Day 202: Takengon – Lumut (440m) 89km. Nicely graded climb on good road then rolling descending on sometimes dirt roads. Total 1485m climbing.
Day 203: Lumut – Blengkjeren (875m) 73km. 29km climb to pass then descent and rolling valley. Good roads, but sometimes ultra steep. Total 1985m climbing.
Day 204: Blengkjeren – Ketambe (350m) 74km. Climb and then steady but rolling descending into the national park. Narrow & good road. Total 990m climbing.
Although we’d only ridden a little over 200km in the last three days, we’d done over 4000m of steep climbing and it was on tired legs that we rode out of Takengon after one night in this small highland town. With 2000km to ride in Sumatra still and limited time we had to limit rest days and the next one we had planned was still three more days ride away in the national park village of Ketambe.
A 900m descent to Isaq followed, bizarrely emerging from the jungle into tall, open pine forests. This forest dominated the landscape for most of the rest of the day as we rode through rolling country on quiet, narrow roads – sometimes zipping through small villages.
We knew Lumut was without a guesthouse (losmen or wisma as they’re called here), but it was the biggest of a string of occasional villages along this section of road and the best place for us to try our luck.
Mostly it was a reasonable gradient compared with the ride to Takengon, but the hairpins were pretty savage and we were starting to get sore knees from so much climbing on loaded bikes the past few days.
As we climbed higher the road gradually narrowed to a one lane track (sometimes unsealed) and we were surrounded with lush jungle and ferns. It was absolutely beautiful riding and the altitude and mist kept us at a nice temperature. As with other jungly sections here we saw many macaques and Thomas Leaf monkeys.
More great climbing followed the next day as we headed out of Blengkejeren for Ketambe 74km away. Misty rice paddies and small settlements made for nice highland scenery as we first climbed to a pass and then gradually descended a long valley into Gunung Leuser National Park; home to a huge range of wildlife including orangutans.
Ketambe’s a tiny village within the national park that has developed in very low key way to host the few tourists who pass through here (there was only one other small group of tourists there – the first we’d seen since leaving Banda Aceh!). Most people come to trek for a few days in the hope of seeing orangutans and other more elusive wildlife. We took a day off here to go for a half day jungle hike with a guide – in the hope of seeing an orangutan – and were loving the slightly western menu available at the guesthouse!
… and got lucky. Within an hour of walking we spotted a mother and baby pair of orangutans high in the canopy above us. This is the best I could do with only a 24-70mm lens, but they were a wonder to watch – gracefully passing from tree to tree, the mother sometimes making herself into a ape-bridge so the baby could cross safely.