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|Year and Month||22 Sep, 2013|
|Number of Days||1|
|Crew||7 (Dhanushka / Athula / Tony / Harinda / Wuminda / Prasanna and Me)|
|Transport||Night Mail Train / on foot / By Bus|
|Activities||Rail Hike, Photography, Tunnel Exploration, Scenery Walk, etc…|
|Route||Fort->Ohiya by Night MailOhiya->Pattipola->Ambewela on foot
Ambewela->Ambewela Farm on foot
Ambewela Farm->N’Eliya->Kandy->Colombo by bus
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
It was last week end that Atha, Prasa and I did the first ever rail hike from B’Wela to Uduwara and it was a cracker. You can read more about it here.
24km of intense rail hiking left us exhausted and when I suggested Atha and Prasa on our way back about doing another on the following weekend, they looked aghast. Our legs were screaming and we all needed a much needed rest but I was pondering over doing another as soon as possible.
To make matters worse, I had apparently pulled a tendon on my left leg near the kneecap and it kept me grimacing every time I walk. However, having consulted our family doctor, I was confident that I could make it the following weekend and sent out a request to the usual gang and the replies were very positive. Everyone except Prince, Harsha and Thilini of our typical gang were there.
Having booked the night mail 3rd class tickets (Rs. 400/- each), we all got together at the Fort station around 7.00pm on 22nd September and had a quick dinner. The station and the trains still haven’t got the cafeterias functioning so be ready for that should you decide to do the same. We got everything ready and got into the train and settled in our seats.
1. 10+km of Rail Hike from Ohiya to Ambewela via Pattipola
2. 3 Stations
3. 4 Tunnels
4. Hike from Ambewela Station to Ambewela Farm (about 4km)
Ohiya-Pattipola – 6.71km
Pattipola-Ambewela – 3.43km
There was this group of people (about 20 guys) who were on board and they were very excited about the journey. So we assumed it to be one of those rare trips for those folks. They were becoming rather raucous at times due to this high excitement. Amid all this, we reached Peradeniya in no time (unlike the last time, the train was on schedule all the way) and there we witnessed some stupid behavior of a couple which almost got them seriously injured. They tried to change their baggage from our train to the other one without unloading all the bags at once to the platform. Instead, they kept walking back and forth between the trains as if they had all the time in the world. They were still not finished when our train pulled out of the station and the lady and the man were trying to get on board the train to take the baggage off. I guess they didn’t get the chance to unload the last bag or two.
Everyboy except Wuminda were talking animatedly, planning future trips and how to do it, etc. Wuminda amid all the noise managed to sleep like a log and waking up only to have the odd snack or two as if on cue. To make matters worse, the washroom didn’t have a lock on the door outside so it was open right throughout emitting Ammonia all the time.
Passing Nawalapitiya, everything got quiet and the lights were off and the air got colder by the minute. There was this foreign couple sitting in the next seat and the husband suddenly got up in the dark and groped around the ceiling fan trying to turn it off coz the air was too cold. He couldn’t find any switch and with his wife’s phone flashlight, he checked everywhere possible and a boy sitting nearby tried to help too. This is when I noticed to my horror that the fellow was trying to pull the emergency lever (chain) on the train and that boy fortunately shouted not to do so avoiding a rather unpleasant experience for all the passengers. I couldn’t keep my eyes shut afterwards.
Passing Nanu Oya, Harinda and Tony wanted to feel the cold on them more so they opened the door and ventured into the foot board for some fresh air. It was very cold and the moon was out in full force as the Poya was only two days before yesterday. The mountains and tea estates were glowing in moonlight and I wish we were outside to savor the moment.
Passing Ambewela and Pattipola we found ourselves at Ohiya in no time around 04.20am, with plenty of time for the sun to appear. It was so windy and chilly and I felt like my bones freezing. The station master was kind enough to open the rest room for us to shelter from the winds and stay warm. It was a battle we didn’t enjoy much. We all sat close to each other and kept peeping out of the window at the shop in front of the station to have some coffee.
Around 5.30am, Dhana said the shop is open and we all hurried out into the shop and they were getting started for the day with a mound of flour balls ready to be cooked into roti. They were busily boiling water and making roti. After about half hour our most-awaited coffees were ready. Everyone wanted fresh milk but had to be content with DCD enriched milk powder.
However, the roti and lunu miris was a big disappointment as the flour was full of yeast (far too much) and the Lunu Miris was nothing but a mixture of chili powder with chopped green chilies in it. We were ravenous but couldn’t eat a lot of that. So be warned folks if you visit this place. It might have been the sheer numbers of us (7 doesn’t sound much though) and our impatience that made them hurry and made a lousy Lunu Miris and Roti.
We all washed our faces and got ready with change of clothes for the journey ahead. I had the train time table and we checked for any goods train and left towards Pattipola which is about 7km away.
Ohiya to Ambewela via Pattipola
The sun was out and it was around 6.45am when we set off and I heard a dog shouting from the top of his voice to find out it was actually a puppy tied into a pole. He was making a big fuss wanting to be free and run about, looking very sad. I felt very sorry for the fellow but there was nothing I could do for him. The surrounding was lush green as the railway track lies through the Horton Plains.
The morning was so nice and there were no houses but endless woods. Then we came to the first tunnel we came across in our hike, Tunnel number 21. It was about 100m in length and curving in the middle. You’d be surprised if you saw the amount of garbage left in these tunnels by the passengers in the passing trains. They must be thinking these dark areas are big garbage pits and throw out all the unwanted plastic wrappers, food remains, bottles and anything else out of the windows.
Do take a torch with you as it can be very slippery inside these tunnels, especially the long ones as the water keeps seeping through the roof and the walls making the path muddy and the sleepers slippery. Tread carefully and be mindful of any trains coming. Don’t hang around inside more than necessary.
After this came the somewhat scary bit of a bridge crossing. There was actually a notice saying that unauthorized people are not allowed to cross the bridge but we assume the notice was put up some time ago during those terrorist activities. (Wonder if they would turn back seeing this notice though) Then we found some dung apparently belonged to either a Wild Boar or a Leopard. At close examination, Hari found some bones embedded in and wondered if it really belonged to a leopard.
Second Tunnel we met (No. 20) was the Mirage Tunnel, coz it looks very short but when you enter in, the other side keeps heading away from you. It was such a crazy notion at first but when you experience it for real, you know it really is there. You have to be doubly careful in places like these. The length of this was 13C and 55L (those who read my first Rail Hike would know these symbols well.) So the total length in feet was just over 890.
Then we met Tunnel No. 19 and 18 close to each other. The 19th tunnel was very small in length and the 18th one was the longest of all the tunnels we met in the journey and inside was pitch black and our torches were a blessing. The path was slippery and muddy and you can’t gauge the distance between sleepers accurately. This was almost 16 chains in length (well over 1000ft) and we saw a notice at both entrances. According to that the tunnel had collapsed in 1951 and the repairs had taken almost 3 decades and completed in 1981.
“We met one of the workers just passing this and he said that the reconstruction had taken a huge toll and no matter what they did, it wouldn’t stand together. However at the end, those who were responsible had gone a promised to build a Temple and a Kovil, should they be able to finish it without delay. The folklore is that only after this they managed to finish it. That Temple and Kovil are located about 100m away from the other tunnel entrance.”
We were then heading towards the Summit Level and rested to have some refreshments. The view towards Horton Plains was simply magnificent but it’d have been great had there been some mist to add to the scenery but it simply wasn’t there. Passing Summit Level, the Pattipola station was in view and we took a much needed rest at the Station. Hari, Wumi and Prasa were leading the group and Dhana and the two young boys and I took a back seat taking every opportunity to take pics.
Wumi didn’t know that there were no leeches along the track so he kept going forward to avoid coming across them. We all know Prince’s leech-phobia but Wumi too is suffering from the same disease but wouldn’t show it in public. After the disappointing breakfast at Ohiya, the gang was hungry all over again and we went into one of the shops at Pattipola and hit them real hard.
Roti, Wade and Pan Cakes evaporated in no time, with the help of a doggy who took a fancy to Hari. After a round of Coffee and Milk Coffee we took to the track yet again and Ambewela was about 3.5km away. However, this bit doesn’t boast extraordinary sceneries. It’s run through either side of vegetable patches of cabbage, carrots and potatoes.
However, as Athula pointed out, the blue of the sky is something unique to upcountry, especially N’Eliya. It was a majestic royal blue with patches of white clouds passing on and off. You’re bound to get a heart attack if you witness the amount of chemicals they use on these farms. All the farmers were busily spraying their plants as if there’s no tomorrow. We are eating all those poisons with very harming things such as Arsenic in them.
We came across the Highland Milk Factory where they make milk powder using fresh milk. They used to let visitors go inside and gave a guided tour of the premises but they don’t do it anymore. You have to get special permission from the Colombo office. When I asked one of the guards some time ago the reason for this, all he said was that the people come here doesn’t behave according to their rules and do whatever they want and the management decided to stop coz they were being a nuisance. There may have been some other reasons too but I wasn’t surprised that the crowds’ behavior was also a concern for that.
The time was around 11.45am and we saw a linesman at the railway track with a green and red flag. Dhana checked with him if a train was due and he said “Not now, but around 11.45”. But immediately after, we heard a horn and the Colombo-bound train was about 100m behind us and coming fast. Our reaction saved the day for us and I felt very angry at the person. However, we too didn’t check the time so we’re also to blame.
Ambewela was just a short distance away and the head party was waiting for us. The station is being renovated to give better facilities to the customers. We found both Ohiya and Pattipola in very good condition too. After a very short break, it was time to shift gears and hit the road. The sun was blazing right over our heads and we felt as if we could reach out and touch it.
Ambewela Station to Ambewela Farm
After about 1km, we saw the lush greenery of the Ambewela Farm with that gorgeous grass spreading into the horizon. That bit was super cool and we kept stopping for quick pics every now and then. By now my leg was killing me and I was practically dragging it along the ground.
Everybody wanted to hop a ride to the N’Eliya ending our hike but on the other hand nobody wanted to voice it out loud either. After a lot of huffing and puffing, we reached Ambewela Farm Shop and decided to refresh ourselves. Hari decided to take a wash while we ordered Chocolate Milk Shake to my heartache.
Surprisingly the milk shake was really good (worth 150/- each though) made using fresh milk. It simply revived our body and mind and everybody wanted to have another but I wouldn’t dream of it, not in this life anyway. After the drink, everyone was too lazy to walk anymore and decided to kill time till Pattipola bus bound for N’Eliya comes to the stand. Wumi and I had other ideas. We simply didn’t wanna sit and wait ignoring these beautiful sceneries all around.
We saw the windmills operated by the farm to power it making them self-sufficient in energy supply. There were around 20 of wind mills. We saw Hakgala from the road towering over the farmland. What a majestic view it brought to us. I was aiming to reach Kande Ela to picture her in the afternoon sun but the bus caught with us about 1km before.
It was all along the way to N’Eliya where we had a tough time catching a bus back to Colombo. We decided to take one to Kandy instead and take a bus from there. We reached Colombo around 10.00pm.
Well that makes the end of my 2nd rail hike which was superb in every aspect. This took a sharp turn coz I actually wanted to do this from Ohiya to Nanu Oya but the distance seemed a bit too much. We learned our bitter lesson by doing more than 24km from B’wela to Uduwara the other day and didn’t wanna push ourselves too much.
We had a great time walking among those trees that were sheltering us all the way and keeping us nice and cool. It was as if walking through a dream and it made me wanna do a few more rail hikes in the foreseeable future.
So this is my fairy tale and hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing. You gotta go see it for yourselves with your own eyes. So go and enjoy….