A Morning With A Coppersmith Barbet

Coppersmith Barbet (megalaima haemacephala)

So, I know not all of you will appreciate the bird photos, but hey, I like the birds. Call me a freak, I don’t mind. Thus far I have seen 24 new species of birds on this trip. Actually more, but I’ve only gotten decent photos of 24. If you are so inclined you can see the photos of birds from this trip beginningĀ here and move forward. The big winner, thus far for me, has been the Coppersmith Barbet which I saw this morning. He’s the one pictured above. My full set of world birds can be foundĀ here, with birds from as far afield as Ethiopia and Texas.


What Day Is It?

View From My RoomThe inimitable rhythms of Toba have set in, father being infected this time. (I was infected back in 2008.)

Just like 2008 I keep repeating Yeats’ “Lake Isle Of Innisfree,” and the bee loud glade where lake water comes lapping low.

Today I casually mentioned when he thought we should leave.

“Never,” he replied.

I’ve done nothing today. I plan on beating my single day record for nothingness tomorrow. I am going to sit in the same chair for nine hours and just watch sun arc across the sky, the leaden clouds drift and the bleached white egrets fly by. I’ll watch the moods of Toba, from chocolate blue in the morning, to teal green in the afternoon, to gun-metal gray at dusk. I’ll eat. Drink fresh roasted Sumatran coffee and generally do one thing, the one thing any of us can really ever do right: exist.

And yes, I heard the whisper on the wind today. I know what it’s saying now, but I’m not telling you–you’ll have to come find out for yourself.

Crawling Time

Hello From Sumatra!From the travel diary, October 28, 2011:

After the Security Check, Penang Airport
It was a breeze, the airport. No worrying about shoes. Just a quick, clean exit from passport control, a short security check and many, many smiles. We sit and wait for the 45 minute flight across the Straits of Malacca to Medan, Indonesia on the island of Sumatra. Our goal: orangutans.

Midair, over the Straits of Malacca

It is to be regretted that one can longer catch a ferry from Penang to Medan. One can longer taste the salt on one’s lips or see the tropical clouds languishing over the gentle, gentian-blue of the Straits of Malacca. Some things are to be mourned in this hyper-fast world of ours and this is one. A man or woman cannot call him or herself truly free until they have done so.

Leaving Medan, Sumatra

The smells hideous, the traffic execrable, the air is thick with diesel fumes and cloves. Palm trees line streets chaotic with mopeds, trucks, taxis and tuk-tuks–a motorcycle with a covered side-car, the ubiquitous travel form unique to South East Asia. Buildings, new but dilapidated from thirty monsoons. Skies, mostly cloudy with a chance of Noah’s floods, this monsoon has been the wettest in decades. La Nina has her effect here too.

Not a single American car, or product to be found here, all Daihatsu, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai. A platoon of crisp-dressed soldiers disembark from their truck to subdue an impromptu proteest forming outside of town. The devout attend Friday prayers, scuttering along towards the mosque on dusty streets to the sounds of the Azan.

And then it happens, town and city disappear into a vibrant green of rolling hills, palm oil plantations and clear rivers. The vegetation clings to everything. Traffic dies down. People walk from farm and field to village, kids in tow. Dark, Melanesian skin and multi-colored dresses, skull caps and smiles. Everywhere smiles.

We pour out of our car to a roadside feast of fish, vegetables and rice. A hundred different birds chatter in the trees.

Arriving in Bukit Lawang

We pull in to the hill and river side village of Bukit Lawang. Children play in the streets. Villagers bath in the river. A gibbon hoots from the forest.

Time slows to the old ways, the ancient rhythms. We have arrived.