iguazu falls
17th October
written by Ilana

Oct. 7
After tubing down the river in Bukit Lawang at the end of our jungle trek, and watching many locals tube down the river all day, Bloom decided that, for a little more than $1, renting our own tube was a worthwhile investment.

When we had tubed at the end of our trek, Bloom and I had shared a large tube that was tied to two other tubes, and we had guides who appropriately steered us through the rapids, but we had seen that water was shallow, and there were only rapids in a few spots, and tiny local children were tubing, so it must be safe, right?

I was happily reading in the hammock on our balcony, enjoying the shade and the view, but Bloom wanted to tube, so, trying to be my most chilled out self, I encouraged him to go, and agreed that of course it was fine for him to go for a while by himself, he should just come back and get me later and maybe I would join him.

Bloom left to get a tube, and I went back to my book.  After 40 minutes or so, I looked out at the water.  The rapids looked strong from here.  Shouldn’t I have seen Bloom tube by?  Would I have missed him?  No, I’m sure everything’s fine, I’m just being crazy…but..isn’t it dangerous for someone to go to open water by themselves?  Hadn’t I learned that somewhere?  Isn’t that a thing?

As the minutes ticked by, I was using all of my strength to not think that something terrible happened to Bloom in the river.  I decided I was an awful wife for letting him go alone, and got my bathing suit on under my clothes, hoping he would be back soon, and this time I was going with him.

As soon as I was dressed and ready to go, Bloom came back.  We went down to the water, and it was awesome.  The river  was beautiful, and most of it was pretty calm, and serene.  I couldn’t believe I was such a beautiful place, in a tube, in the jungles of Sumatra.  A few times the water got rough and at one point we fell out, but it was fine, and we managed to get back in the tube.

When we had gone far enough, we got out of the tube and sat in the water for a while, watching mothers clean their clothes and children bathe.  Eventually Bloom said he was ready to walk up the river and tube back down again.  I remembered how freaked out I had been when he had gone by himself, and it had been fun, so I agreed to go again.

This time was even more idyllic, since at the start of the tube ride we saw an orangutan swinging from the trees on the side of the river.  How crazy!  We floated along peacefully, hitting a few rapids, getting soaked, screaming and laughing, when suddenly we hit a rock and instead of landing on our feet like the previous time, I got pulled under the water in the strong current.  I tried to lift my head out but I kept getting pulled back in.  I got my head out for a second, but felt myself losing control.  “Bloom!”  I yelled, swallowing water.  “Grab onto me!” I heard him say, and then I saw him reach for me.  I was able to grab onto him, but only for a second when the current shoved me back under.  I felt that I was only wearing one of my flip flops, and I felt the other one get pulled off my foot.  I managed to get up again, and grab Bloom and this time I managed to pull myself out enough that I was standing, but I still felt like the water might knock me over, even though it wasn’t deep.  We weren’t far from the shore and we managed to pull ourselves over to the riverbank, where I collapsed onto the rocks.  My legs were shaking, and I was mentally shaken as well.  I took a deep breath.  I felt on my head and realized my headband that I wear almost every day was gone, and I looked at my bare feet.  Dammit.

We looked down the river and saw that around 50 feet ahead, the water was completely calm.  I wondered what would have happened to me if I wouldn’t have been able to grab onto Bloom.  Would I have just been dragged along to the calm section?  Did I hurt myself by trying to resist the water instead of letting it pull me along?  Ahhh…what a clichéd metaphor!  If only I didn’t resist and fight, I would float gently by…  Gross.

I was terrified, and I was just thankful to be alive, but maybe it wasn’t actually that dangerous…?  I guess it doesn’t really matter if it was really dangerous or not, what matters is that I felt incredibly scared, well that, and the fact that I now lost a pair of reefs and the UV protected head wrap that I will not be able to replace out here.

Needless to say, I told Bloom no more tubing.  He was not so happy about my demands, but I begged him not to go back in the water right now, and I was pretty freaked out, so he agreed.  He went to the calm part of the water to look for my flip flops, to no avail.  Oh well.  We walked back to our guesthouse, and it started to pour.  It was actually refreshing and I was already soaked and shoeless, and walking very slowly on my still shaking legs, so I didn’t mind.

I still loved the tubing, it was just a shame that it had to end on such a rough note.  I felt vulnerable and scared of this crazy jungle.  All I wanted was to take a hot shower and crawl up in bed and maybe watch a movie.  That was definitely not in the cards.  We made our way back to the room, through the rain, took cold showers, and then I lay down under the mosquito net , and read some of my book to distract me from my fear.

We went to dinner, and, as was usual in Bukit Lawang, we were joined by some of the locals.  One of them was a man called Danny (many of the Indonesians we have met go by Western names for tourists, we asked if we could call them their full names, but they seem to like the Western  ones) who had helped us out a few times and had agreed to be our driver to Tangkahan, our next destination that cannot be reached from Bukit Lawang on public transport.  He had also helped us find yet another vegetarian restaurant in the town where the owner/cook/waiter allowed us into the kitchen and showed us how he made our meals, and he had helped us plan our onward itinerary.  He was very friendly and I liked him a lot.

He introduced us to his friend and said that he was very sorry, but he could not drive us, and his friend would take us instead.  The friend was wearing what looked like a big knit kippah.  “Where did you get your hat?  My husband is looking for one like that.”  He laughed, and then he and Bloom traded hats.  He put on the green 5 boro bike ride baseball hat, and Bloom put on the Muslim kippah.

“You look very serious now!  Everyone respect you!” The guy told Bloom.

I don’t remember exactly how it came up, but somewhere in this exchange I decided to go for it, and reveal our Jewishness to this guy, explaining that Bloom wanted to wear this hat for religious reasons.  The Muslim guy loved it.  “You are religious Jewish??  Very similar to Muslim!  You are my brother!”  If only all interfaith relations went this well…

We went on to discuss all our similarities.  He prayed 5 times a day, we pray 3 times a day.  He pays attention to what he eats, only eating halal, we also have weird eating habbits.  He was very excited and asked us if we could leave for Tangkahan later in the day, since we were leaving on a Friday, and he wanted to go to the mosque for afternoon prayer.  We explained that we needed to be in by a certain time for Shabbos, and we all worked out an agreeable time to all religions.

He said that he would take us to the local market in the morning and we would eat lunch at his house.  Bloom explained our different issues with kashrut.   He was very understanding about our requests, and it was all good.

The day in the market, our meal at the guy’s house, and the bumpy 2 and a half hour drive to Tangkahan were a good time.

We said goodbye to Bukit Lawang and moved on to Tangkahan

1 Comment

  1. 19/10/2010

    Wow, great story!

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