Scenic: Visitors to Lake Lau Kawar in North Sumatra set up their tents along the shore.A foreign couple was beaming as the van they were riding in approached Lake Lau Kawar in Karo, North Sumatra.
Both appeared impatient to reach the spot at the foot of Mt. Sinabung, the man even shouting an exclamation of joy as the beautiful lake came into view.
The European pair planned to camp on Lau Kawar’s shore for several days along with some local tourists as there is no other accommodation near the lake.
Lau Kawar, with its enchanting natural scenery, has attracted numerous foreign and local visitors, also in part because of its accessibility. Situated in Gugung village, the lake can be reached from Medan after a two-hour ride to Berastagi and a 30-minute van ride from Berastagi to Lau Kawar at only Rp 6,000 (65 US cents).
The road leading to the lake has many bends, with steep ravines and large, shady trees hugging the roadside. Lau Kawar itself is an expanse of calm water ringed with lush green foliage, the entire scene producing an air of tranquility.
Thanks to the well conserved forest near the lake, Lau Kawar and its environs remain cool and fresh, also due in part to the lake’s position at the base of Mt. Sinabung. Lau Kawar is known by climbers as the gateway to the mountain, its peak 2,451 meters above sea level.
The Sinabung climbing route via Lau Kawar was closed for several months following the eruption of the highest mountain in North Sumatra last year. The route is now open to the public again, the area teeming with tourists after being deserted for some time.
Paul Ginting, 37, a Lau Kawar tour operator, acknowledged the rising number of tourists at the lake over the last two months. He said people were coming in the hundreds, and that most visitors wanted to enjoy their weekend camping near the lake. “Youths from various regions and countries camp here on the weekends, almost 300 a month,” he said.
Lau Kawar has a total area of around 200 hectares, with a 3-hectare campground set against the background of the volcano. “Campers by the banks of the lake are only required to contribute Rp 10,000 per person … no matter how long they wish to stay,” Paul told The Jakarta Post recently.
Setting up camp: The cost of camping along Lau Kawar is a very reasonable Rp 10,000 (US$1.10) a person, no matter how long one decides to stay.Those with no tents can rent them at Rp 50,000 per person including a light for the evening and clean water for bathing. According to Paul, tents are generally rented by corporate and foreign tourists.
Foreign visitors, who sometimes camp for two weeks, usually go kayaking, climb Sinabung and hike in the forest during their stay.
Harry Sanjaya, who was visiting the lake from Medan, said he often camped by the lake together with foreign visitors. “We’ve frequently scaled Sinabung. Those who like adventure will find it challenging because of the wilderness they have to go through,” he said at his Lau Kawar campsite.
Harry added that many people, including foreign tourists, recognized Lau Kawar’s great natural beauty but the area had unfortunately not been properly managed. The government wasn’t seriously promoting Lau Kawar as a tourist destination, he said.
“I’ve never heard of intensive promotion describing the natural attractions Lau Kawar has to offer. [If they did that] I’m optimistic the mountain, lake and forest zone will become a fast-growing tourist destination,” Harry said.
— Photos by Apriadi Gunawan