After seeing the Harau Valley last Wednesday, I knew I wanted to go back to hike there. But I had to return to Bukittinggi first since I’d left all my things there. I also wanted to go to Kerinci national park, home of the volcano Gunung Kerinci, at about 3800 meters (12,500 ft) the tallest mountain in Indonesia outside of Papua.
Even though Kerinci national park is a butt-numbing 10 hours away by bus, I told myself it was worth it, went to the train station on Thursday, and put a deposit on a ticket for Saturday. The deposit was only $3, so I wouldn’t feel bad about backing out later.
Also Thursday, I heard that there was a Rafflesia flower in bloom and decided that I should see the it before going back to the Harau Valley. The Rafflesia is one of the (but not the absolute) biggest flowers in the world. It can be more than 1 meter across, and I’d heard that it stinks like rotting flesh. They grow in Sumatra and Borneo, though most of their habitat is deep in the jungle inaccessible to casual travelers like myself. There is a place near Bukittinggi where local guides keep a lookout for the flowers, spotting about 10 per year. Each flower blooms for just 5 days, and I was lucky enough to catch one.
I rode the motorbike out to the Rafflesia area, still accompanied by P an A on our last trip together. We parked our bikes, met the local guide Johnny, and agreed to pay 40,000 Rp. each for his services. The flower was a 20 minute walk away through the jungle.
On the way, Johnny pointed out a cinnamon tree. I knew that cinnamon grows around here, but this was the first time someone had pointed out a tree to me.
Johnny pulled out a pocket knife and pried off a piece of bark from the tree. I smelled it, and couldn’t believe my nose. It looks like regular tree bark but smells like sticking your nose into cinnamon powder.
The Rafflesia flower is named after Thomas Stamford Raffles, the same British guy of Singapore founding fame, who presided over the rediscovery of Borobudur and Prambanan during Britain’s brief colonial rule of Indonesia. Well thank you, Sir Raffles, for perhaps your greatest accomplishment: introducing the ‘corpse flower’ to the West. Raffles and biologist Joseph Arnold are jointly credited with the discovery, hence its full Latin name Rafflesia Arnoldii.
It’s unclear whether I saw the Rafflesia Arnoldii, the largest flower in the world, or some other variety of Rafflesia. The one I saw looks just like the Wikipedia photo of Rafflesia Arnoldii, but I think the guide said there is one flower larger that is even more rare to find in the forest here.
After seeing the Rafflesia, we were given a hard sell on some organic kopi luwak, civet poop coffee. Supposedly it’s incredibly smooth and sells for $30 a cup in the West, but I declined. As a non-coffee drinker I figured that the pinnacle of gourmet coffee is no place to start.
Rafflesia mission complete, I said goodbye to A and P, my excellent temporary travel companions, and headed off toward the Harau Valley.