Heading to Tangkahan
We woke up early in the morning to take a long and bumpy car ride to a village where you can wash elephants. I was worried it would be like our ride from Medan, but our driver was excellent. We were jostled around a bit, but it was due to the road.
Our first stop was at a palm oil plantation area. We had a higher perspective to see how much of the land is being used to produce palm oil. It’s a dirty business, terrible for the environment and the villages nearby. It seemed as if you could see the palms for miles and nothing else.
Palms as far as you can see.
More River Swimming
We arrived in the village a few hours later. It was a short walk down to the river where we changed in to our suits and were able to swim in the water for a while. There are natural hot springs which empty out in to the river here. They were very hot, but the river was cold, so getting close to them was nice, but not too close. We walked/swam a few minutes down stream to a waterfall where we spent a little while enjoy the water pounding our necks like a natural massage.
River with natural hot springs.
Once we all climbed out of the river and dried off a bit we headed to lunch at a local restaurant. We were the only guests there, and they had decorated a table covered with fresh flowers all over. It was beautiful. If there hadn’t been two other people with us in the group, I would have said romantic.
They served us a few different curry dishes and rice. It did the trick and filled our bellies. The few of us spent a couple hours chatting and getting to know each other and sharing travel photos. We piled back in to the van and drove through the village a few more minutes.
Finally, we arrived at a small welcome center where we registered and were given a brief description as to what to expect. Then we made our way down the hill to wait for the elephants. A short while later one by one the elephants made their way across the river to us. We were told that the elephants would walk over to us. They would have them lie down in the water, and we would grab brushes and give them a bath.
Crossing the River to meet us.
It was so much fun! The elephants loved the water. They didn’t seem to mind us scrubbing them. Their skin was so much rougher than I ever imagined. Sumatran elephants have little spots all over their skin and are smaller than their brothers and sisters from other parts of the world. There were a couple of baby elephants who were hilarious. One kept trying to steal the brush from me.
After a Bath
We washed one side of the elephant we picked out, they got up, flipped over, and let us wash their other side. It was organized chaos as people flitted from one elephant to another. When all of the elephants were bathed and clean they stood up and we were each given bags of sugar cane and fruits. We got to feed them, which was their favorite part! They were not shy at all, took the food eagerly, and knew when you were holding out and saving a bite for another elephant.
After feeding them we lined up to get kissed by one of them and sprayed in the face. I don’t have a favorite part of this experience. It was all so much fun but went by so fast. The men who controlled the elephants were kind and nice to them all. Yes, the elephants are captive, but they’re free to roam in much larger spaces than any zoo I’ve seen. They’re fed and cared for. Since they are a huge revenue for the village they’re taken care of.
Dinner in Bukit Lawang
We headed back to Bukit Lawang after spending a full day away from our Sumatran paradise. I was so happy to get back and relax in my hammock for a little while. We walked in to town after showering and relaxing a few minutes and decided to have dinner at a little place nearby. I filled my belly with chicken and rice and was sad to know we’d be leaving in the morning.
We are heading to Bali next, so I am happy about that. I really grew to love this little village paradise though. I highly suggest everyone take a trip here!