EMBUNG BATARA SRITEN
Fascinated by the Batara, The Highest Man-Made Lake in Jogja

Sriten, Pilangrejo, Nglipar, Gunungkidul, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
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Batara Sriten is not a name among the many gods and goddesses in the Javanese shadow puppet stories. It is only a man-made lake on top of the highest peak of Gunungkidul, offering the panoramic beauty to fascinate everyone.

Updated on 1/28/2016

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The uphill and winding road towards the Northern Baturagung Mountains made me hold my breath frequently from the tension, especially when our vehicle suddenly stopped in the middle of a long and steep path. The deteriorating cast-blocked road, followed by a 5.5 m lime-stone-paved road, brought YogYES to the highest plateau in Gunungkidul District. I can breathe in relief only after the vehicle reached the cast-blocked flat land, a parking area on an 800 masl altitude. We were presented with a not-so-big man-made lake with the capacity of 10,000 cubic meters, surrounded by iron fence and cast-blocked pathway on its edges.

The Northern Baturagung mountains region is not much different than the other regions in Gunungkidul-barren limestone mountains frequently hit by drought during dry season. The construction of the retention basin, known as Embung Batara Sriten, is seen as the solution to prevent water scarcity and at the same time developing the fruit agro-tourism in the surrounding area, utilizing the rainwater retented during rainy season.

When first hearing the name, it came to mind the figures of batara or gods believed to reside in heaven in puppet stories. At first, I thought that the unusual location of the embung-on a high land-is pictured as the heaven where gods and goddesses reign. It turns out that the term Embung Batara Sriten was given for the location that is in the Northern Baturagung Mountains (Pegunungan Baturagung Utara) which then shortened to Batara, precisely in Sriten Village.

Wind blew endlessly, bringing the typical cold air of mountains, while YogYES was exploring the edge of the embung. From up close, the thin layer of geomembrane employed in the construction technique of Embung Batara Sriten can be seen. Because of the thin layer that looks like black plastic sheet, Embung Batara Sriten is not utilized for breeding fish, as fishes will harm the thin layer. Eventually, Embung Batara Sriten is only inhabited by tadpoles swimminglively in the greenish blue water.

There are various ways to relish the panoramic beauty of Embung Batara Sriten. For example, we can sit on the gazebos or pendopo (typical Javanese open building for guests) around the embung while sensing the breeze that stays cool though the sun shines vigorously. We can also sip a glass of fresh ice tea or a cup of black coffee at one of the small food stalls not far from the embung. Enjoying the shadiness of the iconic trees in Embung Batara Sriten, while swinging in a hammock just like YogYES did, can also be a pleasing option.

While others remained in fascination by the panoramic beauty of the man-made lake and lullabied by the coolness of mountain air, the higher ground on the eastern side tempted me to explore further. Tugu Magir Peak, that's what the peak on the Eastern side is called. It is the highest peak in Northern Baturagung Mountains and, at the same time, in the District of Gunungkidul. Here is where the sky explorers attempt to fly their hang glider parachute from an altitude of 859 masl. There's also a tomb believed to be the sojourn place of Syeh Wali Jati, a Sultan's relative in the old time.

The Tugu Magir Peak presents a 360-degree panoramic view of the lower regions around it. As far as the eyes can see, we can see the landscape of the City of Klaten with Jombor Swamp, the City of Jogja with the dashing Mount Merapi, the line of Gunungkidul mountains stretching to Wonogiri, covered in thin fog. From the peak, you can witness the first ray of sunlight opening the day, as well as the moments as it returns to its chamber. YogYES gave the visit when the weather was quite bright some times after midday; that's why we couldn't see the moments when the sun emerged from behind the thin fog resembling clouds in a drill. However, YogYES got the opportunity to witness the moment it slowly disappeared, slipping behind the horizon after shining ferociously all day long.

When we moved down Tugu Magir Peak and reached the edge of the embung, the sky has gotten dark, though the shades of red remained in the Western sky. The sound of Maghrib prayer call started to be heard one after the other from the distance, telling us it's time to go home, just like some other people who had no intention of camping at Embung Batara Sriten. The journey home also had the equal tension like when we came, going down the steep downhill road with limited light from the vehicle lights.

The vehicle brakes must be ensured in optimal condition when going down the way home, particularly those riding on automatic-transmission vehicles, which are actually not recommended to use to go to Embung Batara Sriten. The absence of the engine brake in the automatic motorbike cause the driver to rely only on the brakes, and it may cause overheating on its disc brake. The feeling of relief only came to us the moment our vehicle wheels hit the smooth paved road, when the sky had completely gone dark with a pale glow from the moon.