A couple of years ago, a friend of mine (Jean Chaffee) mentioned the possibility of a trip of a lifetime lead by Gary Shapiro with Orangutan Republik Education Initiative and I was very excited to be given the opportunity to join in on the inaugural tour. Unfortunately, my roommate (Jean) was unable to make it. I was a little nervous, but still looked forward to going with great anticipation. So in August of this year (2008) I departed on my journey which took me across the Pacific to the island nation of Indonesia. My apprehension as a single passenger was relieved when I stepped off the plane in Bali, and Gary was there to meet me.

I had unique opportunity to share a little of Bali, visiting the elephant caves, monkey forest and “Tanah Lot”.

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p3I then flew to Medan where I met the rest of the group. We toured the city and along with learning about local customs and seeing the way people lived and shopped, we enjoyed an unplanned celebration of a holiday in one neighborhood.

Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history and the differences between various local cultures. He also did a wonderful job taking care of our needs and making sure we were comfortable and were able to make any necessary stops. We were able to stop and see anything that caught our interest at different points along the way, including tasting a variety of exotic fruits, a real highlight!

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My excitement grew as the scenery changed from the city to the countryside as we headed up the mountains to beautiful Lake Toba.

What a fantastic opportunity to admire the architecture and be able to swim in this large volcanic lake!

We had such a good time as we enjoyed the atmosphere, the different music, shopping for items they are known for, and of course the cuisine! We were surprised with a hike to a waterfall along our travels, which turned out to be quite an adventure in itself. My excitement grew each day as I looked forward to the jungle excursions with hopes of seeing wildlife in their natural habitat. The roar of the river greeted us on our arrival to Bohorok where we had to cross over on a swinging bridge to get to our eco-lodging. What an exceptional place to stay! Located above the river, mosquito nets billowing your sleeping area and private baths with the feeling of being outside! The restaurant was beautiful, open air, large beams, with the sounds of the rain-forest echoing through as you enjoy your exotic meal.

p6Everybody had different experiences, and my roommate and I also came across a vibrantly beautiful green vine snake just on the way back to our rooms after lunch.

The visit to the local school was very inspiring and especially the joy and eagerness you see in each childs’ smiling face. We heard first-hand tales about the flood they experienced a few years ago and what they had endured!

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The day arrived that I was looking most forward to, walking up the small village to cross the river on a canoe along a line - more excitement! We hiked up to the feeding area where we were able to view Orangutans for the first time. We followed our guide over very challenging trails for chances to see more of these beautiful creatures. The guides were very expert at finding individuals and also at pointing out other aspects of interest in the forest. Every bit of the adventure I was longing for! We booked a guide for the following day in a smaller group for an even greater opportunity of encounters and weren’t disappointed! We also had close sightings of Thomas and Macaque monkeys. We enjoyed a fantastic lunch along the river after our very exertive hike, before continuing our excitement rafting on inner tubes down the whitewater. The fun still wasn’t over; we still had the bat caves to visit. There was no let down on this trip!

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It’s hard to imagine that this trip didn’t end here, but would instill even more beauty and journeys to assault our senses. It really felt like an adventure through the wilderness as we piled into various 4-wheel drives to jeep through torrential downpours to our next destination. It took a hike down a hillside, crossing a river on a houseboat, and yet another short hike up to reach our next lodge at Tangkahan (highly recommend tipping a baggage carrier here!) We took a nourishing cocktail of coconut in yet another tranquil restaurant above a river brandishing a hammock for your relaxation. The accommodations have become a little more rustic, but we found a hot spring to warm us across the river.

Another much anticipated day arrived as we couldn’t hold our excitement of bathing elephants in the river and have them carry us on their backs along amazingly rugged trails.

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There were so many adventures and so many surprises along the way, it’s impossible to keep this brief! The spa was especially enjoyable after such an arduous journey and still left us with beautiful surroundings, hikes to waterfalls, an endless but memory making experience!