Thursday 26 November 2009. I woke up at 07:30 and felt tired. Perhaps it was the excitement that all the other days had been filled with that left one feeling quite drained. It wasn’t a bad thing, it was just, well, one of those things. The trip had been really memorable and I’ll always look back fondly to the amazing things were saw and experienced there, but before I get too teary eyed in my story, we still had one day left to paddle.

After breakfast we headed off the Batang Sangir once again. The plan was to do a first descent of the upper section, basically from just below Rainbow Falls to where we had paddled from. We found the same chap who had cut us a path on another mission to this river and he spoke about a three hour walk in to the gorge, which then contained big waterfalls and sheer cliffs. Once you were in, you could not get out. We did not have harnesses or climbing ropes and we quite frankly we also just did not have the time as by then it was 11:00 already. It was decided we’d leave that for another time. I was glad to be honest. Feeling far too lazy to fire myself up mentally for a run like that and I was quite content to do another run on the middle section of the Batang Liki and wind the trip down gently – I was not the only one. I felt I had paddled very well on the trip and not pushed myself too much, which was my desire. Although at times on the upper reaches of the Sangir it had been all systems go. Before my trip to Scandinavia I was paddling really well and pushed it then, and I guess it was a bit of bad luck but injuring my shoulder put a huge dampener on the trip and also knocked my confidence quite a bit. The time off from surgery (which I only did about a year later because I stubbornly thought the pain would go away but of course a 1cm tear in cartilage is not going to go away on its own) was enough to kill a man but at least good friends, family and bodyboarding (eventually) pulled me through the time I was stuck on dry land. So I was careful not to injure myself this trip and was glad to complete a 100% successful trip.

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Red Bull looks a little different there. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2187_E1_CR copyYes Ladies and Gents, two excellent brands :-)

IMG_1545_E1_CR copyThe guy on the left was the man who cut our last path. Toto in the blue hat with the cell phone. Photo by Andrew Kellett (Andrew’s camera)

West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2192_E1 copyAndrew Kellett ready to hit the river one last time.  

We walked down from a suspension bridge to access the Batang Liki and paddled that middle section. Unfortunately it was a lot lower than we had first descended it a week earlier but it was still good. We took a few more photos this time and then probably not enough still. The scenery was fantastic and the group just really chilled on this final run of ours together. It was great, but also a little sad. It had been an awesome trip for everyone and I think the break from work was welcomed by my three South African mates. They certainly needed it, except maybe for Hugh :-)

IMG_1555_E1_CR copyA local man trying to get fish into his net – hard work. Photo by Andrew Kellett (Andrew’s camera)

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Andrew Kellett idling down the Liki. Excellent river for intermediate, even beginner paddlers. I would high water would probably produce some awesome play waves, and some nasty holes. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2204_E1 copy

Sigit  - aka Billy the Kid and the newly crowned Billy the Flop too, seen here charging a nice little pourover.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2206_E1_CR copy

Puji with more determination and now finding his stride quite easily.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2208_E1_CR copyHugh du Preez going in for some surfing ‘fun’ I believe he would call it. 

Sumatra 09 CK 00 (957)_E1_CR copy Sumatra 09 CK 00 (958)_E1_CR copyBilly about to go deep. Photos by Celliers Kruger (Celliers’ camera) 

Sumatra 09 CK 941_E1_CR copy Sumatra 09 CK 943_E1_CRP copyAdrian Tregoning, that would be me, on a random spot on the Liki. Man that water is just too beautiful. Top section with good water would be 100% satisfaction. Go there, trust me. Photos by Celliers Kruger (Celliers’ camera)

Sumatra 09 CK 00 (984)_E1_CR copyCelliers Kruger playing silly buggers at the final play spot just above the take out. Wish we could have a spot like this at home. Photo probably by Andrew Kellett (Celliers’ camera)

Sumatra 09 CK 00 (1014)_E1_CR copy Sumatra 09 CK 00 (1015)_E1_CR copy Sumatra 09 CK 00 (1016)_E1_CR copy Sumatra 09 CK 00 (1017)_E1_CR copy Sumatra 09 CK 00 (1019)_E1_CR copyAndrew Kellett showing that you can play in a small Solo. Nicely done!!! Photos by Celliers Kruger (Celliers’ camera)

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Batang Liki – great place. A commercial rafting trip down here would be a real treat!!! West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2215_E1 copy

Locals jumping off the bridge.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2217_E1 copy

Final rapid. And a fitting end to our trip. Because this is the put in we used for our very first river in Indonesia.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2225_E1_CR copy

A local dragonfly doing, well, what dragonflies do best.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2231_E1 copy

Final view of the way our trip ended.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2236_E1 copy

Toto, a happy man.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2238_E1_CR copy

Agus a very happy man!  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2243_E1_CR copy

Back at home. Our stay there was very relaxing and it will be impossible to forget. Wow, what an experience we all had. Sometimes it’s hard to remember just how lucky we were. Speaking of which, I never got to say goodbye to my friend, Lucky the cat.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2250_E1_CR copyThe roof of our house towards evening.    

Back at the house we presented the owners of the house with some very cool photos of us and it was a very nice gesture. There were some words said and to be honest I got a little misty eyed. It had been incredibly humble and kind of them to basically move out of their house and let us in, and then cooked us three meals a day. Where in the world can you get hospitality like that? At 22:00 we went to the shop for one last beer. We then moved to the pool hall where the mullet man was. We played Free State VS Capies and once again Andrew and I lost, oh well. Then Team Indonesia played each other and Toto and Puji won. The final round was Free State (Celliers and Hugh) against Toto and Puji – Team Indonesia won. It was quite funny. They had not played before but were now the victors! We went to bed around 00:15.

The next morning we woke up 05:00, to a final breakfast and left at 06:30 already. There had been a transport problem initially but eventually Toto managed to organise that we get a vehicle and the night before we weren’t exactly certain we had a lift to Padang. The road back would be a long one, that we knew, but we had driven in at night so at least we could see where we came from and that would a treat. This was unfortunately the only disappointment of the trip. The scenery wasn’t great and the signs of deforestation were enormous. I wondered when that would reach the lovely Solok Selatan regency that we had spent so many blissful days in. Hopefully not for a long time. But it seems mans greed knows no limits and man will destroy his own environment to ‘further’ himself. I hope that can be stopped or at least curbed, to a degree. We did, however, see a few more rivers and with rain there would be some roadside boating to be had just on the way in! No doubt that the island of Sumatra offers the keen kayaker a lifetimes worth of great paddling and heaps of first descents waiting to be claimed, the possibilities don’t seem to have an end here.

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On the road to Padang. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2268_E1_CR copy

Looking back at the huge volcano known as Mount Kerinci. That’s just a cloud, not smoke. Looks cool though, doesn’t it? West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2275_E1 copy

A massive lake on the way out. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2276_E1 copy

Quite neat, very lush.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2283_E1 copy

The view down onto Padang. Those are islands, not ships. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2286_E1 copyViewing point above Padang. 

At 11:00 we arrived in the capital of West Sumatra – Padang. It was hot and humid. No, I lie. It was very hot and %^$(@# humid!!! Shew, we had been saved by altitude where we had been paddling. But now at sea level this made Durban feel decidedly cool. No wonder surfing was so popular - people probably do it just to escape the oppressive heat. Once we arrived we drove to Yul Amri’s house where we ate something hot but tasty. And by hot I mean spicy hot. We changed cars and then took a scenic drive to kill some time. The earthquake damage was extreme in places and I’ll let the photos do the talking. We also went to a souvenir shop and bought a few things. As I climbed out of the air conditioned car I was drenched in sweat within minutes and no self respecting person would have allowed me to try a t-shirt on in the shop so I looked at them, guessed and bought. Once I got home, I realised they’d only be good if I was planning on making a career selling my body in Green Point. Pity. I’m going to donate them to my short friend, that would be you, Rowan :-)

To kill more time we went to the beach. I had big dreams of swimming in the turquoise water you see on television but this was not to be the case. The water was ultra brown and very dirty. It was the kind where your big toe might dissolve if it actually, heaven forbid, got wet. Hugh and Andrew tried to convince me to swim but I was too wise for that. We had a cold drink and some of the guys ate something at a beach front spot. The reason the water is so brown is because of a river that spills into the ocean here. We checked it out in town and it was a cess pit. Truly horrible. I really do hate cities, there are nasty places, no matter where you go, in my eyes at least.

Back at Mr Amri’s house we collected our bags and squeezed 9 people into the car. Luckily the drive wasn’t too far but we were packed in like sardines. We said our goodbyes to our Indonesian friends and headed into the airport. I really hope we get to meet again and I’ve been trying to twist Toto’s arm to come and visit us in South Africa and experience life the way we do. Perhaps next year, I’m sure! What a great bunch of paddlers, all of us. The trip was just, awesome! There is little doubt that we will paddle together in the future again. The whitewater community is a small one.

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Earthquake damage. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2349_E1 copy

The river in Padang. If you fell in there, you’d best get acid to wash yourself off with.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2352_E1 copy

Me at that river. Photo by Andrew Kellett.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2354_E1 copy

Pretty sweet old house.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2365_E1 copy

The bridge over that river.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2376_E1 copy

Beach front. The real cool beaches are at least an hours drive away. Those are the ones you see in glossy magazines sporting scantily clad woman sunning themselves. Definitely not this one.West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2381_E1 copy West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2383_E1 copyLast views over Sumatra on the way to Jakarta. 

At the airport, we saw our first European person. Wow, it had been the first since leaving the airport almost 3 weeks prior. Suddenly, women were looking much better than what I remembered them to be. Funny how that happens. Andrew, Hugh and Celliers went to enjoy some reflexology inside the airport but I waited outside and saved my money. Being unemployed has certain disadvantages, one of them being a distinct lack of cash. This was true in my case so I filled in my note book for the last time and prepared myself for the three long flights home. I already felt tired, thirsty, hungry and dirty and our journey home had just begun.

The flight to Jarkarta was pleasant and we managed to get a nice sundown view over Sumatra as we left. Nofrins Napilus, the man who runs met us at the airport, and kindly took us on a quick hour drive to the city, around and back. It was a very kind gesture and I must say, I was bloody impressed. Jakarta was extremely humid and hot too but the city was big, clean and just really impressive. I had visions of it being totally different and if it wasn’t for Nofrins us four South Africans would have been none the wiser. It made Johannesburg look like a rotting corpse, which, in fact, it really is.

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Jakarta – very nice indeed. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2414_E1 copy

Anybody for shark fins? Really tasty, apparently. Just be prepared to break the bank, see next photo. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2415_E1 copy

180 US Dollars for that small packet of shark fins. Imagine how much those big boys must be in the previous photo!!!!!! Crazy. Poor sharks.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2419_E1 copy

Hugh du Preez sleeping in Dubai international while Andrew Kellett fiddles with his camera.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_2424_E1 copyMy new wide angle lens. Took this shot of Andrew while we waited. Man, I wish I had bought this lens on the way in. Why didn’t I?!

The flight to Dubai was uneventful and I think I drank two beers maximum. I was tired, and I had desire to get as wrecked as when we had flown up from Johannesburg to Dubai! Once there I decided it was time to practically empty my pathetic bank account and purchase a wide angle lens. I really do love photography and had a look at what they had to offer. Eventually I picked up a 10 – 20mm Sigma lens for around R5000. Andrew and Celliers reckoned it was a good price and I trusted them. Turns out it was (see, they can be trusted…LOL) and I saw it here for R7500 in the shops. So I’m stoked. Not only with the price but also the performance. I’m no professional and on a budget but I’ve taken some sweet photos with this lens already. Andrew bought himself a really big Canon camera and went to town. Dubai, a shopper’s paradise. Not sure I’d like to visit there though, the people don’t seem, well, welcoming.

The second last flight (the third flight) was very painful. I had had enough of flying and being cramped up. I wondered how Hugh felt, being about six inches taller than me. The last three hours of the flight I started to get cold, really cold. I put on a blanket, then I put on another. I didn’t feel well and eventually went to the bathrooms. Nothing too unusual but I felt funny and so cold. Things became worse. Once down in Johannesburg I wanted to die. While waiting for our bags I just sat down on the floor and waited. Eventually we got our gear and Andrew and I said goodbye to Celliers and Hugh, who would drive back to Parys, about 140km from the airport. I met my good mate Luke Longridge at the airport and Andrew went through to the lounges on the other side. I went to the bathroom again and my stomach was bad. I then vomited so much that I had tears in my eyes. After that I felt like I might actually live, I felt a lot better, but still bad. Eventually I climbed onto the flight next to Andrew and secretly hoped he’d knock me out so I wouldn’t have to endure this final two hour flight to Cape Town, he didn’t and just looked at how pitiful I crouched in that seat. I leaned with my head into the seat in front of me and lapsed in and out of consciousness the entire time. At last it was over. It look a few days to recover from that, no doubt food poisoning from Emirates, and another well travelled mate of mine said he often gets food poisoning on long distance flights. A day later, Celliers and Hugh had it too. The flight had had the final say.

So not exactly a great end but that didn’t matter. It is now forgotten and only the awesome memories stay with me. A big thanks again to Fluid Kayaks for sponsoring us the boats, to Andrew, Celliers and Hugh for the fantastic times and to Agus, Puji, Toto and Sigit too – all of you guys, just, thanks!!! And also the Mr. Yul Amri for all the behind the scenes organising and again to Toto. You guys are just awesome. Given the chance I would definitely return to Indonesia to experience their great rivers, friendly people and relaxed atmosphere. It’s a good life there, makes one question our own back here at home. I hope you enjoyed the articles, this series is now over. Until the next adventure, cheers.

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