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|Year and Month||2016 December 04th
2017 January 01st
|Number of Days||One and half days|
|Crew||Habarana to Gal Oya junction: Ashan, Chamara and My self
Gal Oya junction to Minneriya: Chanuka, Lalinda and Myself
|Transport||Walking along rail track|
|Activities||Rail hike, Visiting wild elephants and photography|
|Route||Habarana (හබරණ)->Hatharas Kotuwa (හතරැස් කොටුව)->Gal Oya junction (ගල් ඔය හන්දිය)->Minneriya (මින්නේරිය)|
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
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Sri Lankan rail tracks run in different environmental locations of the country where you can have different experiences with rail walk. Rail hike along central part gives maximum beauty of the country and costal rail walk is totally different from it. We thought of doing a rail walk in dry zone mainly rail tracks runs through forests. Total credit should go to Chamara as he was so enthusiastic on doing this. We selected the section of Colombo-Batticalo line from Habarana to Minneriya where Kaudulla (කවුඩුල්ල) and Minneriya national parks are at direct touch with the rail line. It was an amazing experience of meeting wild elephants along rail track.
I met Ashan and Chamara at Habarana junction. Habarana station is situated about 3km from Habarana town. Habarana is the junction of Trincomale and Polonnaruwa road. But Galoya junction is the point where Trincomale and Batticalo rail tracks meet. We travelled to Habarana railway station by three wheeler and started the journey towards Gal Oya junction.
As soon after get into the railway track we have noticed a board shows elephant crossing. This is the area you can get maximum amount of Elephants cross along the railway track. Therefore they will get more accidents with train and deaths. Following the rain surrounding was greenish. Colombo Trincomale road also runs parallel to the railway line with few meters apart but later separated well from the railway track.
Most of the times this railway line was almost flat and can view another 1-2 kms well. It rarely had bends not like Udarata railway line. Till we reach Hatharas Kotuwa there were no houses and same scenario was detected in between Hatharas Kotuwa and Galoya Junction.
We have come across elephants in different occasions between Habarana and Galoya. They were noticed far front as well as behind us. Once a jumbo has crossed in front of us. Third time an elephant was eating closer to railway line without moving even though it has seen us. It made us bit anxious and wanted to bypass the railway line. Later we have decided to proceed along the railway line while watching his reaction towards us. Luckily he didn’t take any action against us.
We have refreshed our selves at Hatharas Kotuwa with cool drinks (The villagers at Hatharas Kotuwa buy drinking water). Safari jeeps were passing to Kaudulla Park with tourists. It is not a safari season in other years but it is a good advantage to them due to drought. The section between Hatharas Kotuwa to Gal Oya junction was same as previous stretch. As it was the evening of the day we expected to view more and more elephants. Unfortunately it didn’t happen. We reached Gal Oya junction just before Mahawa train departures. The lake at Gal Oya junction adds extra beauty to rail track. It is a nice place for bird watching at evening.
We found a three wheel from Gal Oya junction and travelled to Colombo-Trincomale road to catch a bus to Habarana. It ends 16.3k journey along rail track from Habarana to Gal Oya junction.
Rail walk from Gal Oya junction to Minneriya
This rail track goes through Kaudulla National Park to get touch with Minneriya railway station. The distance between these two stations is 8.1km. We thought it might be another opportunity to visit wild elephants if walk along this section as well.
This journey was arranged in a separate day and I ask two of my colleagues to join with me in an evening. We started from Minneriya station (as it is easy to travel from Polonnaruwa) and walked till Gal Oya junction.
Though we expected elephants it didn’t happen. Forest was on either side of the railway line and no human traces were found till Gal Oya junction railway line.
I could enjoy the evening beauty of Gal Oya junction Lake again.