The last few day shave been quite a culture shock after the rugged conditions of Tuanan!
On Tuesday (7/10) we made our final good byes to the staff at Tuanan that wouldn’t be accompanying us back to Palankaraya and rolled out, quite literally, with our cart full of luggage down to the river through the village for the last time. On the way we found Micah (one of the American students with us) up high in one of the trees next to the path with Sui (previously mentioned research assistant ) standing at the base smiling up at him. Apparently after so many years of following and studying Orangutans Sui had figured out how Orangutans make their nests so high up in the trees every night and had passed on this knowledge to Micha. To make their nests, Orangutans weave the tops branches of the trees together to make a sort of woven cradle that is strong enough to support their 200lb bodies. Micha, who is an avid climber, was delighted to be so high up supported by the leaves and it was quite an incredible experience to see.
Down at the village we loaded back into the large motorized canoes (packs in one, us in the other) and waved to the village kids, Sui and Elise standing on the dock. The two hour canoe trip back was un eventful for our boat but the boat’s propeller broke part way down the river. They had stopped in one of the villages on the side of the river and thankfully were able to replace the part and arrive back at the dock only 15 min after us.
On the car ride back to Palankaraya we slowly got service back (spotty at first and then constant) and were all able to contact our families and friends to let them know we had survived and had had so many incredible experiences. Our driver also stopped at one of the fruit stands on the side of the road and bought us a fruit called rambutan. I’ve been told that we can also buy rambutan in the US so some of you may be familiar with the fruit but it was the first time I had tried it let alone seen it. I’ve included a picture so you can see what it looks like. Once you peel off the red spiky/hairy skins you expose a clearish lychee like fruit that tastes amazing! It has a large seed in the center that you can eat although most discard but I didn’t know this while eating them so I downed the whole things seed and all.
Back in Palankaraya we trudged into the nice white floored hotel lobby with our muddy sandy feet and created quite a mess. Nothing quite like coming out of the jungle and back into civilization! We got up to our rooms, rinsed off in a real shower for the first time in a week and collapsed on our beds. I was sharing with Mallory that night and so after a short nap we headed off to the connecting mall to find some lunch. We wandered past a bakery, took some pictures of some tasty looking cakes, and continued on to the food court. After wandering around the food court, nothing was really catching our eye. We kinda looked at each other and then at the same time said “do you want to just eat that cake?” And thus we went and bought ourselves some cake for lunch and enjoyed some fluffy confectionery lounging in our beds. Twas delightful! After that we chilled in our room, spent time catching up with people back home, posting blogs posts and napping till dinner.
Pak Odom, Nando and Hesti (our two Indonesian TAs) all had come with us to Palankaraya and came to the hotel to pick us up do we could all walk together as a group. We had a lovely candle lit dinner that night with salmon fired rice and melon slushy. After we got back to the hotel most of the group went to do karaoke on the fourth floor of the mall attached to our hotel. I meant to take a short nap and then join them but as everyone knows, short naps and exhaustion don’t really go hand in hand.
Next thing I know is was 5:00am in the morning and we were getting up again to head to the airport at 6. We took our Nasi Goreng (fried rice; a typical breakfast food) with us in boxes from the hotel and loaded up into cars. When we had gotten to airport there was a bit of a stressful episode because one of the students had forgotten her phone in her room at the hotel. But Erin called Hesti who came to the rescue by hopping on her motorcycle, rushing to the hotel and then the airport with the forgotten phone. Before long we had sent all our baggage included out white fried rice boxes through through the scanner and were sitting at one of two gates at the Palankaraya airport. Both gates led out on to the tarmac where five planes each bound for different destinations waited. Thankfully I had people to follow otherwise I might have gotten on the wrong flight!
I spent the plane ride updating my blogs and before I knew it we had landed in Jakarta. Once we had collected our baggage and some people had gotten coffee and snacks we made our way out to the bus lanes in an attempt to get on the public bus to Bogor. This proved to be quite a challenge because despite our purchase of tickets we had no confirmed seats on the bus and our group was so large we needed the majority of one bus to accommodate us. Eventually after two buses had passes with unsuccessful attempts to board it we made game plane. We left all larger luggage with Erin and Nando (who wasn’t coming with us to Bogor) and all stood where the bus doors would pull up. We would jump on the bus and save a seat for Erin while her and Nando chucked all our luggage under the bus. The hope was that since we were all on the bus the driver wouldn’t pull away without our luggage or Erin. The plan worked smoothly until the bus started pulling away with have our luggage still in carts and Erin standing on the curb. Thankfully Rebecca was able to get the bus to stop and help Erin load the rest of bags on but we were close to having to figure out how to find our professor again in Bogor.
Getting into taxis was also a struggle once we got to Bogor. Cars and motorcycles were whizzing by as we attempted to safely navigate our way to the cars and heave our bags into the trunk. Being surrounded by so much activity after the quiet of the jungle was overwhelming and the drive to the hotel was a crazy one in which cars on both sides were never more than 10 inches away from our vehicle. When we finally got to the hotel and walked in our mouths fell open. Vaulted ceilings, marble floor a beautiful pool with a fountain, drinks and cake waiting out for us; no we definitely weren’t in the jungle anymore. Sneha and I headed up to our room to find a luxurious full bath, king size bed and *drum roll* a massage chai! Sneha jumped right in the bath and I hopped into the massage chair. After about ten min I was still sitting in chair and I got a call from Rebecca on WhatsApp. When I picked up she told me there had been a mix up with rooms and Sneha and I had accidently gotten her and Erin’s. I looked down at the very nice message chair I was sitting in and said to Rebecca, “yeah that makes sense”. Our actual room didn’t have the full bathtub or massage chair but it still had a king size bed an lovely wooden accenting so we weren’t too disappointed.
We all took a dip in the pool that afternoon and took showers before heading to dinner. Dinner was on a veranda overlooking the city so we got to watch the sun set over Bogor as we muched away on some traditional dished. I spilt three dishes with Rebecca that night: a mix of vegetables with peanut sauce, fried squid and grilled shrimp. It was all delicious and I fell asleep that night with a full stomach and happy heart.
The next morning we ate a buffet breakfast at the Hotel and then went to the natural history museum. While it was a nice museum was nice, after having spent the last view days following Orangutans in the wild reading about just still have the same gravitas. We only spent a half hour or so at the museum and then headed to Bogor’s botanical gardens. The gardens are huge and cover most of center city and are so nice that the president of Indonesia himself resides there 5 days of the week and only 2 days each week in Jakarta. A guide took us through the garden for 2 hours but admitted you could spend three full days in the gardens and still not see everything of note. We saw many types of fruits and flowers as well as graves of Dutch merchants (the gardens we started in 1718 when the Dutch were still in Indonesia) and giant yellow bamboo. We finished out the excursion with a wander about the orchid house which contained so varieties and colors of Orchids I was min blowing!
We then all piled into a min bus and drove about a have hour from center city to the cultural village. The cultural village is a collection of houses and a pavilion where groups can book an afternoon with traditional food, dance martial arts and music lessons. None of the coordinators at the village spoke English so my guess is that the village is geared more towards Indonesians who want to learn about their culture rather than tourists. We started by eating lunch of leaves and then proceeded to learn a traditional Javaness dance, Bornean martial arts forms and how to play and instrument native to that region of Indonesia made out of a scale of bamboo contraptions hung on a bamboo frame. We then had an impromptu drum line to the song that the coordinator was playing on the speaker with the drums the instructors had been using which amused them so much they pulled out their phones to video the white teenagers banging away having the time of their lives. We then tried out some stilts and wooden skis used for races on the lawn next to the pavilion. After all that it was time to head home so we piled back in the bus/van and drove back to the hotel. We all took a dip in the pool again and worked on our presentations of our Orangutan data a bit till Erin came around to hand us all 50,000 ruphia (3.48 USD)as our dinner allowance for our evening since she was leaving us to our own devices for dinner.
We all headed to the mall first to check out how it compared to an American mall and we were not disappointed. So, since that night I’ve been told that this is not how all Indonesian malls are and some are in fact very similar to American malls, but his particular mall didn’t really have a hallways and stores set into the walls and instead it was set up like an indoor flea market where you could wander between racks and not really know where one store stopped and another started. Also, every store was flood with Gucci, Nike, Vans ect. look a likes that were only around 3 USD. We first went to a bag store to get an extra duffle for one of our group members who needed somewhere to store extra stuff and then wandered through the next five levels.
A couple of us went and purchased some bubble tea at a stand. I got taro tea which I usually really dislike in the states because it’s sickingly sweet but here it tastes really fresh and delicious. We then wandered into a store and I purchased two really awesome linen tops with cool colors and wooden buttons as a memory from the mall. Finally we wandered around the fourth floor which was the electronics levels to help one of our group members purchase a simcard. Unlike buying the simcard in the airport none of the electronic attendants spoke English so trying to communicate what we wanted proved to be a challenge but eventually we managed to get across our point with much gesturing and a couple broken words.
That night we ate in the hotel and watched a soccer game between Indonesia and Malaysia. I had ordered lab fried rice with vegetables which was delicious… for the most part. I was happily chomping away on the cucumbers and carrots that came with the meal until without realizing I bit now on a tinny pepper. Basic rule of thumb is the smaller the pepper the spicier it is and this rule held true for the little green ones I didn’t know had been mixed into my vegetables. Within a min I was crying, bright red and chugging the little bit of water I had left in my glass. My mouth was in more pain then I think it ever has been and all I could was sit there in silence staring straight ahead with wide eyes watering. After 20 min I could breathe easily again ad carefully removed the rest of the peppers which I know saw from the vegetables and finished the rest of my tasty meal with the life lesson to always check for hot peppers before you chomp down!
An early breakfast at the hotel started off the next morning (today) followed by the arrival of three new students from UNAS (our partner university in Indonesia). We all were traveling together to Halimun National park and the research station there all together to continue the next park of the lectures for the course at that station which focuses primarily on gibbon conservation. We piled into the same bus/van we had used the previous day to travel to the cultural village but with the addition of extra students and luggage in was tightly sandwiched driving arrangement. Out the window for the next five hours the landscape changed from inner city Bogor, to sparely populated country side to the beautiful roaming mountains filled with mist and luscious tea plantations. Despite the beautiful scenery the drive wasn’t always enjoyable though because of the close quarters and extremely rough dirt/stone roads which made or a very bumpy last two hours. We got a little stir crazy in the van and were overjoyed when we made it to the station this evening and could get out, stretch or legs and breath a bit.
This station is much “nicer” than camp at Tuanan as has more amenities and nice accommodations so it feels a little less rugged than our week at Tuanan. But despite the nicer arrangements we couldn’t all help but agree we really like the camp atmosphere a Tuanan that is not felt as strongly here at Halimun. Im currently sitting out on the deck at the research station finishing up this blog post and, believe it or not, wearing the fleece jacket I brought to keep me warm on the plane ride! Because we’re up in the mountains it is significantly colder here and were all bundling up and snuggling under blankets in our beds tonight. I’m quite enjoying the weather change and the chance to use my fleece and am excited for what the next few days back in the jungle will bring! Good bye for now and update you all soon on the lives of the researchers and javan gibbons here at Halimun!