A stunning waterfall regarding height, location and natural beauty in Jawa Tengah (Central Java), Indonesia
Curug Lawe Waterfalls is an intense yet beautifully wild and remote waterfall well worth the adventure undertaken to reach it… When I say remote it is and it isn’t! It did feel somewhat like it to me when I had ventured through the sun drenched Clove Plantations and into the forest, forging my way up the river to this naturally carved bowl of a dead end where this majestic falls was towering above me and without another soul in sight. A wet and dramatic landscape, that’s when it felt remote to me. The sky had clouded over and it was cold, desolate and very wet making it all the more awesome nevertheless.
Curug Lawe Waterfalls are situated in Central Java (Jawa Tengah, Indonesia). To be more precise Semarang Regency or Kabupaten and Ungaran is its capital. It is a mountainous region with Ungaran city being at the lowest altitude. Many tourist attractions can be found in the area in such districts as Bandungan (Gedong Songo or Chandi Gedong temple) Sumowono (Curug Badidari and Curug Klenting waterfalls) and Banyubiru (Rawa Pening Lake) reservoir. The climate at altitude is perfect for europeans and verging on the cool side for local tourists. The surrounding scenery is breathtaking with views from certain vantage points such as Gedong Songo of not too distant Volcanoes such as Gunung Merapi, Gunung Merbabu, Gunung Sindoro and Gunung Sumbing along with Gunung Unguran on whose lower northern slopes can be found Curug Lawe and the nearby Curug Benowo Waterfalls.
View of Gunung Sumbing and Gunung Sindoro from Gedong Songo, Bandungan.
View of Gunung Merbabu from Gedong Songo, Bandungan.
The usual starting point is from the village or Kampung of Kalisidi where you will find the Pos or checkpost where you pay a small entrance fee of 4,000 IDR (Indonesian Rupiah) for foreigners maybe a little bit less for Indonesians. To reach Kalisidi the easiest way is via Ungaran City. If you are coming from Semarang, Ungaran is only 16 km’s (10 miles) away. If you are coming from the south and Salatiga Ungaran is 21km’s away (13 miles). From Ungaran you can travel by motorbike or car to Sumur Gunung village a couple of kilometres away and from there drive uphill to the checkpost and a little further takes you to the parking area.
If travelling by public transport you can take an angkot or minbus from Sesimut Terminal in Ungaran to Sumur Gunung Village 2,000 IDR and an ojek (motorbike taxi) to the checkpost for 10,000 IDR.
Forested slopes of Gunung Ungaran
If you start walking from the checkpost or parking area it will take you between an hour and hour and half to reach Curug Lawe Falls. The road starts climbing gradually and partially metalled through terraced mountainsides where Clove trees are growing in abundance, this is one place that supplies the tobacco industry with cloves for typical Indonesian cigarettes that are famous throughout the world for containing a mixture of tobacco, cloves and other flavours. The precise name of these cigarettes is Kretek. Kretek to many people is synonymous with Indonesia!
Footbridge in the jungle on the way to Curug Lawe Waterfalls
Before long their is a diversion to the left (signposted) where you drop down to an irrigation channel supplied by the waters of Curug Lawe and Curug Benowo. Take the path to the right and follow this through the densely forested jungle. From here it is a pleasant walk on level ground, you walk on the walls of the irrigation channel but beware not to slip when you walk on the left side. The drop must be 30m (100ft) through the trees. There is no railing or bannister which is fine for most people but could be treacherous for unwieldy kids!
There are many species of butterfly and damselfly along here taking advantage of sun and shade amongst the cool wet foliage. Calopteryx or Demoiselle damselflies in particular love to inhabit these regions beside strong flowing brooks or streams or rivers deep in the jungle where they can be seen flitting in and out majestically between sun and shade displaying the beautiful coloration on their wings.
Beautiful Demoiselle Damselfly – Calopteryx virgo
Beautiful Demoiselle Damselfy (Calyopteryx)
At some point later the path leads uphill again, this is where it gets a bit more strenuous on an offroad track that meanders through the forest. At some stage you will come across a signpost at a fork in the path. To the left will take you to Curug Benowo (the least spectacular of the two in my humble opinion nevertheless still well worth viewing) and to the right with a further ascent takes you to Curug Lawe Waterfalls.
Signposts to Curug Lawe Waterfalls
From here on in the path gets a little bit more adventurous, taking you over a few fallen and decomposing trees, rocks and bamboo bridges as you go back and forth over the gushing torrent of a stream that has its origins at Curug Lawe. At some points there are stepping stones to make the crossings.
Cool, Wet and Wild at Curug Lawe Waterfalls
At some point the path is almost lost but not far to go now. You can hear the force of the falls as you get closer threading your way through the water now, looking for a good foothold amongst rocks and a grip as the only obstacles that remain are dead fall tree trunks and branches that have been carried downstream and become lodge against big boulders. Still ascending through what is to all intents and purposes a tight narrow gorge that sees little sun, is cold wet and extremely wild.
Towering Curug Lawe Waterfalls
Curug Lawe Waterfalls is about 30m high and an extremely powerful waterfall, you will certainly know when you’ve arrived. You are at the end of the road, the only thing that lay ahead is a curved wall of death covered in mosses, rocks and an abundance of lesser waterfalls besides the mighty Curug Lawe.
The Force of Nature
Better to walk away!
The area is strewn with big wet slippy rocks and decaying fallen trees and branches that have plummeted from the cliff walls due to the erosion from adverse weather conditions. Covered in mosses they are constantly bombarded by spray from the force of the falls, standing about 20m away from the falls for long enough you are going to get wet! Any closer like the young local people like to go and you’ll end up like a drowned rat…and cold thereafter. The plunge pool is not the kind of place you can take a leisurely swim or paddle!
Wood with mosses decomposing at Curug Lawe Waterfalls
Dripping wet cliff face walls
Sense of Scale
Wet and Cold at Curug Lawe Waterfalls
And finally a mention of the lesser Curug Benowo waterfall, higher than Curug Lawe but the setting is nowhere near as wild. Retracing your steps to the signpost at the junction on the footpath the hike is not too difficult and is more open as you get closer to the source of the rivulet you have been crossing again back and forth as you go. It’s certainly warmer here as you have descended somewhat and Benowo falls if there is no cloud cover over Ungaran Peak is often baked in sunlight…
Curug Benowo Waterfall
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