Friday 8 October: Bukit Lawang is a cheery riverside village in the Sumatran highlands where the happy, smiling faces of both adults and children beam a welcoming "Hello Mr" as you walk past ("Mr" is a term of respect). Following the river path north the last guesthouse is Jungle Inn where I'm in an en-suite room with a rustic four-poster and balcony - at 50 Rupiahs (£3.50) a night it's a bargain.
Just strolling along the river and across the swinging footbridges is fantastic - locals and visitors alike have fun shooting down the river in inner-tubes rigged with knotted-rope seats. Walking along the canal is an even more fascinating insight into village life - teeth, clothes, bums and whole bodies are brushed and scrubbed in the clear fast-flowing water. The main reason people stay at Bukit Lawang is to visit Mt Leusar National Park, but the village itself is a joyful place with a happy simplicity missing from western lifestyles.
Saturday 9: The National Park is all about primates - long and pig-tailed Macaques, Baboons and, more importantly, the big shaggy-orange apes we'd all love to hug, Orangutans - the planet's largest tree-living mammal.
Across the river by dug-out canoe (71st mode of transport) is the park entrance and a short hike uphill is the feeding platform from where a bland but nutritious diet of bananas and milk is fed to semi-wild Orangutans twice-daily. These are mostly rescued or hand-reared animals finding the transition back to life in the jungle difficult. A richer more varied fruit and fibre diet can be found under the forest canopy.
First a male appears high in the trees but keeps his distance, then a female with a youngster. She leisurely swipes aside bothersome Macaques who try to steal her bananas.The male watches on as the two feed before swinging down onto the platform to grab a few bananas for himself. This is a magical experience and I feel very privileged to see these wonderful animals in their natural habitat. All too soon they quickly disappear back into the forest.
Photos in and around Bukit Lawang.
Sunday 10: Minibus to Medan's Padang Barsi terminal (3 hours) and quick change for local bus to Berastagi (3 hours).