This is the last post about my trip to Sumatra – if you want to read from the beginning, the first post is here.
After two weeks in Sumatra, the person who walked into Medan airport was a very different one. My emotions were all over the shop, saying goodbye to everyone had suddenly been way harder than I thought it would be. But I also felt at that moment I could literally do anything. I’d walked out of the airport 2 weeks ago a quivering wreck, terrified of what or who I might find, but walking back into it to head off to Malaysia I felt completely confident. And not confident in the way that everything would go how I wanted it, but confident that I could deal with things when they went wrong. I don’t exactly know where that feeling came from, but it was incredible.
So I got on my plane for my short hop over to Kuala Lumpur to stay a few days with my lovely friends who are teaching there. I had totally under-estimated the culture shock – suddenly being in a sparkly new flat in an English school, having a hot shower and washing my clothes was utterly overwhelming. I had a couple of days on my own to explore, so I tracked down the two closest National Parks I could and went off to find some animals.
Day one I borrowed my friends car (it was the only way to get around) and drove an hour or so to the Tanjung Tuan National Park. It was a depressing drive of miles upon miles of dual carriageway with palm oil plantations either side as far as the eye could see. All I could think about was the rainforest that was no more, and tried not to ball my eyes out while navigating the roads. It was a real eye opener, I wish I had a photo to share. But I made it to the National Park and got my first sight of the sea (the Straits of Malacca) from up by the Cape Rachado lighthouse! If you come in February and March, you’ll see thousands of migrating raptors flying overhead. The 5 main birds sighted are Oriental Honey-buzzard, Grey Faced-buzzard, Black Baza, Chinese Goshawk and Japanese Sparrowhawk – in 2010 72, 105 of these 5 birds alone (so there were thousands of other raptors migrating) were recorded, woah!! 48, 412 were recorded this year, numbers fluctuate a lot each year, there is a full list on the RaptorWatch website. I had a great time exploring the trails through the forest, swam in the sea and wandered through the mangroves.
My wildlife highlight was these guys, some Spectacled Dusky Leaf Monkeys! Never heard of them before, I spotted some rustling up in the trees so sat down to watch, assuming it was Long Tailed Macaques. But the tails looked a bit different, and then I got a full view of a face and it had huge white patches round the eyes and funny little milk white moustaches! There was a whole group of them, larger males, plenty of other adults and 3 young ones playing and swinging. Sat watching for them for ages, oblivious to all the ants eating my crackers that I’d stupidly put on the ground, no lunch for me then.
Day two took me even further – up to FRIM, the Forestry Research Institute of Malaysia on the other side of KL. Had a nice morning exploring the different ecosystems, did the canopy walk (30m up in the tree canopy!) and saw some awesome birds (the photos here are Javan Myna birds and (a rather far away shot, but look how blue he is!!) a White Breasted Kingfisher. But as my flight home was later that day I decided not to spend to long there.
On the way home, not only did I have to figure out how to fill up the petrol (more confusing than I was expecting!) but my phone died. I’d been using it as a sat nav, and still being 45 minutes from the school and with literally no idea where I was (all the roads looked the same, fairly large duel carriage ways surrounded by palm oil plantations) I needed a new plan. If I’d of been at home, I’d of gone into a complete panic, stopped the car and started crying. But somehow I didn’t. I stopped at a garage to ask for directions (or a phone charger) but no one could understand me. Then I found myself in some huge cargo port and asked the friendly policeman if he knew the school. He didn’t, but sent me in the likely direction and to try asking at the garage a few junctions over. I stopped at the garage, and luckily a very helpful young girl was not serving anyone at her coffee stall and spoke pretty good English. She knew the school but couldn’t direct me the whole way. I wrote down what she said, which would get me most of the way and then hopefully there’d be signs. The first sign I saw I wooped out loud! And then finally the school came into sight. Just enough time to pack, shower and get to the airport for my flight. A slightly stressful end but it felt like huge triumph too.
And then suddenly I was home.
As well as all the emotional stuff, my trip has had a lot of impact on me in more practical ways. Thanks to Hayli, I’m writing my bucket list – I always thought this was something people did at bad points in their life, but I realised its just a Big Dreams List that you have extra incentive to make happen. And thanks to Nathan, I’m going to try even harder to use less plastic, eat more healthily and organically and to generally consume less (I’ll share more about this in some other posts). I’m going to make even more of an effort to not only avoid palm oil, but to do my small part in campaigning against those companies that do. I’m going to be even more open-minded, keep learning about the world, and meet more new people. Oh and of course all I really want to do is go back to the rainforest!