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|Year and Month||25 Dec, 2014|
|Number of Days||1|
|Crew||Hari and Me|
|Accommodation||Kiri Mahaththaya’s House (072-8581935).|
|Transport||By Bus, Tuk-tuk and on foot.|
|Activities||Waterfall Hunting, Photography, Relaxation, etc…|
|Weather||Misty, Windy and Gloomy with Heavy Showers every now and then…|
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
How many brand new pieces of clothes are screaming out for you from the corners of your closet asking them to be worn? Well it’s a well-known secret, ain’t it? We’ve all, well maybe not all but a majority of us, got this problem, rather the habit of buying new clothes, most of the time at exorbitant rates, and leaving them hidden waiting for that perfect occasion to wear them. Unfortunately for us, that day doesn’t seem to come anytime soon. Most of these clothes are being rotten down without even once worn. By the time we get around to them, if we ever do, they’re beyond usable conditions.
Ok, I know you are flabbergasted and starting to use the foul language on me. Don’t do so, just yet. It’s a true revelation, isn’t it? Now the million dollar question you are asking is “What the heck that has got to do with us hikers, nature lovers, environmentalists, etc.?” Fair enough. Your question carries weight and needs some serious but plausible explanation which I’m gonna give in the next few lines. Now breathe easy and get yourself comfortable, coz you gonna have to stay with me for a long time and you might as well get a mug of coffee too.
Well folks, we’ve been around this gem of an island, haven’t we? We all got these so-called dream journeys that are continuously being put off due various reasons, mainly the weather and time of the year.
“It’s raining these days so no point going now.”
“It’s all dried up and the trip will be hopelessly hot.”
“February is the best time to go there, so better wait till then.”
Above are typical things or excuses we give when thinking of doing our dream journey. We keep doing many others, still exciting and grand yet that particular trip is still planned but waiting eternally for the never-arriving-perfect-day. Very much like those expensive but unused clothes in our closets. That’s the connection I was getting at. Are you happy now? Well you might not entirely agree with me but that is the human nature so I will get on with my story, a journey that had been planned and dreamed for years but not done as I was waiting for the perfect time, very much like those clothes.
Mandaram Nuwara is a name that can send a shiver of excitement up my spine every time I come across it. It’s been very much like Meemure for me, treasured away, closely guarded for ages without doing anything about it. About one and half years ago, I went as close as 6km to this magical location with a bunch of Lakdasun members. So close yet so far. The recent terrible weather conditions made things nasty as I was just beginning my year-end holidays. Three consecutive days, there was no sign of rain except for the persistent clap clap on the roof made by pelting down rain; morning, noon and night at a stretch as if mocking me.
The December chill kept intensifying making getting out of bed an agony. I was ever so depressed, having all the time in the world yet with nothing to do. My mind was in turmoil making plans but being unable to put them into action. Sleep and sleep and sleep some more was the theme when out of nowhere, Hari, the good old buddy with whom I started my traveling life, called and suggested we go for a relaxing journey. Well I was doing just that at home but if it meant getting out seeing things, it didn’t matter what name he used. When he said ‘Mandaram Nuwara’ I was without words. “It’s raining cats and dogs so it’s not a good idea” was my first thought but as there was nothing else to do we stuck to it getting excited more and more. Of course Atha suggested we visit A’Pura & Pollonnaruwa, that were experiencing the worst floods in the last 3-4 decades, so that we could visit all that by boat, something you don’t get to do for years.
However it didn’t appeal to Hari and we made plans hastily for Mandaram Nuwara. There was very little information about this mysterious place and we had to make do with what little was available. Credit must go to Hariya for planning the whole thing and we deliberated long and hard how to get there in the first place. Not having anyone else, it had to be just the two of us. Going by bike had to be ditched at the eleventh hour due to the rains and earth slips. So finally we decided to take the road via Kandy by bus. Getting Hariya up was as easy as lifting an elephant out of a well in an abandoned paddy field. Finally I picked him close to 5am on the christmas day, while most of the country was still under the wraps trying to get some warmth from the partial wintry chill. We went to the bus stand in Pettah while the rain kept its pace. There was an A/C bus that left for Kandy at 5.30am.
- Gerandi Ella, Padiyapelella.
- Mahakandura Ella, Manakola.
- Waduwawela Bridge & Belihul Oya, Morapaya.
- Hawari Oya Ella, Manakola.
- Morapaya Ella, Morapaya.
- Kirinda Ella aka Mukkara Ella, Manakola.
- Metibembiya Ella, Metibembiya.
- Elamulla Ella, Elamulla.
- Kabaragala Mini Falls, Digalahinna.
- Kabaragala Power Plant Falls, Digalahinna.
- Kabaragala Ella, Digalahinna.
We caught up with the lost sleep and arrived in Kandy about 8.30am. There was no bus to Padiyapelella and we were informed that Walapane buses weren’t there due to earth slips. This wasn’t good news at all but we were committed. We went and had a tasteless breakfast from a nearby hotel and afterwards found a Padiyapelella bus coming. We hurried to it and managed to get seats. We left Kandy around 10am and the road was very frightening coz every now and then we saw some dangerous mud slides, at places all over the road and recently cleared away. Mahaweli River was like a very strong tea, dark brown and flowing fiercely dragging tons of debris with her. Victoria-Randenigala Reservoir was full and I was every bit excited, followed it to our left of the road.
The rain was with us all the time, on and off. Passing Hanguranketha (the paddy field where the gold was hidden) about 2km before Rikillagaskada, I saw through the rain swept window, Katugashinna Ella falls with a roar. She is considered to be a dead one due to the dam built on top of her diverting the water but the rains were so great she was in full force. This is a very rare sighting and I had to contain my urge to get down the bus. The road at Rikillagaskada town is still under construction. About 2km before the Padiyapelella town it is in terrible shape, still under construction but never ending rains haven’t helped the cause. However Padiyapelella-Mandaram Nuwara road is in good condition, fully carpeted but plenty of land slide threats. On our return we saw the road had almost caved in.
Reaching Padiyapelella, I saw this huge waterfall to my right and the road was terrible the bus had to move at a snail’s speed. I could no longer hold myself and picking up the bag and umbrella, I jumped out of the bus almost forgotten about Hariya. Fortunately he followed suit and I was staring towards the over flowing water stream. There was a sister falls too to the left of the main one with a huge land slide. The trees obstructed the view and without knowing I ran along the by road that forks from the main road to the right and goes uphill. Inadvertently, I had walked into the Mandaram Nuwara road.
There was a huge flow of water crossing the road and it made me remove my shoes. The waterfall was simply gorgeous and the new born baby to the left added to the overall beauty making her a nice twin falls. We spent some time in the rain taking pictures of the sheer beauty thanks to my umbrella. We were in fact under the impression this was the Maha Kandura Ella but found that not the case later. Hari asked if we should walk all the way to Mandaram Nuwara and I simply didn’t mind it provided we had everything ready for accommodation. Unfortunately we got to the road with very little information and had to go to Mandaram Nuwara and find someone who was willing to put us up. Camping was out of the question and we hoped for the best.
We decided to take a tuk-tuk to Mandaram Nuwara and explore the waterfalls on the way. It seemed to be the only sensible thing to do at the time. Fortunately, Hari stopped one at the falls and without even haggling over the fee, we hopped in and told the driver “show us as many waterfalls as you can”. It sealed the bond and we were away when the driver told us this was the Gerandi Ella, and Maha Kandura Ella is about 1-2 away.
We drove on and all of a sudden stopped at a ferociously flowing down girl and the driver duly informed this to be the Mahakandura Ella. She was obscured by tree branches but we managed to take a few pictures. The rain was becoming a real nuisance but we had no choice but to put up with it.
The tuk-tuk driver then asked if we wanted to see the Waduwawela Bridge and who didn’t, we said yes.
Waduwawela Bridge & Belihul Oya
We raced on towards this place and the driver said his house was also nearby. Taking the Morapaya temple road to the left we reached the bridge after a couple of hundred meters. According to Navarathna, now wait, don’t jump in thinking Nava mama of Meemure was there to tell us that story. Coincidentally our tuk-tuk driver’s name is also Navarathna and just like the one at Meemure, very friendly and helpful person with plenty of knowledge about the area. He has traveled all over the country doing many jobs and now 57, settled down to drive a tuk-tuk.
We were very lucky to have come across him and he helped find many waterfalls without having to go here and there. I can highly recommend him as a guide. He, realizing our craziness over waterfalls, went to great lengths to help us get to them even driving on terrible roads which would have given heart attack to even 4-wheel drives. Ok, back to Waduwawela Bridge. This was built more than a century ago in the 1800s and the carpenter (Waduwa in Sinhala) who had worked on the bridge had fallen to his death from here hence giving the name Waduwawela Bridge. Of course now it’s renovated but the basic stone foundation still stands. Historical Morapaya RMV is close by and we got the biggest shock of the day afterwards.
While doing a short documentary, he said the river that flows like a tsunami is called Belihul Oya and without thinking much about the geography, I thought this is the famous Belihul Oya we all know but Nava corrected by saying this was another Belihul Oya. Originated from the highest mountain in Sri Lanka, Piduruthalagala, this flows through the Wilthota Jungle. Looking at the gigantic body of water made me wow. The Belihul Oya we all know (according to how Ana jokingly put – Bellyful Oya) originates from HP. You can check the documentary below.
Afterwards we went further up the Mandaram Nuwara road.
Hawari Oya Ella & Morapaya Ella
We then stopped at Hawari Oya that joins the Belihul Oya creating a beautiful fall. Unfortunately it kept raining so hard getting a picture nearly impossible. Passing her we saw another road by falls, more likely a seasonal one for that we named Morapaya Ella.
After both these, it was time to go for another huge falls that Nava found after talking to a few people. He knew almost everyone in the area and those people found it strange Nava asking them about waterfalls. As you might have experienced, for most of the villagers, a waterfall is not a big deal and they simply use the name of the stream or call it either ‘Dola’ or ‘Kandura’. The chances are most of these falls go unnoticed is very high due to that. Thankfully we had Nava to guide us into the unknown.
Passing Morapaya Ella, we headed another 0.5-1km or saw and then turned to our left. Driving along it another 300-400m we came to a halt but could hear the distant and unmistakable roar of a waterfall. The villagers had told Nava this was like Dunhinda and my heart started beating faster.
Leaving the tuk-tuk behind, we walked up for 100m or saw when we got the first glimpse of this beautiful fall mostly covered by two trees. Only the top was visible the rest was through the thick branches. There was a house and the elderly man in it told us that she is called Kirinda Ella. Numerous attempts by us to get closer to her had to be abandoned due to the ferocity of the water stream that separated us. Crossing it was simply too much so had to be content with the distant view. Then we returned to the tuk-tuk and went further towards Mandaram Nuwara.
Reaching Metibembiya village we saw this tall waterfall by the road to our left. The stream originates from Udagampola village and then flows into Belihul Oya via Metibembiya village. We named her as usual after the village and we could see the distant mountains towards Mandaram Nuwara. Gigantic Piduruthalagala rose into the sky but most of the time kept hidden among clouds and mist. We carried on further towards our destination.
We then reached the Elamulla town. It’s not exactly a town but a few shops along the road. We took Kabaragala Estate road and drove uphill for 1-1.5km before reaching the Black Bridge (Kalu Palama).
To the left of this was the two storied Elamulla Ella. She too was like others was in full force with the mud brownish color. She had a third lower part on the other side of the bridge as well.
We kept admiring her while Hari kept on reminding the time. It was gloomy and felt later than it actually was. Afterwards, we went passing Elamulla towards Digalahinna searching the Elamulla Power House road.
Kabaragala Ella, Kabaragala Mini Falls & Kabaragala Power House Falls
We turned to the road which is good for the first 0.5-1km. Thereafter it’s simply impossible. Lose rocks, mud and pot holes made the ride like hell and Hariya’s weight didn’t help the poor battered wheels and axles. Nava drove like a man with a mission disregarding the hell of the condition.
Once we had to get down and push it and I only had to stand by and watch Hari at work. I was glad to have him for company. Closer to the power plant, the road was completely blocked by the fallen down rubble. It was a short walk so leaving Nava with the vehicle, we walked up. We saw a beautiful and tall waterfall before the power plant. She was so far up and the mist kept popping in and out making it hard to see her clearly. So we named her Kabaragala Mini Falls.
Then, at the gate of the power plant was what we called Kabaragala Power Plant Falls. She is actually a very tall girl but only the lower most part is visible at the gate. However when you are watching the Kabaragala Mini Falls, to your right you will see the extreme top of a waterfall. I guess this is the top of the one that falls near the gate. Unfortunately most of the middle section is hidden by the thick foliage of trees.
We then went into the power plant and asked for permission to go see the Kabaragala Ella. They were very helpful but warned us about the rising water levels and slippery rocks. End of the power plant complex we noticed the stream going downhill with a deafening roar as if all the M6 engines of Railway going at once. Looking at how furious this is our hopes were beginning to diminish. Even the last time we had to give up getting closer having gone all the way there.
However, Hariya was in no mood to give in that easily and we could see the falls in the distance beyond trees. I couldn’t resist any longer and led by Hariya we walked parallel to the stream along a pipeline for 100-150m. At the end was a cloud falling to the rocks breaking into million pieces. In fact this was the sensational Kabaragala Ella. It was a sight that will remain in my mind forever. We did another of our short documentaries there.
This is some beauty, there’s no doubt about that. We felt the trouble was worth to reach the place. Afterwards we left for the waiting tuk-tuk.
Nava was waiting and when we showed him the video, he too was amazed by the sheer beauty this. On the way back, we stopped at a bungalow called “Elamulla Bungalow, Bodhi Hill Resort” and went in search if it’s available for rent for the public. But one of the workers there said it’s owned by a German lady and not for rent. I deduced from the way he said it the bungalow is not available for rent for locals but maybe for the foreigners. We’ve seen this trend at many places, bungalow and even hotel owners being very hesitant to accommodate locals as their reputation is not good being good visitors. So feeling hungry, we returned to Elamulla searching for something to eat.
We got to Asiri’s grocery cum hotel. This is located next to the liquor store. The time was 3pm and there was only bread and dhal curry to eat. Beggers can’t be choosers so we sat down to wolf this down. However Asiri, the owner, having listened to our tale, offered to make some omelets that received a standing ovation from us. It tasted delicious and after buying few of the essential items, we headed towards the mysterious Mandaram Nuwara that awaited our arrival with open arms.
We reached the Bo Sewana, the three-way junction at Mandaram Nuwara and went into Gamini Super Center, former Saman Hotel looking to get somewhere to spend the night. Unfortunately Gamini was out and while waiting for him to come Nava had gone and told one of his friends about our situation. I told you we were lucky from the start of the journey and it stayed that way as this person, Kiri Mahaththaya, offered not just a room, but a complete house for us.
It’s their first house (Maha Gedara) but after the tragic death of his younger brother his mother was now living with him in his own house leaving the house unoccupied. What a stroke of luck for us. We accepted the offer delightedly and went there immediately. This is located about 500m from the Bo Sewana and Nava took us all in the tuk-tuk. The place was good, but the roof leaked in a few places largely due to being ignored but it was no problem for us. All the furniture and kitchen stuff were there as well making it easy even to cook meals but we ordered rice and curry from a shop at the town which Nava later would bring.
After a wash in the ice cold water, we settled in for the night. Due to the rain, the cold was somewhat bearable. I got to use my newly acquired sleeping bag, even though we slept on a bed, and it made the night nice and comfortable. Kiri Mahaththaya informed us that the mountain in front of us is called Horagolla and it reminded us the famous Horagolla in Gampaha. The dinner was delicious, especially the Chaw-Chaw leaves’ Mallung. I’ve given all the helpful numbers for you to contact should you ever go to Mandaram Nuwara. Just make sure you respect their way of life and not do anything to change their friendly hospitality. Around 7.30pm, Hasi called out of the blue moon and inquired where I was.
When I told him where I was, he was surprised and informed me that the Victoria is over flowing with all nine sluices open. Oh my gosh, this I couldn’t miss. Then to burn me with sorrow and jealousy, he said that my beloved St. Claire was also in full flow as the wretched Upper Kotmale Dam has opened its tightly shut jaws. Oh dear, why am I always being deprived of seeing her in full flow. I thanked him for giving me the good news and decided to go see Victoria as it was on our way back the following day if possible. Whether I could do it or not, if I did, how it looked will be from the next fairy tale.
Well, this is not the end of the journey folks, but I’ve decided to leave you speculating as to what awaited us the following day. All I can say is, it was more exciting and compelling.
Hope you guys enjoyed my narration of this dream journey and will enjoy the next episode as well.
Until then, stay safe but keep traveling and don’t wait for the perfect time to do your dream journey.
I hope the contacts at Mandaram Nuwara will be useful to you all.