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|Year and Month||21 Dec, 2013|
|Number of Days||1|
|Crew||4 (Sheham, Tony, Athula and Me)|
|Accommodation||Nisansala Guest House (Karunadasa’s Place), Pattipola052-4900110, 077-4907025|
|Activities||Rail Hiking, Wild Life, Photography, etc…|
|Weather||Excellent but very misty in the morning and evening.|
|Route||Dehiwala->Wattala->Peradeniya->Nuwara Eliya->Pattipola->Nanu Oya and back to Pattipola.|
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
It was on the 7th Dec that Hari and I went on that unforgettable waterfall hunt coupled with the Pahiyangala climb. It turned out to be a great journey being able to see all those gorgeous girls falling down playfully. If you’ve not read what it was like, check it out here.
Ever since we visited the Thotupola Mountain searching for long awaited Nelu flowers, Kirigalpoththa hike had been added to my to-do-list bold and underlined which means only one thing. Do it ASAP, Top priority.
To top it off I decided to link another stage to my collection of rail hikes too. If you guys remember, we came up to Nanu Oya from Ambewela after the Nelu hunt. So if there was a time to continue from where we stopped, I couldn’t think of anything better. So I submitted my carefully written proposal (as appealingly as possible) to my bunch of troops hoping for a positive outcome.
As usual the replies were mixed with definite yes, no and maybe. Well I shouldn’t have expected anything different, should I? Sheham, who’s been a major part of my recent adventures, was very willing coz he’s made a vow to climb the top 10 mountains of Sri Lanka and this one was a blessing in disguise as we did Piduruthalagala and Thotupola about a month ago (Nelu Hunt & Rail Hike Stage 03 reports here).
Not everyone gets to do the top 3 within 6-8 weeks even though they are not the most challenging ones. I came across this place in Pattipola from our forum that came highly recommended. I called Karunadasa who is the owner and fortunately his entire 3-room guest was free.
I too wanna confirm that this place is such a good one, unbelievably cheap (don’t get me wrong. It’s not cheap coz the place is a slum) and Karunadasa’s wife is a master cook. The food really is homemade and tasty. He’s a very humble, hospitable, friendly and reasonable person.
Tony and Athula were having trouble joining us and most of the others were tied up one way or the other but Sheham and I decided to do it no matter what happens. After a long battle, Athula managed to convince his new boss that climbing Kirigalpoththa and hiking along the railway are more important than being stuck at work during the weekend. Tony too managed to make it after a lot of convictions.
So after a long hustle and bustle, we were finally on our way just after midnight on Sat morning along Peradeniya-Gampola-N’Eliya road enveloped in pitch dark. Having made good time, we reached N’Eliya just after 5am. As N’Eliya-Nanu Oya Road is still under construction we decided to take the road passing Magasthota that connects to the Black Pool area. This is the same road which is used for N’Eliya races. Soon as we hit the Meepilimana village the whole world turned upside down. The entire area was covered in mist so thick we could not see more than a few feet ahead of us.
I’ve seen mist before but lemme tell you that I’ve never seen something like this. The world around us was nothing but grey white and the odd black shadows of all kinds of trees were barely visible. We were practically crawling at a snail’s speed and it was no better than feeling your way in the dark. However we were intrigued by what we saw.
Eventually Tony had to get a torch and lower the shutter and aim at the edge of the road so that we wouldn’t fall into a drain. However lowering the glass made our hair stand on its ends and froze our exposed skin.
We were shivering like furless polar bears while Tony kept rubbing his torch holding hand to prevent it from going numb and losing the torch. Finding Karunadasa’s place was a nightmare in this thick fog but he came out to meet us nearly preventing our getting lost.
It’s actually called “Nisansala Guest” and been there for the last decade or so. He hurriedly made us milk coffee that invigorated our bodies and minds. We had the pick of the rooms as the place was not booked for that day. Leaving our baggage in the room, we left for Nanu Oya where the head of our rail hike was.
The mist was relentless but the morning light made the whole area breath taking. It’d been raining in the last few days which worried me to no end. Tony and Sheham were boasting about their raincoats making Atha and me nervy. However my beloved N’Eliya has never let me down and this time was no different. We decided to take a drive along the New Zealand farm road for two reasons. Waiting for the mist to lift and see the beauty of the farm under the misty blanket.
- Scenic Drive through the Ambewela Farm
- 19.4 km of Railway Hike
- Glassaugh Falls, Nanu Oya
- Nanu Oya Falla, Nanu Oya
- Radella Falls, Radella
- Great Rail Track Loop, Watagoda
The distances between railway stations:
- Nanu Oya – Radella – 4.34km
- Radella – GW – 3.4km
- GW – Watagoda – 5.01km
- Watagoda – Talawakele – 6.4km
It was a very good thing we decided to do that coz the experience was exhilarating and unforgettable. The greenery mixed with grey white mist was so picturesque one could’ve spent hours looking at it. The spill of the Ambewela reservoir was partially open sending creamy white jet stream of water down making patterns. We were mesmerized by what lay before us. Going further up, we came across a bunch of cows munching on dewy grass.
Tony was trying to get their perspective of the mist without any success. All he managed to get from them were hard stares for disturbing their breakfast. I can’t explain how marvelous the mist makes photography. I know a few friends of mine who love taking pics of the misty environments and they wouldn’t have left this for anything.
Check out the Video of Ambewela Farm here.
The time was practically stopped but Atha kept reminding that we got nearly 20km of railway to tackle. So finally I gave in and we very slowly drove through the fogy road towards Nanu Oya. Our driving was severely hampered due to not having fog lamps in our vehicle. So if you’re going, do check the weather conditions and take necessary precautions such as fog lights. The fog eased after Meepilimana and it was around 9am by the time we arrived at the station. Taking everything we wanted such as water and food, we hit the railway line leaving the car at the station car park.
We got to the first of the many bridges after about 200m and we asked the villagers for directions to the Nanu Oya falls and Glassaugh falls. You have to take the road just passing the bridge and go downhill about 500m till you reach the two falls. The two falls were on either side about 100ft apart which reminded me of Dunsine and Sheen falls at Pundaluoya (That report is here). Sadly the water levels were not so great, especially of the Glassaugh falls. She was falling in a few parts as a result instead of the long and full shape. On the other hand, Nanu Oya falls that is the shorter of the two but more beautiful due to her with and steps like shape, had more water that pleased me to no end.
The time was 9.20am and according to the time table a train was due at 9.31am. Hoping against the hope for a view of the train on the bridge over the Nanu Oya falls which is very rare, we waited anxiously as we all know the reputation of our railway systems’ punctuality is very poor especially in the upcountry line. However it has been vastly improved after the introduction of S-12 Chinese power sets.
Just passing 9.35am, we barely heard the roar of the train (these Chinese trains are so much quieter than the good old German ones and most of the times you never know when it’s almost on top of you. So do be careful if you’re doing a rail hike and take precautions) amid the noise of the waterfall and managed to aim the camera just in time to capture it on my lens. Thanks to my Sony I could both video and take pics simultaneously which was a great advantage in tricky situations like these. It was so fortunate for us to be able to witness this rare incident and it even made us forget our breakfast.
We went further along and got back on the track. There were vegetable patches either side and in one of them farmers were harvesting their potato crops. The tummy was finally growling so we stopped about 500m away near some stone slabs which were perfect for sitting and laying our feast of Boiled eggs, Soya meat curry, Tampered Sprats along with carrots, onions, potatoes and bell peppers with sliced bread. To wash it down we had mixed fruit juice. It really was 5-star hotel meal with superstar views. The views were amazing with the rising sun over the mountain tops and it felt like heaven.
We met one of the linesmen who was very glad to see people walking along the railway line for pleasure. After a while we reached the first station which was Radella. It’s about 4km from Nanu Oya. Just before the station is a bridge and behind it is a beautiful waterfall around 30ft in height. We called her the Radella falls and just then came the Colombo bound Udarata Menike which I managed to capture on the bridge. I called Morgan (I’m sure you all remember who he is. He’s the one that helps people climb the 6th highest mountain in Sri Lanka, the mighty Great Western.) to inform him where we were as I’d made arrangements with him before to make lunch ready for us.
We headed further along passing endless panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and tea estates. Just before bridge where you start climbing the GW Mountain we stopped for a tea break. Sheham had his portable cooker with him and instant coffee sachets. Setting up the cooker Tony played the housewife making milky coffee which revived us. The lady GW was smiling with me wearing her typical white scarf that is always clean. I was so happy to be near her for the 3rd time in 8 months. We repacked everything and headed along passing the bridge and the steps to the Kovil where you walk through to get up to the summit. You can check my Great Western Adventure over here.
We reached the GW station around noon and called Morgan who had gone home to pack our lunch. He invited us to his house for lunch but we were not hungry and time was crucial so politely declined his offer. He’s adding a new room to his house and it’s sort of good news as if and when you’re visiting GW, there will be a place to stay as well. Hopefully he’ll finish it soon coz the ideal time for climbing is from Feb to Apr.
Just before getting to the station, Colombo bound another S12 reached GW and it looks like there are 3 of them running now and it’s good news for the travelers. I showed them the rest room where Hari and I waited being chilled to the marrow. Morgan came with lunch packets and we resumed our hike wanting to get to Talawakele as early as possible. We met yet another linesman who had a nearly 2km-long chat with us, especially Sheham pointing key places to us. He’s been working on Talawakele-GW stretch for the last 10 years without being able to change the route as nobody would take it. About 1km away from GW, he showed us the Devon falls in the distance and close to it was the closely located newly built bunch of cottages on the slope. No idea if it was done following the proper procedures but according to our friend many big shots have their paws in this.
Going further on, he showed us where the 13.5km long underground tunnel that brings water from Pundaluoya to Upper Kotmale reservoir goes underneath the railway. The soil has shrunk inwardly showing a hollow path along the tunnel. So this was the killer of many falls on other side of GW Mountain such as Pundaluoya, Dansine, Sheen, Puna, etc…
Now we were completely surrounded by tea estates especially the GW and the view was superb. The railway kept snaking through the plantations making curvy patterns shaded by mammoth trees. Just then there was an ancient looking bridge overhead and our friend pointed it is called the “Kudira Bridge” which means “Horse Bridge” as Kudira in Tamil means Horse in Sinhala. This is where the English crossed from one side to the other on horseback and the bridge is about a century old. Even today it looks very strong and a tuk-tuk can easily get on to it. We decided to explore the bridge and take comfy breaks while our friend went on his way bidding us farewell. Back to the track and just a bit along we heard a roar of an engine which made Tony nearly outta his skin for the first time. Little did he know there would be another jumpy incident 24hrs later?
He jumped out of the railway shouting us to do the same but the noise was coming from the above rather than front or back. All of a sudden there was this deafening roar coming through the tree tops and going less than 300ft high was a Bell 412 VIP chopper. We all had a laugh but there came another thunderous noise. The Bell was followed by a massive MI-17 also heading towards N’Eliya. What a frightful experience we had. It was pretty much uneventful till we got to Watagoda station. Filling up our water bottles we continued our merry way. Fortunately our linesman friend told us about the Watagoda great loop, the second of its kind after Demodara. This one is however not so famous owing to not having such genius creation like Demodara and very few people walk this bit.
The railway line makes a gigantic “Payanna” here to maneuver around and the tunnel 16 too is part of this. The shape looking from Google maps reminded me of a pot too (Kalaya in Sinhala). As if on cue there was a train coming and we waited to capture it on camera. M6 makes such a great impression with its green and red color combinations blended with natural shades of green of the plants along. This is where the below railway line comes as much as 60-80ft close to the one on top. A sheer drop about 50ft with a near 90 degrees angle making it impossible for the two lines to join each other, instead making them take a longer detour. We were standing at the neck of the Pot or Payanna while the Watagoda station situated at the belly. Check the google maps for a clear idea.
Train went past us but we waited for it to appear above us and took pictures. Then we got to the tunnel 16 and there came another M6 Colombo bound through it. What a day full of surprises. We decided to have lunch coz it was going past 3pm. Bunch of sleepers made an ideal table and we unwrapped our bulging lunch packs. Morgan had served very generously, Chicken, Cabbage, Beans, etc. with rice were very delicious. It was near impossible to finish the whole of it but we did our best. Having finished a hearty meal, we followed the track towards our destination. Talawakele town was now coming and going through the hills and tea bushes along with N’Eliya-Hatton road which is still under construction. So far up to Talawakele stretch is done and another 20+km to go. It might take another year or so at this rate.
Devon falls too kept waving at us from far away which made my spirits lift. Soon the water way that feeds the St. Claire falls came in to view and what an abysmal state it was in Upper Kotmale reservoir having absorbed nearly every drop of her water. She was nothing but a tiny trickle coming miserably. My heart nearly jumped out of me and felt like crying. This is the so-called development.
When we were about 600m away from Talawakele station, the Badulla bound Udarata Menike arrived there. We tried to run but my previous run along from Ella made me grimace coz it is so difficult to walk on the railway line let alone run. We missed it by about 10mins. Having reached our destination we checked the time table. It was just gone 5pm and a goods train was due at 5.30pm but none of them was sure if it would make it on time. These goods trains are notoriously famous for being late so we decided to bid our farewell and take our chances with the bus. Sheham had exerted his feet a bit too much and in pain hardly able to walk while Atha too had got his jitters in the right knee. We got to the bus stop and luckily there was one with seats. We got on and slumped to them with feet-long sighs. What a cracker of a day it was. The bus took a long detour and it was very dark and past 6pm when we reached Nanu Oya. Having replenished our medical pouch, we got to the car and drove away. The mist was waiting and Tony did his best with the torch again to show the roadside to Sheham.
We reached the guest exhausted and Karunadasa was ready with coffee. Having had a rather cold bath (mind they have hot water but I wanted the cold water to run down my body that was aching) we were ready for supper. Sheham opted to go without and get his head down straight away. After a hearty dinner we tucked in for the night recalling the day’s events which is my favorite at the end of a rollercoaster day. We let the sleep creep up on us and take our battered body and excited minds to the dreamland as we had yet another long day ahead of us.
Check out the Videos below:
Well folks that was my fairy tale of the rail hike stage 3. Hope you enjoyed it and I didn’t miss anything. I’ll see you with the next tale soon, till then take care.
Now you can enjoy the Panos I took during the day.