News Satire People Food Other

Welcome To The Jungle

By Todd Maguire on January 29, 2015 in Other

Photo: Daniel Collins

Photo: Daniel Collins

Where am I? I awake abruptly to the sound of tuneless Muslim chanting over the crackling outside speakers. Rabid dogs chime in with barking and whining. A local rock band is tuning up next door. Two-stroke motorcycles whizz past my window spewing nauseating exhaust fumes and two geckos fight over a dragonfly just above my head.

“Welcome to Medan my friend. The capital of Sumatra.” It is 6am and the air is sticky. “We have good program for you today Mister Todd. Here is your breakfast.”

I had missed my morning prayer at the local Mosque after wrapping my pillow around my head, but was forgiven. I take down a breakfast of thick black coffee and a plate of rice, before I’m bundled into a car for the next leg of my journey.

As we drive through the concrete jungle of the city, I am surrounded by the smells, sights and sounds of the overcrowded metropolis. Thousands of motorcycles, the odd Mercedes Benz, smiling faces, impeccably dressed Muslim families, high-rise, half-constructed shacks, beggars at the traffic lights, advertisements for cigarettes. The smell of clove is thick in the air, accompanied by open sewers and more choking two-stroke exhaust.

The clutter of the city slowly opens up to rural fields, but it is difficult to enjoy the unfolding scenery. Every corner is taken at break-neck speed, mobile phone in one hand, clove cigarette in the other, horn blaring. Am I really paying this man to kill me? An overturned public bus on the side of the road seems to slow us down a fraction. Catching a sly nap on this tour is impossible.

I finally arrive at my new lodging. The meditative sounds of the Bohorok River at my door and an afternoon rain shower keep me in a trance.

Post kip, and geared up with mozzie repellent, bottled water, a camera and a local guide, it is time to begin my exploration into the jungle before me. We are in search of the so-called ‘Jungle Man’, the fascinating primate known better as the Orangutan. The arduous trail leads us up and down acute mountains, slipping and sliding, survival of the fittest. Our path is beset by giant ants, green tree snakes, monkeys, lethal pits of quick sand, rushing rivers and strangling vines.

Well into the adventure we feel the stirring of the trees above. As the rains cease, a large orange figure emerges from its treetop nest. Casually climbing down the trees to greet us is a mother Orangutan and her one year-old baby. They are inquisitive of their human relatives. The mother seems to smile as we offer a banana or two. The baby defies gravity by hanging upside down on his mother and on nearby branches, never straying too far.

We sit together for an hour just looking at each other and sharing bananas. We almost break into chat but the silence is golden. There are only around six thousand of her type left in the world, so the last thing we want to do is chew her ear off with useless conversation.

My guide Ren and I continue through the jungle and make it back to the safety of the local village for rest and a cold beverage with the locals. There are plenty of laughs as they warn me of the local transvestite, offer me directions to meet the local hookers and even educate me on where to score some good dope. Avoiding these vices, we return to our lodgings through the darkness, enjoy a sensational meal and fall into a well-earned straight eight of sleep.

It is time to return to the city. My driver greets me with a warm smile and a mouthful of teeth that could eat an apple through a tennis racket. I give him a five-dollar tip on the promise that he won’t try to kill me this time around.

I manage to sleep on the journey, only to be abruptly awoken by our arrival in the hectic city of Medan. The concrete jungle is once again surrounding me. I decide to check into an impressive four-star hotel for a fee of just thirty-five dollars. A good move, or so I thought, until I realise the same dreadful rock band I’d encountered a few morning’s before is playing on a stage next door, battling the relentless wail from the Grand Mosque. Thousands of two-stroke motorcycles continue to scream past my window.

It is difficult to draw the line between the threatened rainforest jungle and the sprawling mess of concrete jungle. They say a jungle is an unruly space outside the control of civilisation, but what is more unruly: the mama Orangutan casually chomping on a banana guarding her young or the frantic city folk texting on their phones in the car with a coffee in hand?