August 31, 2012

Off-season Journey to Sri Pada(අවාරයේ දෙදිනක ශ්‍රීපා ගමන)

Amidst strikes, out of bound universities me and my friends, at home spending not-so-enjoyable free time with fading future hopes :'(  we decided to free ourselves by doing what we love most-exploring and hiking. So here it is, our first hike, a two-day off-season journey to Sri Pada aka Adam's Peak.

There are 6 routes to reach Sri Pada. Among them the most popular route and of course the easiest and probably the one that I hate most is the Hatton-Nallathanni trail which has now become a 99 percent concrete paved short way. Since we sought some adventure we chose Erathna-Kuruwita trail. More than 80 percent of the journey through this trail is dense undisturbed forest and if you want to stay close to nature while you travel this is one of the best.
It was almost 6 in the morning when we got off the bus (route no.99 Badhulla-Colombo) at Kuruwita with a crew of five, had our breakfast and got some directions from a local. From there the town closest to Sri Pada is Erathna. Fortunately we could catch the bus to Adavikanda which lies in between Kuruwita and the trail head and get closer to our destination. Within one hour the bus reached its final stop, Adavikanda (It was 7.45 am) and there on it was a 20 minute walk to the trail head.

The trail head, it was a tiny footpath. Beyond this point there were no civilization until we reached the peak. So we took our maps out and had GPS ready. It was a 13km journey, the elevation at the trail head was 300 meters and trail end was 2250 meters. That is almost 2 kms straight upwards to reach the peak.

Right from the beginning it was a continuous climb. We could clearly see 'Kuruganga' flowing down the valley right besides the trail. As we climbed up it was just a matter of time when we found out that the leeches had already begun to trouble us, so stopped by a little resting place we found, removed those blood suckers. It was only about a 45 minute hike from the starting point and we had an added crew member! It was doggy dog! and believe me when I say that this guy turned out be a real low-cost guide for us and stayed with us throughout the entire journey till the end.

So the resting place, this is where we met a guy, a technician working in the hydro power plant, water collection center(located 2km from the trail head, there were 2 working 2-day shifts). He told us to
apply salt as a precaution against the leeches and truly it was like a magical repellent that the leeches were trying to move away from the salt.

Back to the journey, from there we didn't stop until we reached the place called 'Warnagala' and where the 'Warnagala Ambalama' which was used to be a permanent resting place now aged and decayed. The water collection center was close by and Warnagala falls was just about 100 meters away. I almost forgot, on the way we found a lot of plants bearing fruits especially sour guavas,  there were huge trees full of them and we just couldn't help ourselves filling our bellies.

On the way we visited the water collection center, met the guy we met before, had a little break with snacks with him he even invited us to have tea but we kindly rejected as there was a long way to go, Warnagala Ambalama was a little ahead, a 10 minute climb. From there again we had to climb down about 100m to get to the waterfall. To this point only about 2km of the journey was finished.

OMG! there's so much to tell and I gonna make it so brief.....

And we started climbing again. On the way there were several resting places-'Ambalama' but they all seemed to be all worn out just like they hadn't been used in years. We were climbing uphill continuously from the start, at some points we ran. We were not sure of how many mountains we climbed, but still no sight of the Samanala mountain(to the starting point of Hatton-Nallathanni trail the peak of Samanala mountain is clearly visible). At one moment we thought the mountain we were just climbing was one of the mountains belonged to Sapthakanya(The Seven Virgins) mountain range. As we climbed we could clearly see the vegetation changing and felt the weather getting colder. The forest canopy had grown so high that it made the forest so dark and shady. Streams were everywhere hundreds of them with freezing crystal clear water.

On the way while climbing our main topic was survival in the jungle, well as you see, at this stage of the journey we were at a place where human contact was no way near and five of us felt something in our minds trying to invade. One of my friends brought up some ideas on survival which were from the Man Vs Wild tv series produced by the Discovery channel and 3 of my friends had already watched some episodes and I had not. By the time I write this I watched a whole season of it and recommend it to all who love exploring.

So next we arrived at the place called Thummodara. An 'Ambalama' a resting place was there. We had just arrived into a valley connecting two mountains. The trail was leading to the other mountain, so we had to cross the river, it seemed to be a branch of  'Kuruganga' but at that place it was called 'Seethagangula' (means cold river) and of course as the name implies water was freezing cold. After a little snack break we continued our journey. Well I must say I would never really get tired of these breathtaking sights all the way throughout the journey.

Journey continued, but still no sight of the peak. The climb was getting even harder. Frequent steep climbs and slippery rocks due to rain   were all over the trail and we had to pick up pace since no one of the crew had any idea when we would reach the peak. Then after about 2 hours we arrived at the place called 'Idikatupahana' and for the first time this was the moment we saw the peak of Sri Pada through the clouds but to reach it seemed that there were still 3 mountains to pass. It was about 1.30 pm and we decided to have our lunch at 'Idikatupahana'. A larger resting place was also there but it was also worn out. Didn't waste any time, we were back to our journey within half an hour.

A forest of bamboo like plants grew up as very thick large bushes was clearly visible but it seemed like they were crushed, broken and battered and leaves were all over the place. Soon we were able find the cause-:O ELEPHANTS, well we didn't see any :'( but elephant dung was all over the trail for the next half an hour climb. Samanala nature reserve is famous for 'midget' elephants aka ' Kuru-Ali '. Actually it's amazing how these elephants travel through these mountains and make these steep climbs.

Next we arrived at the place where Kuruwita-Erathna trail and Ranthnapura-Palabathgala trail meets. Our journey through the  forest wilderness seemed to be over because from there on we had the steps to climb though they were seemed to be somewhat irregular, about another 2.5 km to the trail end, the peak. It was getting colder, the vegetation was noticeably different, they were adapted to cold weather conditions. 'Heramitipahana' the next famous place, as we arrived there the peak was clearly visible rising up in the sky. The mist was invading the area and we had to put out jackets on since it was getting much colder and headed for 'Mahagiridabhaya' (means great rock climb), the steepest climb you would ever find in the whole journey(there were almost 90 degree slopes). This part of the journey was truly the best like I had never ever experienced in my life before, the scenery was so breathtaking that made us felt like floating in the heaven and of course I must say our timing was perfect, it was around 4 in the evening.

By the time we started climbing 'Mahagiridabhaya' it was windy with mist and much colder even with our jackets on we couldn't stand the cold. Finally after an almost 11 hours of journey at about 6.30pm we reached the peak. It was dark and fortunately the 'Wishrama shalawa' resting place on the peak of Sri Pada was not locked otherwise our only hope was to descend via Hatton-Nallathanni trail as it was almost impossible to descend through Erathna trail at night in off-season. We decided to spend the night at the resting place. There were a Buddhist monk and two other in the terrace and they were kind enough to give us mats and some cloths to sleep and even helped us preparing our dinner. Ground was so freezing cold, even with shoes on we couldn't walk around. The temperature was close to 0 celsius. Oh! remember our low cost travel guide, we arranged him a special mat to sleep, he had become a real member of our crew.

No one could sleep the whole night because of the cold, not to mention there was one who groaned for sometime :D I had never experienced that much cold in my life, just like put into a defreezer. Next day at dawn the terrace was getting crowded with tourists. They had used Hatton-Nallathanni trail to ascend. Last night we had decided to start descending at dawn, but it was almost impossible amid the strong winds and the cold weather condition, and even unable to step out of the resting place. It was about 5.30 in the morning when darkness started to roll back. But not much difference it did because of the thick mist. So we waited and started descending at 7am but still the weather conditions were the same-thick mist and strong winds with rain. The decent was through the same trail we ascended. We were fortunate enough to experience more and more breathtaking scenery. As soon as  'Mahagiridabhaya' was finished climbing down we added some pace and stopped only for a water break.

 After a long way down close to 'Idikatupahana' near a stream fresh elephant dung was found along with scattered fresh leaves all over the place. At the first glance we could tell elephants were there within the last hour. Moving on our next stop was at 'Thummodara' where 'Seethagangula' was. There we had a little breakfast. Next was at Warnagala, everybody was in the mood to have a bath and have a little fun at Warnagala falls. Even though it was noon water was cold as hell, It was about 1pm.

Then came the most adventurous part in our journey that's when we decided to descend along 'Kuruganga' the river. Wow! that was one amazing experience and at the same time a very dangerous task. Even we couldn't believe our own eyes. This reminded us of the 127 hours movie. Truly there were such places amazing and scary. Our guide, the dog should not be forgotten, actually the way along the river we were travelling was not the way for dog. It seemed almost impossible but it always searched and found the most optimal way and surprised us with its keen sense while we were still struggling to climb down. We traveled quite a distance along the river, then one of my friends had to face little accident and suffer from some minor injuries. So we had to find and join the trail again.

So here it is, the end of our journey back to Adavikanda. The descent cost us only about 8 hours, actually at many occasions we just ran and picked up pace. As we approached Adavikanda we noticed that our guide-dog had vanished and had no trace of him. Later I heard stories about these kinds animals helping humans just like this in Sri Pada, well as I heard they were supposed to be gods in the form of animals. Well, I'm not sure about that but what I am sure about is we left only foot prints and took only photographs.
From the left Udana, me, Buddhila, Dulitha, Supun 


  1. Ela Ela..You will be able to write more stories in the near future my friend. We gonna reach adventures mountains and this just the beginning......

    watch out......guys.

    Crew member(BINA)

  2. Ahh, your travelogue took me back to the old days. I(and our team) did this same route two years ago(offseason). We too met a "guide dog" who was with us until we reached the peak. Then he vanished. He was just gone. BTW try Udamaliboda trial too. its a very remote and hard trail to sri pada. Our team did it and I will be posting the travelogue within few days (how ever I don't recommend "off season" visits via udamaliboda trail unless you are a READY( rough terrain which is completely devoid of humans will test your endurance,strength and will). I will post all the maps and other stuff (gps maps for android devices and how to get them to work offline) if you need them.Anyway its very nice to see other travelbloggers like myself. Keep exploring!

    1. I viewed ur travelogue, It's really helpful and thanx for the advices.

  3. Ela Post eka.....
    Kawda me kollo 2nnai(bina,hoka) ballo 2nnai(kola,real dog) gaththe???

    1. Vena kawda ithin vedakarayekuta inne; mama misak.. :D