Indonesia: Land of Fire

On Tuesday our plane landed in Medan, the largest city on the island of Sumatra.  Sumatra is a massive volcanic island straddling the equator and an immense, though highly endangered rainforest.  Our first stop after a short stay in Medan was the town of Berastagi.  Situated on a ridge below the active volcano, Sibayak, Berastagi offers a beautiful vista overlooking a mountain range and Sibayak’s larger cousin, the recently erupted Sinabung.

We started our day today with an $0.11 taxi up to the starting point of our trek up to the crater of Sibayak.  Winding through hillside farms we soon disembarked and entered the forest at the foot of the volcano.  All the way up the mountain we were serenaded by the beautiful calls of far-off, mysterious primates that were reminiscent of the ethereal chants of some ancient tribe.  When we approached the crater we began to hear a different noise altogether that grew steadily to a roar.  This noise was accompanied by the increasingly pungent smell of rotten eggs.  We soon deduced that the culprit was the vibrant yellow vents of sulfuric gas surging from the mouth of the volcano.

In the crater people had graffitied in a more eco-friendly way, with rocks.  Can you spot the Nat?

Skirting the crater rim through up-drafts of stinky gas.

Nat near the peak above the crater overlooking the surrounding mountains.

During our descent, we briefly caught sight of what we believe to be the elusive dusky (or spectacled) langur.  These fairly large monkeys stay mostly in the treetops and are extremely shy.  When they realize they are being observed they will either turn their backs or flee into the forest.  We caught sight of two separate troops but weren’t fast enough to get a really clear picture.

This monkey watched us for about thirty seconds from some 200 feet away before turning back into the forest.