On our trip to Indonesia, my partner Pete and I had decided to spend a night camping in the Sumatra jungle, making the most of the chance to trek in really exciting and different terrain and to spot wildlife. So today I thought I'd share our experiences of a night spent chilling in the jungle. You can find the story of our trek, plus other stories from Indonesia, linked in this post: Indonesian Adventures.
We slithered down into camp, climbed over rocks along the side of the river and discovered an outcropping of little wooden huts set up, draped in black tarp and open to the air along the front. Pete and I had our own to share, with two little foam mattresses made up inside a mosquito net. Handy.
Next, we were told that we could swim. Hmmm. The river looked cold and very rapid, but then we were extremely hot and sweaty. And then a chap told us we could have tea after our swim. Nothing for it then: got to swim for tea.
We pulled on our swimmers, hung up our damp clothes and inched into the water. The current was surprisingly fast and strong, slicking the rocky riverbed into slippy smoothness. It was actually quite tough to hold on and stay in place, and very cold! But once we got used to the temperature, the water felt lovely on weary feet. There were quite a few other trekking groups at the camp and others also came down to join us in the river.
After a bit of a chat, and an accidental drift downstream, it was time to clamber out, locate our flip flops and get dressed.
We decided to have our tea out on the riverbank, and it was set up for us quite beautifully. We sprawled, almost comfortably, on a tarp spread over the rocks and tucked into an entire jug of hot tea and a packet of biscuits. Winning! Indonesia: surprisingly good at biscuits. As we ploughed through our refreshments, we reflected on the day. Pete wished aloud that it would rain as it would be cool to camp in a proper storm.
The afternoon wore on and it clouded over and threatened rain. As it got gloomy, we thought we’d head indoors (ie under the tarp) just to be on the safe side. Less than five minutes later, the heavens opened and a tropical storm ensued. There was thunder and lightning, full on rain and absolutely nothing we could do about it. I decided to wait until later to use the open-air loo.
We whiled away a couple of hours in the tent/hut, catching up on some travel journal writing and then having a bit of a doze. It had been an energetic day! Our guide popped in to see if we would like dinner; we opted to have it around seven and curled up on the foam mat for a bit longer.
Before dinner, I still needed the loo, the rain was still crashing down and the view was lit sporadically with lightning. It was also fully dark. Leaving Pete asleep, I collected my loo roll, swapped my dry t-shirt for my damp top from the trek, and donned my head torch and flip flops in search of the toilet.
I clambered and slithered over stones, working my way around our hut and up the back of it. The rain had turned paths to small streams and filled the gaps between rocks and I splashed through the dark. I got lost on the way, having to ask directions at another hut and then being directed down a path that I could only see a few feet of in the weedy beam of my head torch. There was very wet jungle on both sides of me and I stepped gingerly along the path keeping my eyes peeled until eventually I found the loo.
It was, as expected, a hole in the ground with waist-high tarp pegged around it. But I managed and nobody else came along and I kept the loo roll reasonably dry, so I’m calling it a win.
I got back to our hut just in time for dinner; our guide brought us a couple of candles to dine by and it was actually very pretty. There was no ambient light at all and the little glow of the candle was all the more appreciated.
We tucked into rice, chicken rendang, veg in a spicy sauce, red soy bean fritters and little potato cakes and it was very tasty.
By half seven, we had eaten more than our fill and as it had turned dark so early, it felt very much later. We crawled under our mosquito net and spent an hour or two chatting: I refused point blank to go to bed until at least ten, especially since we didn’t have to get up particularly early. I was convinced we would just lie awake half the night.
Eventually however, we made one more trek to the loo together (romance, obvs) and then settled in for the night. Lying still, it was quite something to listen to the incessant rain pounding down and the river roaring outside our hut. And actually, it was no problem to sleep at all.
P.S. You can find all the Indonesia Travel Journal posts linked here.