Lost on Puncak Lawang
Original description at the Internet Archive here: https://web-beta.archive.org/web/20060904002516/http://www.joeinc.tv:80/personal/Lost%20on%20Puncak%20Lawang.pdf
New and improved version ...
On August 29th, 2004, I was rescued from a forested (jungled-covered) mountain slope, after spending the night, alone, without food or water, having lost perhaps a pint of blood, and broken up my hand, and had a concussion … in the jungle, in an area where leeches, poisonous centipedes and spiders and snakes, and other things, some with very sharp teeth, abound. Tigers are the top of the local food chain.
I am no grizzled mountaineer. I was then a 50-year-old man, with an office job. You won’t find me engaged in competitive sports, but I do hike a little (a few hours on the well-marked, wellmaintained trails of Marin’s Mt. Tam are enough for me), bike a little, kayak a little. I was once a cub scout master, but that’s about the limit for my prior outdoors experience, and that was ten years ago. I’m a city boy. I like a good espresso, and am partial to starched, linen sheets. Writing (typing) this today still is difficult.
As I wrote the original version of this, my left hand – I’m a lefty – was still mainly encased in a splint-cast, swaddled in a bandage; my thumb, index and middle fingers more or less ‘free’; the other two fingers just had their tips peeking out. The palm of my hand was padded with bandages and part of the cast. The cast is supposed to stay on for several days more only, and the pain is mainly gone. The cuts over the rest of my body have healed and most are now nearly all gone; the bruises have faded; some internal scarring remains and it still looks likely that I’ll lose the nail on my big left toe. My left knee still aches badly; not sure if it’s just muscle bruising or more serious tears. Just four weeks, and I’m nearly all better!
This note describes what happened, how and why it happened. It’s a pretty dramatic story. It’s gory in part, exciting in part. It’s also a joyous one because of the compassion and interest, shock and sympathy of so many people in so many different places (the crew who rescued me, random passers-by in Buktitinggi , the drunkard surfer dudes at Padang airport, neighbours and co-workers). (I would also contrast the joyous courtesy we experienced throughout Sumatra with the other, darker image of Indonesia. A few days after our return from Indonesia, terrorists bombed the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, blocks from where we stayed the night we arrived in Java to start our vacation.)
From the front page, above-the-crease, headline on the August 30th Mimbar Minang (Minang Chronicle) ‘Turis Amerika Hilang di Puncak Lawang’ Its interpretation of our names … I became Jhon Bren (Jhon is a moderately common given name in Indonesia); Mary Lou became Marlina Lux; particularly interesting, in that Lux is Latin for light, which has been the focus of her life-long work. 2 Means: high town in the original Minang language. It’s the town we spent most time in; pronunciation is easy – ‘bookit ting gy’ Lost on Puncak Lawang - 2 - Map of Sumatra: the line is the huge crack in the earth that forms the Barisan volcanic range; Toba is the large lake about 80% of the way up; Krakatoa is one of the dots at the bottom between Sumatra and Jave; Malaysia is (most of) the land mass at top right; Singapore a small island at its bottom. The islands to the west, representing an earlier, now-mainly-submerged mountain range, are the Mentawai islands; famous for fabulous surf, an ancient, stone-age peoples, and drug-resistant malaria.
The setting for this tale: the Minang highlands of West Sumatra. We’d been to Bali and Lombok in 2003, and found them beautiful, and wondered about the rest of Indonesia. Sumatra is one of the world’s largest islands; it has – it seems – 40 million people, but is mainly thinly populated.3 The Barisan mountain range runs for about 1,000 miles down the island’s spine, and its nearly 100 volcanoes include Krakatoa4 and Toba. Toba’s not as famous as Krakatoa, but dwarfs its better-known cousin: its crater, the world’s largest, is 60 miles across and now houses a large, peaceful lake; Samosir, the island inside the crater, is larger than Singapore or Manhattan. Some geologists hold that its most recent eruption, 75,000 years ago, was at least 3,000 times the size of the 1980 Mt. St. Helens’ eruption, and caused the last ice age. We didn’t go there, but were much further south, in the town of Bukittinggi, a hill town, overlooked by two volcanoes: Marapi, which is still active (and issued a subtle column of steam or smoke most days we were there, see picture to the left5 ) and Singgalang, which is dormant. (I don’t think any of the volcanoes in Indonesia are actually extinct; while we were in Bukittinggi, a large volcano was in more vigorous eruption about 100 miles south, in the huge and wild Kerinci-Serblat park6 , Semeru was active on Java, and a third had erupted on Flores, further east7 .)
About 40 miles from Bukittinggi is Sumatra’s second-largest volcanic crater, Maninjau. It houses an even-more peaceful, less-visited lake than Toba and, the guide books said, really feels like the inside of a large crater, with its jungle-clad interior slopes cascading down to meet rice terraces near the lake’s edge; Lake Maninjau (see picture below) is about 16 miles across – and up to one third of a mile deep. There’s one big village – again called Maninjau – and a couple of tiny villages; most locals farm or fish for a living, or work in the tiny and anemic local tourist industry. Only one decent road winds into the crater – and it boasts 44 hairpin bends8 from a dip in the crater’s rim down to the lake’s edge. The tour books suggested instead a hike down a trail; about a two-hour walk, breathtaking views, quiet, … sounds wonderful and so that was our plan. 3 Basic facts about Sumatra are nicely summarized at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumatra 4 An island off the southern tip; locally called Krakatau 5 News on recent activity on Marapi: http://groups.msn.com/JavaLava/general.msnw?action=get_message&mview=1&ID_Message=243 6 Although it’s a huge park (1.4Mha = 5,405 square miles … slightly larger than Connecticut), much of it is currently closed because of the eruption. http://www.kerinci.org/ About 20 of the Barisan Mountains are considered to be active volcanoes, definitely including Krakatau. 7 Lives were lost, towns evacuated on Flores; on September 1st, Egon on Flores erupted for the fourth time this year. http://www.terradaily.com/2004/040901041126.4q8lgajk.html 8 Yes, they are numbered! Lost on Puncak Lawang - 3 - Puncak Lawang; the first mistakes
To get there: a taxi. We had explained our idea to the desk staff at the western, high-end hotel in Bukittinggi, the Novotel; they arranged for a taxi to show up at the appointed hour – 10:30 a.m., and so after a full breakfast. The taxi showed up, a staffer conferred with the driver to make sure the plan was solid, we got in, equipped for a light afternoon hike – strong boots, light (but mosquito-repellent) clothes, camera, binoculars, Deet (anti-bug spray), WetOnes wipes (good idea in a tropical country of dodgy hygeine), a guide book … and a few cookies, spiced peanuts, and some drinking water … and nothing else, in our backpacks.
Off we drove, confidently and to the wrong place. To be sure, we did drive in the right direction, on the right road, to Maninjau. But then, instead of leaving us at the starting point for the trail (which, we found out subsequently was clearly marked, and had guides available) the driver took us further north along the road on the crater’s rim, to Puncak Lawang, at a point where, we were told or perhaps imagine, human sacrifices occurred in earlier times; this was one of the highest points on the rim9 . Here, he got out, walked with us for a short distance, pointed to indicate the (precisely wrong) direction for the trail, then left us. He said he planned to meet us at the village below at about 4 pm. At that point, we were headed north, the lake is to our left, hundreds of feet below, mainly hidden behind dense trees. The real trailhead is over a kilometer behind us. The path along the crater’s rim is wide, well-defined - very much like a fire road on Marin's Mount Tam. And so we have little reason to believe we’re in the wrong spot. We walk along, looking for a spot to our left where a trail will surely lead down. The path winds on, through ferns up to eight feet tall, but is still clear. Occasionally we see a path branching off to the left. We peer into these, or try them, but none seem clear.
After perhaps 15 or 20 increasingly hot minutes walking along the road / path, we pick one and dive into the dark forest, headed down toward the lake, on a faint trail. Into the dark forest The faintness of the trail did not bother us at first; nor did the fact that it quickly faded. After all, this is rich volcanic soil, in the tropics, so that plants grow rapidly. And the threats of terrorism have scared many away; we saw very few ‘white people’ in Sumatra – so it seemed reasonable, we thought, that a path had been overgrown and then faded away in just a few months or years. This seemed particularly true at the outset, where the new growth on our ‘trail’ was green, shiny … bamboo, or rubber plants, or vines.
9 Puncak Lawang means “gate to the summit” (puncak = summit; see http://www.toggletext.com/kataku_trial.php ). Remember-- the road enters the caldera at a lower point, and still has 44 hairpin turns. Lost on Puncak Lawang - 4 - While most of the vines were smooth-stalked, one had a particularly nasty stalk, barbed with countless thorns, set out like fishscales, overlapping …and the tiny barbs would break off and embed themselves in your flesh, should you even lightly touch them!
As we left the lip of the crater, on our ‘trail’, the slope down became dramatically steeper. What started as a hot but leisurely walk became more of a scramble, and then, quite often, we’d go down on our butts, slipping on the wet leaves, hanging on to vines to control our descent. We got the hang of this, get to know which vines were strong, and proceeded using this inelegant, but effective method, and we made quick progress.
One instinct picked up in years of walking in Europe and America failed us now. We are used to the idea of walking in a dark woods … and when you see a bright patch, think ‘aha, a clearing’ and walk to it, hoping to get your bearings. This is a BAD idea here, as we now found out. For each time we’d walk to the bright patch … yes, we would be rewarded with a glimpse of our destination – the lake, rice terraces, … and not too far away. But, the reason for bright patches on steep slopes is … you’re seeing the tops of trees, where the ground has dropped away suddenly. In other words: our instincts were taking us towards drops, and eventually towards the tops of cliffs.
When vines let you down
There were several slopes, drops to go down, with varying degrees of risk. On one, I came down after Mary Lou, and sent a rock crashing down that hit her on her ankle. We came to a 25-foot drop. Not a sheer cliff, but one studded here and there with trees and rocky outcroppings. By this point we WERE concerned that there was no trail, and although we’d been hiking downhill for more than an hour (thus over half of the estimate of two hours for the entire hike in the guidebooks) we were clearly not getting to our destination in any hurry. So, although hiking back up would take longer and be more arduous, and we’d have wasted a day, we were frustrated, and thinking of turning back.
As we reached this drop, the rice terraces and the lake shore seemed tantalizingly close: perhaps just a mile or less as a crow might fly. Perhaps it was this that spurred me to look over the drop and start to work out a way down … ‘if I hang on, here, to this little tree trunk, and grab that vine, my left foot can reach that outcrop and if I put my weight on that, I can lower myself down’ … and so I lowered myself over the edge, hanging onto a small tree trunk and a vine. Then, shifted my left hand from the small tree to enable my left leg to move to the left … at which point the entire vine in my right hand uprooted and I was in freefall.
‘Never fall on your back’; somehow a piece of advice given to my son in a group of Boy Scouts immediately came to me, and – kicking the cliff – I pivoted somewhat in mid-air, fell, fell, landed hard on my hands, rolled, rocks, bang, dirt. Came to a halt. Hurts. Some seconds pass, I think, and I become aware and alert. I’m badly banged up, but nothing seems broken. I sit up, and my head hurts; my left hand goes to my banged-up forehead, and it is now that I notice that the palm of my left hand is split wide open and gushing blood. Mary Lou, screaming from above. ‘John! John!’ From the bottom of the slope, I can now see the good way down; and Mary Lou scrambles down, briskly, easily.
We look at the wounds. My forehead is gashed. My left hand is burst from the palm, and it feels like bones are broken. There are other minor scrapes and cuts, and I'm filthy, but that's it.
This description may well be flawed. Sorry.
My fingers close on my hand; Mary Lou wipes it a bit with one of the WetOnes wipes, then takes a silk scarf from her backpack and uses it as a tourniquet. ML gave me some water – and five adrenaline pills11. A pineapple cookie crumbled in my now-dry mouth, and I spat it out. And on we went; it was then relatively flat, there was plenty of thick brush, which Mary Lou pushed aside. I was falling behind her. More cliffs The next drop – also about 20 feet – caused Mary Lou difficulties. As she recalls it, she remembers hanging on with half her butt, reaching for a tree that was impossibly far away. This time, I found a less arduous way down. But, I was now blacking out. I wanted only to rest. Mary Lou says that I crawled onto the crook of a small tree, curled up and announced that I wanted to sleep. She urged, nagged me on. Mary Lou announces that she’s going to walk on ahead to get help. I’m pretty sure that I resisted this, plaintively, for a moment or two, but it seemed the best plan, and the distance between us increased. The next drop after that was similar in size, but was cut by a stream, and crossed by a fallen, smooth-barked tree. (A Banyan, I think.12) Mary Lou shimmied across this, crossing the 30-footwide cut quite briskly. I believe it took me nearly 20 minutes to do the same after her. We can hear each other, and call to each other through the forest. Now, the rice terraces and the lake’s shore were much closer. We could hear, plainly, the sounds of humans … a chainsaw buzzed occasionally, probably illegally, and possibly within a mile. And then, the last drop. This one is 40 sheer feet at its lowest point, 60 or so steep feet elsewhere. She prowled the rim of this … a cliff around a U-shaped mini-valley … and somehow found a way down, something ugly involving sliding, grabbing vines, grabbing onto a tree and climbing down it. Behind her, I eventually reach the last drop and realize that, weakened, in pain, and one-handed, there was no plausible way down. It is about 3:30 pm as Mary Lou gets over this drop; perhaps 4:30 pm when I reach it. Long before that, I hear Mary Lou calling back from the valley to not go down the cliff … Through the river: Mary Lou’s story The base of this small valley was quite flat, but had a small stream. Here, she heeded more Boy Scouts advice: take to the river. She did, not least because the lowland growth is much denser than that at higher altitudes; the thorny vines are everywhere and rip her arms and clothes. Increasingly, the only plausible way forward was to wade in the stream. This is not as easy as it sounds. The stream becomes brisk, flowing over boulders and sharp rocks. The jungle growth hangs close over the water, sometimes down to the water, sometimes allowing her to stand. Always, there is the fear of nasty spiders in webs over the water. And then there are the Biawaks. 11 Which she carries always because of hypopituitaryism – four pills of Cortef is a day’s normal dose for someone who makes no adrenaline. When there is a stress to the body, the pituitary gland signals to make more – much more sometimes – to ready the body for abnormal efforts, or to prompt the immune system into accelerated action. 12 The forest had mainly species I didn’t recognize; one that we did was a ‘walking tree’ … we’d seen one last year on Lombok. This time, however, we found that its bark is quite prickly.
Lost on Puncak Lawang - 6 - Komodo is an island in a distant part of Indonesia, famous for its monitor lizards, the so-called Komodo Dragons that grow to 12 feet in length and eat goats. Less known is that other monitor lizards are to be found throughout the archipelago, where they are known as Biawaks13. They grow to five or six feet in length. Like the Komodo Dragons, they are omnivorous, have lethal saliva, and are stone deaf (literally; there is no auditory system in their bodies)14.
The stream becomes a river, still overhung, and now Mary Lou is accompanied by dozens of Biawaks, some of which are truly huge. Most important: don’t make them feel threatened. So, Mary Lou keeps tearing branches to wave in front of her to rip open any spider webs, and to warn the monitor lizards of her presence. They stay away. It is 6:15 pm when Mary Lou reaches the dam where the river is blocked, and the waters fan out to feed the system of rice terraces: she is out of the forest. Remember, though, that this is nearly exactly on the equator; each day lasts 12 hours; twilight is short-lived; we’re inside a deep crater, surrounded by mountains, darkness is imminent. She’s exhausted, having been on the mountain for seven hours, pulling against vines, going down steep drops … and still isn’t at the village. And on she hikes, down through the tiny paths between the rice terraces, past the farmers’ tiny resting huts, down to the village of Bayur. She arrives at 7PM with legs of rubber. By 8pm, she has met some of the villagers, and convinced them of the urgency of my plight – using her modest command of Bahasa Indonesia, their slight comprehension of English, signs, drawings. In her exhaustion, cold, and still wearing the tattered and dirty clothes that were soaked in her trek down the river, she takes a lot more adrenaline and is back hiking up the mountain with a rescue team of ~20 people; boys and young men from the village; barefoot (try that in leech-infested wetlands!) or wearing cheap flip-flops. The daughter of Anas, the village elder, went to the home of the police chief in a neighboring town, as it was after hours. Police hours, as it turns out are 10AM – 5PM. She convinces them to join the gathering search crew in Bayur. They start back up through the rice terraces to try and reach me at 8PM. It has been dark for over an hour. Meanwhile, back on the mountain I reached the cliff at a small, rocky nook, a U-shaped depression, cut by a small stream. I can now hear clearly the sound of someone cutting a tree with a chain saw; whenever it ceases, I yell … ‘help’, ‘silakhan’ (please) … It sometimes seems like the sawyer pauses because he has heard … but then the noise resumes. I only stop shouting when the sound of sawing is gone. I have taken off my backpack, and took stock of what I had with me: sunglasses; my digital camera; a pair of heavy binoculars; a full pack or more of the WetOnes wipes; a small bottle of Deet spray; a tiny mobile phone; the Lonely Planet guide to Indonesia (500 pages!); a pack of chewing gum. Everything has survived the fall, but there is, quite literally, nothing else. I scout around to see if there is any plausible way down for me, one handed, and not feeling great. I can’t find one, and decide to stay put. 13 The pronunciation varies, sometimes ‘bee-a-wahk’, sometimes almost ‘jah-wak’ 14 We had encountered a Biawak on Lombok last year, so we knew about them in advance. Lost on Puncak Lawang - 7 - And start thinking about what I will have to do to survive; even though I know Mary Lou has gone for help, I worry about her success in getting out – what happens if she falls, or … As time drifts by, I realize: I have to plan to be on the mountain for the night. Before night falls, I make my plan. I clean off a rock as best I can (I don’t want any nighttime visits from ants and centipedes); and try to fashion a little ledge into a seat. I decide: • The camera’s best attribute is its flash; to draw attention to myself if a rescue crew comes in during the night … and to scare off any sharp-toothed fauna • The binoculars are the heaviest, sharp thing I have; I keep them to hand, in case I need to throw them • The phone … well, there’s no service on the mountain, but I set it up to chime every hour, so that it will help keep me awake. • The Deet … stinks. Ahah! I will use this, liberally, to spray – not myself – the little nook I’m in, hoping to mask the tell-tale scent of me, ‘the other, other white meat’, especially in the context of significant blood loss, in possible tiger territory. • I decide not to read the Lonely Planet guide, lest I find out more than I wanted to know about the local fauna (also, if the worst came to the absolute worst, I could actually eat the pages!) My plan … is to stay awake all night, listening for the hoped-for rescue. And, if no rescue happened, in the morning, I was going to get out, on my own, by climbing out. Night does fall, accompanied by a massive ruckus in the trees directly over me; monkeys. I see some large hawks, then some large bats. Giant squirrels. A couple of rats scurry along a branch, silhouetted against the sky’s dark blue. Frogs, toads start a chorus from within a few feet of me. Occasionally, I can hear the muezzin calling from the mosque in the village below. It’s not actually a very dark night (until 4:00 am) because there’s a nearly-full moon. Above me, a full canopy of trees means that it’s still pretty dark. Around 9:00 pm I hear voices calling … they get nearer; I yell back with all the energy I can muster. While much of the time the voices are shouting ‘hoy’ … once in a while they shout ‘mister john’ … which tells me: Mary Lou got out! When the voices seem quite close – perhaps a few hundred yards – I use the camera’s flash, in a routine; I shout, and then I flash. The voices fade away, and the night is quiet. I settle in for the night. My routine is that each hour the Lost on Puncak Lawang - 8 - phone beeps at me, then I take off the mud- and blood-encrusted, tattered silk scarf that binds my hand; take off the antibacterial wipe, use a new one to wipe my hand; throw both of these away (initially, when there is still blood, I toss them over the cliff), apply a new one, rebind my hand … try dialing the Indonesian emergency number.15 (On one occasion it seems to get through before dropping; all other attempts fail completely.) Most times, I also listen to a Bach ringtone, hum the tune, and then spray the rocky nook with stinky Deet … and settle back against the rock, using the backpack as a sort of back rest. The hours pass. At one point, I am pretty sure I see a pair of eyes … about 20 feet away. I get up, use the camera … and after my eyes recover from the flash there are no eyes (and none appear on any of the pictures I took during the night; for many, however, I kept the lens cap on). At another point, I hear a tiny beeping … at first I thought it was my cell phone, but later realized it must have been a small frog or perhaps a cricket. The night is quite cold; I’m wearing light clothes, suitable for a tropical hike. My shirt, particularly, lets the wind in. I fold both arms into it (that hurts!), cram my hat down on my head … try and stay warm. I wondered: am I supposed to think Big Thoughts, meaning-of-life stuff, consider any Big Changes? In fact the only cogent thoughts were – estimates of the probability of my getting out alive (about 40% if Mary Lou hadn’t succeeded in getting a crew), and that I was determined to get out. Back in Bayur Mary Lou writes: At 9:30 PM. I was striking back to the village, still cold and wet, worried that John would attempt to go down the 20m cliff, and would get hurt badly –all that he had already attempted the cliff, and was hurt. Back in the village, the new challenges were many: to make sure that the rescue attempt in the morning would be more successful and properly coordinated; to find somewhere to stay; to find an Internet café, so that I could get Jones mobile phone number (which he had put in e-mail somewhere), and so that I could contact the hotel management to get them to provide assistance. I needed to get warm. And I needed some clothes if it all possible. Food would be nice, but could wait. Most of the belongings in my backpack were soaked in the track down through the river – the cookies and the peanuts were soaked, as were a phrase book, a guidebook to Sumatra, and nearly everything else I had. Fortunately, the medications seemed to have survived and were all dry. Anas, the village elder in Bayur, had currently offered to let me stay at his house. However, I chose to stay in Maninjau, both because I thought it would offer a better chance to coordinate the rescue and because I thought I would have better warmth, food, telecommunications access, etc. I also wanted to commandeer the loud speakers on top of the village mosque. I thought that it might offer a good chance to send a message to John that I was safe, to stay in place, do not go down the cliff, are rescue attempt will come. The Internet café in Maninjau provided a partial answer to the clothing –it sold tee-shirts with the now deeply ironic slogan “real relaxing in lake Maninjau”; $8.00, a deal. In Maninjau, most hotels were no longer accessible; they are all small, so their reception desks are all closed –except one, a fine little place, directly on the water. The hotel is rather rowdy –there is a Muslim reception party going on, which is joyous, boisterous, noisy even without 15 It’s the emerging global standard for this … 112 Lost on Puncak Lawang - 9 - alcohol! My room, directly overlooking the lake, has a bath tub. I’d take a hot bath, and then, after I find the soap, wash some of my clothes, and take another hot bath. But I don’t sleep much. Although I am worn out, I spend the night worrying. Daybreak, and I want to get going. Breakfast is a wonderful dish of banana pancakes, with strong Sumatra coffee. And then, it is off to the Maninjau police to get going on finding John. However, the police seemed to be in no hurry, and have a different idea of the scale of rescue attempt appropriate. Yes, we will get on the mountain to rescue John, but we need to wait. Wait for – a car to show up, for more of the villagers to show up, for the police chief to show up; and, finally, when there is a decent number of police and villagers present, now it becomes time for them to eat breakfast. (I must note that some of them would have been quite tired from searching on the mountain until late at night.) The police also point out that the rescue will be expensive: 50,000 rupiah per person (about $5.50), and because of this expense they suggest hiring just five villagers. It takes awhile to persuade them that, at this level anyway, cost is not an object. Five is not enough, let us higher ten, twenty, 50, whatever it takes! Exasperated, I leave the police station, headed for Bayur. As in much of the Indonesia, it is easy to get around – provided you are prepared to ride pillion on some young man’s motorbike. Many young men offer this service; we have used it often before. And that is how I get from Maninjau to Bayur. I had immediately to the homestay of Anas, the village elder. He and his wife begin the process of collecting young village men for the trek up into the woods. (Anas is a particularly good choice for this –the village elder, he knows the region as well as anybody, and while already 60 years old, still runs trekking expeditions in the Maninjau area.) While the young men off by your large gathering together, the police from Maninjau show up, perhaps embarrassed. And so, after more than two hours of cajoling, urging, explaining,… It is after 8:00 when we set out from Bayur into the rice paddies, and beyond them across the dam and into the forest. The group is noisy, fifteen or twenty boys and young men, constantly shouting and yelling to each other –which later seems to us to be a very good way of them to stay in contact with each other, as they fan out through the forest. Those in front carry machetes, and hack small trails as they go. Morning on the mountain Six a.m. sunrise; it is possible that I’d slept a little, perhaps during the darkest part of the night, from 4:00 to 5:00 or so. I had planned to wait a while, perhaps 40 or so minutes, before starting to climb out. In fact, I climbed out of my little nook pretty quickly, after the hourly regular routine. I paused, mainly to watch a pair of large, red monkeys (NOT Orangutans … these monkeys had smoother hair and long tails; Orangs have shaggy hair and no tails) play very close to me – with absolutely no fear of my presence, even when I moved around. Then I started the climb. I’d estimated that it would take six to eight hours to get out, that the steepest, worst part would be the middle section of the climb, … and that I’d better get to it; although a rescue team HAD come into the forest the night before, the person most responsible for my rescue was still me. But, the one thing I would not do was fall. My left hand was bound up in what had once been a nice silk scarf. My fingers were rigidly folded inward, the hand hurt like crazy, and I could not use it to clutch anything. So, I decided that, unless the ground was nearly totally level, I was going to crawl; on my knees normally, on my belly on the steepest slopes. Lost on Puncak Lawang - 10 - And crawl I did, taking a course that would steer about 100 feet north of each of the ‘cliffs’ that bedeviled the descent; standing to rest, mainly upslope from big trees, leaning on them. Seven a.m., I was well above my night’s nook, and at about the level of the lower of the 20- foot drops. No sound from any rescue team. Eight a.m., I was above the middle drop, and the terrain was getting decidedly steep. No sound from any rescue team. Nine a.m., wretchedly difficult going, really painful climb. No sound from any rescue team. However, I can now imagine getting above the top drop, the one where I fell, by 10:00 or 10:30 and perhaps getting out of the forest by 2 p.m. If I can keep going. A more realistic estimate, given how week I was when I was rescued, is that I might have made it out to the road along the crater rim on my own after 4:00 PM, and perhaps as late as nightfall. At about 9:30 I heard the voices, initially too far away for me to put energy into responding. Close to 10:00 they were close enough, and the terrain I was on was nasty, so I then found a clump of trees to rest against, so that I could yell. Better yet, I soon heard dogs … and I shouted mainly to the dogs – no, that doesn’t make much sense – and was thrilled when I first saw a dog come over a rise about 100 yards away … and come toward me, yelping. And then two more dogs, followed by a man in a red shirt! He is yelling, and soon a companion joins, and they sit beside me, rubbing my shoulders, my back, my knees16. My first words to them … ‘istriya?’ … yield an answer of ‘istriya ok’ … Mary Lou is ok. They start the process of leading me out, but quickly realize that leading me isn’t going to work … I need more support than that. We reach a knoll, and sit … and are joined by 10 more young men; one has a liter bottle of drinking water; another a half-liter of ‘jamu’ … the local word for any herbal medicine. I taste it … it is hot, sweet … I think it has honey and ginseng and herbs in it. I nearly down it in one gulp. From there on, these men half carry me (my arms around their shoulders, their arms around my waist), following four guys with machetes who hack a real, new trail down. Another guy carries my backpack; another stays close to offer water. It takes about an hour to get down, to the dam, through the rice terraces, where farmers, families, children are gathered to see the goings-on. One man goes back to a hut and bangs a gong; I turn to look, my leg gives way and I fall. At the bottom of the rice fields, I am greeted by a young man, jeans, a tee-shirt – and a police vest, and a belt with a gun. He fires two shots in the air – the sign that the rescue is done! Hospital! Police Office! Lunch! An ambulance is pulled into a farm’s driveway, but is blocked by a Police truck; the truck backs out, I am led into the ambulance, which has two benches, or would have had two, had the seat cover on one still been there; the only evidence of any medical supply is an oxygen tank. I am joined by the gun-shootin’ policeman. We rattle out of the farm area, and stop near a village shop. The cop jumps out and brings back some sweet cake-like bread (roti), and some water; then onto Maninjau – three miles away, and its tiny village clinic. Here, in a very tired, barebones set of buildings, we wait until what appears to be a Muslim nun (deep blue uniform) shuffles in, opens the doors. On to the examination table, and she pries my hand open. I am weak (nearly passing out, actually) and I don’t understand much Bahasa Indonesia, but the word ‘infeksi’ needs no translation. The policeman is there, to do some rudimentary translation; the wound on my hand is scrubbed clean; THEN they find the Novocain, and put a few stitches in. (Later, the ER physician at Marin General said that this 16 Cultural note: public displays of affection (PDAs, as we called them) between members of the same sex are ok, and commonplace, in Indonesia, and just represent friendship. PDAs between members of opposite sex are, normally, forbidden! Lost on Puncak Lawang - 11 - was the only mistake – since the wound was no longer bleeding profusely, U.S. practice is to not suture.) The policeman pays the clinic bill; 25,000 rupiah … slightly less than $3. From there, to the police office; where I wait for Mary Lou to show up; now I find out that she’s been on the mountain. I am so happy when she shows up; while waiting on the step of the police office, I unzip the calf portions of my trousers (good design!): lots of dirt, cuts … but no leeches or other nastinesses. There is general happiness and mayhem, all the young men from the village of Bayur are there, along with 15 or so Maninjau cops and volunteers, and Mr. Wisri17, a manager from the Novotel in Bukittinggi. We’re worn out, I’m nearly collapsing, and I’m filthy (and stinky, too!). So, it’s logical that … we should all go out to lunch. And so, off in a cavalcade of cars and trucks and bicycles we proceed, to what in the U.S. might pass for a set of picnic tables under a canopy, but is one of the Maninjau region’s best restaurants. Lunch, Padang style18, for 30. Bill: 45,000 rupiah … $50. A brief speech of thanks, translated by Mr. Wisri (white shirt, black collar, standing at the back). One of the guys (white tee shirt, right hand side in the picture) who helped carry me down the mountain asks for my hat; I hope he likes it! Returning to the police station, we settle up the bill for the rescue; since dozens of locals were involved, the bill is clearly quite high. We pay up: 2 million rupiah … about $220. (Later, we send $100 to Anas, the village elder, since the Indonesian police aren’t noted for their honesty, and while these guys seem good … you’re never really sure, and we do really want these guys to get rewarded.) Pictures: taken by JPR except as noted: 1. Map of Sumatra: http://www.cliffshade.com/colorado/tectonics.htm 2. Town of Bukittinggi, Gunung (Mt.) Marapi, as seen from our hotel 3. Picture of Maninjau/lake; http://tramp.travel.pl/zdjecie.php?p=idz2548 4. Mary Lou & the big ferns 5. A faint trail … 6. Biawak: http://www.myoutdoor.com/tiomanisland/images/biawak.jpg 7. Nighttime in my ‘nook’ … the black is out over the cliff’s edge; you can see the various vines 8. Nighttime in my ‘nook’, looking back from the cliff; this picture processed digitally to bring out any detail – and any animals (none found!) 9. Picture at lunch in Bayur with some of the rescue team (we’re both in it … taken by one of the Maninjau policemen) 17 It is quite common for Indonesians to have only one name. 18 Which means that there are dozens of dishes, pre-prepared and not refrigerated (but these are the Spice Islands, and the spices helped preserve the dishes, right?); they’re spicy and they’re often rather dry. You sit down, the dishes show up, when you are finished, the staff count the dishes you touched and you pay for these. The others, presumably, go back to the kitchen to await another customer. Sounds dodgy, but we never had any ‘tummy troubles’ on this trip.