October 21, 2013

The Hike of My Life - 4 Days in the Knuckles Range(Part 2)

(From Bambarella through Kalupahana along Kalu-ganga to Rambukoluwa and Pallegama)

Amidst the freezing cold with thick mist we managed to pack our camping gear early in the morning and start the hike. Our plan was to climb down a little further and find a way to go around the mountain to avoid the cliff, so it took about one and half hours when we were climbing another mountain which seemed to be to the East where the huge cliff was, and could get to the top of it where there was another cloud forest beginning from the top which we had no choice but to cross. You can see the mountain I mentioned below (left photo) and the forest on the top (right photo).  If you zoom in you’ll notice the cardamom trees about 6 feet tall. This is the sight that made us jumped for joy, since this was the first clue that our first destination was closer.

See the cardamom trees?

There was a vague trail as we entered the dark cloud forest patch, it could be because of wild animals like sambhar stags or wild boars, but since cardamom trees were there, there was some probability to assume that it may be due to human activity. We moved on with picked up pace, climbing up and down. As we went deeper, the forest got darker with stiff dark green vegetation with thick forest canopy. It was getting hard to move forward.

Dark forest
Lost again?
The map indicated a range of connected plains like mountain peaks, so we decided to climb up, within no time we realized it was tough as hell but giving up was not an option at that time, the main obstacle was the thick pygmy forests closer to the peak, once we passed that, the scenery was unbelievable, felt like floating in the sky. The peak with an altitude of about 1800m was like a plain but covered with pigmy forests which were not more than 3 feet tall. Unfortunately we could not take any photos because of the heavy winds with thick mist. Soon we found out that this was a kingdom of sambhar, there were resting places and trails everywhere, we followed the trails leading to the direction of our destination- North East.

The quick decision to climb up the mountain made our journey easy, after crossing several peaks we entered the forest patch again and it was a descent. We’ve passed the highest parts of the Knuckles Range and KMP-vadiya is located somewhat lower in altitude, so it was wise to follow a stream down, soon we discovered a little foot path and within 50 meters a newly building structure(supposed to be illegal). We were overjoyed since this is confirmation of human activity, but we found no one, instead a clear footpath heading in the direction of KMP vadiya.

Sign of Human Activity (Illegal)
Abandoned Cardamom Estate 
Finally after getting lost in the trail few times, passing overgrown abandoned cardamom estates we approached our first destination-KMP-vadiya.
KMP-Vadiya (Cardamom Barn)
Time was 2.45pm, no human sign in the barn. The second destination of our hike-Doowili Falls located at the beginning of Kalu-ganga, we knew it was closer and also it had a cave which is appropriate for overnight stay.  Since there were few hours left before dark, we decided to give it a try. A trail ran besides the barn through abandoned cardamom estates passing a tree-trunk bridge, suddenly it branched off to two trails. We chose the trail on the right and it went passing a large grassland (pathana) where we found a burnt down structure (probably a barn burnt down by department of forest). The famous “Thunhisgala” mountain can also be viewed from this pathana.


Burnt down Cardamom Barn
The trail ran across the pathana and entered into the forest, ended up in an abandoned cardamom estate. Even after a strenuous search, we absolutely found no evidence that the trail we took leads to Doowili falls. We had walked more than 4km from KMP-vadiya. It was about 5pm, so had no choice but to return to the barn before getting dark thinking of taking the other trail first thing in the next morning.

Night at KMP-vadiya was way better than the previous night, inside was warmer, had a separate small kitchen where we could enjoy milk coffee after having bread for dinner.

continued on next post - The Hike of My Life - 4 Days in the Knuckles Range (Part 3)


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