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|Year and Month||7-8 May 2016|
|Number of Days||2|
|Crew||Ana, Hasitha, Athula, Prasa and Me|
|Accommodation||Friend’s Place, Badulla|
|Transport||By SUV & on Foot|
|Activities||Hiking, Photography, Cleaning Project, Relaxing, etc…|
|Weather||Excellent but some showers in the late afternoon on the first day.|
|Route||Malabe->Avissawella->Kumbalwela Junction->Ella->Kital Ella->Ella Rock.
Kital Ella->Badulla->3rd Mile Post on Passara Road->Glen Alpin Estate Road->Diyanagala or Deyyangalla->Namunukula and back on the same route.
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
Hello my friends, so how’s it going? The downpours have arrived at last, haven’t they? So my hopes of camping have shattered like eggs dropped on a rocky surface. So I had to adapt to the change of weather, well it’s so difficult to predict now thanks to the continuous abusing of the Mother Nature in the name of development, and find a way of doing something. That was when we finalized on Namunukula coupled with Ella Rock.
At the time of writing this article, the whole country was being hammered left and right with downpours due to a low pressure situation in the Bay of Bengal. This was a complete turnaround from the drought we suffered in April. We don’t anymore have the nice and mixed weather patterns which we used to experience. Instead, it’s either heavy rains or severe drought and nothing in between. Ok, let’s move on with the story.
We fixed the dates for early May (7 & 8) and unlike our usual 3-day journeys; this had to be cut short into two due to our members’ work related issues. Travelling to and back from Badulla after a relatively moderate hikes is very challenging, especially for the driver. However Ana was up to the challenge so we passengers happily consented and got ready for the journey.
We came across Kasun’s Report on the cleaning of Namunukula and Ana apparently had made up his mind on doing something similar as he’d communicated with one of his friends who had involved in the project and got the information. Unlike the previous group who had not prepared for the extreme littering and had only managed to carry the garbage and polythene items, Ana had collected two thick fertilizer bags which were ideal for most of the hardy stuff. In addition to those he’d also got some long sticks to carry the heavy bags easily downhill on the shoulders of two people like how they sell fish in those containers with a pole attached.
We were ready and left for Badulla at 2am, an hour earlier than usual, to compensate for the long journey. Our plan was to reach Kital Ella by 7am in order to start the hike to Ella Rock before the sun got vicious and finish the journey before the rains got mad. As planned we made very good ground and after a couple of pit stops, arrived at Kital Ella just before 7am.
- Ella Rock, Kital Ella.
- Namunukula Mountain.
- Cleaning Efforts at Namunukula.
Ella Rock is more popular among foreigners than locals, I can safely say. Almost all the foreigners who visit Sri Lanka go to Ella (they pronounce it as Ela rather than Ella with double Ls). It’s said that Ella is among the three mostly visited places in Sri Lanka by the foreigners after Dalada Maligawa and Pinnawala. Climbing Ella Rock was (before our journey) said to be a relatively easier task and there was no guide needed. So we too decided to attempt it without a guide. I don’t usually like to do any hike without a guide as the pros always outweigh the cons of having a guide even though we have to pay him some money. I believe it is money well-spent as those people who guide us will learn to protect those environmental treasures instead of trying to make easy money by destroying them.
Now to find the correct trail to the Ella Rock. Please follow this and you’re not going to miss your way. Walk past Kital Ella Station (when coming from Ella) and continue for about 300m until you find a road to your left hand side. It’s not quite prominent when coming along the railway line so keep an eye out for it. It’s just a gravel (rather earth) road and take it and after a 50-100 meters it’ll cross the stream that feeds the Ravana Ella (not the Bambaragama Ella found on Ella-Wellawaya Road) with a concrete bridge. You can of course see the Ravana Ella when coming from Ella towards Kital Ella. Now just follow this road all the way to the summit. Fairly straight forward, isn’t it? It’s about 2-3km moderate hike to the Ella Rock.
There is another path which is quite confusing and that was what we took. It’s just before the Kital Ella Station when coming from Ella. You’ll see a railway bridge and just after it is a Bo Tree and take the tiny footpath to the left and follow the stream for about 50m until you reach a concrete bridge (identical one is found on the other path too) across the stream that feeds Ravana Ella. Actually this is the top of Ravana Ella and if you get down to the rocky surface (of course on a nice and dry day) you will be at the top of Ravana Ella. Then follow the trail straight on and you’ll soon be walking at the edge of the ridge that connects to the Ella Rock Range. To your left you can see Ella, Ella-Wellawaya Road, etc. In addition to them, you can see Punchi Sri Pada (Little Adams Peak) and beyond that towering above Namunukula. It’s longer than the other path and will run through a Mana Patch and then a tea patch. It’ll then merge to the main trail with a shop and simply follow it to the summit.
Of course, you can always ask the path from the locals and clarify. There are always people lurking around the Kital Ella Station waiting for foreigners to take them to the Ella Rock so if you’re really desperate to have some help, maybe you can get one of them to take you to the summit. Anyway there are many articles on Lakdasun which would help you with the directions.
So, let’s back to the story at hand, shall we? We stopped at a shop on Ella-Kital Ella Road at the turn off to the station. The shop owner kindly allowed us to leave the vehicle in his land. We walked downhill along a concrete-paved road towards the station. It’s almost a km to the station. As we reached the station, Udarata Menike was coming to Kital Ella bound for Colombo. Wanna see a couple of pics of her?
We took the path closer to the Bo Tree and arrived at the bridge and then as we walked along the path there was a foreign couple ahead of us. Then appeared one of the locals and he directed us to a path that goes to the right uphill saying it’d be shorter and easier and chased after the foreigners. Well, I don’t understand why he simply didn’t ask us to follow him. Probably he wanted to hitch those foreigners and feared we might jeopardize his plans. The path he showed and we faithfully took led us into a thickly overgrown Mana area and we decided to retrace our steps and follow the original path we intended taking.
This led along the ridge and we got some beautiful views and followed it through the Mana patch and then entered the tea estate until we came to the junction with a shop where it merges with the original trail. There we decided to take a break and have our breakfast. The shop was still not open so we sat inside and enjoyed sandwiches. Here are some pics while we eat.
We continued the journey now turning to the left. It was a straight forward journey from there. The terrain more or less resembled that of Kalthota Doovili Ella and Upper Diyaluma Ella area with those unusual rock formations and unique trees. After a short hike we reached a point with a view of Punchi Sri Pada, Namunukula and Ella Rock. It was a really nice place with panoramic views. Well, here are some pictures up to that point while we enjoy ourselves.
It really was a heavenly place with the path bordered by those beautiful trees. I felt like staying there some more but we were pressed for time and already a couple of groups of foreigners (mind you not a single local group except of course for the guides) went past us. Their ultimate goal was to reach the top not to spend time admiring these breath-taking views. Afterwards we entered a turpentine forest with ramrod straight trees going up to meet the precious sun rays.
You will find a stream where you can fill in the water bottles but wonder how it would be like on dry season though. Always good to take from where you start the trail as these sort of water sources are very unreliable. This was a very steep hike, the most difficult in the whole journey but it’s only about 600-700m so you won’t have a back-breaking task.
We climbed up to a flat area where the trial meets up with a wide road that runs across from left to right. I guess this had been a Jeep track in the past used by the Forest Department or estates. There’s another trail that can be used to climb to the summit via Heeloya and I believe this wide Jeep track is the one that comes from there. From here it’s a nice cozy walk to the first observation point about 200m away.
As soon as we arrived there, there was a group of foreigners enjoying the scenery. You could see the Punchi Sri Pada right in front of you almost at the same level as Ella Rock. Above it was Namunukula towering like a giant protecting the Badulla district. Below was the Ella-Wellawaya Road snaking among the lush greenery. To the left was Ella Station and we saw the Podi Menike going towards Kital Ella showing off her sky blue colours. Meanwhile Jine mama was boiling water and selling king coconuts to the foreigners. We too ordered plain tea and the one he gave had lemon grass and ginger in it which gave it a punchy taste and it was quite tasty. It’s something you should try at home if possible. You gotta use the roots of the lemon grass just like ginger and make the plain tea. Well, while we’re having it, enjoy some of it.
The second observation point is about another 200m away which is less than 10-minute walk, not a hike, as it is a walk across the summit. Feeling refreshed we walked across and entered the wooded area of turpentine trees which were growing taller and taller in search of the precious sunlight. This is where most people seem to use for camping. It’s a beautiful location and we savored the shade and the cool breeze. After a short walk, we found a stream which can be used if you’re camping on the top. However, as the stream runs through fallen and dead leaves, it’d still be a good idea to boil and drink it.
However, it might also go dry during the dry season. We then reached the observation point with a Buddha Statue kept in a rocky shelter. From here you can see the extreme top of the Bambaragama Ella or Ravana Lower Falls. You could also see the bridge where she crosses Ella-Wellawaya Road with numerous shops. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery but the sun was getting too much to bear. So we retraced our steps and started the return journey. On the way back, we stopped to bid our farewell to Jine mama and started our descent.
We stopped at the same view point and took some time to enjoy the panoramic views. The breeze was simply hypnotizing and all we wanted was to close our eyes and go to sleep. On our way down we met a group of local boys who were probably going up there for camping. They were the only other locals apart from us which shows the less interest among the locals to climb Ella Rock. In a way it’s a good thing coz this area will remain unpolluted and unmolested as a result.
We arrived back at the Kital Ella (this time we used the proper path) and got back to our vehicle around 12 noon.
We arrived in Badulla and stopped at Ja Ela Kade for lunch. It’s closer to the roundabout at Muthiyangana RMV, if I’m not mistaken it’s the Cocowatte Road that connects to the Bank Road. A nice place to have lunch and there’s another shop cum bakers (on the same side, the other one) that serves fried rice, noodles and some very delicious buns. Afterwards we drove to our lodgings and settled down for the day. The rain came as if on cue which allowed us to have a nap in the evening.
We then got up, went out for dinner came back and slept again. Badulu Oya was flowing closer to where we stayed and we could see her downhill journey in the twilight. The rains helped bring down the scorching temperatures to bearable levels. Our next move was to get up around 4.30am and leave for Namunukula around 5am. As we were coming to Colombo on the same day, we had to make every minute count so as not to get too late. So we’ll see you in the morning and keeping our fingers crossed the rains will stay away until we’re done.
Good morning everyone and hope you’re ready for the hike. We can hear the Badulu Oya making noises after getting fat in the rains. However, very little time to enjoy her beauty coz it’s still dark and we gotta cover the distance to the trail head as soon as we can so that the hike won’t take long and we could hopefully finish it before noon and be on our way.
We left Badulla and took the Passara Road until the 3rd Mile Post. You’d not find a post but the address on the shops around say it’s the 3rd Mile Post. Then you’ll find a turn to the right with an estate board saying it’s the Glen Alpin Estate (Balangoda Plantation). Take this road and you’d soon reach the factory, well not so soon. At the factory take the left uphill road until you come to a Y junction. Take the left uphill road once again and it’ll lead to the last line houses at the end of the estate. The village is known as Diyanagala.
I’ve given the time table of the bus that operates between Badulla and Diyanagala so that you could use it as it’d save a lot of money to hire a tuk-tuk. The sun was still coming up slowly when we reached the village and time was 6am. The bus driver and conductor were just getting ready and we drove past the village (the last house) for another 1km or so until the end of the road where there’s a shed built to collect the tea leaves. Remember, we were not aware of the exact point to enter the trail after the village. So I’m telling you the way we took it and later on will tell you how to find the correct trail. However the one we took is also a very nice one and would reduce the length you have to walk through the forest in half.
Oh before we go any further, a word on the road condition up to this point from the 3rd Mile Post. It’s largely in the good side and even a low clearance car such as a Hybrid can do. However there are patches especially towards the last bit which can be tricky. I’d not advise you take a very low clearance vehicle as it could be problematic, especially after the heavy rains recently. As we went in a double cab, we didn’t feel much discomfort however there were quite a few tricky areas. And the other thing is the road is very narrow so if you’re going, try to avoid meeting the bus (you can roughly estimate the time using the time table).
We reached the shed I mentioned earlier and stopped the vehicle. There’s ample space to turn and park as it’s the end of the road and where the lorry which comes to collect tea leaves stop thus the shed. We walked through the shed and found a very prominent footpath. Assuming this was the proper path we happily walked on. To our left was the tea patch as far as the top of the hill and there was a tree line along the range. We passed a forest patch in the middle of the tea estate and walked further on. To our right, we saw panoramic views of the morning. There was a thin veil of mist over Badulla town and beyond that we could see as far as Knuckles, Haggala, Piduruthalagala, Ambewela, HP, KGP, etc.
Taking in the beauty unfolding us we kept walking. The tea patch was at an angle to our left (almost 70-degree) and a ravine to our right. We could see the Diyanagala village we drove through and other villages located below. The footpath in total is almost 1km and it goes in a horseshoe shape from left to right. We walked till the end of it where it disappears into the forest where tea estate meets with it and knew we were hopelessly lost.
Then Ana called Priyanjan and explained our position. If you have read Namunukula reports, you’d know that none of them had mentioned about the shed. If there was, I missed reading them. We saw the steep tea patch and on Priyanjan’s instructions we retraced our steps along the footpath about half way and found a path that goes uphill in a zig-zag pattern through the tea patch to the top where the forest is. You can easily find the trail head as it starts closer to a huge rocky boulder (see the pictures) to your left when coming from the shed. The distance from the shed is about 300m.
From here it’s pretty straight forward until you reach the top of the tea estate where it meets the tree line. The distance is about 1-1.5km (as it’s a zig-zag one) and despite the steep slope, we didn’t even feel it until we arrived at the tree line having wasted more than an hour looking for the correct trail. All the way up the sun was behind Namunukula Range and we were sheltered from his rays and the breeze coming from the open area below was very soothing to the body. We soon reached the tree line and took our position. It was apparent that there was a path running parallel to the tree line at the edge of the tea estate. If we were to follow it downhill for about 800m, we’d have met the shrine and entrance to the proper trail. But we didn’t know about it so did something else. Check out these pics before that.
We had our breakfast (if you can call a double cream bun each breakfast) there and contemplated our options. We chose an opening into the forest from where we were and climbed up through the dense forest patch. After a very short distance, not more than 10m I’d think, we came across a path which ran across from left to right. Very much similar to the one we found at Ella Rock but not as wide or prominent. We decided to go left and it was the correct move. Soon we found (100m or so) an opening where we saw remains of a fire to signal we were on a path which had previously been used.
Feeling light hearted we took a break and got ready with the fertilizer bags and hand glouses to start collecting the garbage while doing the hike. We walked across and another 100-200m arrived at a small opening with a clear footpath that goes uphill to the right and downhill to the left. This is the correct one which comes from the shrine. It’s easy to identify as some group had left white cardboard arrows at places (we found one here) and also there were concrete pillars (about 3ft in height, which you normally use to fence lands with those metal cables) at every 100m or so. These were probably erected by those who did the surveying of this area and we found evidence near the shrine on our way back.
So from here, it’s pretty straight forward. Go uphill until you reach the first summit point cum camp site. The distance was only about 1km and it was a gradual climb, not so steep. We found polythene wrappers but not much probably because another group had done some cleaning but our worst nightmare was still waiting patiently at the two camp-sites. We reached the first summit point around 9am and started snapping away. Before that, check out these pictures.
Summit Point 1
It really was a heavenly place but unlike other mountains, Namunukula doesn’t offer (if so we couldn’t find any) panoramic views from the top as it’s covered with trees all around. Maybe if you really tried you could get to an opening bordering the edge but we didn’t think it was a good thing to do so just enjoyed what was on offer. All that was before we found the countless number of broken pieces of glass bottles left by the other people. I’ll come to it after you see these pictures in and around the summit point 1.
Afterwards it was nothing but heart breaking sights of garbage and broken glass scattered around the camp-site. Our initial plan was to collect all the garbage but in the end we had to switch to glass collection. Thanks to the previous group of people who’d collected so much polythene and other garbage, the amount of them was relatively low but still disturbingly high. We had no option but to pile them up and burn as it was too much for us to carry on top of the heavy glass without cutting ourselves.
Ana very wisely had taken a couple of pair of thick glouse and fertilizer bags allowing us to carry around 30kg each between groups of two with the help of the sticks. So here are the pictures of my team clearing around the Summit Point 1 and afterwards let’s go to the Summit Point 2.
Summit Point 2
Well, it was tough work and we practically had to crawl along the ground collecting those tiny pieces of glass without cutting ourselves. Afterwards, we decided to go and enjoy the rest of the hike towards Summit Point 2 but took the bags with us all the same. It was a very good move coz that place was cluttered more than the Summit Point 1. We found a huge pile of garbage left behind and a pit of broken glass as well.
There was a well which you can probably use to collect water but these careless and heartless people had dropped tops of the liquor bottles into it. On top of that, I fished out a couple of polythene bags either dropped or fallen with the winds which had been left behind. It’s such a pity how they had behaved even trying to spoil the precious water found on the summit. First the usual pictures and then we’ll come to the cleaning efforts. We even found a toilet with in good condition which you can use. It’s located about 50m from the main campsite passing the Buddha Statue.
Well now let’s look at how my team members toiled on their efforts to collect this environmentally-unfriendly stuff which is a real killer blow for the innocent Mother Nature.
We started our downhill descent and it was really tough to take the heavy broken glass sacks balancing between two people. There were many times we almost cut ourselves and towards the very last bit, Atha cut himself from a piece which had come through the fertilizer bag. So if you’re doing it make sure you have thick sacks and a stick to carry with two people. Garbage bags are fine but only for polythene and similar things, not for the heavy work.
We then climbed down and reached the point where we merged with the main trail. See the picture of Ana pointing at the arrow stuck on a tree. We went straight downhill as it seemed to be the prominent path and we found more concrete pillars and realized this was the correct one. After about 600m from where we merged with the main trail you’d come to a sort of an opening. You gotta be careful here and don’t go straight up a small hill but take the sharp left which is at a 90-degree angle. It was the only point which you might lose the path but now that you know it’d be no problem. So when you’re coming up towards the summit, you have to turn right to go to the summit. Hope it is clear.
From here it’s pretty straight forward and at the end of the trail you’d come to the opening with a shrine and the tea estate to your left. You’d also see the concrete pillars continue to the other end of the mountain range and perhaps one day you can cover the whole range by simply following these pillars. Ok, here are the pictures of our descent so far.
We then walked downhill along the clear path through the tea estate. You can see the tree line which runs parallel to the tea estate. We entered the forest further up when you look at from the path. Eventually we reached the main road which goes all the way to the shed I mentioned earlier. So when you are coming from Diyanagala Village side, you have to take the left hand side path that goes uphill towards the forest through the tea estate. It’s about 300-400m from the village and you can see the shed which is the end of the road from this point to your right.
So keep an eye out for it when you’re coming up from the village and just before you lose sight of it is when you have to turn left. Hope that is clear. So you now know two paths to get up to the summit and I highly recommend the way we did this for you as you’d be able to see those breath-taking views of the mountains when climbing up if you use our route. Even though we took it by mistake, it turned out to be a real gem of a find.
So here is the last set of pictures before I wind up this journey.
So folks, how was it? I hope you enjoyed it and got yourselves inspired by this small activity we did towards the betterment of the Mother Nature. I know some of you might feel that we could’ve organized it in a large scale by inviting more people. However, I feel different coz most of those projects don’t go as planned due to the time constraints and personal commitments. If there are more cancellations, the whole project might even get cancelled coz others would feel disheartened.
Therefore, I’d suggest you to take the initiative and do whatever you can whenever possible. Don’t wait for others; if you as an individual can clean a couple of polythene bags, toffee wrappers, etc. please do so. After all, those huge rivers are made of tiny tiny streams. So I’d always try to be one of those tiny streams which would ultimately contribute to a massive river. You too can do the same. Let’s all start small and spread the word so that others will join and ultimately this whole world will change their crude and greedy attitude towards the Mother Nature.
With that thought, I’ll say good-bye to you all. Keep travelling but do take care of yourself as there are many natural disasters happening in the country thanks to the continuous abusing of the nature. So stay safe and do your bit for the nature.
P.S. As I publish this report, Ana and his team had been back to Namunukula once again in order to carry out yet another environmental project. They’d taken some wooden sign boards (to keep it environmentally friendly) and put them up along the path with messages such as “කසල එපා”, “බෝතල් එපා”, etc. Will update the details and pics at the forum under the thread.