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|Year and Month||16-18 Oct, 2015|
|Number of Days||3|
|Crew||Ana, Atha, D, Prasa & Me|
|Transport||SUV, Train and On Foot|
|Activities||Trekking, Photography, Rail Hiking, Relaxing, etc…|
|Weather||Excellent till about 2pm. Rains and Mist since then.|
|Route||Malabe->Avissawella->Nanu Oya->Pattipola->HP->Ambewela->Pattipola and back to Colombo 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 folks, hope you have enjoyed our Ulex Projects and I hope I managed to plant a seed in your mind in combating this menace. This country needs more doers than critics. So I beg you to take a step towards doing something for the Mother Nature and our beloved country. Teach your children that help protect the wildlife, forests, waterfalls and anything connected with the nature is as important as learning algebra, science and languages. Guide them to take a genuine interest in the history and the environment. Show them the benefits of having a greener world. We will then be able to reverse the way this world is going. If not, this world will turn into a barren and unforgiving desert or a deadly and isolated snow field.
Well, suppose I ran enough with my vivid imagination. Let’s get to the story, shall we? We decided to go take a look at the progress of our efforts in controlling the Ulex. At the same time, decided to do a bit of walking as well. Ana suggested we do a rail hike and we all jumped in even though I’d done almost all the upcountry railway line. So after going through the usual motions of finalizing the dates we hit a brick wall. Where were we gonna stay? Even though we wouldn’t have minded staying at HP again, we just decided to have a change of place. How many of you have seen this beautiful bungalow set among the tall trees at the other end of Kande Ela Reservoir? I’m sure you would have fell in love with the location the moment you set your eyes on it. I was no exception. Ever since I saw it, I yearned to spend a night in it but I had to keep dreaming for years before it became true.
So my advice to you is that “Never Stop Dreaming” no matter how impossible it may seem. I suggested we try to book this and finally D and Ana managed to make my dream come true. Unfortunately, we could only have it for one night and I felt really depressed. However, little did I know that it was a hidden blessing. I should have known that every dark cloud has a silver ray in it. So for the second day, they managed to secure the Pattipola FD Bungalow which turned out to be an added a bonus. We were gonna stay at two beautifully set locations in one go. Oh gosh, life can’t be sweeter, can it? Another lesson for you. “Don’t get disheartened by failures coz they have a tendency to bring more successes and happiness”. Just so long as you stay positive and calm.
The constant rains made it pretty awkward for us but it wasn’t going to hold us back. So finally as usual we set off on our journey in the dawn of 16 Oct. The topic of the day was based on the wildlife in Borneo such as Bearded Pigs, Orang-Utans, etc. We stopped at our usual place at the Devon Viewing Point. As usual she was in full flow making my heart leap in joy. She also made my hopes soar high in anticipation of seeing my beloved St. Claire in full flow. “Dear god, please let her be in full flow even if you have to blast the darn sluice gates of the wretched Upper Kotmale”, I prayed while we took our breakfast baskets of Seeni Sambol and Egg Sandwiches. I’m sure you would wanna see some pictures of the surrounding and it is my pleasure to oblige.
After a hearty breakfast, we resumed our journey and I kept my fingers crossed over St. Claire. As we took the first bend from Devon, I got a peek at the lower part of her but couldn’t judge the true levels of water. I almost broke my left pinky as I kept on interweaving them this and that way in the nerve-racking moments. Finally we came to the viewing platform and driving past, at the first glance I felt “oh my gosh”. She was falling so miserably in two pencil-thin lines and I wanted to weep so much. This is nothing short of murder. If this is how we are going to protect the environment, well god bless us all.
We made good ground and arrived at Kande Ela around 9am. We decided to go and take a look hoping there wouldn’t be anyone staying coz the check-in time is at 12 noon. Fortunately there was nobody so we drove into the compound to find it completely isolated. Not a soul in sight. Walking towards the staff quarters, I noticed a phone number pasted on one of the glass windows and we dialed it. The caretaker, Danapala picked up the last ring but one and said that he was in Meepilimana and would come in about 15 minutes. We decided to wait and take a look see. Here are some details about it for your information.
“Kande Ela FD Bungalow
- It’s a two-story bungalow built on concrete stilts facing the reservoir.
- There are 3 rooms (2 in the top and 1 in the ground floor). The top 2 rooms have 4 double beds (2 each) which means 8 people can stay there while the ground floor room is for 2 people.
- All the rooms have separate attached washrooms which are clean.
- There’s direct electricity and hot water.
- You are provided with linen but knowing how choosy people are, it’s always a good idea to take your own.
- You are charged for gas Rs. 22/- per meal per person. How they came about that amount is anybody’s guess. The bungalow itself is around Rs. 6000/- per night.
- The dining area is in the separate section near the kitchen. However there are two spacious sitting areas in the top and ground floors.
- You can see the beautiful Kande Ela and mysterious Haggala in the distance.”
Well here are the pictures of exterior and interior. Please note the interior ones were taken after we came back from HP. For you to get a better idea, I’m putting everything together. I’m very thoughtful, ain’t I? Here you go.
We waited 15 minutes but no sign of Danapala and called once again for, I’m sure, his irritation which probably didn’t cease until we were about to leave. He said he’d be another 15 minutes so we decided to leave for HP straight away. The drive on HP road is always a treat to the body, mind and soul. The lush greenery soothed the irritating eyes. The fresh mountain air cleansed our lungs. The atmosphere revived our souls. However the chilling dew drops raised goose bumps on our skin. Nobody would even dream of cutting down trees and destroying our forests if they feel like this. That much I’m crystal clear.
We drove on and bought the tickets. There was no vehicle at the gate. Just to keep you informed about a misleading article on a national newspaper in which accused HP officials of neglecting to issue the tickets promptly to the visitors. It had further stated that foreigners are waiting at the gate from 4am to get the tickets. Well they can wait from 12 midnight if they really want but it’s clearly said that the park gates are opened at 6am. So I simply don’t understand the basis for such a careless and thoughtless article. Either the writer has no idea about our national parks or simply don’t give two hoots as long as there’s some juicy stuff to pass into the public. I wonder if these critics have actually been to these places before open up with their machine guns. Just because you have a pen and a pad of papers or a computer and has access to internet doesn’t mean you can be an expert in any subject you want to. It teaches us another lesson. “Don’t trust or believe everything on media no matter how reputed they are”.
Just to make sure, we checked with the HP officials of such incidents but they said nobody comes to the gate at 4am. “To get here at 4am, when do they have to leave Nuwara Eliya? At least around 2am and do you think people do that?” was all they said. Well it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Ok, enough of that and let’s go in. On our way we met a female Sambar grazing by the road. She was quite unfazed by our arrival and we took a few pictures from the vehicle. Care to see them?
We arrived at the car park around 10.30am to find already a good number of vehicles in it. There are two peak times to enter the park. The first is from 6am till about 8am when of all the tourists majority are foreigners that come to enjoy the beauty of this serene location. There are a couple of local groups too among them. The second peak times are around 12noon till about 4pm when our local groups enter the park making kms long tailbacks along the narrow road. Just imagine how the two-door Leyland buses get up there in that road. Simply scary, isn’t it?
We went towards the Farr Inn. Ana and D went to talk to the warden and assistant warden on our progress while Atha, Prasa and I went to inspect the area we cleared during the last two attempts. The area looked nice and clear without any of the thorny gorse bushes. I felt so happy seeing that our hard labor had restored the beauty of this wonderful place. I came across one of the articles written by a person with a doctorate (not sure if it was a medical one) in favor of the Ulex.
In that, he talks about the importance of having Ulex in HP despite it being an invasive species. He goes further slamming the efforts of the wildlife department and people like us to control the Ulex. Well I simply don’t get the point he’s trying to make, maybe coz I ain’t got a doctorate and not in the same intelligence level as him. Nevertheless, I wonder if he’s been to the HP and seen the spread of Ulex and the threat it poses to the endemic species. According to his theory, the wildlife department is ignorant not to see the benefits of Ulex. They are crazy in their heads to ask for help from the public to combat this menace. Well we all are at liberty to have our own opinions but I guess we have a moral obligation to do so with more responsibility.
We savored the success of our efforts with our eyes. However we were here to check the re-growth of the Ulex after the cutting and chopping. So we walked about looking for the stumps which we couldn’t completely uproot. It is relatively easy to cut off the bushes but it takes a whole lot more effort to uproot them completely. Well what we suspected and dreaded all along became a bitter truth as I spotted a couple of stumps with tiny heads of Ulex sprouting from them. This was a nightmare coming true for us. Well it’s perfectly natural for a plant to sprout from the stumps after they were cut off. However we were hoping for a miracle which was too good to be true.
We felt disappointed too. I wonder how fast they would grow. Looking beyond where we had cleared was enough to make my hair stand up on their roots. The whole area as far as the eye could see was covered with Ulex. Oh dear, this is as good as a national emergency. If only we could deploy the forces to combat this. Oh as I suggested to the assistant warden in the last time, we must seek some sort of labor continuously for some time, at least for a year. Why not use the prisoners, newly joined university students and forces to help in this? Is it too much to ask or an absurd idea? Well while you contemplate on my suggestions; take a look at these pictures. Don’t forget to check out the video too which I’ve given the link at notes.
We returned to the Farr Inn and found Abeysinghe and Piyadasa (two caretakers at Ginihiriya). They were very pleased to see us and said that the Ginihiriya Bungalow is undergoing some renovation project and is closed till Dec. No wonder Ana couldn’t see it for booking on the website. So this will be some good news for the travelers planning to stay there. Hopefully they will do a better job and make it more pleasant.
There was a cage on the grass bank and we saw to our utmost amazement that it was the little monkey residing at Ginihiriya Bungalow for the past 6 months or so. If you checked my previous reports, you must have seen the fella that was becoming a real nuisance. As the bungalow was under renovation, the caretakers had caught the fella and brought to the Farr Inn. They were planning to release it somewhere away from the park. The monkey was so furious with Piyadasa growling at him as he was the one had caught it. Here are some pictures of the prisoner.
Afterwards, we handed over some tools we to the park assistant warden to be used in upcoming Ulex projects. Then, bidding our farewell to everyone, we left HP, not before having a cup of tea, around 11.30am. Oh, there was this Sambar who wanted to say hi to you folks. Here he is.
We returned to Kande Ela Bungalow and settled in our rooms. The place was a real heaven, overlooking the lake and in the distance was the square-shaped Haggala covered with a thin layer of creamy white mist. We had a great view all around. However the continuous vehicle movements on the road was somewhat disturbing but you can’t have everything I suppose. We have to put up with little things like those. Well while we settle down (I showed you the pictures of the bungalow before, remember?), you can enjoy these pictures of the Kande Ela. Oh, afterwards we will be going for the trail inside the Kande Ela Educational Forest Park.
Kande Ela Educational Forest Park.
After unpacking and having a cuppa tea, we sat in the upper sitting area till the lunch was ready. The sky was gloomy and the thick dark clouds crowded above Haggala. There was a slight drizzle coming over the Kande Ela sending wave after wave of chills through our bodies. The interior heaters were turned on while the hair on the skin rose ramrod-straight to fend off the cold. I could feel the arms and limbs starting to shut down. There was this cuddling feeling running through the veins making us drowsy.
Understandably, the folks were not in the mood for a walk. However D had other ideas and decided to take the trail inside the Kande Ela Educational Forest Park located next door and I followed suit. I did this trail way back in Dec 2011 all alone. Here you can check out the Lone Ranger’s Adventure. You need to buy tickets to enter the park and it costs Rs. 28/- per person. The circular trail that runs through man-made areas giving an insight into the different aspects of agriculture, wildlife and forests of Sri Lanka, is 1.5km in length and truly is a good and worthy experience for the students.
So, if you’re a teacher or a principal, add this to your next school trip. We took to the trail which was completely isolated as there was nobody on it. Before entering that we had a look around the office-cum educational section. Well, it’d be much easier if I just showed you the pictures, wouldn’t it? So here they are and the rest of the crew will be waiting impatiently for lunch so we would have to hurry it up.
We got back to find them already devouring lunch and hastily joined in line. The meal was tasty and afterwards, we took to beds for an afternoon nap. The rains, after waiting all this time to finish our day’s chores, opened up making it more pleasant to tuck underneath the warm covers. I could feel the skin sag and bones settling down. The cheek hit the pillow and stayed there trying to figure out the vehicles based on the noises I heard. Well, if you wonder what I am talking about, it was the snoring of Atha and Prasa that made all sort of engine noises from Morris Minors to Maseratis to Leylands. After what felt like a huge boneyard of junking vehicles all are started at the same time, I felt asleep until was woken in the early evening. The rain had stopped and we gathered in the lounge for the chat and wait for dinner. Tomorrow, we’d leave early for Pattipola FD Bungalow where we’ll leave our things (oh did I tell you that we went on a recce while returning from HP) and start the rail hike to Ohiya.
After a long chat and a quick but sumptuous dinner, we hit the sack again. Can you believe our lazy and sleepy we were? Of course one could sleep for ages in this type of weather like hibernating grizzly bears. Ok guys, you better stay away coz you’ll soon hear all sorts of vehicles restarting when Atha and Prasa start their snoring competition. This time it was Oxford-Cambridge, Daihatsu and new Chinese S12 engines. Sleeping was next to impossible so I kept playing out the day in my mind and hoping for a clear morning session for the following day. Good night guys! sleep tight and wake us at 4am if you can.
Gosh, the time is just after 4.30am (oh we were supposed to be up at 4am) and I just peeped under the covers opening just a single eye. Oh it was so painful as if screwed tight shut. The whole body felt like a load of lead pulling me further down to the warmth of the bed but the mind was pulling me out of it coz I can see a faint light through the small gap of the door which was partly open. Oh, the sun should be coming up over Haggala and I practically jumped up and ran to the verandah knocking a chair on the way.
As predicted, there was this faint glow in the sky over Haggala but the thick cloud layer prevented sun from penetrating further. Kande Ela looked like a giant and misshapen mirror in the dusk. The water was so still as if the water was frozen on the surface. The light reflected on the surface brightening the surrounding and while taking pictures on and off we got ready to leave early. So while we do the packing, washing and breakfasting, why not take in these beautiful pictures?
“Pattipola FD Bungalow
- It’s a single-story bungalow built almost a century ago and located near the Pattipola Railway Station just passing the railway line to the left.
- There are only 2 rooms (3-bed and 2-bed). So only 5 people can stay in this bungalow. This is probably the smallest FD Bungalow in Sri Lanka as usually all can accommodate up to 10 or more.
- There’s just one attached washroom for both the rooms and are connected separately.
- There’s direct electricity and a hot water machine but it’s not functioning due to some problem.
- You are provided with linen but knowing how choosy people are, it’s always a good idea to take your own.
- You are charged for gas Rs. 25/- per meal per person. How they came about that amount is anybody’s guess. The bungalow itself is around Rs. 3000/- per night.
- There is a separate dining area and a cozy sitting area as well.
- This is set quite close to the main road and the railway line but completely hidden from the casual observers. A great location for bird watching too coz we saw a permanently resided Serpent Eagle on the driveway.”
- The caretaker (Kiri Banda) is a friendly and humble person. A great cook too.
Here are the pictures of the bungalow and please note that they were taken at different times and I’m putting them all together so that you can get an idea as to what it really is like. I highly recommend this place to anybody.
Pattipola to Ohiya on the Railway
The mist had invaded the whole of Pattipola, and we were shivering like squirrels on pine tree tops. This is an experience I love to have every now and then if possible. Simply truly sensational. We left our baggage and vehicle at the bungalow (thankfully the group which was staying had left early morning making it possible for us to go and leave our stuff while KB (Kiri Banda) got the place ready when we returned midday.
Not wanting to take a chance, I took an umbrella and all the others took the rain coats. The previous night rains had made the railway line slick after mixing with the diesel and engine oil spilled on the track. You have to be really careful when walking on the sleepers especially the metal ones. Always try and stick to the narrow footpaths that usually run parallel to the track which will protect you not only from slippery sleepers but also from silent S12 engines.
Make sure to check the railway time table to make sure you won’t have unexpected trains coming at you from the hidden bends. If you start at a station, take a look at the notice board as some of the goods trains are not mentioned on the online time table and the train delays. As soon as we took to the railway track, the workers were busily getting one of the rail carts onto the track. The dew had covered not only the railway line but also the leaves and petals. I just love to photograph the dew on petals and leaves. Wanna see a few pictures?
We kept going and reached the summit point about 500-600m (maybe a little more) from the Pattipola Station. This is the highest point on railway lines in Sri Lanka, somewhat similar to Top Pass (highest point in highways) when you come from Peradiniya to Nuwara Eliya. We hung around the place and there’s a nice curving bend also here which makes it a more picturesque location. Here are some pictures. Oh, we found a doggy tagging along with us and he too posed for a picture.
We then walked along and reached the Tunnel 18 which has so much history behind it. I’m sure you have read about it in the previous journey. This is not only a historically significant place but environmentally as well. This is the bridge between the cool and mild up country and the somewhat dry Welimada plains. You can feel the difference in the temperature as you walk from one end to the other. The cool air coming from the HP and surrounding areas gushing through the tunnel and make you shiver with.
Oh, I forgot to tell you that there are 4 tunnels at this stretch and I’m sure you know the Headquarters of Railway Tunnels is close by which is between Idalgashinna and Ohiya. We saw the Tunnel No. 19 just passing the No. 18 and in between we got a panoramic view of the Welimada plains in the distance stretching miles into the horizon. The sun was already well and truly up making the photographing the plains really difficult so we had to be content with a handful of not-so-good pictures and what we saw with our own eyes, the best camera on earth.
We tackled the small Tunnel No. 19 and stopped for breakfast which we had prepared. Fried sausages with buttered sliced bread and boiled eggs tasted like out of this world. We devoured the meal and the doggy I told you followed us had a generous amount as well. Well a funny thing happened coz he simply refused to walk through the No. 18 tunnel. He kept whining and not entering the tunnel at the mouth of it. The rest of the team went ahead of me coz I kept shooting the dew on petals and the dog faithfully hung behind and kept me company.
I didn’t wanna leave the fella and go so I walked on without switching the flashlight on my phone hoping it would come. After a few dozen faces, I turned around to find he was still standing at the mouth without moving and whining ever so louder as if in pain. Well I couldn’t drag the fellow so I just left him and switched on the light to find my way. After a few steps something brushed past my legs making me jump out of my skin. To my astonishment, it was the doggy and he was walking along the torch light. Apparently he was afraid of the dark and when I switched on the light decided to follow me. Ok, until we munch our breakfast, why don’t you look at some of the pics so far?
After this, it was sort of through a thick wooded area the railway line was. To the right was the edge of HP and that forest kept spreading across the railway to the left. The trees were so tall and looked out of this world. They kept the sun away from us making us feel nice and cool. We then reached a ramrod straight tunnel (No. 20) which looked very deceptive. When you look at it from one end, it looks very short and easy to cross to the other end. However, when you enter, it’s a different ball game altogether. We kept walking (just the same experience last time as well) and the dog followed closer to the torch beam and in the middle, Atha and the crew found a dead gull on the railway line.
Well, we saw so many gulls inside the tunnels and wonder if their population had increased over the time ever since plucking their nests was banned. Afterwards, it was a nice slow stroll towards Ohiya but not before we met Podi Menike Train (S12) about 1.5-2km before Ohiya Station. Finally, probably for the first time, we arrived at Ohiya well before our targeted time and the team looked as if they were not satisfied with the work-out. They were in so high spirits and I wondered if we should’ve planned for a longer hike.
Going to Gamini’s place, we had some more Roti with Lunu Miris and washed them down with tea and coffee. Since then, we had more than an hour to kill which we spent in the shade of the station. Oh, did I tell you that there had been an earth slip around Ella which had curtailed the railway operations for a couple of days? I guess I didn’t and they had resumed it on the day we did the hike. Otherwise we’d’ve had to double back and walk the whole distance to the other end.
The train (Udarata Menike) was 20mins late and we finally got on board and enjoyed the trail we did on foot. Here are the pics of the hike till now. We’ll see you at Pattipola.
We reached Pattipola and found a grumpy German lady waiting impatiently. She was so old but hadn’t lost her gracefulness yet. After a few pictures around Pattipola we walked to the bungalow. The Serpent Eagle was waiting patiently on a pine branch and we photographed the fellow with ease. It was just gone 12.30pm when we reached the bungalow and the rain came down with the mist enveloping the whole area. It was as if the rain held back for us to get to the safety of the bungalow and then came to put us to sleep.
Kiri Banda was ready with our lunch and after a tummy filling session, we all slept till late in the evening. Guess what we did after getting up? We had our dinner and slept once again. I know what you are thinking now. Yeah, this is one of the rare opportunities that we get to relax at the same time doing a bit of hiking. So we make use of it really well. So till we get up, you can enjoy some pictures I suppose.
We got up early and got things ready to depart. The mist had stayed while the rain had ceased but leaving his marks on the tree branches and leaves which were dripping with water. After getting ready we sat for a very early breakfast and took some pictures around. The Serpent Eagle too had got caught in the rain and as I went looking for the fellow, he was waiting patiently on the tree branch with wet feathers. The bungalow looked absolutely out of this world in the morning and we bid farewell to our friendly caretaker and were on our way by 6.30am.
On our way, we took a pit stop at Rozella and arrived at Colombo by 1pm. So these pictures are about them.
Well, folks, I hope you enjoyed the journey. I seem to be running out of words to express my feelings as I see more of the beauty of Mother Nature. Hope to see you again with another story.
Until then, this Sri signing off and you guys stay safe!