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|Year and Month||29-30 Sep, 2016|
|Number of Days||2|
|Crew||Atha and Me|
|Transport||By Tuk, Bus & On Foot.|
|Activities||Hiking, Trekking, Photography, Sightseeing, Bird Watching, Waterfalls, etc…|
|Weather||Mostly gloomy, rainy and misty. Extremely heavy rains in the night.|
Fort->Hatton->Maskeliya->Nallathanniya aka Delhousie->Sri Pada->Heramitipana.
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
|Related Resources||Here are my previous trip reports to Sri Pada. Hatton Trail, Erathna Trail, Palabaddala Trail, Maliboda Trail & Rajamale Trail.
Check the Video Journey here.
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
Hi folks, it’s been a long time since I brought something for you. I was actually enjoying the marvels of the Mother Nature but in a different territory. After dreaming for so long I managed to make another of my dreams come true when I got the chance to visit Ladakh (I know it might sound like Greek to many) with Ana and D in late Aug 2016.
Ladakh is one of the three main areas of Jammu & Kashmir in Northern India bordering Pakistan and Tibet. Usually J&K is a very volatile area due to the never ending battle to eliminate the terrorism. However Ladakh is relatively calm as it’s further away from the troublesome Srinagar and Kargil. Anyway, I’m not gonna tell you about my Ladakh Journey but if you’re interested in seeing some breath-taking sceneries, do click on the link to view the videos I shot.
After a fairly long time of being idle, I decided to break the shackle and restart the travelling frenzy. Well I couldn’t think of a better place than Sri Pada to do so. As usual I tried to get my gang together only to find that some of them couldn’t make it. To make matters worse, even I had to change the dates making Hari to miss out but he made full use of the break and went onto climb Sri Pada and Bogawanthalawa in two consecutive days.
I was left with only Atha and we decided to give it a crack all the same. So hiring a tuk-tuk, we left Kolonnawa around 2.30am and reached Pettah private bus stand before 3am. Apart from Badulla and Airport buses, there was nothing. So we decided to try our luck at CTB, good old reliable transport method since independence despite having more workers than the number of seats combined in the whole fleet. We got lucky but the bus was due at 4.15am so we joined the queue which already had around 6 people. It showed how popular this bus is and you have to get quite early to the bus stand to get a seat. Those who’re planning to get on after Pettah will have very little chance of finding a seat.
- Sri Pada Ella
- Sri Pada Cascades
- Peace Pagoda
- Yaka Andu Ella
- Mapalana Ella
It was a wet morning as the rains kept up with us all the way and I was worried and it didn’t help get much needed sleep. When we reached Hatton, it was still gloomy and we decided to have a quick breakfast which turned out to be disastrous as the hotel just off the bus stand looked no better than a slum. For some strange reason, I didn’t feel like a slum dog millionaire. While we waited for our coffee, I got a glimpse of a Maskeliya bus and ran out of the hotel to find out the departure time. Well it was in fact departing but I managed to convince the conductor to hold on for 2 mins and came back and paid the bill, including the untouched coffee.
Just under Olympic record we made it back to the bus and managed to get seats. Well if you miss a Maskeliya bus (remember no direct Nallathanniya (නල්ලතන්නිය) buses just like in the season and there’s one or two that run at very odd times), it means waiting for almost another hour for the next bus. We were glad to be able to get into this and it was just before 9am when we left Hatton.
After a snail-like journey, we reached Maskeliya and bought a couple of essential things like instant noodles. We were planning to take a tuk-tuk from here but our luck held coz there was a Nallathanniya bus leaving at 10am. So having breathed a sigh of relief we got into the bus and settled. The sun was back and my hopes soared like an eagle. However as we got closer to Nallathanniya aka Dalhousie (remember it’s Dalhousie not Delhouse or Delhousie), those hopes came down and down like a deflated balloon.
It was very gloomy and there were a couple of passing showers as well. “This is going to be one heck of a hike” I told Atha and we both regretted not having brought the umbrellas. Well we shouldn’t have worried coz the usage of umbrella becomes next to zero after Geththampana due to the open area and strong winds. We had our long overdue coffee from the shop just before the bridge. Already there was a group of people getting ready to climb for a Pooja and we started our hike around 11am, after 8.5hr journey, well literally.
The hike was ok and the rains stayed away from us, but only until we reached the Sri Pada Ella. The drought which had plagued the whole upcountry area was coming to an end. The water levels were better in the falls but we had to cut short our stay due to the rain. We ran to the shelter near the Makara Thorana and contemplated our options. It was too cumbersome to walk with raincoats on and taking pictures was mission impossible. So I decided to back to the trail head shop looking for umbrellas. I practically ran all the way coz we were pressed for time as well but it was to no avail coz they didn’t have umbrellas for sale but for rent. Well it was no help coz we were going to climb down to Palabaddala.
However, I bought couple of polythene sheets which have been improvised with hoods and they were Rs. 50/- each. It was no use for taking pictures but at least they’d keep our backpacks safe from the water. I ran back to the Makara Thorana (මකර තොරණ) where Atha was waiting. The rain had eased a bit and we had to have a plan. We then decided to use one of the techniques used by the Special Forces’ called hopping. Well there are many animals like rabbits that hop but the SFs use this to cover a long distance by moving from one designated point to another. Thanks to the frequent shelters found at Hatton Trail, we called this Ambalam Hopping.
We decided to hop to Gangulthenna where we could see the Yaka Andu Ella and Peace Pagoda. We started and found our array of cascades to the right. They were not quite prominent like our Previous Journey and coincidentally it was Atha and me who did that waterfall tour which paid dividends. As we got closer to the peace pagoda, all hell broke loose and the sky opened up its double front doors. We managed to run to the shelter adjacent to the peace pagoda where a dog was already seeking refuge.
This gave a good vantage point to enjoy both Peace Pagoda and Yaka Andu Ella but the thickness of the raid made it next to impossible to take clear pictures. Anyway, here are some of them for you.
After more than half an hour wait, the rain eased a bit and we put on our raincoats once again. We were stuck between a rock and a hard place, well very much like. When you put on the rain coat, you begin to sweat like a pig and it’s really uncomfortable. When you take it off, either you’re getting soaked by the rain or being blown out by cold winds. So the Ambalam Hopping somewhat helped manage this dilemma. As we reached the Gangulthenna Ambalama (ගඟුල්තැන්න අම්බලම) the rain completely stopped and the misty veil lifted off the Yaka Andu Ella (යකා ඇඬූ ඇල්ල).
Well this sort of helped wipe our tears as I was practically crying over the inability to take a decent picture of this beautiful lady. As we kept watching the water level seemed to increase every passing minute but the window of the opening didn’t last long so we only managed a handful of pictures. On the other hand, we couldn’t take the break in the rain for granted so after a hasty run of photos, we decided to make the next hop to the Seetha Gangula Ambalama. Until then, here are some more pictures.
The rain had eased by the time we reached the Seetha Gangula Ambalama (සීත ගඟුල අම්බලම). However we decided to take a break and munch on some cashew as the energy requirements of the body wouldn’t stop rain or shine. However little did we know that the worst was yet to come. Even the breaks we took were not helping much as they didn’t help rest our minds even though our limbs took the much needed break.
We were not sure whether to stay for 5 minutes or 15 minutes and it was a constant battle in our mind. The rains had increased the water levels of Seetha Gangula and we heard a massive waterfall just off the Ambalama. This was visited by Niroshan recently but we didn’t even think about it due to the ferocity of the water. It was as if an M6 Engine was falling off the Kadugannawa rock.
Well, till we reach our next stop which is Rathu Ambalama, here are some pics. Oh don’t expect anything more afterwards for a while coz the rain and mist forced me to stow the camera safely away in the backpack.
We reached the Rathu Ambalama (රතු අම්බලම) as the rain was starting once again. It was good timing but the Ambalama was leaking big time and there was nowhere to sit either. So we rested the backpacks on what little dry ground we could find and leaned on the crumbling walls for a breather. We stayed for about another 20 minutes until the worst bit of the rain eased. Afterwards, we decided to let the camera go into the backpack and start the hike. The time was already 3pm and we were quite a distance from our destination.
As I feared from the very beginning, we weren’t going to make it to the summit in this weather. Because it’d certainly be pitch black by the time we started our descent towards Heramitipana (හැරමිටිපාන) and we’d be faced with strong winds, heavier rains and slippery steps which were not so inviting factors. Therefore we had to cut short our journey and take the by route where it merges with the Ratnapura Trail closer to Andiyamala Thenna (ආඬියාමළ තැන්න). In this way, we’d not only save time but also reduce the distance and the worst part of Mahagiridamba on both sides.
It was a very sad decision to leave without worshipping the sacred footprint but hiking and travelling are all about staying safe and taking the safe way and making the right decision no matter how hard it is. Remember, you can always come back when the things are better if you decide to leave something half-done coz you’re saving yourselves from injury or even death. If you make that call, you can almost always come back to complete the journey from where you stopped.
So folks, my advice to you is, stop and turn back if you know that you’re not up to it. Don’t force yourself or others to carry on doing something they’re not comfortable with. Sometimes you might feel it’s a dent in your reputation or ego to turn around but none of them will matter or come to your help if you’re met with mortal danger. Remember, staying safe is the most important thing, nothing else matters. I’ve heard that people who’d climbed to within 300ft of the summit of Everest had decided to turn around as the weather got worse coz they valued their lives more than the achievement itself. And most of them lived to complete their journeys at a later date as a result. Most of the deaths are occurred as many travelers don’t have the temperament to make that call. Well, no matter what I or anyone says, it’s ultimately your call and staying safe and looking after yourself is your responsibility.
After what felt like an eternity we arrived at the Geththampana (ගෙත්තම්පාන). There were 3 people waiting by a shop which looked dilapidated. They spoke to us in English “Where are you from?” thinking we were some foreigners as not many Sri Lankans are this crazy to make this journey under such severe weather. When I replied in Sinhala, they got a shock. We went and sat with them and apparently the shop owner and his helper were preparing the shop for the upcoming season. A bit too early one would think but considering the damage done to the building, they’d need a quite a lot of time to repair it.
Well this shop which is called “Hime Kade” (හිමේ කඩේ) has a 117-year-old history behind it. This had been started in 1898 and is one of the 2-3 shops which don’t have to pay a rent to the urban council as they’re owned by them. The old uncle (gosh I forgot to get his name) was very proud about this and kept on telling us stories while his helper served tea for the other three people. They were from a larger group who were going to the Pooja and said that they’d be staying overnight at the summit. Well my heart leaped and wanted to ask if we could tag along with them as a part of their group but decided against it.
They left after their tea and we too ordered some coffee while the old uncles rattled off the history behind the shop and how people used to travel to the Sri Pada in the old days. Before they built the Maussakelle Reservoir, the road to the Sri Pada had been paved only up to Maskeliya. From there people had to walk all the way to the summit, good 10+km more than what they do now thanks to the road up to Delhousie. Bullock carts had been the primary source of transportation and many people had come from all over the country despite travelling difficulties.
We were hungry and the helper gave us the last roti remaining for us to have. This was probably their lunch but seeing how ravenous we were, they must’ve felt very sad about us. After the roti and hot coffee, we bid our farewell and turn right at the Buddha Statue at Geththampana. This was my first time using this path and Atha had used it years ago. It’s relatively flat but there are ups and downs. The distance from Geththampana to the summit is 1.8km (it’s 4.2km to Geththampana from Trail Head). The by road is around 500m and we walked that under 15 mins. It was a clear footpath despite the off season and even though we were warned about leeches, we weren’t disturbed except for maybe one or two.
It led to the Rathnapura Trail between the Andiyamala Thenna and newly built drainage. The weather was still very bad and we walked down to the Andiyamala Thenna Ambalama hoping to settle down there for the night but the condition of it made us want to puke. The construction workers had left it full of building materials scattered here and there and cement dust had turned into a clay mixture after the rains. Garbage left behind by the previous residents was all over and simply it was no good even for a wild boar. We were undecided whether to get down to the Heramitipana fearing it’d be the same condition.
While we were contemplating, there was someone very beautiful who’d come to welcome us. Here are some pics of him.
It’d gone 4.30pm and we decided to take our chances and go down coz the Heramitipana Ambalama is very large and well protected compared to all the others. So our chances of finding a tiny place to sleep on were very high so we went down merrily. We reached there under 1hr and to our joy found it in better condition. So we cleared a corner and heated our dinner in one of the abandoned sections of the old Ambalama behind this. Always try to light a fire for cooking out of the Ambalama and if it’s raining, at a corner on a tin sheet (can find many in and around) as we must do our best to protect these shelters for others’ usage.
There was water in the tap off the Ambalama so we had no trouble cleaning up and preparing dinner. However it was very difficult to make it but we managed to have a warm meal inside us and turn in early. All I remember was getting inside the sleeping bag and turning to my left. However I woke up with a start to find a Boeing 747 is getting ready to land on the roof. Well, it felt just like that but in reality it was the rain pelting down so hard on the tin roof. I thought it was the wind but it was only the rain pouring in heavily and both Atha and I stayed up for a while to be sure the roof wouldn’t fall on us. The water started leaking in at a few places but we had no problem from them. So we went back to sleep and didn’t stir till the following morning.
As we woke up, the rains had eased but the mist and the gloominess still hovered about. It was an effort to get out of the sleeping bag but we had to coz we were thinking of going to the summit before getting down. Unfortunately the visibility was so poor we abandoned that thought. Instead made some coffee and decided to wait for some time for the fog to clear. While we were roaming around the Ambalama, we came across a few visitors here and there. I’m sure you’d love them but a squirrel, eating a moth wouldn’t be a pleasant sight, would it? Well that’s exactly what the fellow was doing after catching a yellow moth. Probably they’re so hard up for fruits and decided to improvise or adapt to the harsh environment. So don’t feel disgusted at those cutie ones. Here you go:
After quick breakfast of instant noodles, we were ready to go but the thick fog kept us guessing and we just cleared the area we stayed and made sure the fire was put out properly. Just sitting on the steps, we sort of reminisced our previous journeys to this wonderful place. Around 9.45am, we could no longer put this off so decided to take a chance and start the descent.
The rain had stopped and as we went down the mist cleared. I was worried about crossing the Seetha Gangula due to the heavy rains but as we got there, there was no problem. A doggy followed us from the Heramitipana and we shared our snacks with him. However the camera had to be kept inside the bag until we arrived at the Lihinihela Ambalama where we found a massive wasps’ nest. It was built on a mango tree quite close to the path and we warned a group of pilgrims coming up not to make any noise. Here are some pics of them and surrounding views. We even captured a distant seasonal cascade.
Afterwards, we slowly came down and the sun too decided to poke his lazy head through the clouds. We managed to get down in 4 hours well ahead my estimated 5-6hrs. We washed our faces and walked towards the Palabaddala bus stop but on the way I got this wild idea of visiting Mapalana Ella coz of the sudden rains. Atha hadn’t been to her before so we decided to find a tuk and pay a quick visit to her. More about it after these pictures:
The clouds were gathering towards Rakwana Mountains and slowly on their way towards us. We spoke to one of the tuk-tuk fellows and he agreed to take us back and forth for just Rs. 200/- to visit the falls. Well it was very cheap coz there’s around 2-3km from the Palabaddala Junction to the falls on a somewhat bad road and he even waited for us. So away we went and as we got closer we could get glimpses of this mighty lady’s top parts.
She was looking grandeur and if you remember My Previous Visit to this beautiful lady with Uncle Tony, she was even richer this time around. So our decision to go pay a visit to this lady really was worthwhile. We stopped at the house just before the falls and then took to the path bordering the stream and the tea estate. House owners warned us of slippery rocks and leeches but the huge roar of the waterfall made my heart beat faster and my legs wouldn’t wait another second as they started their brisk walk towards one of the most beautiful ladies in the whole wide world.
Remember, she’s the 4th highest in the whole of Sri Lanka and what a sight it really was. There was this massive body of virgin white water falling from the sky all the way to a rugged base pool of rocky boulders sending millions of droplets bathing the whole surrounding area. I was just speechless and even the leeches crawling up my shins and sucking blood from my veins couldn’t deviate my attention from her.
Ok, here we go with the pictures coz I know how impatient you are to get on with them.
Well guys, hope you liked those views as much as we did. It was simply unbelievable and we just didn’t feel like returning. However we had a bus to catch to Ratnapura so hurried back to Palabaddala around 2.40pm. The next bus was due at 3pm so had a rushed lunch of bread and dhal from a nearby shop and waited for it.
As promised, the bus left Palabaddala on time and we reached Ratnapura by 4.15pm and got lucky to find a Colombo-bound one at 4.30pm. In the end, we were home before 8pm which was more than we could’ve hoped for.
There ends yet another of my Sri Pada journeys and I hope you all enjoyed it despite the lack of pics throughout the journey. Looking back, I feel very happy we decided to go ahead despite the foul weather conditions and the decision we made to bypass the summit was also a very wise thing. It’s true that every journey we make teaches us something very important and this was no exception.
Well this is Sri signing off for now and will see you again with yet another tour.