November 4, 2013

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

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

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

Day 3

The morning was cold, way colder than the night. After having a little breakfast, some crackers with cheese and coffee we let ourselves out around 8 am heading for the place where the trail branched off to two just after passing the tree-trunk bridge. The previous day we tried the trail to the right, since it did not give us much hope our only chance was trying the trail to the left.

The set of water falls including Doowili Falls belongs to Kalu Ganga, the river flowing northeast, initiating from the middle of Knuckles range. So our decision was based on pure logic, just follow a stream which will eventually follow you to the river and that was exactly what we did, although the trail got lost we kept pushing forward, descending, following the sound of the streams and eventually found the starting point of a stream which grew bit by bit as we went down stream with it.

Below are some of the tons photos taken as we hiked along the Kalu-ganga on the third day.
First Water Fall (about 10 m) we found in a cave at the
beginning of the stream, difficult to reach


The Scenery, it was the PARADISE which no words could ever describe, no photos could ever capture the moment what we experienced. We were passing through an intermediate zone between dry and wet zones of the Knuckles range. We just went along and tried to stay with the stream as possible as we could. Along the way we found so many water falls ranging from 3 meters to 25 meters.

As the dry zone was being reached, though the leech problem seemed to be over, more dangerous problems arose just like nature signing us to leave the paradise. At first it was when the odor of vipers was caught by our poorly functioning noses(due to lack of energy in the past two days), fortunately we took extra measures covering our legs with appropriate clothing in case of such a bite of a poisonous snake.

Compared to the moderately venomous Green Pit Viper found in the wet zone (in Kalupahana area), Russell's Viper  found in the dry zone in Knuckles range is highly venomous .

Well, the second one, we did not see that coming. It was a plant that villagers refer to as "Ma-Ussa (මා-උස්සා)", a poisonous stinging plant. At first we thought it was nettle plants(කහබිලියා) which is a common guess but it was way worse than that. When touched with the skin, it feels an itchy, stinging, burning sensation but with a single drop of water on it you wish you'd want to peel out your own flesh. It was that worse and lasted for almost two weeks. If someone ever asks me choose between leeches and Ma-Ussa I would definitely choose the disgusting blood suckers very happily.

Third was when we discovered elephant dung along the way closer to the 9th fall in the afternoon.
Just like a painting......
Art..........(courtesy of Udana)
A Giant Pool, few meters deep, more than 10 meters wide
This one was huge, about 50m in height
This is where we had lunch, about 12.30pm
If you'll ever be here, you would not want to leave- Pure Paradise
Straight down more than 50 feet, only possible option at that time
Perfect Camouflage..
Elephant dung...
On the top of "9 th Fall"
It was around 5 pm when we arrived to the top of the 9th fall. Water just fell into an abyss between two huge rock mountains on both sides, couldn't even see the bottom and the river also vanished. This fall could be more than 60 meters in height. It was getting darker and had no time to find a way to climb down the water fall and find the river, so had no choice but to find a place for camping. This was the dry zone of knuckles range. Jungle around us had no thick undergrowth but a high canopy and there was a thick layer of leaves covering the ground. Above all there were clear evidence of the elephants roaming in this area. Since there was no way to the right which was blocked by a huge rock mountain, we turned right and entered the jungle and climbed up. It was more like a dry zone version of a pine tree forest in the hill country. There was a pathana(grassland) on the top of the mountain. More and more evidence confirmed that the elephant were here within last few days.

We had to make a quick decision to put up the tent in the middle of the dark forest. After removing the thick layer of dried leaves from the ground it was dark when we finished putting up the tent and also made a fire with a fallen tree trunk, and had to take extra measures so that it wouldn't lead to a forest fire. Night's plan was to take two-hour shifts for each crew member to guard the tent while others sleeping.

It was the third day third night and we still had no clue when we'd be able to finish our hike, to be precise when to get out of the jungle; food supplies were running out and we were camping where the elephants roam with me and few others touched by Ma-Ussa. We had every reason to be frightened of. At this point I think even the cold-hearted would start to doubt themselves even a little.

Night was very windy more like gales. The most frightening thing was the sound of breaking tree branches, At every time we thought it was elephants regardless of the fact that it was due to strong winds but later at some point I thought what if elephants actually came closer to our camp, what if they were the ones who actually broke those branches, well god knows....

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


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