January 26, 2014

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

(From Bambarella through Kalupahana along Kalu-ganga to Rambukoluwa and Pallegama)
Day 4

We were determined to find a way to get to the bottom of the 9th water fall. The night before, each of us agreed to take two-hour shifts to guard the tent, but by the end of the night it had changed, at least two of us were awake the whole time and spent time talking (I'm just gonna drop the fact that we were too scared to take the watch alone :) 

Since our food supplies were running out and mostly because we had no clue when we'd be able to reach human habitat, we decided to start the journey as early as 6 am after having a little breakfast and packing up the tent. To reach the bottom, had go around the water fall and it was a slippery slope, but actually that made us go faster using tree branches as a support, It felt like flying. More that two hours of climbing down, found the river, but it was little further away from the bottom of the fall. Under the circumstances we didn't bother to go back and see the water fall, instead we moved forward along the river.

I suppose I don't need to explain in words the paradise we were in for one who sees the pictures below, as a matter of fact, I believe it's not even possible to express in words what we just witnessed. 

Welcome to the Paradise.....

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)

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.

The Hike of My Life - 4 Days in the Knuckles Range(Part 1)

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

“The hike of my life” as the title says, this was an experience of a lifetime for me and four of my friends which pushed us to our limits for four days in the wilderness in the Knuckles Range.

Day 1

July 17th, 2013, it was 7.30 am when Wattegama-Bambarella bus reached its last stop-Bambarella, 38km away from Kandy. After getting some misleading directions, finally found entrance to Lebanon State and along the Lebanon state vehicle track we headed for Rathnagiriya Estate.
Lebonon estate vehicle track

August 20, 2013

From Horton Plains to Bogawanthalawa

Hiking Kirigalpoththa Mountain and the Bridle Trail

This hike consisted of two trails, first one is Kirigalpoththa, the famous nature trail which is also the second highest mountain in Sri Lanka with an altitude of  2388m above mean sea level and the Bridle Trail which is also famous among hikers that has a history running to the colonial era. (Special Permission from the Department of Wildlife is needed to do the bridle trail.)

The Crew consisted of four,me and three of my friends. We left Colombo in the night mail train to Badhulla which leaves at 8.00 pm from Fort and arrived at Ohiya at 5.00 am in the morning next day hired a van to Horton Plains visitors' center. It was early in the morning, actually we were the ones who woke up the officer at Horton Plains entrance :D We knew that the earlier you go to Horton plains the more sambhar stags you get see and we did. After passing the entrance we saw hundreds of sambhar stags roaming in the plains, Even though I had visited Horton Plains before this was first time I saw that many sambhar stags in a heard.

We arrived the visitor's center around 7 am and started the hike as planned. There's a clear trail to Kirigalpoththa mountain which is 7 km long where one could hardly get lost in the trail. The bridle trail begins half way through the Kirigalpoththa trail. Our plan was to get to the peak of Kirigalpoththa first and then come back to where the bridle trail begins.
Peak of Kirigalpoththa

December 30, 2012

Hike to Horton Plains from Belihul-oya (Ihalagalagama)

It's too late, hiking-mania has already carved in our minds and this hike was like one of our dreams come true, so without any goofing off here's our next hike, to Horton Plains from Belihuloya, Ihalagalagama.
With a crew of 4, we arrived at Fort bus station to catch the Badhulla bus (no. 99). It was around 1.00 am and the bus left at 1.45 am from Fort, after a journey of 4 hours we got off right in front of Belihuloya Rest and you can see the road to Ihalagalagama running uphill. It was exactly 5.58 am and our hike began. Plan was to go across Non Perial Estate-Nagarak division, Horton Plains through World's End observation point to Ohiya and catch the night mail train back to Colombo.

This hike is considered to be one of the toughest in Sri Lanka, so we had be more cautious than our previous ones and also this trail is prohibited after 2006 and a special permit must be obtained from the department of wildlife to do this hike and also this is supposed to be the longest hike, 23 km we've done without a returning trip with an elevation gain of  about 1.5 km. So we did all the homework :) made all the preparations, the food, the equipment and other necessary stuff and even bought two 1:10000 maps from the survey department.

After walking about 3 km along the Ihalagalagama Road, found the trail head, the scenery was already indescribable. The trail head started from a pine forest, actually there was no such visible trail and we lost our way couple of times. Then we found somebody from village who was kind enough to give us directions. It was a straight climb from the start, about 60 degree angle and the land covered with a thick layer of pine bud scales but as we climb up just couldn't believe our own eyes and our brains were stuck trying to figure out the difference between reality and imagination because the surroundings were very much like a painting.

Ok that's it, well the moment I started writing this post I was not sure if it was even possible to see an ending, that much things in my mind to say, so instead, it says 'A picture is worth a thousand words' so here it is 'my few thousand words' :)

The pine forest

Next was the most difficult part of the hike  about 1 km with an angle of more than 60 degree

September 20, 2012

Hike to Uthuwankanda and Bathalegala- part 2

Continuing from Hike to Uthuwankanda and Bathalegala- part 1

Then we came back to Mawanella, had our lunch and luckily after getting some directions we could catch the bus to Bathalegala junction when it was just about to leave, there was only one bus for few hours in that route otherwise we had to get off at Gevilipitiya and travel 4km to Bathalegala junction which we had to do after returning. From Bathalegala junction there was 2.5km to the trail head, it was a small concrete paved way and starting from the junction it was one continuous climb.

The concrete paved way
A glimpse at our destination