[continued from part 1]

By 05:40 the television was close to maximum and I could obviously not sleep anymore – Tuesday 17 November had arrived on a loud note. Celliers said the mosques had started singing at 04:00 but luckily I didn’t hear it. Note I use the plural, there must have been around five of them, all of which you could hear at the same time. On one rainy morning it actually sounded great, but I guess I must have had more sleep that time round. Breakfast was boiled eggs and noodles, and I’ll spare you the meals from now on. Although they were often the same, and quite simple, they were absolutely marvelous and even as a fairly fussy eater, I found these meals disappearing quicker than a home sick mole. Soon after breakfast our two vehicles arrived. A Ford and Mitsubishi double cab, both of them 4x4. We loaded our boats and took a long drive to the put in of the, let’s call it, ‘Lower’ Batang Liki. Batang is the word for river. So it’s The Liki River and again, they have the words reversed so one could directly translate as River Liki but of course this is not the case.


A wooden bridge with steel girders spanned the broad river and a long but gentle rapid lay downstream as it disappeared into the shadows of the thick surrounding jungle. The clear water looked inviting and upon testing the temperature, this was confirmed. I decided not to paddle with a top on at all. My dry top was at home anyway as I knew this was going to be warm water territory. Although, looking back, my short sleeved dry top would have come in handy from time to time as an enormous amount of water comes in at the tunnel around your waist! But only once on the river, unless you wish you dehydrate yourself by walking if the put in is long. I applied sunscreen to my bare arms and got ready to hit the water. We were quite certain this was going to be a fairly easy section and hoped it would be, as we had never paddled with the other four Indonesian guys before. This was a first descent and because we basically had no useful maps, we had no idea what the gradient actually was but we were fairly certain it would be fine. I grabbed my boat and carried it down to the river, this rubbed the sunscreen off my right shoulder, I didn’t think about this at the time. Oops.


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Our vehicle about to leave home for our first river. At last! West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0523_E1 copy

Tanking up at a gas station. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0532_E1_CR copy

Driving along with the second vehicle behind us. That’s Sigit (or, Billy as we called him) on the motorbike. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0535_E1_CR copy

A snapshot taken from the car. Water buffalo in a rice paddy. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0541_E1 copy

More rice fields. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0566_E1 copy

Mount Kerinci. She stands at 3805m above sea level and is the highest point in Indonesia, as well as one of the most active volcanoes around. Great stuff. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0581_E1 copy

Ahhhh, the Batang Liki. Beautiful river. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0586_E1 copy

The bridge spanning the river. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0590_E1 copy

Our car about to drive the final bit down to the waters edge.

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Adrian (left) and Hugh getting ready. Photo by Andrew Kellet – Andrew’s camera. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0593_E1_CR copyTeam shot! I know, it’s a bit small but anyway. From left: Adrian, Toto, Andrew, Agus, Hugh (tall dude), Celliers, Puji and Sigit.

The first rapid was quite simple and it continued like this most of the way. There were basically no pools, only slightly calmer sections where the water still moved very swiftly. It was mostly quite easy paddling but still very fun. On the corners one had to watch out for strainers in the water and horrible vines which could entangle you or if you’re extra unlucky, they’d have hundreds of thorns on them too. The only really dangerous thing was the occasional fish trap. These deadly bamboo constructions are obviously only really used during low water times, but at our levels, they had water gushing all around them and a swimmer would have to aggressively swim to avoid being taken into what we could then call a man trap. Or, even a woman trap as I’m sure they don’t distunguish.... Several kilometres down, we stopped at a suspension bridge and took some photos at the rice fields which adorned the Liki. The local people were working hard in the heat. It was a beautiful azure sky above with wispy clouds breaking the monotony. Life was good.

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Adrian (left) and Hugh on the Liki. Photo by Andrew Kellet – Andrew’s camera. IMG_0457_E1_CR copy

Adrian heading upstream a bit to warm up. Photo by Andrew Kellet – Andrew’s camera. IMG_0460_E1_CR copy

One of the horrible fish traps… Photo by Andrew Kellet – Andrew’s camera. IMG_0462_E1_CR copyHugh somewhere on the Liki. Photo by Andrew Kellet – Andrew’s camera.

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Agus ducking under the trees. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0602_E1 copy

Hugh relaxing in an eddy. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0604_E1_CR copy

Hugh heading off around the next bend. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0614_E1_CR copy

Andrew Kellet avoiding the trees on this bend. We didn’t take many photos on this section of river. And in fact, Andrew took a LOT of video footage as otherwise we would have had more still photos of the paddling too. So the video will be really good, and make up for the loss of some photos. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0629_E1 copy

Agus idling down an easy section. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0643_E1 copy

Gentle rapids, beautiful surroundings. What a way to easy into things? West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0646_E1 copy

Looking downstream from the suspension bridge that we randomly stopped at. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0651_E1_CR copy

Adrian Tregoning next to a field of rice. Photo by Puji. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0652_E1_CR copyScenery next to the river. Mostly we didn’t see people, but every now and then one would have this next to the river.

Not long after this we dropped down in between some logs and a fish trap; it was a very sketchy line! Shortly after the confluence with the Batang Sangir (another river we’d first descent later) we came across a spot where they were using a water buffalo to transport logs from the edge of the forest to the river. From here they took groups of logs across by means of a cable. Hugh wanted to climb out here already and was in a hurry to paddle something else. I wanted to carry on and some of the others felt the same way, so down we went. We enjoyed a few more rapids and then came to the take out. I’d later calculate that we paddled 10.5km and the river had an average gradient of 15m/km. Not bad actually. This would be an excellent beginners/intermediate section as well as a perfect section for rafting. One would just have to sort out those fish traps. The level we had would be considered medium-low, I’d say. It seems the river can handle way more volume. I think at high levels this section could be really something special, with almost certainly some excellent play features.

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The group cruising down the Batang Liki. Photo by Celliers Kruger – Celliers’ camera. Sumatra 09 CK 00 (171)_E1 copyAnd again on another section. Photo by Celliers Kruger – Celliers’ camera.

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The chap who was leading the water buffalo to and from the store of timber lying just a bit away. Hard work. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0668_E1 copy

The logs, the water buffalo and the Batang Liki. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0671_E1 copy

Beautiful timber. Perhaps this is how your furniture started its life. Who knows? Sad, really…

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Adrian (green helmet) and Celliers (orange helmet) checking out a water buffalo from close. Photo by Andrew Kellet – Andrew’s camera. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0685_E1 copy

Take out. We always got a lot of attention from the locals who were just curious. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0690_E1 copy

Andrew walking across the bridge at the take out.

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Adrian moving across for a bike. Photo by Celliers Kruger – Celliers’ camera. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0693_E1 copy

A local with his catch of the day – only a few small fish. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0701_E1 copyAndrew sitting on the back of the pick up truck and doing some filming.

Once with the vehicles, Hugh was still very intent on paddling something else. Toto was not convinced and to be honest, neither was I. What was the rush? We headed off to a restaurant for lunch and sat down. Our table area was elevated from the floor and we left our shoes at the bottom and sat down at a table perhaps only a foot off the ground. These restaurants are very different to the way ours operate back home so let me explain, you might find this interesting. When you arrived you sit down, usually on chairs and not on the floor as we were seated that day, and immediately they’ll either bring you a bowl of rice per person, or bigger bowls that you help yourself to. This is followed by lots of smaller plates that each have some sort of food on it, perhaps a piece of fried chicken, fish, chilli paste etc. Water is provided in bowls for you to wash your hands in. Typically, you don’t use any cutlery although they did supply us. I thoroughly enjoyed eating with my hands and quickly learnt the correct technique to eating rice with one hand. Works like a charm! Oh my dad would be proud, not. You help yourself to whatever you please and enjoy the meal. Once they clear the dishes away, they calculate your bill on the amount of plates you’ve used up and what is left over. I was very wary of this system as often these plates of food are left on a window sill to lure potential customers in but all went down well and I didn’t get an upset stomach from eating here.

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More roadside scenery. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0718_E1 copy

Another cool looking house. Not all the houses are like this though. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0735_E1_CR copyLunch!

From here we took a long drive to check out Rainbow Falls, but not before stopping to buy a warm beer from a shop which didn’t look very likely. It was a Bintang Pilsener, and Bintang means star. It certainly tasted very good, even though it was warm. The road was very twisty with some severe hairpin bends that would be a pleasure to race around with a bike. We drove higher and higher until we got to the spot where we would have to walk to view the falls. They were spectacular!

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Batang Sangir, looking upstream from the bridge. We would first descent this later. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0749_E1 copy

And looking downstream. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0759_E1 copy

The mirror cliff in the background. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0762_E1 copy

Tight corners. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0763_E1_CREL copy

On the way up to Rainbow Falls. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0768_E1 copy

Above Rainbow Falls, this is the Batang Sangir, or Sangir River. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0769_E1 copy

Also above the falls, and just down from that dodgy bridge. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0771_E1 copy

A very sketchy looking bridge. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0775_E1 copy

Pretty flowers :) West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0779_E1 copy

Rainbow Falls. No takers. The second picture I took didn’t make it, the lens got hammered with water being sprayed onto it. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0784_E1 copyToto Triwindarto, our guide, our host, our friend.

On the drive back it started to rain and I nodded off for a bit of a sleep in the cramped confines of the rear of the pickup truck, or bakkie, as well them in South Africa. The drive back was well over three hours and eventually we got home. After viewing the photos, drinking loads of tasty tea, it was supper time again. I then played a game of chess against Celliers but predictably, I lost. Shortly after my ‘shower’ the power tripped. Toto was looking for torch batteries when a fat, massive gecko was found fighting with something that resembled a king cricket (known commonly as a parktown prawn at home) but WITH WINGS. This was surely the most horrendous of all creatures I had come across. It managed to escape, and soon afterwards Hugh had it running across his face – the flying king cricket, not the gecko... Then it went into my room. I was far from happy. Naturally I wanted to get rid of it immediately so Hugh volunteered to get it out but claimed he saw a second under my dressing table and then could not reach either of them. Things got quite heated as I wanted it dead and Hugh wanted to possibly have it run across his face again. As things settled and the situation could not be resolved I managed to get hold of some insect repellant. I sprayed the one I could see, without Hugh knowing otherwise he probably would have lost his temper and hoped there wasn’t really a second one. Not long after that, as I entered into my room, one of these beasts jumped onto me, possibly the one I had sent a death warrant to. Hugh managed to grab it before I could take its life and it bit him several times as he took it outside. Snakes, spiders and most creepy crawlies don’t bother me too much at all, but from many experiences with king crickets for years living in Johannesburg I knew only one solution to these Satan spawn – death. It was then 22:25 and I was tired, so I went to bed.

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Back home. The kitchen. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_0800_E1_BANDW copyToto enjoying a smoke while sitting on the phone.

The four flights up and long drive had taken its toll on all of us. As well as the radical environment we were in which was so different from home. All the excitement seemed to drain us rather quickly. Our start had been slow but we had managed to paddle a really fun little section and everyone had done really well. Life was good indeed.

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Photography by: Adrian Tregoning. Unless otherwise stated.
All Words by: Adrian Tregoning.