|Copyright Notice: Please obtain permission from the author before duplicating, re-publishing or adapting content of a trip report|
|Be a responsible traveler! Watch this video before you hit the road! Download Video: MP4|3gp|
|Do you like to contribute a Trip Report? learn how to or download template and start straight away!|
|Year and Month||July, 2012|
|Number of Days||4 Days|
|Accommodation||Under the stars!
|Transport||Public Transport and other methods|
|Activities||Walking across Kumana and Yala with Pilgrims|
|Weather||clear sky and extremely dry|
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
This year was the best period for me to do the well-known “Paada Yathra” because I currently reside in Moneragala. Actually even before I thought of walking with the pilgrims this year my friends did ask me to join them and the answer was YES SURE (with a big smile). This was something I wanted to do for some time but free time was the major problem. Thanks to the long discussions in lakdasun and talking hours with people who had experienced this walk first hand, we were ready to walk the distance with the pilgrims and experience something that is worth a million. I would like to take this adventure as a walk with the pilgrims rather than a hike because we are a minority who took an advantage of this special circumstance.
On the First day three of us were planning to visit Kudumbigala and stay the night at Okanda but since I was the nearest person out of the crew I arrived at potuvil at around 9am and decided to visit Sashtrawala Maninaga Pabbatha Viharaya which is located about 11Km from Potuvil towards Panama and close to the Heda Oya moya kata. One needs to get down at Sashtrawala STF camp and proceed 500m to reach the premises. After getting permission from the head priest I followed a clear cut path towards the main cave which is quite huge, it also had few paintings which were destroyed. There were few monoliths scattered around the cave too.. It’s said that there are about 24 caves all together; there were ruins close to the cave suggesting that there was an “Akasha chaiththya” once. And when you get to this place don’t forget to enjoy the view towards the sea which is simply stunning. At the temple premises there is a huge dhageba and an inscription which I found fascinating. After hanging around a bit I returned back and waited till my other two friends arrived in a trishaw which they have hired to Panama.
After reaching Panama we wanted to have some rice as lunch but rice packets were not available, so after having some snacks we got in to a Wild life cab which was going towards Okanda and got down at Kudumbigala junction. From here onwards it was roughly around 2Km’s towards the temple premises. After reaching the temple we had a small break and proceeded towards the monastery. We first went in the direction of the “Madya Mandalaya” and observed many ruins and an unusual shape Dhageba also. We had to keep silent all the time because there were about 12 Buddhist priest meditating in the vicinity. The rock where the Kudumbigala sthups is located resembles a sleeping Budhdha statue if you closely observe. We returned back to the “Rock cave with the inscription and started to climb up the “Balum Gala” which was quite challenging because of the windy conditions. There are two sthupas on the top of the panoramic balum gala and one can simply visualize Maragalakanda, Deegal hela, West minister abbey, Wadinagala and Okanda devalaya in distance. Taking snaps was a very difficult task because of the wind. We returned back to the temple premises where we met a crew who were cooking for the “Dansel” at Bagure and kubukkan oya, so we were lucky enough to enjoy a hot plate of rice to wash away our tiredness.
We walked back towards the main road and got in to a navy cab and reached Okanda devalaya. And after unloading our stuff at the medical camp we proceeded towards the Okanda bay to enjoy the evening sun set. We didn’t forget to visit the “ran oruwa gala” where we lied down and enjoyed the sun set before getting back to the kovil premises, where we had a bath from the “Andiya Wells” and refreshed ourselves. After enjoying a meal of “roti” from the army canteen (you can charge you equipment from this place) we decided to visit some shops and spend some time before we ended our day prior to the great walk.
Next day early morning we woke up and packed up our stuff. And after meeting our fourth member who came from Colombo we preceded towards the Okanda bay to enjoy the sun rise. And it was simply fascinating as expected. We had some ‘Elawalu roti” as breakfast and parceled some for lunch also, since we were not planning to cook. When we entered the Kumana Park it was around 7.15am (bit late) and we were greeted by some YZA members who were doing a pretty good job by collecting polethene bags and etc from Pilgrims and handing each one cloth bags instead. After enjoying few crocs in the nearby tank we continued our journey along the jeep track. On the way to Bagure few of our members collected Polethene and other non-degradable stuff along the road. All of us carried a bottle of jeewani (in addition to the water bottles) which we decide to sip frequently until we got used to these dry conditions and thereafter if needed. Just after passing the Giant hearth we had a long stop to finish off a bunch of “Gadu Gudang” which was very tasty.
Our next stop was Bagure Kalapuwa where we hanged around for few hours lying in muddy water and sleeping under a shady tree alternatively to pass time, after having some Dansal rice served in to a ‘nelum kole’ and refilling our bottles from a water tank it was time to walk the remaining distance of 12km out of 22km’s. On the way we passed Kotalindawala marshy lake, dried out Andara Kalapuwa, Itikala kalapuwa, Yakkala kalapuwa and finally Kumana Villuwa. The pilgrims have created short cuts through the dried out lakes and Kalapuwas so following their path would have reduced few kilometers. We continued to follow them throughout the journey to cut off some distance. We decide to have a break at Kumana Villuwa which was a splendid bird paradise where we spotted hundreds of Pelicans and stalks. Just after passing the villuwa we came across some wild buffaloes that were not happy to see us but we were travelling far away from them. Finally we reached Kubukkan oya which was shaded nicely with huge Kubukkan trees and at that time there were about 1500 pilgrims I guess. After worshiping Kuda Kebaliththa devalaya we decided to cross the river and spend the night on the opposite bank rather than getting our selves wet early morning. Since the Moya Kata was blocked the water levels were just above our lower chest. After having a refreshing bath we decided to camp near the military canteen since these guys were very friendly and helpful. And guess what our dinner was Roti again. The major problem we faced was mosquitoes but our mosquito repellant lotion did the magic which was requested.
On Day 2 of “Paada yathra” we got up at 5am and decided to leave early as possible because we had about 30km’s to walk in extreme desert like conditions. After buying some mineral water bottles we joined the pilgrims and walked with them for about 1 hour across Yala Block 2. On the way we passed Keulwela eliya, Halpangoda Eliya & Ettarakke Eliya to reach Karmbe aru where we had to cross and take our breakfast (Bread and seeni sombol/jam) at Uda gajaba Eliya. One of our group member was fluent in Tamil so we had few conversations with pilgrims in addition to them we also did meet some young Budhdhist (girls & boys) devotees from Potuvil. The part we passed was simply like a desert and there were thorns everywhere and I was unlucky enough to step on one of those, sigh!
After breakfast we continued with some “swamis” with whom we had some frequent chats about their life stories. We reached a forest patch where we came across few foot prints of bears and Leopards and we actually saw to jackals that vanished in to the bushes even before we pulled out the cameras. Just before Ethiliwela eliya few pilgrims who walked in front of us were screaming “Haro Hara” towards the jungle, when we inquired they said there were two ”Karandi” (Bears) in the vicinity and they chased them in to the forest. Next stop was Pahala Pothana Lewaya where we decided to have a dip in the muddy water . While walking some of our members didn’t forget to have some “On the go” too. After travelling about 1Km from the “lewaya” we reached Navaladi camping site (14Km’s from Kubukkan oya) where there were about 1000 Pilgrims at that time. After having some roti from the Navy canteen we decided to have a small rest until about 1 p.m.
Just before we left Navaladi I decided to pour a bucket of water to wet myself and make a cooling system on my own. Since we had 16 more Km’s to walk we decided to have some Energy drink which one of our members had brought. We walked very fast passing few water tanks (spaced 4km’s a part) until we decided to have a rest. During this session we only had to cross Uda Pothana lewaya and most of the time we were walking along the sandy jeep track which was extremely difficult to tackle if you were wearing slippers. After the effect of the energy drink wearied off we were feeling exhausted, so had to take some pit stops frequently thereafter. When we reached Pilinnawa Eliya it was almost 4pm and some pilgrims had decided to camp at this site which was a vast open area but we decided to proceed through the last forest patch to reach Katupilu aru.
We had heard that crossing this stream is extremely tricky but fortunately the military guys had put up an “Edanda” to easily cross over and once crossed over there was a canteen put up by them. We only noted few herds of wild buffaloes in the area and we weren’t lucky to spot one elephant even. The path (Yalawela) taken during the Next 3 Km’s towards Menik Ganga wasn’t clear cut, so if it’s getting dark it’s better not to pass katupilu aru. Throughout the whole journey across dried out lakes and Kalapuwas the breeze was blowing in the opposite direction to us and was a great disadvantage, but it helped in my cooling system (something positive). We reached menik Ganga at around 5pm where we passed the military canteen and proceeded up stream to find a place which is less crowded and somewhere at the center of the river which was peaceful but safe. After having along dip we had some bread and roti as dinner and later we slept like sleeping beauties under the stars on a sandy mattress.
Day 3 of “Paada Yathra” our plan was to get to Kataragama or Sithul Pawuwa, so we started to walk along the jeep track towards Warahana(8Km) along the bank of Menik ganga, the walk was not an easy one even though been shadowed by giant kumbuk trees simply because there were to many pilgrims. We met some Buddhist pilgrims who we met on the previous day and they have started there walk from Menik Ganga and planned to finish off at Kataraghama by foot. After reaching Warahana we had some roti again from a canteen and had some Beli mal from a dansala before crossing the Warahana Bridge to entre Yala block 3. Until Katagamuwa(7km from warahana) the track was along the jeep road and there were few vehicles going towards Block one which travelled in speeds which is unacceptable and the poor devotees had to suffer the artificial dust storms formed by these idiotic drivers. On the way we were offered “Habala Pethi” and etc, from devotees who were singing songs and playing min drums along the way. just before reaching the Katagamuwa camp entrance we saw the Pilgrims from Gampaha district(the ones who started the walk from menik ganga) going on a bowser towards kataragama(they were experiencing a new type of Paada yathrawa). At Katagamuwa camp (7km from warahana) there was a big canteen with lot of chilly stuff if you wish to refresh yourself.
From Katagamuwa camp towards the Yala park entrance (6Km from Katagamuwa camp) and beyond its really difficult to travel because of the number of vehicles using this road to reach Sithul Pawuwa is high. We took the short cut over katagamuwa lake to reduce few km’s where we came across an ice cream cone seller who was selling cones illegally in the park never the less we bought some ice cream cones and walked towards kataragama. We were registered at Bodhiraja viharaya police post after passing Kochchipathana shrine. There was a massive bath dansal at that point which we were drawn towards it like magnets. The walk along the tarred road was another unique experience because we were in an elated mood after almost completing such a wonderful journey. With no time we were at Katraragama where we had a dip at Menik Ganga and changed in to a new set of clothes before we went on to worship Kiri Vehera and the Devalaya.
Two of us decided to leave on the same day while other two left on the next day towards their destinations happily. Actually this was a fantastic experience which we all will remember for many years to come and I would not hesitate to do this again, may be in the opposite direction if possible.
Some changes I though worth mentioning here is the canteens which were at Okanda, Kubukkan Oya, Navaladi, Katupilu aru, Menik ganga, Warahana & Katagamuwa. Regarding water there were water tanks spaced at least 6Km a part (especially between kubukkan oya and menik Ganga) which is drinkable but don’t rely on any of these because if they won’t put up any next year you will be in deep trouble. Regarding phone signals, dialog is the best but there are no mobile signals between Kubukkan oya and Menik Ganga accept hutch signals at Navaladi camp site. We came across bath dansals at Okanda, Bagure, Kubukkan oya , water dansal at Pilinnawa eliya, beli mal and noodles dansal at Warahana, other types of dansal at Katagamuwa, Kochchipathana & Kataragama. And at last Please remember don’t take this occasion as a chance to have fun, respect the pilgrims, be friendly with all other travellers and lastly enjoy the walk…
In addition to this experience, I got some wonderful opportunities to treat the Pilgrims who completed the Paada yathra at the Medical camp held at Kataragama on following days, which I thoroughly enjoyed a lot. Hope this guide will be a useful update. Cheers!