss of life. Simple. Evocative. Profound. Well done, En. Well done.

Less poetic were the leeches relentlessly assaulting our ankles, an assault that would continue for the duration. Anticoagulant-secreting bastards with an insatiable appetite for blood. Not a fan. Tear ‘em off and bleed. And bleed some more. And then keep bleeding. Delicious…

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