Yesterday I was invited by some friends to visit one of Kerinci Valley's many natural treasures, Danau Gunung Tujuh (Seven Mountain's Lake), the highest lake in all of Southeast Asia. The lake sits in the caldera of an extinct volcano, and is a great day trip from Sungai Penuh. Since I haven't been posting much lately, I figured I'd share a little bit about this trip and another day trip I took about a month ago to Danau Kaca, the
. Though most people have never heard of either
of these places, they can be a fun and relatively easy part of a trip to Glass
Lake . Kerinci Valley
Danau Gunung Tujuh,
We started out in the morning around 7:30 from Sungai Penuh on our bikes. We stopped for a quick breakfast at a friend's place in Semerup, a few kilometers north of Sungai Penuh. Then we headed up towards the northernmost corner of Kerinci district, through the sprawling tea plantation at Kayu Aro. It around an hour to get there. You can park at the ranger post (theoretically this is where you buy a ticket to enter the park as well, but it is pretty much always unmanned) or right next door at the home of the village head of Pesisir Bukit. Then head into the park though the gateway. You'll pass through about a half a kilometer of illegal cultivation (which I've discussed in previous posts) and past another part marker. From here according to the sign it's 5 kilometers to the lake; according to my GPS it's just under 4 kilometers, but that's flat trail distance. I didn't think to count paces either. If you're not familiar with the area it's probably a good idea to take a local guide since with all the illegal cultivation the trailhead isn't really clear.
Once you enter the undisturbed forest the trail goes up at a pretty good angle until you get to the
|This photo was taken by my friend Barlian|
from the NGO GenesisMukomuko.
By the time you get to the lake you'll probably want to take a break and enjoy the scenery, as it really is breathtaking. The lake is 4 kilometers long by 3 kilometers wide and probably covers around 10 square kilometers total. You can swim, but because of the elevation the water is fairly cold. Some residents of the villages at the foot of the mountain keep dugout canoes at the lake for fishing, so if you've made arrangements you can cross the lake (about 1 hour) to Pesisir Putih where you might be able to find the rafflesia, the world's largest flower. The rafflesia only blooms for a few days before decaying away. It gives off an odor similar to rotting meat to attract flies and other insects for pollination. There are several species of rafflesia found in various places across Indonesia and Malaysia. If you have a chance to see one you should definitely take it; the flower looks like something from outer space. You can also take the trail around the lake, which takes 2-3 hours.
While we were there we encountered a group of locals that had been employed by the department of public works to clear garbage around the lake. Among them was one of my friends that worked in the park, so we chatted for a bit, swapped stories, and ate lunch. After about two hours we headed back out of the crater and then down the slopes of the mountain. On the way out we encountered a film crew from the
television show "Finding Bigfoot", who were there to film a show
about the Orang Pendek, an as yet unconfirmed primate species that may or may
not live around the lake. I chatted with
the show's host, who was really surprised that I'd never heard of the program,
and the expedition leader, Adam Davies, who has led several previous
expeditions to the area in search of the elusive creature. He was interested in my fieldwork and asked me
to contact him about a possible interview for the show, so we'll see how that
goes. After coffee at another friend's
place the gang and I headed back for Sungai Penuh.
Danau Kaca, the
Another very worthy destination in the
Valley is Danau Kaca, which lies at
the other end of the valley near the . This is another place you can easily visit in
a day, but there's also an area for camping if you'd like to spend more time. You start the hike at a neglected monument
which marks the end of the road "maintained" by the district
government. Here you enter the forest
along the footpath which eventually leads to Sungai Ipuh in Mukomuko district,
40 kilometers away. This part of the
trail has been widened and used by off-road vehicles, so it's pretty easy to
hike. The old trail to the lake branches
off from the Sungai Ipuh trail a couple of kilometers in, but it's well marked.
A newer, shorter trail that's been
blazed by local nature lovers cuts 30 minutes to an hour off the trip, but this
trail is not marked as well and if you don't know it it's hard to find. Along both trails you have to cross a stream,
so be ready for that. village
Depending on the trail you take, it's about 2-3 hours to the lake, but for the most part it's relatively flat and relaxing. Though small, the minerals suspended in the lake give it a beautiful blue hue (if you've ever been swimming in a quarry hole, it's like that). You can swim in the lake, which is probably about 7 meters at its deepest.
In addition to these two spots there are a number of other places which make Kerinci a great place to visit. Unfortunately, although the local government proclaims tourism to be a target industry for development, there is little in the way of marketing or information. I recently had a discussion with one of the higher-ups at the regional tourist bureau (a government body) and suggested that they at least provide a map of the area to visitors. Currently Kerinci doesn't see a lot of tourists, but in my mind that's because no one really knows about the area, and since it's so far out of the way of established tourist routes its potential is relatively underdeveloped. Most visitors come to climb Gunung Kerinci, the highest active volcano in
but other than that there seems to be little awareness about other places like
Danau Gunung Tujuh, Danau Kaca, and the Kayu Aro tea plantation. If the local government could get its act
together and market the place as a 4-day to one-week destination there would
probably be more people through.
More Information on "Danau Kaco"....My friend David, who is one of the foremost scholars in the world on Kerinci area, dropped me a line to remind me that he wrote a tourism guide for the Kerinci Valley a few years ago. The book, which is really outstanding, tells about the culture and history of the area and has comprehensive descriptions of 25 tourist sites in the area. The following information is verbatim from the guide and describes in greater detail Danau Kaco.
Located near the village of Lempur, Lake Kaco (Danau Kaco) is an absolute gem of a lake. Fed in part by several underwater springs, this very small lake has eerie, crystal blue water, making it unique among the lakes of Kerinci. Unfortunately, however, Lake Kaco's distinctive crystalline qualities also almost lead to its demise.
Local legend tells of a village "king," Raja Gagak, who had a beautiful daughter named Puti Sulluh Makan. Raja Gagak amassed a large number of jewels from various suitors, who gave the precious stones as a token of their desire to marry his daughter. Unable to resolve the problem that he had promised Put's hand to more than one suitor, while having actually impregnated her himself through an incestuous relations, Raja Gagak fled the village with his daughter and all of the jewels. Before killing his daughter out of shame, Raja Gagak supposedly buried the jewels in Lake Kaco, thus giving the lake its beautiful blue color.
Spurred on by this story, the lake's unique blue water, and the desire for quick wealth, a group of 15 villagers tried to drain the lake in the late 1990s in hopes of discovering the supposed jewels. The group spent 10 days widening and deepening the channel flowing out of the lake with hoes, all the way to where the stream empties into the Manjuto River. The sudden and unexplainable death of one member of the group, however, persuaded the remaining members that their efforts were not endorsed by ancestral spirits--but only after the surface of the lake had dropped by about a meter.
The trip to Lake Kaco takes four hours from the village of Lempur, with most of the trip being inside a surprisingly flat portion of the national park. The first forty-five minutes of this trip, which takes you almost to the outer edge of Lempur's agricultural fields, can be bypassed by taking an ojek to the irrigation canal (irrigasi). From the irrigation canal, continue up the main road for 15 minutes until you come to a large cement statue marking the earthen embankments of the Fort of Depati Parbo (Benteng Depati Parbo). This fort, which sits alongside a major pre-colonial transporation route between southern Kerinci and the west coast of Sumatra, was built as a bulwark against the Dutch invaders and saw action in 1901 when local villagers used its embankments to ward off advancing troops. The defenders were led in their struggle by Depati Parbo of Lolo (the fort's namesake), who is reputed to have had supernatural abilities that made him invulnerable to Dutch bullets (see also "Mt. Kunyit" entry).
After visiting the fort, you can also pay a brief visit to Seluang Bersisik Emas Waterfall (Air Terjun Seluang Bersisik Emas) which is located less than a five minute walk away. To get to the waterfall, follow the main road which ends at a small river which you will have to cross to continue on the path on the other side. Contrary to the sounds of water coming from the right-hand side of the road, the waterfall is actually located on the left side. Continue on the main road until you hear sounds from the waterfall coming from the left (less than five minutes from the river crossing). There is no established trail to the waterfall, but a location from where the waterfall can be seen is close to the road and easy to reach.
Lake Kaco is an additional three-hour hike on a forest trail from the Fort of Depati Parbo and Seluang Bersisik Emas Waterfall-the combination of which would make for a full day hike from Lempur. A guide is absolutely necessary for the trip to Lake Kaco due to a large number of forking paths.