The best one will be the winner. This philosophy, which was commonly heard in Indian movie, is not suitable for the part of nature beauty in enclaves of Sumatera hinterlands. Many places in remote area still keep the great potency of tourism with high quality environment.
I am going to take you to one of the most beautiful rivers in Padang Lawas Regency (Palas). Palas is new regency which was established in August 2007 after the break up from its principal regency, South Tapanuli. This hinterland is known for its many big rivers such as Aek Batang Lubu Sutam, Aek Barumun, and Aek Sosa. The three rivers are the artery and nature symbol as well which is identical to Palas. And even more than that, Palas civilization began from this point, particularly in the bank of Barumun River where some ancient temples (biaro) were mostly built in the mouth of Aek Batang Pane, the rivulet of Barumun River.
Aek Barumun alone is the joint of important rivulets around Ulu Barumun District. Now it is time for us to visit the upstream of Barumun River which originates from the spring around the foot of Bukit Barisan.
I am not afraid to say that Aek Siraisan is the clearest river in Sumatera I have ever seen. Aek Siraisan, the rivulet of Barumun River, is running fast from the foot of Suaka Margasatwa (wildlife reserve) Barumun within territory of Bukit Barisan. This river lies in Ulu Barumun (top of Barumun) about 12 kilometers away from Sibuhuan, the capital of Palas. Aek Siraisan is the best product of hills of Barumun Wildlife Reserve. Visitor always make wrong estimation about the depth of river due to low penetration of light.
The native Batak Mandailing tribe is very thankful to have this river as their main source of water. Parts of the residents are trying to make profit by building tens of rest huts on the river’s edge. Visitor could enjoy the panorama of stream among the wet fields which is squeezed by tropical hill. In fact, metal content is relatively high here. The local resident almost everyday is panning gold at the upstream of Aek Siraisan. The tools they use to look for gold is very simple, namely sapa (pan) and bottle for keeping the gold sand. It is simple to do. Big stones are removed to stop the flow from the shallow water of Siraisan. And then they make holes about half meter by removing the rough stones. Afterwards, soft sand and soil that stay in the holes is panned. Gold particles they get from panning are kept inside bottle. All day long, these particles are collected by residents who are free from doing their main job in the wetfield and rubber culture.
When my friend and I from Mapala Biopalas and Sumatera Rainforest Institute (SRI) were having a bath in the river on July 2009, the residents were very active searching for gold. Recently they are not afraid to invest their money by buying gold seeking machine which operated by six crews. But it is only experimental phase.
Besides open pit mine, Aek Siraisan is also a tourism center in Palas. On Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays, this river is crowded by visitor. Visitors are from all over area of Palas or they are local tourists. Some visitors are also coming from Binanga. More than that, the visitors are also from Riau, the neighborhood province that lies side by side with Palas who came here to spend the time for enjoying the cool water of Aek Siraisan. Although its location has no access to international airport, but the visitor to this river are more than one thousand people every month.
This river is really beautiful; my point is not viewed from the river size, but more in the value of its clarity. Its clarity reduces the organic matters in water, but it deposits precious metal in its bottom. Aek Siraisan is one of natural water supply products, as mega subsidy to the people in Palas. This mega subsidy continuously runs from generation to generation until now. It gives blessing, source of living, and tourism prospect as well.
Most of the rivers in Palas originate from Barumun Wildlife Reserve, registered forest, and community forest which are all joined in Bukit Barisan ranks. Due to its crucial position, in 2004 it was once promoted to be Barumun Raya National Park. It is not an exaggeration to say that this territory, which stands next to Batang Gadis National Park, functioned as a bio filter machine for the rivers in Palas. The clarity of Aek Siraisan has proved that forest ecosystem relatively is in good condition.
As the main destination in Palas, something very contrasts to the management of Aek Siraisan, where the local government does not give any attention to it. Aek Siraisan is not listed as the source of government income in Palas. No retribution. Visitor only pay Rp 5,000 for every car to use small access road built by the people. It means that future of Aek Siraisan is far from eight points of the compass.
Oppung, here is available the clearest water, world’s richest tropical nature, culture and language, wisdom of life, ancient temples, spices, and gold. Are we now following the ninth point of the compass? May be we are tired of God favor. Oppung, we are still left behind.