Monday, January 18, 2010

Indonesia: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Lion Fish

I got home from Indonesia almost two weeks ago. I haven't go snowshoeing, nor have I really gotten any research done, but I have had a blast hanging out with friends I haven't seen in a long time pretty much every day since I got back. But apparently all the late nights took their toll on me and I have gnarly cold today, which explains why I'm not in the theater watching Avatar as we speak. I start teaching Wednesday at 8AM, so I've still got one day to get my act together.

Anyway, I went to Sumatra. I flew to Medan from Kuala Lumpur. I wasn't in Medan long, but it was a welcome break from KL, in that I could actually get back into residential neighborhoods and wander down random car-free alleys. Then I went to Berastagi, where I climbed two easy volcanoes and ate some great fruit and street food. Then I went to Katambe and hiked in Gunung Leuser National Park for a day. I was planning to do a longer hike, but I belatedly discovered that the ATM's in the nearest big town only took MasterCard and my bank card is on the Visa network, so I didn't have enough money for a guide. I was still interested in getting a guide for 2 days/1 night, but thankfully the guide I met was straightforward and told me he thought I'd have more fun going by myself if I really wanted to hike 5 km/hour and 50km/day. The Lonely Planet (which was very outdated but revised this month) said a guide was required, so I was glad to discover that wasn't the case. Anyway, I hiked around in the jungle myself, but didn't really enjoy it as much as Sierra granite--the views never change since you can't get above the canopy. There was a good hot spring, some monkeys, cool insects, and five leeches latched onto my legs.

Then I traveled to Banda Aceh, where my sister and her family and a friend ML live while working for NGO's. I attempted surfing for the first time ever and got thoroughly trashed in a ridiculously short period of time. Then we went to Pulau [island] Weh, where we celebrated the New Year, visited the land my brother-in-law hopes to use for a marine research center, and went snorkeling right off our bungalow's front porch several times a day. I didn't see any octopi or sea turtles, but there were a million fish, including five venomous but rarely fatal lion fish in one short swim. Back in Banda Aceh I had a great time discussing development, the environment, philosophy and everything under the sun with ML, my sister, brother-in-law, and their cool aid-worker friends. I did a little tsunami sightseeing, seeing the Turkish Red Crescent housing development at Lhok Nga, a fishing boat that came to rest on top of a house, and a 250,000 ton electricity-generating barge that was washed 4 km inland.

On the negative side, jungle trekking didn't really do it for me, the average Sumatran speaks less English than anywhere I've been before so it was kind of hard to accomplish anything specific, and given that, I kind of wanted to be able to find more hostels with hot Norwegian nursing students to talk to, or at least wished that I'd been traveling with a friend or something like that. The highlights were definitely family, friends, and snorkeling, and all in all it was a good trip.

Here are a few pictures. More are on my picasa page.
Locals at the top of the first volcano

Some of that constant jungle canopy

Real big bug

The beach


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