|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||15-16 Feb, 2014|
|Number of Days||2|
|Crew||4 (Sheham, Athula, Tony and Me) + 2 (Ana and his friend Pritz)|
|Accommodation||Ana’s Nest, Rozella|
|Activities||Hiking, Photography, Waterfall Hunting, Archeology, etc…|
|Route||Dehiwala->Kolonnawa->Avissawella->Rozella by Car.Rozella->Galboda->Watawala on foot.
Rozella->Galboda by Car.
Galboda->Nawalapitiya on foot.
Nawalapitiya->Ginigaththena->Colombo by Car.
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
Hiya folks, hope you’ve been travelling like hell and got some breathing space to listen to another of my fairy tales. I promise I’ll try to make it as short a one as possible but don’t forget the first movie of Sri Lanka was called “Kadawunu Poronduwa” (The Broken Promise).
I’ve been on a rail hike rampage from the last September and done so far 5 stages totaling about 114km. I can’t even imagine doing that much along the rail tracks coz it’s really testing your stamina. Having done that much regardless, I wanted to finish off the remaining distances ASAP while the weather is holding nicely, even though a bit too drier for the farmers who’ve not received their quota of rains during Dec/Jan season this time. It’s so much amazing how someone’s misery turns out to be somebody else’s joy.
It’d been sometime since the two old boys Tony and Atha joined us for a journey. They even missed out on my 50th trip-report journey to Baththalangunduwa. Therefore I was adamant they join us this time no matter what they were doing. Our newest member (of course one of the senior ones at Lakdasun) Ana too was gonna join (He missed out at the last minute due to road construction) and the date was fixed for 15-16 Feb making it easy for all working folks.
However, to my horror, on Thursday we heard the locomotive drivers had gone on strike over some position being cancelled. It was the least we needed coz our plan relied heavily on trains. I was not ready to back out and decided to go ahead hoping against the hope the strike will be called off soon as Friday was a Poya and hundreds and thousands of passengers were stranded. However it was for no avail coz they adamantly refused to call it off and we among many others had to pay for it dearly.
Ana had gone the day before hoping to finalize his work and join with us for the hike. We left around 1.45am on 15th and drove towards Nawalapitiya hoping to leave our vehicle there and take a train up to Galboda and then walk down. Having reached Nawalapitiya around 4.45am and waking the station people to see if the trains are running turned out to be useless. There were only two trains scheduled for the day, one coming around 9.45am and the other in the afternoon about 12.15pm. None of the retired locomotive drivers had reported to work as requested by the government.
There were so many people coming to the station in the wee hours just to get disappointed and turned around. It was so frustrating to see the suffering the average people have to go through due to the clashes between these so-called unions and the government. Nobody seems to care about the very people who pay their wages. They use innocent civilians as bait to gain their benefits. As it wasn’t gonna help our cause so we decided to go to Rozella instead and walk down towards Galboda and catching the second train from Galboda.
1. 26km of Rail Hiking in 2 Stages.
2. 6km of Estate Hiking through Galboda and Watawala Estates.
3. Sri Pada from Rozella.
4. Ambagamuwa Sel Lipiya (Stone Writings)
5. Galboda Falls.
We reached Rozella about 7.30am and met our friendly station master who felt sorry for us. We were familiar people for him and wish us good luck as there were no trains except those two. Not having trains was like the hotel without the dhal curry. We walked along the track towards Ihala Watawala which was about 3km away. To our amazement there was this dog that started following us very casually at the beginning. (He walked with us all the way to Galboda, all 14.9km and then vanished without a trace)
After about an hour of walking we decided to have our breakfast. The usual boiled eggs with tempered onions and potatoes and sliced bread. After that it was all walking along. We reached now closed Ihala Watawala station. Apparently it’s not being used anymore, it could even be temporary. We had no way of finding out. Watawala station wasn’t too far away but without any passengers. They all looked like ghostly to us.
However the stretch up to Watawala is running parallel with the Avissawella-Hatton main road, thus not very scenic. Also there’s very little Atha in the meantime came across a barking deer on the way as well. Then we reached a place with a Budu Medura and a small building where a few people were working. They thought we were reporters initially and showed us that it was the place where an M6 engine had been buried due to an earth slide long ago, if I’m not mistaken 1992. The Railway Department had had to remake the railway line about 50ft away from the previous one as a result. Thankfully no one had died of the incident and they’d removed the engine after about 4 months underground. To our surprise that engine is still running.
After that, we were more or less in the thick jungle either side bordered with 100-foot trees providing much needed shelter. Lime and Mint drink with plenty of water kept us sane and kicking. We noticed a few derailed goods carriages too. They were solid cast iron 13t ones just lying there without being recovered, rusting away. Little later we heard a faint but deep noise marking the first of the trains coming from Colombo (5.55am Podi Menike). Surprisingly she wasn’t full, mainly foreigners enjoying the breathtaking sceneries of the upcountry.
Just so you know, there are no tunnels from Rozella to Galboda (actually from Hatton) but there are two back to back tunnels (No. 12 and 13) just a km away from Galboda Station towards Nawalapitiya which we saw the next day. The next train, according to the stations and linesmen, was due at 2.15 from Galboda but we got it wrong as it passed us just as we were coming to Galboda around 1.20pm. Very costly miss considering the fact that we had to walk another 6+km to reach Watawala via Galboda and Watawala Plantations.
We reached Galboda about 1.45am, feeling hungry and disappointed of missing the train. There were station workers enjoying their lunch packets on the benches coz it was so isolated. They even offered us some of their lunch but we politely declined and then they pointed us to a shop at the end of the platform owned by Ananda, one of the workers at the Station itself. The shop served all kinds of food from rice & curry, string hoppers, hoppers, thosai to all the sweets such as kevum and bananas as well for a very nominal fee.
After a hearty meal, we checked the train times but nothing was definite so decided to take another walk along according to locals, a short cut that takes us to Watawala Station. It turned out to be about 6km in total (so much for a short cut) and by the time we reached Watawala it was about 5.00pm. Fortunately there was this mini cab and when inquired he (Sudheera) agreed to take us to Rozella Station for 800/-. He seemed a very nice guy and you can contact him in case you decide to go to Sri Pada from Watawala or Hatton.
Note: I just wondered, having seen plenty of abandoned wagons at practically every station, why the railway authorities (at least the respective stations) don’t rent them out to travelers. They can park a couple of abandoned wagons and clean them and rent out to those who wanna crash in for a night cap. It’ll give them a substantial income right throughout the year while giving extra jobs as well. I’m pretty sure there’ll be a huge demand from the public for these especially at places like Nanu Oya, B’Wela, Haputale, Ohiya, Ambewela, Pattipola, etc…
Having reached Rozella station around 5.30pm and went uphill with Ana for our holiday home which is one of the best I’ve been. Located in one of the best places in SL with an endless view of Sri Pada 24/7. Just looking at the Udamaluwa from there made all the troubles vanished into thin air. We got changed and had a very cold bath while our hosts got things ready for one of the best BBQs I’ve ever tasted.
Jacket Potatoes with melting cheese in the middle (first time I ever had jacket potatoes. So far I had thought it was some kinda winter cloth). It was wrapped in aluminum foil and grill over the oven. They were so delicious, just melting in my mouth with that cheesy blast in the middle giving you punchy flavors of salt and pepper. Grilled sliced bread with garlic spread adding that mouthwatering flavors. It was just the starters, soon the grilled chicken and fish followed with hot but luscious BBQ sauce. They had been done to perfectly, very tender and chewy. To top them off, there was this garden fresh salad which is called Wild Salad of different veggies and herbs, especially coriander leaves. That was all we needed to satisfy our greedy tummies and after that sumptuous meal, we were ready to hit the sack.
It was not so cold and we jumped into our cozy beds, heaved a sigh of relief and wrapped ourselves and let the sleep envelope our bodies. Gosh, what a day! It was so grand and was looking forward to the next one.
Just getting out of my sleep to see everyone else was up and deep in their reveries. Just looking out of the glass and saw the lighted path of Hatton to the majestic Sri Pada. I virtually jumped outta bed and ran out with the camera. The household was coming to life coz we all had planned an early start. The surrounding was so cool and the fresh mountain air kept me fully awake and invigorated. In the distance, sacred Sri Pada Mountain was clearly visible with a string of pearls hanging from the top. I felt so lucky to witness all this unfolding right before my eyes.
The whole area was bathed in the Navam Full Moon; the sky had its jeweled coat on with hundreds of glinting stars in various sizes. I felt as if I was in wonderland. The faint moonlight highlighting the tip of the Sri Pada while the lights along the path made a nice pattern as if laid with shining pearls. The sun was ever so slowly creeping from his sleep making a faint glow in the horizon. Wow, just couldn’t believe my eyes. I managed to take a few pics while savoring this moment. It’s something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.
Atha brought a nice steaming cup of coffee to me and we had to hurry. Our plan was to drive up to Galboda and return on the 12.15pm Udarata Menike from Nawalapitiya. After a super meal of mixed grams we decided to walk along the Bin Oya Division of Carolina Estate to the Rozella Station. The lush green tea plantation was stunning in the morning sun and Sri Pada was straight ahead us giving us panoramic view of the whole area. We were practically walking through heaven. I managed to convince Tony to do a short documentary and you can check it below.
We reached downhill and took the car from where it was parked at Rozella Temple (just at the station). The monk there was very helpful and said the history of the temple runs 130 years back. He’s also a keen traveler and was fascinated by our tales. We then reached Ginigathena where the Nawalapitiya turn off is (it’s 13km from Ginigathena to Nawalapitiya, the road is in very good condition). Along the Nawalapitiya road we travelled passing Ambagamuwa. Just hearing the name clicked something in my mind and all of a sudden got it, the Ambagamuwa Sellipiya (Stone Writings).
It’s kinda in the middle between Ginigathena and N’Pitiya. The village is also called Sellipigama, must be due to the famous stone writings. It’s very easy to find about 400-500m from the main road and easily accessible by vehicle (Not Viking buses). Unfortunately the place is not preserved enough. The notice board is peeling away with it all the important details. There are two large rocks with plenty of writings on it. It’s the best of stone writings I’ve seen so far yet it’s on the verge of fading away. Apparently the archeological department has translated what’s in it and neglected to take proper care of them. We also felt that they should’ve displayed the full translation of the writings.
Apparently people have walked along the rocky surface where the writings are. Some have used sand to make out the writings. If they had put an iron railing around it with a raised platform along the edge, it’d save these precious writings for a long time. I’ve put down the summary of it below. (According to the peeling away notice at the complex). This is done by the King Vijayabahu I in the 11th century.
“He’s built alms halls and resting places from Rajarata till Sri Pada at every Gawwa to cater for the Maha Sangha and the public. This further states what procedures to follow to maintain these by the ministers and people.”
Afterwards we went to Nawalapitiya and turn towards the Hospital Road (just remember the town center is bit complicated to go around due to one-ways). Then passing the huge Jayathilaka playground, turned towards Mapakanda Road that leads to Galboda Station. About halfway down, Tony noticed the Sudugala Falls and we stopped for a quick pic which turned out to be about an hour. It’s the Kanda Oya that makes this falls and in the end joins Mahaweli River. Unfortunately due to the drastic drought, the water levels were very low. To make matters worse they’d built a dam on top of the falls too. They were building a hotel near this and we got permission to get closer. They even have built a nice summer hut pretty close to the base pool.
Got back into our car and continued towards Galboda. The last bit of the road is (about 1-1.5km) is in very bad shape. Will be difficult by car but there’s another tarred road (we missed that) so be sure to look for it in case you’re travelling in a car. We met the friendly shop owners at the station and enjoyed a ginger plain tea. We had no plans to visit the Galboda falls but just wanted to take a look as they said it’s only a very short walk. Unfortunately it turned out to be a somewhat longer one (you know how they measure the distance). We reached the Galboda falls through the estate having to pay Rs. 20/- each. Just on cue there was Podi Menike coming to Galboda.
The trek is about 1-2km long through a gravel path which is in very bad shape. According to Ananda at Galboda shop, there are two power houses that feeds by the Galboda falls, so if there’s no rain, no much water. Reaching Galboda falls made me wanna cry coz she was nothing but two tiny lines of water on either side and in the middle the bare rock. Atha said, she’d look like Aberdeen when in full flow and I agreed.
After about half hour of taking pics of mainly the rock, we decided to head back to the rail track to continue our rail hike. It was when Sheham announced that his feet are in too bad a shape and couldn’t continue. He said he’d take the car to Nawalapitiya and wait there for us. It was also very appealing coz we had no idea as to how to come back to Galboda. It’d’ve wasted so much time too. Therefore we let Sheham go but not before he got a taste of the nearby tunnel No. 13. However, he just missed the best part of the hike. Coz just after No. 13, there was a rail bridge and No. 12 next to that, after that another bridge.
It was Tunnel-bridge-tunnel-bridge scenario. What a super view it offered coz looking through the tunnel no. 13, we could see the bridge and beyond that the entrance to the tunnel no. 12. This was the best of the whole journey and underneath the first bridge we saw one of the huge pipelines (about 3ft in diameter) carrying water downhill from Galboda Falls. Passing these two tunnels and bridges we continued till Penrose station. Just in front of it is a shop and decided to have snack there.
Having ordered some soft drinks, we kept munching on biscuits. It was well into lunch time and I felt like rice and curry. So I very mischievously asked the lady in the shop if she had any left over rice and curry that we can eat. She first thought I was kidding but having heard our story of rail hiking, asked if we’d like to have a packet of rice. She must’ve felt very sorry for us. The same thing happened during our first ever rail hike (You can read it here: Rail Hike Stage 01…) when we stopped at a shop after 9-arch bridge. But Tony and Atha playing the nice gentlemen declined that offer amid heavy protests from me.
However, her daughter, having been listening to all our conversation, called her mother in and whispered something we couldn’t hear. Then she came out and asked if we’d have Bread with Polos Curry. That was the magic word, Polos and I jumped in before Tony and Atha got a word in edgeways. And she brought delicious looking polos curry and sliced a whole loaf. The daughter served us with plates and water. We enjoyed the meal to the max. That curry was very tasty and she refused to charge us for it. They sold bananas for just Rs. 5/- each (in Colombo, one would’ve cost at least Rs. 15/-).
Tony insisted that I take a pic of him with the shop owner and Atha too wanted to join. I had no choice but to take it. So saying our thanks to her and the daughter, we went ahead towards Inguru Oya. The journey afterwards was pretty much uneventful except for the fact that we enjoyed every second of it. Sheham kept checking if we were close by and had decided to walk from Nawalapitiya uphill despite his foot.
Just before the Hydonford Station, we noticed the dam of Sudugala Falls. It’s pretty big built across the Kanda Oya and our intention of getting to the top was vanished when we saw a bunch of drunkards singing from the top of their voices. We reached the railway crossing of Mapakanda Road where Sheham was impatiently waiting. We walked back the rest of the journey crossing the mighty bridge across Mahaweli River. The water levels were very low yet people were bathing.
We got into the car drove off happily after yet another amazing experience. It was so nice to have been there.
Well folks, thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed it. There ends another episode of my fairy tales and rail hikes.
Take care and keep travelling.
Here’s the collection of Panos I always take during my journeys.