The land of the Minangkabau, West Sumatra has a distinct culture which distinguishes it from the rest of the island. A land of scenic beauty with blue green lakes and mountains, West Sumatra’s Centre of culture and tourism is Bukittinggi in the highlands, north of the provincial capital of Padang. Most prominent in the landscape is the horn-shaped roofs of the houses nestled in the coconut groves.
Heading east from Bukittinggi takes you through the tapioca-growing area of Piladang, famous for keropok (tapioca crackers), and the sprawling agricultural centre of Payakumbuh. Of Minangkabau’s three clans, this is the territory of the 50 Kota (50 Villages) yellow branch. Paddies and daydreaming buffalos flank the narrow road that leads to the tiny village of Harau. Venture another 3km and spectacular 100m cliffs rise up to enclose the claustrophobic Harau Valley, 15km northeast of Payakumbuh and 55km from Bukittinggi.
Most tourists just pass through on a tour to Lembah Harau, a set of waterfalls that either trickles or plummets, depending on the weather. However, the Harau Valley is also the best-developed rock-climbing area in Sumatra.
A relaxing one-hour drive from the bustling market of Bukittinggi in the province of West Sumatra lies the beautiful Harau Valley, – or sometimes called the Arau valley – where lush green ricefields are hemmed in between huge granite cliffs. Here dozens of waterfalls tumble down from 80 to 300 meters height into the valley below, cut by the Batang Arau River. No wonder, therefore, that the Harau Valley is sometimes known as the Yosemite of Indonesia.
Here gibbons and macaques and a variety of wildlife still roam freely as this area in the Lima Puluh Kota district has actually been designated a nature conservation, covering some 669 acres. Its beautiful landscape, its peaceful serenity interrupted only by the calls of the macaques and the chirping of birds, make the Harau Valley the perfect holiday getaway.
Along the road to Harau Valley is a lovely countryside. Steep granite walls shelter the fertile valley. A waterfall, 150 meters high falls into a basin. The Harau Valley is a nature and wildlife reserve, where tapir, siamangs, boars, wild goats and tigers still roam. The Harau Valley is 15 km from Payakumbuh.
The waterfall is named the Bunta Waterfall or locally called Sarasah Bunta that pours down fresh water from the highlands with three other waterfalls nearby. It was first visited in 1926 by a Dutch mayor. A carved stone indicating the year when the mayor visited the waterfall is still there expressing the beauty of this valley. Other the waterfalls are called the Akar Barayun, Sarasah Luluh, and Sarasah Murai.
A theory has it that the Harau Valley came into being as a result of a tectonic fracture on an ancient land, with parallel rivers running through it. As one part of the land sank, while the other rose, the waterways broke, and waterfalls eventually ensued from the spillways above the rocky hills. Local scientists believe that this theory may prove to be true.
On the other hand, German geologists who had conducted a study here found that the huge granite rocks found in the area are in fact identical to those found on the ocean bed. Thus, there is now another theory that the valley may have once laid at the bottom of the ocean.
Several best spots to fully experience a visit to the Harau Valley include the area around the Echo Lodge homestay.
The steep rock walls here are not only a natural invitation to photographers, but they also attract rock climbers who consider climbing these steep walls a significant challenge. There are 300 spots from where to climb. Looking up, the clear blue sky above is the ultimate finish line as you grab the belay devices, carabiners, and necessary ropes to reach the heights of the Harau Valley. This valley is infrequently visited so that you may have the whole valley all to yourself.
Relaxing is one of the best time-elapsing activities here. Take in the crisp and clean air as part of the natural beauty that the valley has to offer, lying under a Minang hut that we call a cabin in one of the eco-lodges available just right at the foot of the solid granite scrap. Order a cup of coffee and local delicacies and setlle down to write the last chapter of your travels and the extraordinary experiences you had in wonderful Indonesia.
For curious travelers, take time for a short walk around the village and watch how people live. Some of the women here work in the rice fields while men plough the fields behind water buffalos, providing the perfect shot for you to take.
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