Sunday, 29 July 2007

I hugged an Orangutan!!!

I've come to the last of my roster and the last of my undesirable flights and am happy to report that I was blown away by my trip to Jakarta.

Due to the latest Australian Government terrorist warning for Indonesia, I set about giving the flight away the minute we got our rosters. Do you think anyone wanted it? No. I can't recall having ever met an Indonesian crew member, so I couldn't even offer it to someone who might want to go home.

Our flight left at 3am and by the time we finally took off at 4am we were all feeling drowsy. After 7 hours we arrived at Kuala Lumpur, ditched a few passengers, reloaded and then flew to Jakarta. We spilled out of the aircraft and wearily set out for the hotel. It was gorgeous and even though my room was a fair stroll from the lobby, I was very close to the pool and the river and had a gorgeous courtyard right outside my door.

When we first stepped out of the aircraft, I was mentally transported back to Bali. Being in Indonesia again after 5 years, I was surprised that it smelt the same. There was the familiar dusty air, polluted looking skyline and general rubbish everywhere.

I must say and warn everyone planning to travel to Jakarta - the food sucks. I was lucky I bought some fruit, yoghurt and water from home, as the hotel food was just passable. I will give them credit for whipping up a great diet coke - something about the way the lime slices floated in amongst the ice........

My first day was spent lying by the pool in the sun, munching on some salad (yes Mum, I DO eat salad now!) and reading a book. I'd taken three with me and gleefully got stuck into one by the pool. That night we headed to the golf club for dinner and were surprised by two things:

1. the restaurant CLOSES at 8pm. How ridiculous is that?
2. the waitresses outfits were so slutty they'd have been risking jail time in Dubai if they'd stepped outside in them!

Up bright and early for our safari, we were joined by 4 girls from another crew and off we went. We hit the botanical gardens and I experienced my first squatting on the floor toilet. Words cannot explain how horrified I was and still am at having to use it. And the smell.......

The orchid garden was stunning, with its purple and white delicate flowers and the whole enclosure was full of swirling mist. There was a cactus garden, where people had actually carved their names on the leaves of the plants! We wandered around the gardens until we felt too hot and sticky to continue and then, pleading exhaustion we continued to the zoo.

I was super excited by the kind of free range zoo in Johannesburg but the one in Jakarta is AMAZING. We stopped to buy some carrots on the drive up to the zoo. Situated on 1000 acres of forestry, the zoo had both free range areas and enclosures. We were set upon by some gorgeous, very cheeky zebras who were rather excited about our carrots. There were elephants, hippos, lhamas, long haired camels, black bears, brown bears, panthers and so many more.

We drove through the grounds, stopping to feed animals through the windows and eventually came to the elephant and baby animals area.

I don't recall ever seeing a real life elephant before and man are they big! I thought I was tall, but they're just massive. They also smell like wee. We were able to sidle up to them and hold out our remaining carrots. They dart out their trunks and grab them, twisting them up towards your mouth. One of the handlers showed me a cool little trick. You put your arm up, say "up" and they lift their trunk - you can then put carrots into their mouth. Now there was no way I was going to reach my hand up towards that fleshy looking abyss and I was really nervous to be standing that close to a creature that could have knocked me a good ten feet with that trunk. But they're gentle giants and were happy to demolish our carrots and sneeze all over our legs and feet.

Next stop - the baby enclosure! For the bargain price of about US $1.20, we could buy a ticket to hold a baby. On offer that day were both orange and white tiger cubs, an orangutan, a not-so-small tiger and an even bigger leopard. I gleefully bought tickets for all four animals and got my camera ready.

I'm convinced the larger of the animals were drugged, because they were pretty docile. However, the leopard and larger tiger were both growling and could still have taken a pretty big bite out of me if they'd wanted to.

The tiger cubs were very frisky, scratching and play-biting their handler. We copped a few light scratches on our legs in our quest for a cuddle and when I got up I had fur all over my clothes. But they were so cute and cuddly and their course fur was just beautiful to touch.

The orangutan was something else - he eagerly climbed from his handler onto my hip and gave me a cuddle. We sat down, with him on my lap and he curled his arms up around my neck. His fur was course as well and so orange! What a cutie - he had big brown eyes and was just delightful.

Next stop - the leopard. This was probably the most beautiful creature in the whole zoo. He was definitely sedated but still let out a serious belly growl when I sat next to him. He had gorgeous blue eyes and shorter hair than I'd imagined. He was heavy, full of muscle and an absolute killer. A few of my photos perfectly caught my fear as he growled, but he settled down and we snapped a few good shots.

From the zoo we headed to lunch at a tea plantation and the food was awful. We were about 1500 metres above sea level according to our guide and it was quite nippy. We sat inside but could still see the lovely view overlooking the plantation. From there we hit a local produce market and I bought a whole bright orange pumpkin, some bananas, passion fruit and pineapples. Others bought avocados, sweet corn, papaya and tomatoes. It was as cheap as chips and sure beats the crappy produce we get here in Dubai.

I'd definitely do another Jakarta trip and would love another cuddle with that that little orangutan!

No comments: