In the early nineties, I had a great time climbing volcanoes for four months in Indonesia and met some of the orange apes. Is “orang” where the word orange comes from, word origin fans?
I was reminded of this last week when I spent a few days with autistic twins; a frustrating, challenging but ultimately rewarding experience. I benefited from their vast historical knowledge whilst taking them to visit local castles and manor houses. Then we went to see the new Planet of the Apes film. Despite being a fan of all things ape, I had no desire to watch this. Previous films in the franchise had passed me by. But it was good. Really good. That unusual beast, a quality summer blockbuster. I don’t intend to write a review however, this is just my long winded set up. One of the characters was an aging Orang Utan – the first I’ve seen in the movies since Clyde in the Clint Eastwood movies and the really bad Bo Derek Tarzan film, where they clearly hadn’t researched which continents orang utans are from.
I spent some time on islands off the coast of Sumatra, before heading up to a village of supposed cannibals, meeting a scary Dutch Freddie Mercury lookalike, dressed in black military leather gear (another story) and climbing several volcanoes.
I had another scary experience on the bus journey to Bukit Lawang. The driver jammed a brick on the accelerator, got a passenger to hold the steering wheel, and then proceeded to climb out of his window and clamber along the side of the bus collecting fares from the passengers.
We didn’t crash and I arrived at the village, that lined a white water river with over hanging creepers and lianas. It was the site of a rehabilitation centre, where animals rescued from circuses or abandoned as pets were introduced back to the wild. I walked upriver and suddenly heard a crashing through the trees. It was a large adult Orang, with a cute baby, that proceeded to follow me for a mile or so.
I was told that Orang Utans are incredibly peaceful animals. In fact the only time they get angry and upset is when people cut the forest down. Whilst checking how to spell Bukit Lawang, I discovered there was a three meter high wall of mud that slid down the valley in 2003, destroying 35 hotels and killing 240 villagers and tourists. Apparently this was due to illegal logging up country.