Sunday, June 15, 2008

Harau Valley...A.K.A. Ewok Villages

Harau Valley was just what the doctor ordered! We were getting pretty sick of the hub-bub of city life (which I write about in my next blog titled "Nuances") and needed to make a b-line for a quieter, more relaxing atmosphere.

Harau Valley is located about an hour to the north of Bukittingi and is just breathtaking. To get there was a bit of a mission, I must say. 4 buses, and a side-car motor-taxi later, we arrived in what I think was ultimate paradise.

The valley itself sits beneath 600 foot limestone cliffs (ideal for rock-climbing) and lush rice paddies. There is only one home stay in the whole valley, appropriately named "Echo Homestay". In the morning, the valley is filled with the sounds of whooping Gibbons (the black monkeys with that cool little bubble under their chin) and peaceful bird calls. Not many tourists find their way to Harau, which made it even more perfectly relaxing. Days were spent cruising around taking in the amazing scenery on the back of a motorbike, doing yoga in the musholla (make-shift mosque), floating in the pool of a waterfall watching local climbers, children and monkeys scale the cliffs with no ropes and bare feet and playing chess with the locals in the evening. We did a really beautiful trek to the top of the cliffs (despite my excruciating cramps) with our friend and local guide Ik that we made at Echo. We had some great conversations with him as well about American Politics, and world domination!

The property itself was simply amazing. Traditional Mingkabu (Sumatran) houses are adorned with beautiful soaring rooftops that resemble bull-horns. The guest huts are made of flattened bamboo and come equipped with outdoor bathrooms...perfectly simple.

Three nights there was just the right amount. Feeling quite refreshed and really starting to feel strangely at home here in Indonesia. I've picked up a bit of the language, mostly the numbers and basic greetings and necessities, and can now communicate (a little bit) with the locals. It's not so intimidating

Today we are heading to a friend of a friend's home stay on a beach on the Indian Ocean. We will be the first foreigners to stay there, and Mick might even get to name the un-surfed wave in front! We're told that there is plenty to do including canoeing, fishing, surfing, playing guitar and trekking in the jungle! The owner is really looking forward to having us, so it should be a pretty good way to spend our last few days before we take the flight to Malaysia on Friday to renew our visas (hopefully!)...

Pictures to come, I promise. Nobody has CD Rom drives here, so loading them is a bit of a problem...