Island of Sumatra - Bukittinggi PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Smith   
Monday, 20 April 2009 19:38
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 Day 64: Saturday 24th November: -  Bukittinggi, Hotel Mitre Arena Gemini

 Didn't get out of bed until 10.00am, had a leisurely mandi and breakfast and set off to meet Awanga our new friend and guide for the day. He approached us well before we reached the café and even though I told him we were coming he didn't seem to trust us. I explained I was trying to find a sim for my phone and he organised it immediately. Down at the Turret Anne and Ted were having drinks when we joined them. By the time we all jumped into his minibus we now numbered six. This included Noreen, Ted, John, Mac, Anne and myself of course.

The tour to see the flower started with a drive through beautiful countryside and well kept little hamlets with tidy gardens and immaculately manicured paddy fields. Awang had told us he was not allowed to take us to see the flower and must hand us over to a local guide. The walk with our new guide to the flower started easy enough down into a series of paddy fields which in itself was a revelation and an education. What looks so natural from above consists of carefully manmade and maintained mounds and water courses. As we made our way carefully walking on the top of the mounds we passed smiling workers, ankle deep maintaining the structures. One old man who was very willing to have his photo taken as he used a rotavator to turn the soil whilst others were attending to the mounds gave us a large smile and welcoming wave. Peacefully grazing by the side of the field was a very large oxen who looked as though he could do some serious damage with his large horns.

As we made our way to the top of the fields we dropped into the stream which was the life source of the system. Things now began to get a little more demanding as we negotiated swamps, fallen trees and bushes and leaches. As I was stood with the new guide (forgot his name) he folded his leg behind him, pointed to a very small black strip and said 'Leach'. He then pulled it off, grabbed a large leaf, placed the mite on it, took out his lighter and began to burn both until it was dead. I was surprised he'd killed it but I understood him to say that it takes his blood and he takes its' life. A kind of fair swap. We had now been walking steadily upwards for half an hour and the humidity (70%) was causing me some distress. Things gradually got better as the stream now entered a very narrow gorge, one person wide, with the walls rising 10 to 15 feet above us. At least it gave some shade and the air was cool but damp. This did not last long and once again we were crossing the stream from side to side and rising steeply. The last few hundred yards took us up the side of the valley with only the exposed tree roots as help.

By the time we got our first glimpse of the flower my clothes were drenched in sweat. I actually physically shook my head and the sweat sprayed off like water off a dog's back after having a swim. I was actually feeling a little sick and dizzy from the heat and humidity and had to take a little time to compose myself. A few minutes early the new guide asked me if I play sports and when I said many years ago he replied you still have stamina which I thought was a strange word for him to use with his very limited vocabulary. Only twenty minutes later and my stamina had left me as I hung on to the tree roots on a 60 degree incline staring at what looked like a very big plastic flower some 60 cm across. We were informed that this is not the biggest they grow, quite often they pass 100 cms. The flower only blooms for seven days and was surrounded by black looking cow pats which we were told were dead rotting ones. The flower is a parasite that lives off the tree roots. It took a good hour, of some difficult walking at times, but it was a magical moment for all six of us and one we will remember. We actually felt as though we'd achieved something. Sitting on a bus for ten weeks is not the best way to train for a jungle trek, all be it, a very small one. I will remember for the rest of my life the heat and sweat and John doing a very good Tarzan impression that really echoed up the narrow gorge and made the guide laugh and Anne shouting ,getting me out of here', etc. If you've got a couple of thousand pounds to spare and time on your hands you to can see the world's largest flower. If not go to
KewGardens, they've got one to.

Our next call was to the so called
Grand Canyon which was little more than a river gorge. Although it was disappointing we didn't care we'd done enough seeing the flower to warrant the 150,000 rm a piece. As we sat looking up the gorge from a drink stall we got our first view of an Indonesian fighting cock caged by the roadside. His proud chest was bare and he looked very much worse for wear. John remarked you should see the other one. I also made another interesting observation, at least to me, when we asked for ice cold drinks at the stall the lad serving said he hadn't a fridge but took our money and went across the road to another stall and came back with them. Not something that would happen in the UK. The same thing happened in Varanasi in India when the photo shop sent out a runner to get me the right card reader for my camera. Strange that in small communities outsourcing should exist.

The last part of our tour led us up the beautiful hillside past more well manicured hamlets and gardens to overlook the lake. The lake looked beautiful and remind me of Crater Lake in
Southern OregonUSA: it also being a very large volcano. All that was missing was the snow.

It's strange how things turn out, just twenty four hours earlier I was handing over a deposit to a complete stranger with little expectation of a good outcome and now we have had the pleasure and satisfaction of the flower walk, the scenic drive through the area with our very own private chauffeur who also bought us little treats of the area to try, the stunning views over the lake and most important of all the company of a very interesting guide and new friend. We all agreed we'd just had one of the best days so far of the whole trip.

The days was not over yet by a long way. In our conversation with Anita the night before she'd promised to prepare us a local traditional meal. When we arrived at the Turret the table was beautifully laid out with tablecloth, serviettes and a central revolving china food server. The food came very fast and consisted of a very tasty soup of chicken, noodles, vegetables and prawns; fish steamed and served in palm leaves and then the selection of dishes placed in the revolving serving dishes. To finish we had a kind of mango paste pressed and served once again in palm leaves. There were a selection of chicken, beef and vegetables and fried rice. The total bill for six people including the beers and fruit juices came to 500,000 rm just over £30. Our guide Awang who sat on the next table kindly refused my invitation to eat with us as though it was not the done thing.

After our excellent meal we crossed the road to another bar to celebrate Mary's birthday. As we set off Awang leapt onto his motorbike to find a birthday cake and Anita found a single candle. Things in the other bar was far from jovial. Sue and Mary and a few others who'd ignored our comments about the excellent food and service at the Turret had now sat for over an hour for food. Mary was arguing with a young barman come waiter about her stake meal which had just arrived. 'She asked him what is it?' He said 'stake'. She replied 'show me'. This was repeated with the waiter looking more embarrassed. Eventually Mary grabbed the folk and slid it across the centre of the plate saying 'where's the stake'. Sue and Mary walked out after a round of happy birthday.

We spent the last part of the evening checking our mail and trying to delete the junk mail. All in all an excellent day with a very good tour with a lovely man as a guide, great food cooked by a very charming woman, plenty of cold cheap beer and a bit of fun to finish off with.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 April 2009 19:17