Jurong Bird Park

MapCrew : 3

Transportation : MRT, Taxi

Duration : One Day

 

When I got to know I have to travel to Singapore for an official matter, I did a quick search to know what to see and what to do there. Many blogs and previous travelers recommended the Singapore Zoo among the top 5 places to visit in Singapore. But the problem was time. As many said it will take more than 3 hours to cover the zoo and another 5 hours or so for the River Safari and Night Safari, I had to find a full day during the stay. Luckily there was a weekend,  which Saturday was already allocated for a group visit to Universal World, But Sunday was free.

Many had visited Singapore before in our group, so they have seen the zoo. Hence I decided to go alone initially, but found two friends interested in joining the trip. My idea was to get the maximum out of the full day, so I boldly decided to go for all four attractions “Jurong Bird Park”, “Singapore Zoo”, “River Safari” and the “Night Safari”. We took the North East Line MRT from “Little India Station” to “Outram Park” and East West Line MRT from there to “Boonlay” Interchange. Then we asked from an information counter about the directions to get a bus, The kind lady there reminded us that we will be needing the exact amount of change in cash in order to use the bus without the prepaid travel card. There was 194 Bus which goes directly to the Jurong Bird Park just outside the MRT Station, and we were able to collect required amount in coins for the bus ticket! 😀

When I searched online for information about these park, zoo and safaris, found out that all parks are planned in a way that you have to walk the full circle to cover the entire attraction but all of them have a tram ride or a boat ride to get a quick glance at them within short amount of time. As I wanted to see them all, I decided not to use the tram rides in Jurong Bird Park and Singapore Zoo.

We arrived at the Park around 9.30 am and hurried in to the ticket counters as it was starting to getting crowded. We brought Tickets for the all four parks (There was a big discount if you are buying tickets to the all four parks at once, Tickets are Valid within a week of the date of purchase) for 69 SGD per person. We took a minute to see the Jurong Bird Park Map and started from the Penguin Coast. A group of penguins were swimming and playing in an open pool near a model of a large ship. I found out that they are a special species of Penguins that live in a bit warm weather.
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Then we went to the “World of Darkness” featuring different kinds of Owls. There was a special request from the zoo to remain quiet there as noise may disturb those sleepy birds. The zoo have tried to create the best natural living conditions, where owls were harder to spot among close to nature backgrounds.
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We got to know that a bird Show called “High Flyers” will be there at Pools amphitheater from 11.00 am, which was located next in our route. But as there was around 30 minutes more, we decided to visit “Heliconia Walk” first. The path directed us towards a small hill, where many small colorful birds were displayed. That area wasn’t crowded as all visitors might have been waiting for the bird show at pools amphitheater. Then we walked to the “Royal Rumble” passing the “Wetlands” where different types of cranes lived.
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“Royal Rumble” was home to couple of bird species with attractive feathers and colors. peafowls and many other birds (I can’t recall their names) with feather crowns were resting under the shades of shrubs. After that we hurried back to the pools amphitheater for the “High Flyers” Bird show.
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The theater was filled with visitors and luckily we found a free space just in the middle to sit. Soon the show started with large colorful birds flying over just above our heads. They had trained them to catch fruits on the flight and fly through rings etc. The narrator always explained something related to their natural behavior with each activity birds did. It was very informative as well as attractive. The show ended with few dozens of birds, just hanging around with visitors near the stage for a photo shoot!
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Our Next stop was “Hornbills and Toucans” and “Window on Paradise”. There were many informative displays about Hornbills and their lifestyle. Many Hornbills with colorful beaks were there but the steel netted cages blocked my camera view.
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“Birds of Prey”, “Jungle Jewels”, “Bird Discovery Centre”, “Wings of Asia”, “Dinosaur Descendants”, “Swan Lake” and “Waterfall Aviary” were next in our route. The whole setup was in a close to nature way, creating a healthy atmosphere for the resident birds. Birds living freely inside the Aviary was something attractive.
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“Pelican Cove”, “Flamingo Lake” and “Riverine” were our last sections to visit before deciding to have lunch in the nearby Pizza Hut outlet. The food was tasty but only afterward we realized that there is a place called “Hawk Cafe” which we could have tried. Soon as the lunch was finished, we rushed to the Taxi Stand and left around 1.30 pm to “Singapore Zoo”.
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Knuckles – Five peaks

Map 1Crew : 13 (A guide, villager and a friendly boy joined the crew additionally)

Transportation : Cars (Kandy – Hagalla Estate Bungalow), Three Wheeler [Tuk Tuk] (Hagalla Estate to Knuckles Nature Trail head), Hiking (Knuckles five peaks) followed the same route back

Duration : One Day

(Please note that the path marked on the map is not a GPS track but only a graphical representation)

There was about a month of silence after the last trip we went. So when a suggestion came up for visiting Knuckles Forest reserve for the “Five peaks Hike” I had nothing holding me back and confirmed my participation. It was a long weekend and we arranged the hike on a Saturday, so that we have a day for resting before going back to work. Most of the participants were around from kandy but 4 out of 13 came all the way from colombo the day before and spent the night at the Superintendent’s Bungalow of Hagalle Estate. Our plan was to departure from Kandy around 5.30 am but was delayed from one hour. We used personal vehicles to reach Hagalle estate but bendy unfamiliar road took some time than we expected. We had to travel around 35 km from Wattegama and the surrounding was somewhat familier after our hike to Thunhisgala .

As the Knuckles five peaks trail head is few kilometers away from Hagalle Estate, we had arranged four three wheelers to go there. It was around 10.00 am when we started the bumpy three wheeler (Tuk Tuk) ride and there were few places we had to get off from tuk tuks (just because our weight was too much for them to pull!)  😀

After many getting offs and getting back ins we reached the trail head around 10.30 am. We distributed the water bottles we brought among ourselves and each had more than 3 liters of water. At the trail head, there is a monument which villagers use to hang few leaves of a tree and pray for blessings of a god for the journey ahead. The view from the trail head was amazing and we could see our destination from there. Our guide took few minutes to tell us the “Rawana” related stories about the region before starting the climb.

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The smaller mountains adjacent to Famous Knuckles fve peaks are called “Bada Dandu Kandu” (meaning bamboo mountains) and are the mountains mentioned in tales of king “Rawana” as he said. There is no one who have visited there in the known past and highly populated with sambar and deer as he told. It was somewhat covered in mist at that moment and the stories we heard made us want to go there, the ice cold mountains hiding unexplored mysteries.

Few minutes after we entered the “Knuckles Nature Trail”, there was a stream of crystal clear water. Our guide took us in a small detour to visit the Knuckles Falls. It was smaller in height and width but created a magnificent scene with the filtered rays of sun. We decided not to spend much time there as we were already late and came back to the track after few minutes. The climb was steep at most parts of the trail and it made me the first one to exhaust among the crew. I took many water/chocolate breaks to avoid cramping and the guide offered me to carry my backpack.

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It took more than 2 hours for us to reach the first peak. There were few natural resting places with great views.On the way up we saw “Dumbara An Katussa or Leaf nose Lizard (Ceratophora tennentii)”. As most of us were exhausted we took a quick break for a snack. Our guide suggested that we should wait until the 2nd peak for lunch, so we continued the climb.

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We were exhausted by the time we stopped for lunch. Few of us were high on “Jeewani” and I used more than 2 l of water! We ate bread with “Seeni sambol” and Strawberry Jam. “Cream Cracker”biscuits, Cheese and Marsh-mellows filled the remaining volume of our tummies.  We sent only about 30 minutes there and start trekking for the 3rd peak. The climb from there was comparatively easy and we reached the end around 3 pm.

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We spent some time there pointing our eyes to the “Bata Dandu Kandu” with the hoping a glimpse of a Sambar, but we didn’t. Our descend was quicker and reached the bottom around 5.30 pm. Our guide wanted to show us at least one sambar, so he guided us to a (not so frequently used) foot path covered with head high bushes. The sun went down quickly taking our last hopes for seeing a Sambar away. We continued the walk in the dark foot path praying, not to meet snakes! After many Kilometers of walking, we reached to a motor-able road and hired three tuk tuks. It was around 8 pm when we reached back to the  Superintendent’s bungalow and had a warm cup of tea. We came to Kandy around 11 pm with the aching legs and bruised hands, but with the satisfaction of a great hike.

Photo credits: Amila Dananjaya De Silva, Chamitha Rathnayake, P S Harshendra, Cabe Abeyrathna

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Chariot Path

sattelite-imageCrew : 11

Transportation : Bus (Kandy – Pussellawa), Hired Van (Pussellawa – Perettazi (Frotoft) Division), Hiking (Frotoft – Chariot Path – Mooloya Estate) , Bus ( Hewaheta – Kandy)

Duration : Two Days

(Please note that the path marked on the map is not a GPS track but only a graphical representation, Red triangle is the place we put our tents but i recommend camping on the place marked by a green triangle)

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Me and my friends wanted to go on a bit simpler camping trip with less hiking and less adventures. After considering many locations a place called “Chariot Path” on the Piduruthalagala Mountain Range was decided as the final destination. This year the monsoon patterns were bit odd, so it wasn’t raining on December 2016 to “Chariot Path”.

“Chariot Path” is believed to be the path that King “Rawana” took Princess “Seetha” from the Capital “Lankapura” to “Ashoka Vatika” (now Nuwara Eliya). Some say they traveled by “Dandu Monaraya” (The wooden airplane) but the common belief is that they traveled by a “Chariot” and for some reason the path remains “treeless” while all surrounding is covered with  montane rain forests. It is said that there is a pond created by fallen tears of Princess “Seetha” on top of the hill.

Many of my friends confirmed their participation as it was a long weekend and we decided to start the trip from Kandy around 8 am as few of them had to travel long distances. It was about 8.20 am when all arrived, but NuwaraEliya Bus at the stand was full. As we had many bags to carry and had a hike ahead, we got in to a “Pudaluoya” bus which travels via Pussellawa. But then another NuwaraEliya bus came and it departed well before the bus we were sitting in. But as we already took tickets, we stayed and the bus left Kandy around 9.10 am. Most of us were meeting after a long time, so had many to catch up while traveling. The main bottle neck of our journey was the part from “Pussellawa” to Frotoft Division in Delta Estate as the road conditions were bad and buses were less. As our contact said we had to be there before 9.30 am to get a seat in the 10 am bus to Frotoft from Pussellawa. Therefore we decided to hire a van from Pussellawa to make the traveling times more flexible. We reached Pussellawa around 11am and had some short eats and tea as the brunch and brought some more short eats for the hike. We were able to hire a van for 3500 LKR and realized it was very reasonable price considering the road conditions and the distance.

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The road was surrounded by a lush green tea plantation of Delta Estate, Pussellwa and the views were amazing. We saw Kothmale reservoir from Frotoft, way up on the bendy gravel road. We contacted a person (Christoper Nimal 0767189381) in Frotoft well before the trip by a number obtained by a previous group of travelers and asked his help to find the way to Chariot Path. As we reached the Frotoft Old Hospital, he came there and guided us with another friend of his.

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The first few kilometers of the path was on the dirt roads of delta estate and was comparatively easy to walk. Most of us had ordinary backpacks (for laptops) and had difficulties carrying heavy loads with back pain. The guides took us in to a small foot path towards a misty wall of mountains. It was a “one man” path along the montane forest for most of the hike and the climb was steep. As it was covered with thick forest, the steepness kept hidden to eyes but was feeling on our knees and legs. We took many water and Chocolate breaks to catch our breath. After about 2.5 hours of hiking we reached the top and was mesmerized by the scenery.

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It was over our expectations and we spent hours looking far in to the horizon and taking photographs. Our guides helped us to collect some firewood and showed “Seetha Pokuna” (Believed to be the tear pond of Princess Seetha). Water in “Seetha Pond” doesn’t flow, so it is said to have a certain saltiness. There is a spring nearby for drinkable water. The wind was strong and we had to put on our jackets and monkey caps. Then our guides went back home, leaving the whole mountain to us. Many of us took our next Facebook Profile pictures with this amazing background!

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Just after we finished collecting firewood, we saw some other group of hikers arriving the location via the steeper side of the mountain and later got to know that they were lost on the way but reached the destination after many kilometers of tiring climb.

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We decided to set up our tents before dusk and it was very difficult to find a suitable place due of heavy winds. Four of us had to always hang on to the corners of each tent to stop them from flying before pegging and then put our backpacks inside to make sure the tents wont fly. I have bought a tent for our Knuckles – Thunhisgala Hike but couldn’t use it as we stayed in KMP wadiya, so this was the first time it was being used. It was easy to setup and had ample space, only concern was the rain as it didn’t had a separate rain cover, which every other tent had. As we finished setting all four of our tents, another group of 12 hikers reached the Chariot path. 😛 (We thought this location was unpopular, but seemed it is not as another two groups camped there on the same day). Both other groups were enthusiastic hikers too and was friendly. We planned Instant noodles for our dinner, bread for next day breakfast and cream corn (canned) for lunch. One of my friends brought a Kerosene Cooker so we thought it will be easy to prepare our meals. But mist and heavy winds turned it around. When we looked, the lighting part of the lamp was missing and we had to tear apart a handkerchief and make one. Even then the gushing misty wind didn’t allowed us to lit the cooker so we decided to interchange the Breakfast and Dinner hoping we would be able to lit it in the morning.

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One of the tents were big enough for all eleven of us to get and sit in. We have brought Jam and Seeni Sambol, so bread was tasty and then we had chocolates for dessert. We talked for a while and went to our respective tents to sleep. Luckily few friends remained in the large tent had tried and lit the cooker after a while. We only got to know that when they invited us to have a cup of coffee in the ice cold night. Any of us didn’t thought that it would be this cold and was great to have something hot to drink. We came back to the tents after the coffee and prepared to take a nap. The grassy mountain floor made the tent floor a bit comfortable and we laid a blanket over it. No one had sleeping bags but blankets saved us from freezing. I slept for a while and woke up hearing a sound. Wind was stronger than it was and the noise it made was loud. The  sound came again and I was relieved when I realized it were my friends in the other two tents talking to each other at 3 am!!!

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After many roll overs to avoid freezing and find the perfect sleeping spot, I fall asleep and woke up around 8 am. Almost all others were then awake and preparing breakfast. We had instant noodles, Eggs, Sausages and Meatballs. It really energized us after a freezing night. One of the groups camped there, went back while we were having breakfast and the other group had trouble making a fire using firewood so we lend them our cooker for preparing breakfast. That group was planning to camp there for two days, so we gave them the firewood we collected and remaining “ready to eat” food. Then we had to take a vote for the route back home. Few said (including me) to use the same route we came up but most others wanted to try the longer route via “Mooloya Estate”. We came out of that tent and found out some feces of an animal! Someone must have visited the place in night but we didn’t hear anything. :O

We refilled our water bottles from the spring nearby and packed our bags. It was kind of a nice thing to see that all other campers were concerned about the environment and took back everything they disposed. We too took many garbage bags and dumped everything to them so we had extra bags to bring down.

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The path from “Chariot path”to “Mool Oya” Estate lies via a thick montane forest but the foot path was clearly visible guaranteeing us a safe passage. There were many loose stones and slippery edges, but all managed to climb down safely. We crossed two small waterfalls on the way. Few kilometers after, we reached to a point where the foot path became an abandoned gravel road, with signs that those parts of the estate must have used for tea plantation a long time ago. With wide road, walking was easy and we came to an old concrete bridge with an overlooking hut. The hut was in good condition and we thought of having a break there. Many of us jumped into the shallow pond before the small waterfall and freshened up by cold crystal clear water. Then we had Cheese and Cream Cracker Biscuits as our brunch and started the walk again.

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We reached to the tea plantation just few minutes from the waterfall and asked the ladies working there for directions. The views were amazing with the sun hidden behind mist over the mountains. After around 4 Kilometer walk from the top of the tea plantation, we reached to a carpet road and continued the descend. Next there was the Mool Oya Tea Factory and we luckily found a Van (Operating as a replacement to buses) to travel rest of the distance to Hewaheta. All 11 of us managed to get in to the already filled van and reached Hewaheta within half an hour. There was an empty bus parked in the halt which goes directly up to Kandy, so we happily settled in. It was around 5 pm when we reached back to Kandy.

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Off Season Sri Pada

MapCrew : 7

Tranportation : Train (From Kandy to Hatton)
Van  (From Palabaddara to Rathnapura)
Bus (From Rathnapura to Kandy)

Duration : Two Days

One of my friends suggested that we should climb the Adam’s Peak (Mostly known as Sri Paada even among foreigners). There were stories of few locals who climbed Sri pada during off peak and had met elephants, wild boar and even leopards. Keeping all that in mind, I too agreed for the adventure. I was bit busy with exams just before the trip, so that i didn’t even knew who else are coming and what are the routes we are planning to go on.

Sri pada means the “sacred foot print” in sinhala. Buddhists believe that it is of Lord Buddha. It is said that also Hindus believe the foot print belong to Shiva, Muslims and Christians believe it belongs to Adam, but have noted only Buddhists visits Sri pada to worship the sacred foot print. Others do visit, but not with the religious aspects. This 2243 meter high mountain is located in central hills and it is said that all four of the major rivers (Mahaweli, Kelani, Kalu, Walawe) of Sri Lanka starts from this mountain (But actually only one starts from here). It is said that the area was ruled by Saman,who later became a god, hence the mountain was refered “Samanthakuta” earlier. Then “Saman Deviyan (god)” invited Lord Buddha to set the sacred foot print during the second visit to Sri Lanka. There are three famous routes to Sri pada peak.

1.Nallathanni in Hatton (6 km)
2.Palabaddara(Sri Palabaddara) in Rathnapura (8 km)
3.Erathna in Kuruwita (14 km)

Other than that it is said that there are another infamous hikes from Murraywatte, Mookuwatte and Malimboda (which i haven’t traveled in). Normally the season for Sri pada pilgrimage starts from January (Duruthu Full moon Poya) and ends in May (Esala full moon Poya). Usually the routes get flooded with pilgrims during the season. Most of them visits Sri Pada to Worship the sacred foot print and get blessings while hoping to see the Sunrise from top of this mountain.

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On the day we planned the trip, I went to the Peradeniya Railway Station to catch the Colombo – Badulla Train. As it was during the Kandy Perahera, there were many tourists waiting for that train to continue their trips after watching the perahera the day before. Few of my friends were already on the train, who got in from Colombo and another three waiting in the Kandy railway statiion. The train arrived and i couldn’t believe my eyes, it was flooded with people which i guessed might be coming to Kandy to see the Perahera. The train goes to Kandy from Peradeniya and come back to Peradeniya to continue the journey to Badulla. So i thought of waiting until it comes back, hoping most of the crowd will get down from there. Few minutes later my friends who were at Kandy called and said they were coming back but still it will be difficult to get in with the crowd. I rushed to a carriage and got in with few German tourists and hold on to a spot near the door as it was difficult to go in over the stacked baggage of the tourists and also there were no space for me inside the cabin. There were few phone calls from me to my friends and from them to me before finding out that they were in the same carriage as me and near to the window next to the door i was in. So i gave my backpack to them and sat on the train floor facing the misty mountains next to the railway. After passing few Railway stations, the human shield got thinner so that i went to my friends. Then only i realized that i actually know four of them. There was another three who were friends of friends.
😀

We all reached Hatton around 11.30 am (which is bit late than expected) and did some shopping for gloves, water bottles and Lunch. The friends who came from Kandy have brought  many loaves of bread for the rest of our journey. We hired a van from Hatton to Nallathanni for about 2000 rupees. It was after our normal lunch time when we reached to Hatton through the bendy roads surrounded by misty mountains with tea estates and glamorous waterfalls. All of us were been there to Sri pada during the season previously, so we were surprised by the calmness of Nallahtanni during the off season. Almost every boutique was closed but Nallathanni Police station is in operation as usual. We just went in talked to them and they offered one of their huts (which are being used in the season for people to rest) to have our lunch. They warned us that now it is not allowed for visitors to spend the night near the Sri pada maluwa (peak where the sacred foot print is), and offered us to stay in their police posts located bit downward in the Nallathanni Route. The lunch didn’t taste much, so we started our climb soon with half filled tummies and with an uncertainty about a place to spend the night.
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Initially there are not much steps in Nallathanni Road, so the walk was easy and we had many breaks to capture the beauty without any human distractions. All huts which were functioning as gift shops and cafes during the season were deserted. After a queue of those huts there is this giant “Makara Thorana” which was an offering from the “Ceylon Electricity Board” during the days of constructing Laxapana Hydro Power Station and a statue of lord Buddha. The actual climb started from the Peace pagoda and it took us a while to warmup. The environment was calm and quiet other than the voices of us. It made me realize that large portion of the Sri Pada experience is ruined by the massive crowds climbing it during the season.

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We found one hut cafe was operating and a Russian couple resting there on the way down from the peak. We ordered us hot cups of plain tea and started to talk with the Russians. They were planning to visit Sri Lanka for few days and then explore India without knowing that they need separate visa to enter India. It was too late for them, so they were hoping to make the best out of the remaining days of their stay in Sri Lanka. They were very friendly and took few tips from us to decide their next destination in Sri Lanka. Then the owner of the hut cafe started share his experience with us. His home was nearby so he decided to keep his shop open even during the off season, but selections are limited only to Plain tea, Tea or Coffee. According to him there are more number of foreigners climbing Sri Pada than local during the off season. When we were leaving the place he advised us to never let any dogs join the climb with us, we were wondering why he said that until he gave an explanation which we never thought of. Leopards are very frequent in Sri Pada forest reserve, but comparatively there are not enough other animals for them to use as their pray. Therefore Leopards tend to hunt the dogs. Though Leopards try to avoid and normally don’t attack  humans, there are few instances where Leopards attacked the stray dogs who were climbing Sri Pada with human. There is no such danger during the season as the path get crowded with people bu as this is the off season we had to take precautions. So whenever we met a dog we gave it something to eat, but stopped them following us (for safety of the dog as well as ours).

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Towards half of the climb I and one another friend slowed our phase as we realized our stamina was less than we expected. Sooner the misty clouds surrounded the path and we barely could see something 5 feet away. We turned our torches on and kept walking closely. Temperature quickly dropped from few degrees that we had to put on our jackets and gloves to keep warm. The closer we got to the peak, steps became high and slippery forcing us to take more breaks to catch our breath. One from the other five called me and and said they almost reached the peak, so they will meet the Buddhist monk and ask permission to stay over the night there. We had to jump over few fallen tree branches on the stairs but could reach the peak around 8.00 pm, 30 minutes later than the other five.

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We searched the peak but couldn’t find any trace of a human other than the weak light through a closed door nearby. We guessed that must be the place where Buddhist monk is residing but wondering where were the rest of the team. I tried to call them few times (I was glad to find that i had mobile signal on such location, but my friend didn’t as he was using another service provider) but no one answered. Few minutes later, the door opened and a head of my friend appeared. We went in to meet Three Buddhist monks and three boys who were helping them. My friend directed us toward a stair and a passage after greeting the monks. Other teammates were their unpacking the bread we  we brought. They were lucky enough to convince the Buddhist monk to give permission to stay the night on the peak, but even luckier as we found a roof and walls to cover us from the freezing mist and dew. It was a separate part from the “Awasa geya” (name used for the place where Buddhist Monks reside) and was using to prepare “Daane” (name used for the meals offered to Buddhist Monks). As it was a full moon poya day the kitchen was fully functioning and the pilgrims washed and cleaned the floor (which obviously hadn’t enough time to dry). We put some old polythene over the wet floor and few cardboard provided by the boys who were there to help the monks. Then we put another  polythene over and made our beds for that night. There were two (brave) girls and five boys in our crew. While five of us boys tried to wipe the water droplets collected on the ceiling to prevent out sleeping area getting wet, the girls started prepare the bread (as sandwitches) with “seeni sambol” whitch we brought. As Buddhist monks are not having a dinner we offered the first portion to the boys who were there to help. Then we prepared our dinner and tried to sleep.

We all tried to be closer to one another to avoid the freezing air (but also the polythene was so small that we had to avoid touching the wet floor) but still it was cold. We realized that why it is not allowed to stay the night on the peak. Outside must been closer to 5º C that we would have been frozen. After spending many long hours trying to sleep i finally fell in to sleep. Suddenly i woke up with a cold sting on my foot and realized it was my food touching the floor. I looked at my phone and found out i slept for 10 minutes!!! After many cold  stings and looking at phone it was my phone alarm going off at 5.45am to watch the sun rise. We all rushed to the door but it was locked from outside (as the Buddhist monk told us in the night). We waited until it was unlocked and ran to the view point with our cameras. Unexpectedly the peak was crowded (there were around 50) with foreigners but Sun was hidden behind the thick mist curtain.

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Then the Buddhist monks came out for the Sri pada “Maluwa” and started “Buddha pooja”. We too participated in that while cold mist making water droplets on our hair and face. It took around 30-40 minutes and then we came back to where we spent the night and prepared offerings for the Monks as “heel daane” (Breakfast) and then we had ours. We started our day two on Rathnapura (Road divide to  Palabaddara and Erathna after few thousands of steps) route around 9.30 am. Still there was no sign of the sun and mist made sure that we don’t see more than few feet away. We decided that it is better to go down from the Palabaddara route as it is 6 km shoter than Erathna route. As we went down the mist got thicker and it made water droplets that we could literally see the origin of some small water flows which was added to bigger streams later. Again me and my friend who was lagging behind the previous day, started to go down the steps slowly as our knees and all leg muscles were aching. It was a great experience with no other humans to interfere and all we could hear was the birds chirping through the whistle of the wind. There were few trees fallen here and there and streams of water flowing on the steps making them even slippery.

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Around half way down me and my friend got a bit hungry but all biscuits and the rest of the bread were with others. So we increased our phase  and was able to catch three of them resting to get a packet of chocolate biscuits before they started going down again. We (the lagging two)  took frequent breaks and met two sets of villagers climbing up from that route. Around half way down we met that three friends again to find out two of them were really exhausted. We called the leading two and found that they were almost at the end of the trail. So we five decided to stick together and count the steps as we went down. Though we didn’t came across any leeches on our day one (Nallathanni route) day two wasn’t that lucky. We got attacked by leeches even less than 1cm of length every where we weren’t moving. At that stage our legs were kind of out of control so that we had to take breaks after every 100-200 steps. The steps are high on that route which made the walk more difficult.

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There was an “Ambalama” (place built for people to rest on the way) near the 3000th step (those steps were numbered once in 100 from the bottom and there more than 11000 steps from Palabaddara route). There we met two old people and talked with them while we were resting. They asked us whether we saw a Buddhist Monk Traveling up on the step and we said yes as we saw one even without slippers calmly walking upward few hundred steps before. They said that Monk is residing in a cave inside the forest reserve among elephants and leopards. I have heard few stories about that earlier but didn’t realized until the villagers explained. We stayed there for around 15 minutes and started to go down again. We realized that we are not able to reach Palabaddara before 3.30 pm to catch the last bus to Rathnapura at the phase we were going and weren’t in a position to go any faster. Then our friends (the two who were leading) called that they reached Palabaddara around 2.30pm and now going to Rathnapura for Lunch. We agreed to call them before reaching Palabaddara to discuss a method of travel for us to Rathnapura.

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After many breaks we passed 1000th step (so there was steps less than 1000 remaining to Palabaddara!) and decided to hire a vehicle to Rathnapura as it was already around 4pm. We talked with one three wheeler (tuk tuk) driver nearby and realized the price was bit higher. So one of friends who already reached to Rathnapura called to his contact and arranged a van for 3000 LKR. We waited near the place called “pavana ella” around 700th step where there was a dirt road near the steps for the van to reach us. Only then, we had a proper break after two days of adventure and time to think about soaked shoes & socks with blood patches from the leech attacks and the Clothes smelling of dirt and our own sweat.

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It was around 7pm when we reached Rathnapura and one friend just hopped in to a leaving bus to Panadura as his home is there. Other four and the two who reached there early had a meal (both  lunch and dinner) in a nearby cafe. Three of us were going to Kandy and other three to Colombo. So we had to take separate buses and we went to the Long distance bus halt which is a bit far away from the Main bus stand. Colombo bus arrived early so they went early. As we heard, there is a Trincomalee bus from Hambantota which we can travel from Rathnapura up to Kandy-Colombo road and then had to take another bus to Kandy. Then the Trincomalle bus arrived but stopped few yards passing the bus halt. We collected all the energy left and ran to it as it was our last chance. Gladly we made it before the bus left there and even found empty seats to sit on. We talked with the bus conductor about the route and found out that this bus goes through Kandy.
🙂

PS: It was around 1 am on the Day three when i reached home and needed support from another to go from ground floor to the first floor. It took me a week to fully recover from the muscle pains.

Watch highlights of our Off Season Sri Pada Hike :

 

Photo Courtesy : Chamitha Rathnayake, Akhila Rangana

Kurundu Oya Falls

MapCrew : 8

Transportation : Hired Van (Use a vehicle with good ground clearance, preferably a 4 wheel drive)

Duration : One Day

 

Kurundu Oya Ella is the second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka. “Kurundu Oya” is a feeder of “Mahaweli Ganga” and connects directly to the Randenigala reservoir. This Majestic waterfall is in the upstream of the Kurundu oya surrounded by a dense Sub-Montane Forest. Top of the waterfall can be reached through “Ragala” side but we took walapane route to reach the bottom of the waterfall.
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It was a long weekend in January 2016. Though many had planned to participate to this hike, all of them couldn’t make it except one friend and he is a member of a Traveling gang called “Wanagatha Kollo” (Boys in Wild). So he came with them and it was more like I joined with them in this Hike. You can visit their web page through below link.
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Wanagatha Kollo – Excluding Me…

http://www.wanagathakollo.com/
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We started our journey from Kandy around 7 am by a hired Van. There are two routes from Kandy to Walapane and we choose the Road via Randenigala as it is shorter and the road condition is good. We had to stop for 30 minutes near Adhikarigama for breakfast and to buy some food to eat on the way. The roadside view of the Randenigala Reservoir is fantastic and we couldn’t resist stopping in few places for better camera angles.

It was around 11am when we reached Walapane, and wasn’t much hard to find the way to Japanese peace pagoda (which is the road to Kurundu Oya Ella). The initial bit of the road is concreted and then there are few stretches with stone paving and gravel. We came to a Three way junction and took the road towards right (up hill) after asking the neighboring villagers. The road to left is towards the Japanese Peace Pagoda which we thought of visiting when returning from the waterfall.
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It was a dirt road from there most of the time and had extreme elbow bends, where the driver just reversed the vehicle uphill until the next elbow bend as it was easier than taking that turn. Again we came to a three way junction and the driver of the hired van refused to go further as the road conditions were bad. We took our backpacks and thought of hiking from there just before a lorry coming uphill appeared from a bend. We asked the lorry driver for directions and he offered us a ride further towards the waterfall. 😀 We gladly accepted it and jumped into the lorry. There is a mini hydro power plant construction going on, which will be fed from the water of Kurundu oya waterfall and that lorry was carrying construction material for that project. The Driver gave his mobile phone number in case we need help about directions. The lorry ride was fun as the climb is steep and the view was great. He stopped in a cleared area where construction material was unloading and we went from there by foot.
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Few hundred meters of walk brought us to the Construction area of the inlet valve for the water tunnel and we used the concrete canal (which was under construction) to go forward as the lorry driver instructed. The start was good but there was mud and some rain water (1~2 inches high) accumulated in the canal and the muddy water inside our shoes slowed our walk. Only one from our gang was wearing a pair of safety shoes and he survived from that problem. If you can walk on the side walls of the concrete canal, it also a good solution for that matter, but as one side is a steep cliff it doesn’t worth the risk. End of that canal was a steel gate to prevent the water coming in and we climbed on to the concrete structure to have a good look at this massive water flow. The mist made of its own water vapor was trying to cover the waterfall.
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At the water inlet gate

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First Cascade is hidden…

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Kurundu Oya Ella has three cascades and was in its full flow as the upstream area had rain past few weeks. We were at the bottom of the waterfall facing the third cascade and the first one was hidden behind the Second. We went through the journals available on the internet about Kurundu Oya Ella and thought of climbing to the second cascade through the thick cover of vegetation. So we went back on the same path until the place where we get out from the lorry and found that another lorry is about to leave back to walapane. So we waited until the unloading is over and jumped back in the lorry and arrived to a small path along the way towards the second cascade.
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Three Cascades…

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We started the walk along that and came to a fountain where we refilled our water bottles and had a rest. After crossing few barriers over the path we came to a dead end facing a thick Sub-Montane Forest. A call to a friend who traveled along this path confirmed that we had to go through the vegetation. So we put on our long sleeve t-shirts, packed our cameras and put them in the backpacks and went in. Few steps inside the vegetation lead us to a small cave like path through the bushes and we followed it. Leaches were every where and the earth was covered with wet decaying leaves making it hard for us to set foot firmly. The rocks were sliding down as we stepped on them and had to keep a few feet distance to avoid rocks hitting our heads unexpectedly. The path became more unclear towards the jungle and we came to a point we had to decide whether are we going to go further or turn back. Considering the time and thickness of the jungle we turned back and rushed towards the fountain. Even then it was hard to find the way back.
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As soon as we reached the fountain first thing we did was removing shoes and socks to remove the leaches trying to find a way in through the socks. I removed 4 leaches and one was able to bit me through a sock. After that we put our shoes back, washed our faces and had a snack before starting the walk back. We was bit disappointed with unsuccessful trail towards the second cascade and thought of climbing the mountain over the path at least to have a good look at the first and second cascades of the waterfall. The mountain was shorter and easy climb as we saw from the path. So we started climbing.
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First Cascade – On the way to the mountain…

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It took a while for us to realize that what we saw from the path was not the actual case. There were few carrot nurseries which were hidden to the path and then was a steep climb full of loosen rocks. The view from the mountain top was great and we spent almost an hour there zooming our cameras to capture the best.
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Top pool of Kurundu Oya Ella…

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Randenigala reservoir from the view point…

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The path we walked – Little hut is where the material unloading site…

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Our expectation was an easy path downwards when starting the climb and as what we saw from the path was not the actual case it was hard to go back from the same path. We peeked to the other side of the mountain and saw the van we came as a dot. That meant if we could go down from that side the distance will be shorter.
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Two of us lead the way downwards as all others (including me) had doubts about going down from that steep endless cliff. We had no other choice than following them and it was harder than we thought. The arms and legs were bruised and all had a big brown patch of mud in the back of the trousers after the most steep part of the way back. Then there was a head high, thick (But, Damn that was heavenly) growth of “Maana” bushes where a shades of a foot path was available.
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We took that path and finally came back to the point where we got out from the lorry second time an walked back to the Van. We couldn’t visit the Japanese peace pagoda as it was around 4 pm then and we rushed back to Walapane town to have something to eat. We couldn’t find a place in the town and decided to head toward the “Belihuloya” (Not the famous “Belihuloya” in Badulla District) at least we could then have a bath.
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The view point covered in mist…

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The friend we met in the Roti Kade…

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There was a boutique where we had “roti” and “plain tea” before jumping in to the water. We spent about half an hour in the water and got into the Van with tired but satisfied faces. It was around 9pm when we arrived Kandy.

Loolecondera Tea Estate

MapCrew : 5

Transportation : Car

Duration : One day

Loolcondera, mostly known as “Loolkandura” is the place where the first ever commercial tea estate in Sri Lanka is located. The road we used is (B364) Peradeniya>Galaha Junction>Hindagala>Mahakanda>Deltota>Loolecondera. There is around 35kms to Loolecondera tea estate from Peradeniya and you need to go a nother few kilometeres inside the estate to reach the ruins of James Tayolr’s Log Cabin. If you are planning to use public transport, you can find Deltota Buses in Kandy town. But i must say that these buses get really crowded most of the time.

James Taylor was born in 29th March 1825 in a cottage called Mosspark in Mriboddo estate in Kineordineshire, Scotland. He came to Sri Lanka by a ship called “Sydney” at the age of 17. He initially came to Naranghena estate (now it is a division of Lollecondera estate) which was a coffee plantation at that time. He then cleared 19 acres of land and started the first ever tea plantation in 1865 and 5 acres of this original plantation is remaining up to this date. It is said that he hand rolled tea in the verandah of his log cabin and sold one pound 1.50 rupees each in the local market at that time.

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The route From Peradeniya to Mahakanda is in fine conditions but from Mahakanda onwards the road gets narrow and should be driven carefully because of the bendy road.

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We arrived thee Loolecondera tea factory around 11 a.m. and only then we knew that a special permission is required to go inside the factory, But the people there were kind enough to call management of the factory and give us the permission to go inside within few minutes of time. The factory is a four story building with a steel structure and wooden floors. This factory was built in 1923 (after James Taylor passed away).

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Then we went to see the ruins of James Taylor’s wood cabin, which is in middle of the remaining 5 acres of original tea plantation. There is a dirt road up to the mountain which is good enough to travel by even a car (but recommend to use a vehicle with good ground clearance). The only thing remains in the wood cabin of James Taylor is the chimney which is made of Stone. You can still see Stone foundations that cabin must have built on. On the way to the cabin there you can see the well (I saw it as a pond) which James Taylor used. On one edge of the plantation there is a Seat made of Stone facing the wide Valley of Knuckles mountain range (and Victoria reservoir).

We had our lunch near the James Taylor seat and then left loolecondera estate around 3 p.m. One of my friends who has been visited loolecondera previously said me that the tea estate covers in a thick white mist in the evening and the surrounding was magnificent. Since buses on B364 road is not very frequent, it is not encouraged to stay in the estate to see the mist unless you came from your own vehicle.
🙂

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Semmbuwaththe and Hotel Hunnas Falls

MapCrew : 11

Transportation : Van

Duration : One day

 

 

 

This was my second time to Semmbuwaththe and you can find my first visit https://wayfarersnotes.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/sembuwaththe-lake/

Sembuwatte Lake is in the border of the Campbell’s lane forest reserve and it is a man made lake using a land which was a golf court earlier. The road to the lake lies through the Elkaduwa tea estate, Hapuwidde division which is belong to the Elkaduwa plantations. The road towards Elkaduwa starts almost in the Wattegama town and there is about 12.5kms to Elkaduwa from Wattegama. There is a bus service from Wattegama to Elkaduwa.

This time we used a hired van and the journey started from Piliyandala. It was around 7.30 when we passed peradeniya. We used Peradeniya – Gannoruwa road and then Gohagoda road to avoid Kandy town. Then we went to Madawala from Katugastota and then to Elkaduwa.

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We went up to Elkaduwa tea estate by the van and had to walk around 1 Km to Sembuwaththe Lake. My previous visit to sembuwaththe was on a misty day but this time it was a bright and a sunny day. The view was breathtaking……

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We walked along th pathway which is around the lake. The only thing disturbed the walk was Photo shooting!
😀

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There is a man made swimming pool near the lake which is filled by a natural stream, but at the time we visited the pool was emptied for some reason (Cleaning may be) and was refilling. The Lake is said 35 feet deep and there are warnings not to swim in the Lake. After a long walk around the lake we went to Hotel Hunnas falls for Lunch around 12.30 p.m. First thing we saw was Roberosia Trees with pink flowers near the hotel golf court. There is a large pond inside the hotel premises where many large Carps live. The food was tasty and we had a great time swimming in the pool and walking around. We left the hotel around 6.30 p.m. because there is a long way to come back.

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