Sumatra 2022

Sumatra 2022

Richard Freeman

We decided upon a return to Sumatra on the trail of orang-pendek (the short man in Indonesian) an upright walking ape. We ‘had form’ there, having been to the Indonesian island looking for the upright ape, five times before. We contacted our Sumatran guide DallySandradiputra, who had been trained by our original guide Sahar Dimus and booked up a whole month in Sumatra, longer than we had ever been in the field before. Dally would seek out the latest sightings and witnesses and find us places to stay.

Myself, Carl Marshall and Andrew ‘Geordie’ Jackson would make up the team along with Dally and the local porters. Geordie and Carl had visited the neighbouring island of Borneo twice before but neither had been to Sumatra.

Carl and Geordie had brought some professional level cameras, a drone camera and some new camera traps. It was decide to film the expedition for a documentary feature, a collaboration between the CFZ and Dragonfly Films.

The expedition was almost over before it began. Geordie drove us down to Heathrow where he had arranged for a company to look after his car for the month we were away. Whilst queuing to register for the flights with Qatar Airlines a smarmy employee of said company sidled over to us and asked if we had our ‘statement of health’ forms on our smartphones. Nobody in the quehad heard of this form and the rather oily man said that the Indonesian government had brought it in about five days before. Nobody had told us that. You would have thought the airline may have e-mailed us or something. The man from Qatar was shockingly unhelpful as was the woman at the check in. Nobody from the company cared a jot.

Also I didn’t have my phone with me and anyhow my phone is not a smartphone (I’m deeply resistant to the world trying to force me into getting a smartphone when I don’t want one!). Luckily Carl had a spare one and a very pretty and kind Romanian girl, who had already done the dreary process, helped us all to download the app and fill in the form. I really resented this and saw it just as another form of control and keeping tabs on the public rather than a health precaution.

We finally boarded and are flight when via Doha then Jakarta and finally to the deeply unattractive city of Padang, capital of West Sumatra.

At the airport we were mobbed by men in Padang Airport shirts who grabbed our luggage and piled it onto trollies then wanted paying. Apparently these men were not employees of the airport but just random guys in fake airport shirts who make a living carting passenger’s baggage around on trollies and charging them for it!

We met Dally and his friend Derry Pandaka as well as a small crew of porters. We stayed at Derry’s house before the long drive to our first study area. We found that locals loved to have their photographs taken with westerners and we were stopped and asked to pose for pictures many times in Padang.

Dally explained that bureaucracy and corruption had run rife since my last trip to Sumatra back in 2013. Now anyone wanting to carry out research in one of the national parks was charged an extortionate fee. The fee grew larger if cameras were involved. Also the rangers expected backhanders and if one was paid off he would tell his friends that rich westerners were in the park and they would roll up one by one expecting to be paid off. Due to this we decided to focus on jungle areas that lay outside official parks.
We stopped at a rural cafe in a mountain village. The open-plan cafe looked out over a vista of hills and paddy fields. Dally had contacted a witness from the village who had agreed to talk to us.

Ali Usman had been hunting bearded pigs in the jungle swathed mountains above the village in 1981 when he had seen an orang-pendek. The local name for the creature is’bigau’ not to be confused with ‘chigau’ a Kerinci name for a supposed unknown big cat that resembles a scimitar toothed cat.

Ali Usman had seen a gray haired creature about a meter tall. It walked erect like a man but it had a splayed big toe, a feature clearly seen in orang-pendek tracks. Ali had been scared by the creature, believing it to have been manifested by a tiger shaman. He and his fellow hunters had ran back down the mountain. He said that the people from the village often heard it’s weird cry, like a strange, high pitched laugh but then never saw it. This had led them to think that the bigau was some sort of ghost.

Ali Usman looked at a series of flash cards I had brought. These were pictures of various apes and reconstructions of prehistoric apes and hominins. Ali picked out Homo erectus and Homo habilis as the two that most resembled what he had seen, in particular the creature’s face.

He also spoke of something in the hills called ‘harimau tinggi’ or the ‘tall tiger’ in English. He had trouble explaining what this was other than a tiger that moved in a strange way.

We would be visiting the jungled hills above this village later in the expedition. For the time being we moved onto the first area of study Dally had selected.

After a long drive to another part of Sumatra we spent the night in pleasant ‘homestay’ these are dwellings rented out to visitors much like bed and breakfast’s in the UK (only without the breakfast!). Crickets chirped, geckos scurried and bats flitted about in the night. Dally drove to the nearest town and came back with Kentucky Fried Chicken for supper. We ate more KFC in Sumatra than I have ever eaten before. It is very popular in Indonesia and every sizeable two seems to have a branch or a local knock off of it.
Next day we departed for the jungle. The area was a narrow strip of jungle around a mesa that towered several hundred feet into the sky. We heard siamang gibbons calling. Every time I’ve been to Sumatra I have heard them but I have never seen them in the wild. Long tailed macaques were abundant itn the jungle.

Special effects wizard Alan Friswell, who has worked with the legendary Ray Harryhausen, built for us an exact copy of the skull of Homo floresiensis the tiny hominin unearthed on Flores, Indonesia in 2003. What has this to do with orang-pendek? you may ask. Well, judging by the shape of its prints and the analysis of orang-pendek hair, the creatures is an ape, most likely a ground dwelling relation of the orang-utans. However another, totally distinct man-like creature is reported from the same jungles. Orang-kardil (tiny man) is said to be smaller than the orang-pendek and much more human looking in the face. It has long flowing hair on the head but a mostly naked body. It is said to live in small tribes and hunt with poisoned bamboo spears. The father of the late Sahar Dimus encountered a group of them in a remote part of Kernchi in 1981 whilst trading rice with other tribes. His companion killed one of the little people with a parang when he caught it stealing rice from a cooking pot. Dozens of other orang-kardil rushed out of the jungle and speared the man to death but left Sahar’s father alone. He had also seen orang-pendek some years previously and it was very different. Hair analysis by Lars Thomas, an animal hair expert from Copenhagen, points towards the orang-pendek being a ground dwelling relation of the orang utans and clearly an ape. We think orang-kardil, however, is closely related to Homo floresiensis and the more recently discovered Homo luzonensis from the Philippines. Both of these lived only about 50,000 years ago, a veritable eye-blink in evolutionary terms. Both were thought to be closely related to Homo habilis an African hominin that died out some 1.9 million years ago. It was not known to have left the African continent, but apparently it, or something like it, did. It had a lineage that stretched halfway around the world nearly 2 million years after Homo habilis was thought to have become extinct. It must have left other decedents on it’s migration. We think the orang-kardil may be one of them.
I had not heard of any new orang-kardil sightings but Dally had found some witnesses. Alan had built the skull as a prop for us to use in the documentary.

We made cap in the narrow strip of jungle. The porters and guides slept in a small cave formed from gigantic boulders. The following day we explored the jungle. It swiftly became obvious that the are could not support a population of large primates and keep them hidden. The strip of jungle was only a few hundred meters wide and skirted the cliffs.

We all agreed that the area was not suitable and we decided to move on to the second area. We decamped and spent another night in a nearby homestay. Geordie used the drone to film magnificent aerial views of the mesa and forest.

The next day we attended the wedding of one of Dally’s work colleagues. If three foreign weirdos turned up at somebody’s wedding in England they would be kicked out. But we were made very welcome. They allowed us to film the festivities and the wedding itself. A band playing percussion music on bell and gong like instruments played as beautiful women danced in traditional costume. After the ceremony we had a fine meal. The footage would make some fine colour for the documentary.

That night we interviewed the owner of the homestay, a man named C’un who had , some years ago, seen something odd in the area. It had occurred when his village was much smaller and less developed. He said that there were much fewer houses and no homestays. One night, after returning from a trip he heard something splashing in a stream. On investigation he saw a white creature frolicking in the water. He described it as white and hairless. It was humanoid and had a head and face like an outside baby but with no eyebrows. It looked muscular and he likened it to a ‘strong baby’. It ran away laughing and left little, man like tracks. He called it ‘anak rote’ meaning small boy. It did not sound like an orang-pendek or an orang-kardil. It could have been an albino child with alopecia but surely such a child in a small community would have been noticed. If anything it sounded more like a ghost. I have no idea what C’un saw.

We drove back to the area where we had interviewed Ali Usman. We trekked into the mountains beyond the village. I have decided to keep the name of the village and area secret for reasons that will later become apparent. We camped in the ‘garden’ area a semi cultivated place between the village and the jungle proper. A local farmer allowed us to use a shanty as our base. The porters slept in the shack. Dally, Derry and us Brits used tents put up under a large, rain proof sheet. Two men from the village came along to help us.

That night a savage storm blew up with lashing rain and roaring winds. The sheet flapped like a sail in hurricane. A branch broke off a tree and landed on Geordie’s tent.
In the morning we trekked into the jungle. Dally found a track that he thought was from an orang-pendek. On first inspection I thought I could have been from a pig tailed macaque though it seemed very large. We cast the print with plaster of Paris and once it had dried out and we had brushed the dirt away it became apparent that it no monkey could have made it. The heel was too pronounced and it was too large for even the biggest macaque. It was however, clearly not from an adult orang-pendek. It was about half the size of the prints I had seen before but clearly the same shape with the long heel and offset big toe. We were glad to find such evidence so early on in the expedition.
Soon after Carl found the print of a big cat. Too small to be a tiger, we thought the spoor may have come from a clouded leopard, true leopards being absent from the island.

We set up camera traps baited with pungent durian. On our way back Geordie almost stumbled into an animal trap on the edge of the garden area. It had been set up to kill bearded pigs that tried to raid crops. It was weight triggered and armed with a huge spike.

In the early morning, before anybody else was awake Carl heard a creature calling. He likened the vocalization to that of a young gorilla. The animal only called once and sadly only he heard it.

One of the men from the village, Sam Suarr, told us of seeing a ‘bigau’ six months ago in the very area in which we were camped. However from is description the ‘bigau’ he saw was an orang-kardil rather than an orang-pendek. The trouble is that differing parts of Sumatra have different names for both orang-pendek and orang-kardil and sometimes the terms become confused. It seems that the term bigau is used for any, small, man-like creature seen in the jungle.

Sam, described a creature about two and a half feet tall with a very human-like face. It’s tiny body was covered in short yellow hair and it had long red hair on the head. The head hair fell own it’s back to it’s legs. He had been cutting bamboo when he saw it. The creature was carrying a stick. It ran away from him quickly.

The description is very different from the orang-pendek, smaller and more human like. Sam produced a crude drawing of a human-like figure with long hair.

This is an important case as it is the first I had heard since Sahar’s father’s experience in 1981. I had thought that the orang-kardil may have become extinct because during all of my subsequent expeditions I talked to many, many orang-pendek witnesses but nobody had seen an orag-kardil. In 2013, for example, Chris Killian, Adele Morse and I had interviewed a whole collection of orang-pendek witnesses who had gathered at a village below Gunung Tuju. All had seen orang-pendek and / or it’s tracks. All had heard of orang-kardil but none had seen it.

We saw a man and woman with rifles passed by the camp. We thought they were poachers but we were later told that they were hunting for poachers themselves.
We took another path into the jungle. We did not go so far as we had the day before. Derry found a track. We had no plaster of paris with us at the time so the guides surrounded the track with upright sticks and covered it with leaves to protect it from rain and animal disturbance.

Later Carl, Dally and one of the porters returned to the place with plaster of paris and made a cast. A closer examination showed it to be a hand print rather than a footprint. The handprint was almost identical to one we had cast at Gunung Tuju in Kerinci Seblat National Park back in 2011. It did not resemble the hand print of an orang-utan that has a tiny thumb and long fingers. It had a fairly large thumb and thick, sausage like fingers. Overall it looked more like the hand print of a small gorilla than that of an orang-utan.
Another local man, Afrizal Depi, who was the owner of the land,told us of an encounter with a bigau back in 2005. What he saw was once again clearly an orang-kardil rather than an orang-pendek. He had been hunting pigs with dogs when he saw the creature. He said it was just over two feet tall, human shaped and had long red hair on it’s head. It appeared to be following the pigs. He did not see it’s face.

There is a tradition in Sumatra that goes back for decades, that the orang-kardil either herds or hunts wild pigs. It may be that they follow bearded pigs to forage of fruit they shake from bushes or tubers that they dig up.

Afrizal also told us of an ritual that the local people used to do to honour the bigau before a pig hunt. They believed that the bigau could control pigs and send them to hunters or withhold them. Offerings of flour and rice used to be left out for it. The practice was no longer carried out.

Next day we came down from the mountains for the day to film a bull race. Crowds from villages all over the area had gathered to see the event and local vendors had set up shop selling all kinds of food, clothes and even children’s toys.

The bull race itself was a kind of weird water skiing. It took place in swampy paddy fields. Two zebu cattle are yoked to a pair of wooden frames. The rider holds the reins and places a foot in each of the boat shaped frames before encouraging them to run across the paddy field as he skis across the mud behind them.

In one case the bulls swerved off the field at right angles, left the field and burst through the door of a nearby house. The back door flew open and the owner of the hose was tossed out into another field by the bulls as they thundered through his house and out of the back door. On another occasion the bulls did not stop at the end of the paddy field but rampaged onwards after leaving the rider floundering in the mud. The hurtled straight towards where Geordie and I were filming and we had to throw ourselves out of the way as the bulls, horns down sped past us barely three feet away!

When we got back to the village Dally was detained by the local police. Somebody had told them about a group of westerners camping in the area. They wanted to charge us a fee for staying in the jungle. Dally told them that they had absolutely no right to do that as we were camped on private land.

Next day we took another path into the jungle beyond were we had found the track. We penetrated deeper into the rainforest than before. The track was narrow, slippery and treacherous. In places the jungle fell away into deep gorges. We left camera traps baited with durian at various places including a waterfall at the end of the trail..

On the way back Geordie had pulled ahead on the trail. Dally, Carl and myself were well behind. Then the distinctive call of the orang-pendek rang out. It is best described as a high pitched, chattering laugh ‘HO-HO-HO’..

“That is the orang-pendek” breathed Dally.

Twice more the call rang out. It seemed to be coming from behind a stand of bamboo and no more than 20-30 feet away! Carl suggested that he run behind the bamboo and try to flush the animal out so I could film it. I agreed and Carl scrambled across a little creek and up a slope into the vegetation.

He caught a glimpse of a metre tall creature with reddish brown hair and a patch or dark hair towards the top (which may have been darker hair on the head). He did not see a face as the animal was facing away from him. Instead of running around the stand of bamboo, it took off away into the jungle. Carl had it in view for only a couple of seconds.
Had I ran round the bamboo stand myself, instead of letting Carl try to flush it out I would have caught whatever it was on film. It was a snap decision disitionand I made the wrong call. I can only hope I get another chance like that. We made a search for any dropped hair but found none. The ground was covered in vegetation and roots, not suitable for preserving tracks. We returned to camp with a mixture of excitement and disappointment.

Next day Dally was feeling under the weather and stayed in camp. Carl and Gordie also stayed in camp. I went out with Derry and some of the porters into another area of the jungle. Some of the locals had found some ancient grave markers. I would have walked straight past them, thinking them nothing more than large rocks at first glance.

However these were grave markers dating back some 2000 years. They were placed there by some of the first Minangkabu people. These are an ethnic group from the highlands of Western Sumatra and the main ethnic group in the area. Apparently the sight was utterly unknown to outsiders and had never been excavated by archaeologists. I was the first European man to see them. Not even the Dutch settlers knew of them.
I felt privileged to have seen them.

Back at the camp we began to get worried about the amount of hunters passing through. May carried guns and had hunting dogs. Apparently they were hunting bearded pigs. As Muslims they did not eat pork but killed the pigs anyway, for fun, and fed them to the dogs. Dally thought that they may steal our camera traps if they saw them in order to use them for identifying where game was abundant.

We decided to gather up the traps before they were stolen. It seemed to have got around that western scientists were in the area and to people like these westerners equal money.
In the morning we collected the camera traps. The three we set out first were all intact. The second set had a camera missing, the second one we had put up.

Sam Suarr thought that the ‘harimau tinggi’ had stolen the camera. He seemed to believe it was some kind of were-tiger. Obviously it had been stolen by poachers or hunters.

Reluctantly we decided to move on from the area. Our other cameras could have been stolen too and now people knew we were hear. We decided to head for Derry’s place and make plans from there.

We took the long trip back to Pedang. The quality of driving in Indonesia is notoriously bad. It is second only to Thailand in terms of road accidents. There are thousands of mopeds everywhere, dodging in and out of the traffic. Children and babies, without helmets, are balanced in a precarious manner, sometimes several together on them. In once case, at night we saw a moped driver transporting 10-15 foot long planks, carried sideways on the moped. Cars will try to overtake on blind corners, sharp curves or behind huge lorries. We avoided crashes by inches more times than I care to recall.
By the time we approached Padang it was dark. The suburbs of the city seem to go on forever. In one place a large lorry full of rice had overturned causing a huge traffic jam. We got to Derry’s house in the wee small hours.

It turned out that Derry had a land crab living in the drain of his bathroom. It’s antenna and claws could be seen periodically reaching out of the hole. We named it ‘Crabsley’.
In the morning we visited the large museum in Padang. It has a collection of stuffed Sumatra fauna as well as some Indonesian fossil hominin remains. Nobody at the museum however knew anything about orang-pendek.

That night we checked out the pictures on the camera traps. Some showed nothing more exciting than leaves moving around. One had a persistent fly buzzing around it. But one camera held a surprise. On one camera from the first set we recorded an adult female Sumatran tiger! The camera took two stills and a sequence of film. The are in which it was taken is outside of the known range of the species. This is why I am keeping quiet about the exact are we were camped in. Around 600 individuals are thought to remain.

Our discovery could represent an unknown population. It also proves that the cryptid ‘harimau tinggi’is based on a biological reality.

We made a plan to make a number of clandestine trips into Kernci Seblat National Park to set up cameras and look for witnesses. We would not camp overnight but rather make fast in and out trips.

We took a nine hour drive to Dally’s house in Sungai Penuh which we would use as a base.

Dally had a large collection of casts from orang-pendek and other cryptids from Kerinci and West Sumatra. All were cast in plaster of paris. Some were classic orang-pendek tracks just like the ones I have seen many times before with the splayed big toe and long heel. One print as exactly like an orang-pendek but twice the size of an average specimen. This must have been from a huge individual. Other tracks looked more like those of a yeti, much more massive than the orang-pendek and of a different shape. Another track looked like that of a tiger but it was colossal and again must have represented a titanic individual. Dally said the local people thought the track was made by a ‘tanauk’ a huge tiger like creature with a flat face. I have long thought that some cryptids could be based on freak individuals from known species that grow beyond the normal size. Giant crocodiles and anacondas are included in this group. Other tracks were clearly those of the sun bear, where the animal had trodden in the prints from it’s front paws with it’s back paws, making the illusion of a bigger track. This is known as direct register. The bear prints are clearly identifiable by their claws. Dally was kind enough to donate a couple of orang-pendek prints to the CFZ collection.

We travelled to Kerinci National Park seeing pig tailed and long tailed macaques and mitred langurs. Ewe stopped off at a small village. One man we spoke to had not see the orang-pendek but had heard of it. He said people from the village had heard it’s strange call but not seen it. Hence he thought it was a ghost.

Another person, a young man named Egi had seen the orang-pendek. It occurred in 2021 about a mile from the village. It had been raining at the time and he saw a meter tall, humanoid creature with brownish red hair running away from him into the jungle. He did not see the creature’s face. It made no noise. He thought it was a ghost but later found classic looking orang-pendek tracks that he cast and sent to Dally. I asked him how a ‘ghost’ could leave tracks and he admitted to being confused about it. Local superstition had influenced his view. This can differ wildly in differet areas. In some areas and villages no supernatural attributes are given to orang-pendek, it is just thought of as an animal. In others they think it is a spirit.

Geordie got some spectacular drone footage in the area. Dally brought a large amount of durian for his father in law who loved the vile stuff. It stank the car out on our way back.
The next day we returned to set up several camera traps in a cladistine manner, all baited with durian. One of the areas was a slope leading to a cliff that dropped several hundred feet. Carl almost fell down the slope whilst setting up a camera. It was in that area that Dally had seen an orang-pendek just one year before. Like Egi he saw the creature from the back as it dashed off into the jungle. It was a reddish brown in colour and had apparently taken some fruit he had left out.

The next few days were taken up by getting stock footage of the jungle and animals for the documentary.

Then we returned to pick up the cameras. As we retrieved one that was near a stream, close to a road, a car drew up and two rangers appeared and asked Dally what we were doing. Dally simply said we were driving through the area and had stopped to photograph monkeys. The rangers seemed more interested in having their photographs taken with us. The did not suspect that we had been setting up camera traps in the park.
Shortly after they departed another car drew up. This one had two younger rangers in it. Dally told them the same story and once more they seemed more interested in taking selfies of themselves with us. After they finally went we retrieved the cameras and headed back to Sungai Penuh. Along the way we noticed tall tower like structures with tiny windows. These seemed common in the larger villages. Dally explained that these were roosts for brown rumped swiftlets. These are the birds whose nests are used in bird’s nest soup. The nests themselves are made from the bird’s hardened saliva. The nests are collected early in the breeding season, before the birds lay their eggs. The birds then build a second nest and are allowed to raise their brood so they will return next year. In some cases recordings of swiftlet tweetings are played to encourage them to nest.

I’ve never eaten bird’s nest soup but back in 2003 on my first trip to Sumatra, I tried some bird’s nest soup flavoured pop. It tasted just like you would expect something made bird spit to taste, utterly vile. It would make a good beverage to drink whilst eating durian.

We also saw a pig-tailed macaque riding on the back of a moped. The creatures are trained to pick coconuts and are transported from place to place to do their work.
Once back at Dally’s house we checked the pictures. One camera had malfunctioned and showed nothing at all. The other just showed insects and vegetation moved by the wind. Oddly the bait had been taken but whatever took it did not turn up on camera. All had been previously tested in the UK before we left. Some files were corrupted and Geordie said he would try to retrieve these when we got back to England.

Returning to Padang we had a long search for an affordable hotel that had rooms. Derry’s house had been flooded after heavy rains so he could not put us up. We finally settled on one of the ‘Oyo’ hotels that seem to be common in the city. I had been looking forward to a decent night’s sleep. After a nice shower and something to eat I settled down to sleep. As I recall I was having a dream about the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons when I was rudely awakened due to a prolonged and violent banging on the door. It was 3am and was not happy. Upon opening the door I was greeted by an armed militia in fatigues! They all seemed quite young and all carried riflesrifles.

Dally explained that these were Islamic military police. In Padang they visit each and every hotel at the weekend checking for unmarried couples sleeping together. If they find any they arrest them and throw them in jail. They are then publicly ‘shamed’ by having enlarged photos of themselves put on billboards around the city! Dally, who they had knocked up before us, repeatedly told them that our room was inhabited by westerners not locals but the arrogant cowards ignored him. Apparently in the northern province of Aech they also flog unmarried couples they find sleeping together. If anybody wants flogging it’s these slime, not couples stealing a romantic night together.
Dally, who finds this disgusting said that this is all due to the vile influence of the degenerate and morally bankrupt Saudi Arabia. This toilet of a country has been pumping money into Sumatra and are now influencing laws and making the island more intolerant.

Church and State should ALWAYS be kept seperate. Quite who these weak, pathetic cowards, hiding behind their guns think they are is beyond me. The affair filled me with a violent rage.

This swing towqards fundamentalism and the rise of corruption and bureaucracy will make future investigations of the orang-pendek more difficult.

Next day we travelled to Dally’s sister-in-law’s house to have some traditional food. In the grove outside of the house a man brought three big pig-tailed-macaques to pick coconuts. All three rode o n the same little moped with their trainer. They were on long chains and scrambled up the trees to twist the coconuts free. These are big, strong monkeys, almost the size of African baboons and I would not care to wrangle them. Yet Dally informed us that there was a monkey school in the are were they are trained. It is the only such one in the world.

We left two camera traps with Dally. The plan was to wait a couple of months then return to the area were we photographed the tiger. He will put up the traps then leave them there for months rather than days in the hope of filming the orang-pendek. He only need return every few months to replace the batteries and check the images on the cards. This may well be the best way forwards with the search for orang-pendek in Sumatra. In the future we will be looking into getting camera traps with long life batteries, linked to a satellite so we can leave then in situ for years and check the photographs weekly. Perhaps we could even disguise them as rocks or tree stumps.

Dally dropped us of at Padang Airport. We has a 14 hour wait and hoped we could get some sleep. But unknownst to us, Padang Airport closes at night. This compelled us to sleep outside on benches. Thankfully these were undercover and it was a warm, tropical night. We took turns sleeping and keeping watch on our large amount of luggage.
We killed some time by watching old episodes of Kolchak the Night Stalker on Geordie’s laptop. Carl had never hear of the show before but quickly became addicted to the world weary reporter who stumbles on monsters the supernatural only to have his evidence lost or destroyed. It’s a theme cryptozoologists can sympathise with. Finaly we were let into the airport to wait around for our flight.

At Jakarta Airport we had an even longer wait. Fully 19 hours. We passed the time eating hamburgers, watching Kolchak and sleeping. The time went surprisingly fast. At last we got onto the flight to Doha. Thankfully there was only a wait of a little over an hour there before we were on our way back to Heathrow. But our troubles were far from over.

On finally getting back to England and after a long wait for our luggage Geordie phoned the company that was supposed to be looking after his car. They told him that it was not starting and that they had left it in a Premiere Inn car park. Geordie thought the battery must be dead.

We took a taxi to the Premiere Inn, costing £30! When we got there we found that Geordie’s car was a writeoff! The whole of the bonnet had been smashed in as if it had been used in a ramraid. The back window was shattered. Geordie phoned the company who said that it must have been thieves. The kind of thieves that smash the car’s bonnet in but don’t steal anything from the inside. The company refused to help and the AA would send out a car as it was not considered an emergency! When Geordie rang the police they recognized the number plate of his car and said it was involved in a case under investigation.

A man from the Premiere Inn was very helpful and allowed us to stay in the lobby whilst we tried to sort things out. Finally Geordie rang his wife Ann, who was kind enough to drive all the way from Stratford Upon Avon to collect us and drive us back to his place.
Luckily his insurance covered him and it turns out that the car had been involved in a ‘road accident’. At the time of writing he is suing them.

A mountain of things went wrong on this trip,none of them our fault. Corruption and money grubbing, stolen equipment, equipment going wrong despite testing, needless red tape and a company that could not care less about it’s clients. Never the less we managed to collect some amazing data. It was frustrating that I missed seen orang-pendek by seconds and by one bad decision. It looks like I will have to go back to Sumatra for a seventh time in the future. In the meantime I await to see if Geordie can rescue any of the corrupted files and for any new results from Dally.