Uthuwankanda

map1Crew: 7

Transportation: Two Cars

Duration: Half day (May need one day if you are visiting Saradiel Village too)

 

There was a sudden suggestion to climb Uthuwankanda, which is famous for being the hideout for a local bandit, Saradiel. Since it is a few kilometer drive from Kandy Uthuwankanda was perfect for a mini hike and i too decided to join. But before the hike i thought of refreshing my memories about the stories of Saradiel.

Dekirikewage Saradiel AKA “Uthuwankande Sura Saradiel” is a bandit who later became a gang leader. People refer him as the “Robin Hood of Sri Lanka” as he used to rob from the rich and distributed them among the poor. He was born in 25th of March, 1932 as the eldest of a family where father was a tobacco merchant. His father was from “Haldanduwana” (in Dankotuwa area) and mother was from Uthuwnkanda (Mawanella Area). It is said that he studied in Illukgoda temple which was ended by Saradiel assaulting a boy from a rich family who was related to the Vidane (A hereditary leader post in colonial system who usually is from a wealthy, influential family) and being arrested. Young Saradiel had formed a gang to kidnap a wealthy merchant in Kandy, called “Bawa” and robbed him after cutting half of his mustache. Saradiel managed to escape to Colombo after distributing the things he robbed among villagers.

He then joined the Ceylon Rifle Regiment cantonment in Slave Island as a Barrack Boy and learned to used weaponry from soldiers. Later he was dismissed after caught in act of theft from the Barracks. Even then he managed to come back to Uthuwankanda with some stolen weapons from the barracks and continued his work of crime as a highway robber. It is said that Saradiel killed a Man called “Natakoti Chettiyar” during his robberies and arrested but then released due to lack of evidence. Then a warrant was issued for the arrest of Saradiel after a robbery in Molligoda Walawwa (Walawwa is a word used to refer the house of wealthy, which means mansion).  He thought to seek protection of his father and went to Chillaw. But his father was disappointed about Saradiel and refused to provide protection. So he came back but police arrested him near Pillawatte in Negombo after a tip off. Saradiel managed to stab the police informant during the arrest, critically wounding him to die after few days. Police produced him before the Justice of the Peace – Negombo on 3rd of July, 1962, who committed him to fiscal custody in Hulftsdorp Jail to be tried for murder. On dawn of 29th of November 1862, Saradiel climbed to the roof and jumped off the prison roof with help from a friend called Magiris Appu, who worked as a peon in the prison and later sentenced to six months for helping to a prison break.

Saradeil then returned to Uthuwankanda, but rearrested by the village police constable called “Baba Sara”. With past experiences with Saradiel it is decided to keep him pinioned & handcuffed at all times, to be escorted in the custody of a police constable and few fiscal peons and not to travel after dusk and only to stop at Police Stations. But the officials have underestimated him and un-pinioned at Balapane and also let Saradiel’s Step father join the escort party from Ambepussa Police Station onward. It is believed that his step father had supplied liquor to the escort party so that Saradiel could escape. Saradiel escaped again even with his handcuffs on this time, challenging the authority of English governors among the natives. Government then decided to put a five pound reward for his arrest.
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**Government Gazette Extraordinary of 10th January 1863 :

Birth place: Uttoowankandy.
Residence: Uttoowankandy.
Trade: Boutique keeper.
Caste: Wellala.
Religion: Buddhist.
Age: 31 years.
Height: 5ft 3ins.
Hair : Long.
Eyes: Hazel.
Complexion: Brown.
Make [Build]: Well.
Read and Write: Both.
School: Private school.
Family: None.
Former convictions: None.
Distinguishing marks: mark of a mole on the right cheek.
Escaped: 29-Nov., 1862, from Hulftsdorp Jail.

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Saradiel came back to Uthuwankanda and used it as the hideout for his gang consisting Hawadiya, Bawa, Sirimale, Kirihonda, Suwanda and Mammalay Marikkar who is considered Saradiels best friend. This gang robbed 500 rupees (A big amount at that time) from an Arab horses seller at knife point in Galagedara area and killed another two vendors in the vicinity out of suspicion they could have been police informants. This incident again made a huge impact on the rulers which made them to send soldiers and police officers under the supervision of Chief Superintendent McCartney and assisted by villagers to raid Uthuwankanda. When Saradiel saw that there was no other way to escape, he rushed a herd of buffaloes through the thick human wall while hanging on to the neck of a buffalo hiding under its belly, avoiding the arrest. Due to this constant raids of Uthuwankanda, Saradiel moved towards Aranayake giving a severe headache to the European planters of that area. Government had to setup a new police Station in Aranayake due to their requests and strengthen adjacent Police Stations. They also increased the price on Saradiel’s arrest to 100 pounds and 25 pounds each for his gang members.
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In February of 1964, a police party headed by Head Constable Amat who was from Utuwankanda raided a house out of suspicion, but they could only find some stolen money and weapons. Again on 17th of March 1864, two police troops headed by Head Constable Amat and Special Constable George Van Haght raided Saradiel’s mother’s house after receiving information that Saradiel and his best friend Mammala Marikkar were hiding. At this time Special Constable George Van Haght was under suspension for not effectively assisting the arrest of Saradiel. This made him want to prove otherwise and suddenly ordered his team to storm the house. Saradiel’s mother saw them and had enough time to warn her son and his friend. Saradiel and Malmmala stormed out of the house shooting George Van Haght dead and mortally wounding Sergeant Christian Appu (Van Haght’s father in law) and injuring Sergeant Muttusamy and two others who were in the George Van Haght’s team. This made Chief Superintendent McCartney to raise the price of Saradiel’s arrest to 150 pounds but rumors said Saradiel fled to Mathale area and hiding in a jungle.

Sirimale, a member of Saradiel’s gang then became a police informant and arranged a two storied safe house on the Colombo Kandy Road owned by a person named Abdul Cader in Mawanella. Then he tipped off Sergeant Ahamath Mahat and Constable Tuan Saban about the hideout. Two policemen entered the house from the back door and Sergeant Mahat took a shot at Saradiel at the first sight, injuring him. That made Constable Tuan Saban to celebrate the victory too early and Mammale Marikkar fired, killing him on the spot. Sergeant Ahamath Mahat then hide near the stair case making it hard for Marikkar and injured Saradiel to escape without being a target to his revolver. Then Assistant Government Agent of Kegalle, F.R. Saunders arrived the location with forces from Ceylon Rifle Regiment and surrounded the house. Both Saradiel and his friend then surrendered realizing there was no way to escape. Saunders hit Saradiel hard with his cane during the arrest, causing a fracture in his right arm. Saradiel and Mammala Marikkar were escorted to Kandy on the same night.
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Both of them were charged for the murder of Constable Tuan Saban and were tried by an English speaking Jury before Justice Thompson. Considering the history of Saradiel, Advocate Dunuwila who was initially assigned, refused to appear for the accused and government assigned attorneys Purcell and J. Van Langen. Both of them were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging and were hanged at Gallows Hill in Kandy on 7th of May 1864. Thousands gathered expecting to see a well built man but were surprised to see a slim man with a pleasant face. Mammalay Marikkar was out of his words before execution but Saradiel addressed the crowd and advised the gathering to take a lesson from his life and avoid such acts.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………..………………………………** The Colombo Overland Observer describes the event as quoted by AC Dep, retired DIG of Police, in his book, A History of the Ceylon Police Vol: I (1795-1866) (Colombo: Author, 1982):

“All the available Policemen in Kandy formed part of the procession. The Roman Catholic minister, Rev. Duffo, went with Saradiel from the jail and the Mohammedan Priest attended on the Moorman. It was quite clear that the prospect of death had completely unnerved the two unfortunate men. They were both pale and the Moorman in particular appeared to be greatly affected. Saradiel walked pretty steadily, reading out of a book, which he held in hand, but the Moorman was quite knocked down, and scarcely once lifted up his head during the walk. The procession passed through the town at a funeral pace until it reached the Hill on which the gallows had been erected.”
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Saradiel and Mammala Marikkar were buried at the Mahaiyawa cemetery in Kandy and a  Police guard was maintained since there was a demand for the bodies. Queens Advocate Richard F. Morgan who conducted the case, commanded the zeal and bravery of Constable Saban and Sergeant Mahat for taking part in the arrest of these two defied law and order, in his report to the Colonial Secretary. Constable Tuan Saban of the Kandy Police Station was the first ever regular Police Officer of the Ceylon Police to sacrifice his life in the course of duty. Later March 21st was declared to commemorate Police heroes in in Sri Lanka every year.
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It is said that Sergeant Mahat was promoted to Head Constable and received a price of 35 pounds. Sergeant Muttusamy received a price of 20 pounds and the son of late Constable Tuan Saban received 30 pound for his father’s bravery. Also Saban’s wife was awarded with a monthly pension of 2 pounds and 6 shillings for life. Christian Appu’s family also received a pension. It is said that Special Constable George Van Haght’s family never received a pension, considering he was on suspension at that time and did not even considered his heroic death as a death of a police officer in the course of duty. Though Saradiel caused terror among the rich, he was a provider for the poor. There is a story of Saradiel once stole from a person who was collecting money for his daughter’s dowry and came to know that later. Then he asked the man to meet him at a certain place and returned the stolen money and another amount as a gift from. There is also a story which says Saradiel was sentenced to death after receiving a letter from the Queen saying ‘kill him, not let him go’, when it was supposed to be ‘kill him not, let him go’.

All that being said, i was interested to see the place which sheltered Saradiel during many raids. I was thinking there must be a special reason for Saradiel to always come back to Uthuwankanda despite it was constantly being raided. Our initial plan was to take a Kegalle bus from Kandy and get down from Uthuwankanda and climb to the peak and follow the same route back home. But then we decided to use two cars considering the flexibility of traveling time and locations. Two cars left Kandy around 7.30 am and it was about 8.00 am when we reached Pilimathalawa to pick another friend. The crew consisted of four males and three females of the same age. We stopped somewhere before Kadugannawa for breakfast and leisurely enjoyed it as there was plenty of time. But the roads bacame busy with travelers realizing us that it is a long weekend and the place can get crowded as we getting delayed.
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We reached Uthuwankanda and turned to “Uthuwana” road. The road was under construction but was manageable to travel by cars. There were many people and we were wondering what might attract such a big crowd for a hike. Seeing many old people in the crowd made us rethink of the idea about the “hike” but then realized all that crowd were visiting the new attraction “Saradiel Village”, a private owned resort with live size statues resembling the life story of Saradiel. We wanted to visit there but we decided to postpone it considering the crowd. Uthuwankanda is a small mountain with a rocky peak and the access road was even concreted for most of the length. Considering the crowd going to Saradiel village, the hiking part was deserted. It was not hard to climb and half way through we met another team climbing down. They directed us towards the caves which is believed to shelter Saradiel.
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Climb towards the caves is not hard and we had to go through a small passage between two rock to enter the caves. (Nothing much to worry about, but thinner you are it will be better 😀 ). We entered the caves with our mobile phone flash lights on, as we were not prepared for a cave expedition. For couple of meters we had to crawl but then the passage got taller enabling us to stand up. Then we came to a small room like place and didn’t went further as the cave got smaller and we were not prepared. (Total length of the passage we travel didn’t exceeded 50m). Then we came out and had a small rest there. The caves were hot and it was hard to breath as there is no proper ventilation inside. Almost every inch of the outer cave walls were scribbled by travelers and  polythene and plastic/glass bottles were dumped everywhere. It was a very disturbing and sad scene to see, what people do to harm nature without considering the effects on their own lives.
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We couldn’t identify the exact path on the way up, but reached the rocky part without much trouble as the mountain was small. Then we started to climb the rocky peak. Me and two others decided no to climb the peak and helped other four to climb. The first part was almost 90 degrees climb and then the middle became easy. There is a kind of square shaped rock on the top and my friends even climbed it. After many photographs and eyes full of scenic view from the top we came back down around 11 am. The crowd towards Saradiel village was then doubled and we decided to have lunch before planning the evening stroll.

We had our lunch in a place near Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and decided to visit “Asupini Ella” (Read my last hike to Asupini Ella) in the evening. It took us some time to reach Asupini Ella via B172 route. The road was good and even the final bit towards Asupini ella is concreted. We stopped our cars near to the top pool of asupini ella and waked towards the observation point. The waterfall was on its full blow making a very beautiful scene. Old memories were recalled seeing the path we climbed few years back and  realized how much a risk we took in that hike. It was dusk when we took our eyes out from the waterfall and came back to Kandy around 7.30 pm.
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Photo courtesy
Chamitha Rathnayake

Reference
* Saradiel – The Robin Hood of Sri Lanka by W.T.A Leslie Fernando

** Uthuwankande Sura Saradiel – The Robin Hood of Sri Lanka – උතුවන්කන්දේ සූර සරදියෙල්
by M.D. (Tony) Saldin

*** Uthuwankande Sura Saradiel – wikipedia

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

Galoya National Park

MapCrew : 5

Tranportation : Double Cab (Up to Inginiyagala Dam), Boat

Duration : Half day

Gal Oya National Park is located in  the boundary of Uva and Eastern Provinces surrounding Inginiyagala reservoir AKA Senanayaka Samudraya, the largest reservoir in Sri Lanka. Senanayaka Samudraya is created by constructing a dam across the water stream called “Gala Oya” which later became “Gal oya” under Galoya project to distribute water to Uva and eastern provinces for irrigation purposes. The Dam, which power up the 11.25 MW Hydro electric generators in Inginiyagala Power Station was started in 1949 and completed in 1953.

This was the area which King Saddhatissa, Brother and successor of King Dutugemunu used as his hiding place during the war between his brother. After he throned, King Saddhatissa has build many temples in this area which later covered by dense forest with the establishment of the Kingdoms in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa areas. Later the villagers in Uva – Wellassa, in the times of the famous “Wellasse satana” had been fled to Digamadulla (Now Ampara-Inginiyagala-Hingurana-Damana area) which was a dense jungle at that time and established villages. After few centuries of isolation from the rest of the country, Galoya project made people from all over the country to settle down in Digamadulla.

The Galoya National park was established in 1954 as the main catchment area of the senanayaka samudraya and controlled under the Galoya development board until 1965, when the department of wildlife conservation took over. 63000 ha land of this national park is the home for 32 species of terrestrial mammals including Sri Lankan Elephant, Deer, Water Buffalo, Leopard, Wild Boar and Monkeys. It is rare to see mammals in this park other than elephants, buffaloes and monkeys through the untouched, thick walls of gigantic tress. Therefore this national park still remains unpopular, keeping its residents safe and sound.

I had an idea of visiting the park someday as i heard it is the only national park in Sri Lanka, where visitors can go on a boat safari. One fine day of July in 2016 me and another four of my friends went to the Gal oya National Park. As I have been contacted Galoya wild life department office few weeks earlier and reserved the afternoon (3.00 PM) boat session, we only had to pay the fees and jump in to the boat. There are two boats which you can reserve, one with 10 and another with 7 passenger capacity. You only have to make a call to Department of Wildlife Office in Galoya (0632242002 / +94632242002) to make a reservation, which they will be confirming your participation by contacting you in the morning of your date of reservation and payments can be made just before the boat safari.
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I was already in Ampara, so i went from a personal vehicle to the Inginiyagala dam. One who is travelling from Kandy to Galoya national park have three routes as options.

Option 1: Kandy to Andaulpotha – B492 (Randenigala Road) & B36 > Andaulpotha to Inginiyagala Via Bibile (178 km) : Haven’t used this route in a while, heard B492 (Randenigala) road in not in perfect condition as rest of the road. But can’t say the road condition is bad.

Option 2: Kandy to Mahiyanganaya – A26 (18 Hair pin road) > Mahiyanganaya to Inginiyagala Via Andaulpotha  and Bibile (178 km) : A26 (18 Hair pin) Road is one of the most scenic routes in Sri Lanka and the road lies through Galoya national park during the Bibile – Inginiyagala part

Option 3: Kandy to Mahaoya (69 junction) – A26 (18 Hair pin road) & Mahaoya (69 junction to Ampara – A5 > Ampara to Inginiyagala – AB1 (209 km) : A26 (18 Hair pin) Road is one of the most scenic routes in Sri Lanka but there is around 60km length after Padiyathalawa in  route

My favorite is Option 2, But you have to always keep an eye on the road as there is a high chance of wild animals crossing the road in the Bibile – Inginiyagala part. Also i have observed that dogs love sleeping on the road just after a drizzle which is rare to this area in latter part of the year.

We went to the Galoya national park, wild life department office around 2.30 pm and then paid for the boat ride. You have to pay for 5 people to reserve the boat and if there are more poeple, it is 650LKR per head, small amount as the boat operator cost and Taxes. For five of us, it was around 840 LKR per head alltogether. (*Please note that these charges are for local visitors, Charges for Foreigners may be different). Then we went to the far end of Inginiyagala dam, where the Wildlife department holiday bungalow is located. The boat operator gave us life jackets and prepared the boat while we were struggling to put on them.

Then the ride began. It was too sunny so that we all wore hats and i was wondering will there be any animal sightings with this hot climate.  Initially we saw many birds who has been residing the small islands emerged from water. There were only few species of birds though the count was numerous. As we got to know afterwards it is better to go morning boat safari to see birds and afternoon session for elephants. Then we saw one elephant on a island far away and traveled there, the operator shut the boat engine as we came nearby and let it float without any sound. The giant was searching for food and was too busy not to notice us (or may be he knew there is no treat to them inside their home).
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We started the ride once again as the elephant disappeared behind the rocky center of the island. As it is an island the elephant must have swam to it, but it is a rare to witness  that event. Then we saw few deer, Monkeys, alligator and another elephant in the mainland. All the mammals were there for water, while the alligator was spying on them. Then we saw the event we were looking forward, one of my friends pointed out an elephant walking towards the reservoir from the mainland far away. It was nearly 4.30pm where the sun was on the background making it hard for us to watch the elephant. So the operator took the boat around an island . When we were looking there was no sign of the elephant. Then the wild life department boat operator shut the engine and pointed out a small rock like thing around 8 inches over the water surface, that turned out to be the one we were looking for. It was a majestic scene to witness. The elephant was swimming!!! the thing we saw was the top of her head and she gently rise her eyes above the water once in a while to see the direction. As she could breath through her trunk, which was slightly over the water surface the swim seemed pretty easy even though the body is large.
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Suddenly our boat, which was floating with the engines turned off hit a decayed tree trunk under the water. That made a large noise and got the swimmers’ attention. She quickly swam the rest of the distance and challenged us as soon as she could feel the ground underwater. But as we kept clam and she realized it is safe, she gently walked out of the water and had a snack before disappearing in to the tree curtain of that island. On the way we saw another couple of elephants having their wet bodies covering with dust and enjoying the sunset. Finally we headed back to the dam to realize that we were on the boat for around 3 hours and 30 minutes.
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Wilpattu, The Land of Ponds..

It was a while we, University friends  went on a trip. So we decided it’s time. Our initial suggestion was Wilpattu, and it was seconded by all without any hesitation. Then we tried to reserve a wildlife department bungalow inside the national park, so that our transportation time will be minimized while we have full time viewing access to the National park. Then we heard the bad news, all wildlife department bungalows were booked one and half months early. There were few discussions to change the destination, but all were disappointed with the situation. One day a friend came with a good news, He was able to reserve few rooms in a nearby place to wilpattu through a contact. So the planning began. We thought of utilizing a full day to travel inside Wilpattu. So we have spare 12 hours on the day we are travelling from Kandy. One came up with the suggestion, Thonigala and we thought of spending the rest in Picturesque Kalpitiya Beach. We hired a Van and started our trip around 7 am since we had a lots of spare time. It was around 9 am when we stopped at Kurunegala to pick one of our friends and to have the breakfast. Around 11.30 we reached Thonigala, and we spent quite long time taking photographs and wandering around the Lake near Thonigala inscript. Then we travelled to puttalam and the large portions of breakfast kept us going around 2.30 pm without stopping for the lunch. We didn’t planned for a place to have the lunch since it is hard to predict exact time and location when there are many photographers in the group. 😀 We searched for a place nearby and finally “Foursquare” came for the help. It suggested about a hotel nearby, called “Palmyra Village Hotel”. We just went there because we were lack of options since it is too late for lunch. But the food was great (To the standards of a local boutique hotel) and we had Seafood Fried Rice, Which is their identity. It was a long lunch as we had a lot to talk and needed a break from sitting inside the van.

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It was around 3 pm when we reached to Kalpitiya beach, and we just jumped into our swimwear and walked to the sea. The sun was burning hot and that made harder for us to walk on the sand. We knew that Kalpitiya is one of the world famous Kite Surfing destinations but didn’t realized it is that much interesting until we saw it. The famous Kite Surfing Lagoon was just a Beach stripe away and the scenery of people riding Huge Kites, attracted us to the lagoon. It was an awesome feeling even just to watch them surfing and one item was added to the bucket list 😛 We came back to the beach and stayed dipped in the sea water to avoid the harsh rays of the burning sun until around 5.30 pm. We had to leave Kalpitiya at that time as we had to find a place to have our dinner and to buy some food to bring to our accommodation. It was around 7.30 pm when we reached back to Puththalam and brought some food to have on the safari jeep ride as well as to prepare breakfast and lunch for the next day. Most of us had a light dinner and hurried to our accommodation. We reached there around 9 pm and it was surprisingly closer to the Wilpattu National Park. It is Just in front of the Park Gate and was in very good condition. We thought of going to sleep early as we are supposed to wake up in the morning. Then we got an invitation from another group who was staying at the same place to join with them for a BBQ. As we had a light dinner and they seemed very nice people, we couldn’t decline the invitation. Most of them are from the same professions as ours and all are wild life enthusiasts. We stood awake talking with them until it was midnight and finally decided to sleep. Beds were comfortable and as fans worked full time to cool down the heated air to a bearable level, we had a 6 hour long sleep under the cover of mosquito nets.

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As our friend and the accommodation caretaker promised, there was a safari jeep ready in front of the “Wilpattu Holiday Home” exactly ay 6.30 am. Caretaker and his wife had prepared Noodles for Breakfast and Kadala (Peas) from the things we provided them last night. We just had some snacks before starting the jeep safari and planned to have the breakfast near “Kumbuk Willu”. For some reason there wasn’t a Wildlife department guide/tracker available so we decided to continue the journey as we could use our experienced safari jeep driver as the guide since he was born and raised in the wilpattu area. There were three friends among us who usually take part in wildlife observation tours with the group “Haritha Diyatha” and it was a huge advantage for us as they had the knowledge about wildlife in wilpattu as well as they had required sources (Books and Leaflets) when we need to search about the animals we observed. One of those friends told us to focus on every single bird, insect and reptile we see as then we can make this trip worthwhile, even if we didn’t see any mammals. We all agreed that it is a good idea because we heard that no one has seen any leopard in past two days. Our driver had a hard time driving the jeep 1cm forward and 2 cms backward all the way along the journey to give us a better view of birds as 6 out of 9 of us had DSLRs or Bridge Cameras aiming out of the safari jeep. We reached “Kumbuk Willu” around 10.30 am and had our breakfast there. We saw a giant elephant enjoying some kind of grass on the water bed of “Kumbuk willu” few feets away from us only after finishing the breakfast. We observed few “wali kukulo” who were waiting to feed on any leftovers of the travelers meals. It was comparatively clean and free from polythene but still we saw few biscuit packets and lunch sheets here and there.

In the evening we went to see “Thambapanniya”, where the King “Vijaya” has first set his foot on this island as legends relate. The name “Thambapanni” means “Tin (Lead- plumbum) colored soil”. Actually the soil still looks a like and there we observed some kind of different soil/ rock formations, which we couldn’t explain from the little geology knowledge we had. We had our lunch nearby, and started the evening safari. We were lucky enough to see Few dozens of Bird species, Few Reptiles and mammals. That includes Deer, Wild Boar, Elephant, Water Buffalo, and a baby Sloth Bear at last 🙂

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Dutch Museum – Colombo (Pettah)

Map1Crew : 1

Transportation : Bus, Walk

Duration : 2 Hours

When i am searching the internet for places to visit near Colombo, one of the results showed me ” Colombo Dutch Museum” and i was curious. I haven’t been heard such thing existed in Colombo. Plus when i searched for the location, Google map pointed in the middle of the busiest site in Colombo, Pettah. I was too interested to visit, so i decided to go there in a Saturday morning. It was around 10.30 AM when i reached to petteh and it was easy to find the way among busy crowd with the help of Google maps. It was easy to identify the calm and spacious corridor of the museum in the middle of crowdy  and noisy “Prince Street”. There is a ticket counter at the entrance. Ticket Price is 20 rupees for a Srilankan adult, which is extremely cheap. There were some curators at the entrance (You can use there help if you want), But i preferred going through the Artifacts all by myself.Introduction to the era and general information was displayed at the very first room where we enter. The Maps before and after dutch rulers, Introduction to religious, cultural and governing structure changes are some of the attractions i saw in the first two rooms. There were many Wooden furniture with designs influenced by dutch culture and ornaments like chandeliers, jewelry boxes and Cutlery were displayed. The Garden of the building was preserved and the well on the side is a major attraction. It took around 1.5 hours for me to cover all the exhibits.

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