Written July 19th
I’ve had a busy few days in Indonesia since we last caught up. The first few days were spent in Halimun, a protected natural wildlife park. We stayed in a research station similar to the one at Tuanan with some slight improvements, like soft couches! Halimun is a montane forest at an elevation of 3000 meters, so the air was much cooler. It was great to escape the heat and humidity for a few days.
Halimun was an amazing experience. The first thing we did was follow silvery gibbons through the forest, and this may be the absolute coolest thing I have ever witnessed. The gibbons were much more active than the orangutans, and they moved swiftly and effortlessly through the treetops. It was like we were watching a dance. The researchers told us we were lucky because gibbons usually kept more of a distance than we were experiencing. We also lucked out because we saw multiple groups interacting, and two males from one group chased away a male from a different group, which is also very rare since interactions usually don’t escalate to action. Watching the gibbons, I couldn’t help thinking about how well evolution has adapted them to their environment. If I haven’t driven home the point enough yet, I was truly mesmerized by their movements as they swung and jumped from branch to branch.
Again photo credits go to Andrea Pfaff for another professional quality shot of the silvery gibbon.
Halimun had more that just gibbons too. The forest was surrounded by tea plantations, which I thoroughly enjoyed exploring. There was a waterfall with a pool where we got to bathe and swim, which I made sure to utilize because you tend to notice the cold less when you’re having fun splashing around in a river. At night, we went on a hike to find fluorescent mushrooms. On our way to and from Halimun, the rocky mountain road bounced us to delirium and we all ended up laughing the whole bus ride. It’s funny that the bouncing is what made the ride difficult and uncomfortable, but at the same time, made it go faster because it got us all stir-crazy, literally.
Our next stop was Yogyakarta, which is where I am right now, waiting to fly out to the Seribu Islands for our final destination of the trip! Our first day in Yogya was jampacked with amazing experiences. We first visited Borobudur, a Buddhist temple built in the ninth century. Then we visited Prambanan, a Hindi temple also built in the ninth century. Both were constructed out of black lava stone and interlocking parts; no cement was used in either structure. Both told amazing stories of each faith with the stone carvings along the walls. Finally, we ended the day with a traditional ballet at Prambanan that told a Hindi story about a kidnapped princess.
Our second day, we visited the Batik Village. Batik is an art form where they use wax to design and dye fabrics for clothing and tapestries. We got to learn how it was done and even got to try our hand at batiking some cloth ourselves. We also visited the coffee shop of the researchers friends, who is using coffee to raise awareness and funds for the silvery gibbon. The coffee harvesting also creates an alternative livelihood for the local people, so they don’t destroy the habitat for timber and to farm.
The rest of the day was ours to explore Malioboro Road, a two kilometer strip filled with shops and stalls selling clothing and many forms of art. We ended the night at a bar where I got some much missed Western food. I also got to indulge in traditional Indonesian beer, which unsurprisingly I guess, was normal beer. Back at the hotel, the group capped off our night with a late night dip in the pool! Wow, I told you a lot happened! Our trip is still going strong and everyone is excited for our final stop, the Seribu Islands, and the beach time that is waiting for us there!