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  • Writer's pictureDeb Smithers

Sumatra Jungle Trek - Part 4

The magnificence of this Sumatran wonderland!

Waking up at 3 am, while sleeping out in the Sumatran Jungle, in a tiny tent was slightly disorientating at first instance, but no more unsettling than the moment you realize, "It's toilet time"!

I knew this moment would come, and here I was, deliberating to take on the run alone in the dark, in the dead of the night to visit the bush dunny, and before too long I realized, I couldn't do it. I could not go out in the dark but instead, with diligence, wait till sunrise.

I lay awake for an hour or more, just thinking, contemplating, and with no other options, it was time! I grabbed my tweenie pocket torch, and unzipped the little camp tent, with only my head poking out resembling that of a turtle, I clearly recall, the feeling of fear, and that there was the position I remained in for the next quarter hour.

It was so dark and if not for the dwindling fire by the river, it would be difficult to see at all. There were so many different sounds of the jungle's night activities, much greater than I would have imagined, and it is almost laughable how the mind wanders in these situations, especially when there is a sense of fear.

The more I pondered it, the harder it became to exit the tent, so with that, I was out, I tore open the plastic boundary that protects the tent and I am off running. I arrive at the allocated spot and within seconds I am up and off again. Record time. Running and trying to keep calm whilst having the feeling of running for my life.

My entry into the tent was exactly that of an Olympic gymnast, with a not-so-elegant landing, and within a second, I was in and all zipped up, safe, or safer. I caught my breath and took a big sigh of relief, before realizing that I had not closed the plastic boundary around the tents before my dive-in, but was I going out again?... Not a chance!

The night's sleep was rough, with nothing but a two-man tent and a yoga mat for a bed, 35 degrees, and obviously no water, I woke feeling as though I had slept on a concrete floor, I was stiff and aching, but much comfort came to see the rising group feeling the same. There was back grabbing, groaning and attending to giant insect bites.

The Monitor lizards we already basking on the river's stones for warmth, there sitting in the trees above us was an abundance of monkeys, they had all arrived and were inquisitively watching us rise, or more so hatching their plan to kidnap the breakfast food. We are all quick to remember that you never want to sit under a tree full of monkeys unless you're keen on a monkey shower during breakfast.

Before long everyone had come back to life and the camp is full of laughter reminiscing over the incidents and memorable events of the past days.

We laugh at the stories of the night toilet run to the little creatures who managed to find their way into the tents and backpacks.

Breakfast has arrived and laid out meticulously on the ground is a morning fiesta like no other. If you had to choose between this delightful jungle banquet with branches above swaying hectically from the incoming monkeys or a hotel breakfast served in your room, what would you choose?

I couldn't help but stop and take a moment to revel in the moment, everyone in the present, no phone communication, no laptops, and no Wi-Fi, nothing.

After we had eaten and our bags were packed, we were on the go again, the day was to be filled with memorable moments from the jungle. We took a hike to try to get a rare glimpse of the unique Gibbon. They are remarkable creatures and are commonly known as the singing acrobats of the Sumatran jungle. They swing along the forest canopy with such grace and skill.

There are 9 species of Gibbon and each different species has its own unique, melodious song that ignites the jungle in the early hours of the morning. Pairs often adapt their song to each other, also used to attract males and to indicate danger. It often starts with a middle C, then some higher hoots, followed by a whoop in unison, a magnificent percussion only to be heard in the jungle. The largest species is the Siamang Gibbon which is native to Sumatra, also Thailand and Malaysia.

The Siamang Gibbon

The Pileated gibbon.

Poachers unfortunately specifically target the Gibbons to take their babies when they know there is a buyer from the pet trade. The extremely sad statistic of it is also, for every baby gibbon taken, usually 2-4 family members are killed, in order to take the baby. You can only imagine this tragic occurrence.

After hours of walking and searching, I was blessed to manage to see 2, although they were not near, I am certain that to have had the opportunity to hear the beautiful sounds from these magnificent creatures is one I would surely never forget.

The temperature had risen fast and it was time to find a place to cool down, after walking for only half an hour I felt like I had arrived in paradise, coming to a magical hidden waterfall where we could all swim in the very cool, fresh waters.

The guide educates us on which stones are used for medicinal purposes and which are used to make a paste for painting, and with that, before we knew it, we were all painted, an array of symbols and animal markings, each representing the different creatures and fauna of the jungle.

The morning trek was amazing and in the last few hours, we were allocated free time at the camp. We attempted to swim across the fast-flowing rapids of the river to grasp onto something on the other side before being dragged downstream, we all failed with only the guides being able to swim with success to the other side. Plenty of practice, I guess.

My free time back at the camp came with some beautiful lovely experiences, I was blessed to come across a beautiful blue butterfly that for reasons unknown to me, stayed with me for over an hour, flying around and returning to rest on me.

When asking the guide why this was, he tells me it is a good sign, a butterfly staying with you for a lengthy amount of time will bring you luck, and we could never say no to a little luck hey.

When the time came to return back to the village, this trek was surely the easiest journey, we collected our packs, double bagged them in waterproof sacks, all thrown onto the tube rafts waiting. With that, we were off down the river riding the rapids, taking in the beauty of the jungle and the small villages along the way. The relief it must be for these brilliant, dedicated guides to be returning us all to the safety of the village, all happy, and all unscathed.

To sum up briefly, this remarkable Sumatran jungle adventure. I loved every moment and highly recommend it to anyone loving nature, the outdoors, and anything with a little adventure.

The trek was by no means easy, but do-able for anyone with a little fitness, agility and determination. With a total 11 km trek through the jungle, the last 3 km down the vertical drop was the most tedious and dangerous. As mentioned, good hiking pants are a must, as is hydration. Personally, I don't suggest anti-Malaria tablets a week before arriving as I did, but instead, a week of following a strict routine of Gin and tonic to ward off the mozzies is a much more pleasant experience

A big recommendation to Eco Travel and the amazing guides Antony and Hendra who had absolutely everything covered for us to enjoy the most memorable days in the Sumatran jungle.

So take the plunge, leave the comfort zone and take life by the reigns.

{A}nyone in a state of seeking can never be happy,

only those who are constantly finding and fulfilled.

Finding is not something that happens to us ...

... it is something we do.

Allan Cohen


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