|Copyright Notice: Please obtain permission from the author before duplicating, re-publishing or adapting content of a trip report|
|Be a responsible traveler! Watch this video before you hit the road! Download Video: MP4|3gp|
|Do you like to contribute a Trip Report? learn how to or download template and start straight away!|
|Year and Month||30-31 Dec, 2014|
|Number of Days||2|
|Crew||Morgan and Me|
|Transport||By Bus, on foot and by train|
|Activities||Waterfall Hunting, Photography, etc…|
|Weather||Gloomy and a slight drizzle on the first day and Excellent on the second day.|
|Route||Maharagama->Avissawella->Hatton->Talawakele->Great Western->Nanu Oya->Nuwara Eliya->Boralanda->Nuwara Eliya->Nanu Oya->Colombo.|
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
The rains continued unabated throughout the country wreaking havoc. The ordinary lifestyles were shot to hell and back. Most people lost their lives, property leaving only what they wore and much more. Three quarters of the country came to a standstill as a result. Everyone was affected regardless of their status. At least Mother Nature hasn’t forgotten the rule of equity, treating everyone alike. Something for us to think about when we’ve nowhere to go. The reservoirs were filled to the brim making the authorities open the spill gates. While many people suffered from the adversity, few people, like me, took advantage of the unexpectedly arrived rains. So hunting waterfalls was intensified.
After the journey to Mandaram Nuwara and then to Victoria & Randenigala, I was feeling lonely and jittery. I’m sure Hariya would have thought differently but couldn’t ignore the proverb, “make hay while sun shines”. Watching TV was an agony, and news only managed to rouse the adventurer in me showing all the overflowing reservoirs, tanks and waterfalls. When they showed St. Claire in full flow, my heart not only missed just one beat, but quite a few. How wonderful even to see her come alive on TV. I was craving for the big moment. The news once again showed that the spills of wretched Upper Kotmale Reservoir were open so I could wait no longer. The next morning I called Morgan, and found out St. Claire was really blooming.
I didn’t need a second invitation, getting ready hurriedly I was out of the house like a bullet and informed Morgan of my imminent arrival. The bus didn’t move fast enough as I kept shifting about the seat itching for one of the long-awaited moments in my life.
- Devon Falls, Pathana.
- Pathana Ella, Pathana.
- St. Claire Falls, Thalawakele.
- Thalawakele Ella, Thalawakele.
- Rama Bhajan, Great Western.
- Nanu Oya Bridge Falls & Nanu Oya Ella, Nanu Oya.
- Glassaugh Falls, Nanu Oya.
- Lovers’ Leap, Hawa Eliya.
- Galwala Ella, Hawa Eliya.
- Glen Falls, Nuwara Eliya.
I know now you’re beginning to groan. I’ve shown you this lady before, quite a few times but what can I do when she gets all dressed up and give me her beautiful smile? Everytime is different from the ones before. Maybe my eyes playing tricks on me but I can’t help it. There was a mist spread out very thinly before her giving me a flirtatious look.
Well, I’ll just let you look at a few pictures without me bragging about her beauty.
Oh hello, where did you spring from? This is someone I’ve been eyeing for a long time. When we were walking from Nanu Oya to Talawakele, we could see another waterfall before Devon Falls closes to the Devon Cabanas. She was more prominent during our Nawalapitiya to Pundaluoya waterfall tour as well. However everytime she eluded our prying eyes. Even this time she would have done the same hadn’t I been walking from Devon to St. Claire. After the photo shootout with the Devon Falls, I decided to walk towards the St. Claire, something I’d always wanted to do.
Walking helped me do two things. 1. I got the chance to see the full package of St. Claire. That’s something many people miss. Most of us stop by the viewing platform and enjoy the Niagara like upper section without bothering too much about the lower part barely visible. If you look at her from the railway line, you will get a better view of the lower part but not the whole thing. There is this little stretch along the road for about 50m (passing Devon walking towards Talawakele, you’ll see a hotel to your left, still being built I guess. From here you can view her beautifully) where you can clearly see the full falls, both top and bottom. However, the extreme left corner of the wider upper part is not very well visible. You are gonna get a front row seat for that show in a short while. So get your cola and the popcorn handy.
Looking at St. Claire is like undergoing hypnosis therapy. You simply block out the rest of your surrounding concentrating solely on her. Today was no exception but for some lucky stroke, I could barely see the top of this waterfall and my brain tapped a few keys bringing back the stored away file on her. Now don’t you get the wrong idea about this particular file?
So after the show with St. Claire (I’ll come to her next) I started walking along the estate road that runs parallel to the main road but at a lower level. The turn off to this is at the hotel I mentioned above, about 100m from Devon. There’s even set of stairs should you miss the turn off, about 50m further towards Talawakele (this is the stretch to view St. Claire fully so I too took the stairs) that would bring you down to the estate road which is in good condition.
Walking down you will notice the Devon cabanas to your left. Just go on for about a couple hundred meters and you will see this beautiful fall to your right starting under a bridge then falling in three main sections before hitting the base. To get a better and frontal view, just get up to the tea estate infested with leeches during the showery season. I didn’t mind the blood suckers so got up and saw how gorgeous a girlie she is. Morgan called me having come to the St. Claire viewing point and after a short stay; I jumped onto the road and waved down a tuk-tuk to my destiny. This of course gave me the chance to take out nearly a dozen leeches that were digging into my socks. St. Claire, here I come.
St. Claire Falls
I reached the point and met ever so cheerful Morgan. However my mind became numb when I saw St. Claire. Where was all that water? She was back to her dried up self, but the water levels were a little better, especially when I saw the bottom part closer to Devon, very much like the Dunhinda. Apart from that, the upper section was in the same dismal state but I couldn’t stop looking at her and taking a few dozen pictures.
Oh St. Claire, I’m disappointed once again but nothing will discourage me from seeing you again. I’ll wait be waiting for the moment when you’re in full flow, even if it takes the rest of my life. Feeling very sad, we headed into the Pundaluoya road where there is a short cut that goes to the Great Western tea factory.
This is when I saw yet again a waterfall close to the railway crossing. This is the same Kotmale Oya flowing before joining the reservoir. Getting out of the tuk-tuk, I walked along the railway line and came to this beauty.
She is not a very tall and long-legged one but a short and a slightly rotund girl. Sliding down across a wider rocky area creating many small cascades was a sight to enjoy. Well, time was going on, so far the rain mysteriously kept away for the first time in a about a week. It’d been continuously raining so hard and Morgan claimed this was a day sent right from the heaven. We got back in the tuk-tuk and took the badly damaged road to his house.
The legendary Great Western Mountain was towering the whole area but she refused flatly to show herself. The thick cover of mist hung lovingly around here head and shoulders not revealing much. Yet under the curtain I felt her smile with me. This is where my life of traveling took off like a spacecraft and continuing its relentless journey exploring to date (check out the Great Western Hike). So she’s someone who is very dear to my heart.
Having arrived at Morgan’s place and meet his two sons felt good. I guess it was me and Prince who stayed at his house first. Since then he’d had a lot of visitors wanting to climb this mighty mountain. Some of them even had stayed at his house. Just a quick word on the accommodation at his place. He now has a room free should any visitors come along. Four people can sleep in it, but can squeeze in a couple more. He provides meals which are very cheap but excellent. I’m sure anyone who is going there will enjoy his company. After a quick cup of coffee we set off towards the station, mainly to see the mountain in the evening. The sky kept gloomy throughout but towards the afternoon there was a bit of sunshine, maybe to bless my arrival.
Morgan said that there was nothing but continuous rain for the last couple of months, especially the last week with no sun whatsoever. However, I was spared the trouble from the moment I left home as not a hint of rain was in the way. We walked along the wet railway line reliving the past. It was great to be there once again and the chill was beginning to set in. The train services which had been temporarily halted in the upcountry line till Rambukkana, had started from today (another blessing from my arrival, now don’t be annoyed at me being boastful) up to Nanu Oya. There was a major earth slip at Ambewela washing away the ground beneath the track as long as some 80ft. There had been a few others around Ella making the life so difficult for the railway department.
It’s not only the railway department that has suffered but hundreds of people who depend on the train were also affected. Among those are the vendors such as Morgan who make their living thanks to the train. For the past week, those had suffered a lot living with bare minimum as their income came to an abrupt still. Now the train is running up to Nanu Oya, hopefully it’ll get back to normal soon. After a walk around the station, we reached the safety of Morgan’s and had a hot bath. The dinner was delicious Thosai with Chicken and Dhal Curry. Morgan kept marveling at the fact that it didn’t rain giving the full credit to me, I felt like the Rain God.
We got back home and had a hot bath thanks to Morgan. It revived my tired limbs after an exciting day. After a delicious Thosai dinner while I was lolling in the comfortable settee, Morgan came and told that there’s something called “Rama Bhajan” happening around the village and soon they’ll visit his place. I was curious as this is yet another Tamil custom unknown to us. I got my camera ready and was waiting impatiently for the group to appear while Morgan told me what this really was.
This is a custom usually starts one month before the Thaipongal Festival usually falls in Jan. As this time it was on 15 Jan, the customary preparations had started on 15 Dec. The kids of the village (not all, only the willing ones) go to the Kovil at the start of the period. They’ll remain there for the rest of the time until the Thaipongal Festival. These kids and even their families remain fully vegetarian throughout the period. During the time, the kids visit the neighborhood, singing these rhythmic poetic songs which are called “Rama Bhajan”. The villagers treat them with food and drinks. Some even give some money which goes to the Kovil’s fund.
When they visited the place, I was fully ready with my camera. Morgan and his family kept an oil lamp on the porch with some ash. There was a bunch of kids at various ages probably between 6 and 16. They were signing the Rama Bhajan loudly (I managed to take a short video as well) and were carrying two pictures of the gods. It was an extraordinary experience.
Enjoy the Video of Rama Bhajan.
The cold was creeping in when I settled comfortably under the blankets. Surprisingly there were a few mosquitoes hovering around singing their awful songs at me trying to take a poke at me. The half-inch thick blanket was too much for them to handle and after a few failed attempts, they left for an easy prey. The sleep enveloped me while my thoughts still were with St. Claire. Gosh, ain’t I ever gonna see her in full flow again?
My alarm went off at 6am but I had beaten it and was listening for any sign of the rain as it was threatening menacingly to pour down. I wasn’t worried though as it was not much I had planned for the day. There wasn’t a good deal of walking and what I had planned could have managed with an umbrella with no problem always the winds kept in check. I got up to find the morning rays streaming through the window. The household was still quiet save for Morgan’s wife busy in the kitchen. I opened the front door and there it was right in front of me. Today is the last of 2014, it dawned on me out of nowhere. And the sky was royal blue with a few patches of white clouds. The sun was shining in full force as if compensating for the past week. The leaves were very still meaning no hint of wind. I couldn’t have asked for anything better and while I was enjoying the warmth Morgan joined me exclaiming I had brought with me the long lost sun.
We could see the gorgeous Great Western Mountain through the branches from his garden, showing herself and looking very serene and beautiful as ever. I was impatient for a better look and had a wash in the ice cold water (well I simply didn’t care one way or the other) and got dressed. I simply ran out of the house while Morgan kept up with me till the railway line. What awaited me simply took my breath away.
She had put on a new green wrap and had pushed the mist away. The sun that rose above the mountains towards Nanu Oya and beyond bathed her with golden rays. The picture was simply perfect. We inhaled the fresh mountain air deeply feeling the scent of the washed trees and grass mixed with soil. The Lion’s Rock where the Singamalai Tunnel, the longest in Sri Lanka with over half kilometer in length, is rising to the sky. To her right faintly visible amid the fog was sacred Sri Pada Mountain. My morning became a whole lot better after seeing that. Just to adding something to the lion’s rock. Even though we all know that this is called the lion’s rock (Singamalai = Singam + Malai in Tamil giving the same meaning), I met one of the railway officials, an engine driver to be exact another time, who claimed this is also called the Duke’s Nose. He further revealed that was mentioned in one of the old English articles he had come across.
According to the article, the shape of the rock gives the impression of it being similar to a nose of someone in the upper echelon, thus the name Duke’s Nose. Interesting things we come across.
It was simply amazing and while I was enjoying the view, everyone in the nearby villages got busy putting their wet clothes out to dry. For a whole week, they hadn’t been able to do that. Morgan got a call saying the morning goods train from Nawalapitiya to Nanu Oya was on the way so we hurried to have our breakfast and be back to the station. The day was beginning with everything I could have wished but let’s see how it is as the day wears off.
Nanu Oya Bridge Falls & Nanu Oya Ella
After a hearty breakfast we got back to the station having bid farewell to Morgan’s family. The train arrived few minutes after 8.30am we we got on board. The Great Western looked sensual in the morning and I was craning my neck out of the window to see her. This was an amazing sight. Reaching Radella, I saw the Radella Falls just passing the station at the bridge. There was more water compared to last time but no way of taking a good picture. I managed only a pot shot through the moving train.
We reached Nanu Oya around 9am and left walked back along the railway to the Nanu Oya Ella but not before taking a long range sniper shot at the upper Glassaugh Falls in the extreme distance. The station was quiet unlike other 31 Dec when it’s bustling with passengers. Only a handful of locals were there another we walked on. Passing the bridge we turned into the left side road that goes downhill. However I stopped to inspect the falls under the bridge that goes unnoticed by many but the increased flow of water called us for attention. She was beautiful and having slid along the rocky surface, suddenly fell into a deep recess making a nice little falls. Thus giving her the name Nanu Oya Bridge Falls. I wanted to get down the slope and get a better picture as there were the inevitable tree cover but it seemed too dangerous. So feeling impatient to see Nanu Oya Falls, we went further downhill.
Passing the tea factory to our left, we turned to our right and whoa, the sight of this falling beauty made me stop in my tracks fumbling for the camera. The increase in the water level was plain to see as she danced down the steps before running under the bridge making another big cascade visible from the tea patch further up the road among thick foliage which we came about while going to see the Glassaugh Falls.
I enjoyed the sight especially the black bridge overhead adding color and contrast to the background. We were lucky to get a glimpse of the S12 passing overhead last time we visited this (Watch the Video) but this time no such luck as the number of trains running were few and far between. How many of you have seen or at least known that there are two more sections of the Nanu Oya Ella up the tea patch beyond the bridge? To see that, you have to walk along the railway and you’ll see the extreme top part and the mid-section by the bridge but getting down to them are tricky but not impossible. However the sight from the bridge was very good so we didn’t have to get down.
Having spent a long time we continued along the road to the lower part of Glassaugh Falls that is only a few meters ahead.
Glassaugh Falls has three distinguishing parts. The lowest is only a few meters from the Nanu Oya Ella right by the estate road. From here you can see the top and mid sections as well but not clear enough. Similar to the Nanu Oya Ella, there is an overhead bridge but not so visible. You can see the mid segment from the bridge if you walk along the railway line which we did.
The lower section, that was nothing but a tiny trickle down last time, was flowing beautifully this time thanks to all the rains. After the rituals, we went uphill where the road circles and meet the railway line. Last time we did the rail hike, we went on the same road and as a result missed out the stretch between and those two bridges overhead and the upper parts of the falls. However this time I managed to make it up for the lost 500-600m on the track with some stunning parts of the falls.
Coming up to the railway, we crossed and went further up the road another 100-150m till we came to the Nanu Oya Tamil School. The road goes to the left of the school but there is a typical estate road not used much branching to the right in front of the school. You will see two large solar panels as well. There’s a short cut that will cut down the length by half which we took on the return journey. Soon as you cross the railway line, there is a set cement steps that goes uphill through the tea estate joining with the same road I mentioned before. We walked along the road full of slippery green moss that was scary to walk on. We could see the surrounding being washed down by the hot rays of the newly risen sun as if to renew the world after the great washout.
300-400m will bring you to the top and the most notable part of the Glassaugh Falls that is close to 50ft in height and wide maybe 20+ft. We enjoyed the company for some time before going back this time taking the shorter path back to the railway track. Walking along we first reached the Glassaugh Falls Bridge with the mid part to our left falling sexily. The top part too was visible but not the whole package. We walked further finding the Nanu Oya Ella Bridge and like the Glassaugh Falls Bridge, we saw the upper parts of the Nanu Oya Ella to the left. There is a small top part and a larger mid-section close to each other. The pictures of them are given above under the sub heading Nanu Oya Ella.
Within a km or so, there are three large railway bridges in this part showing what it must have been like to build the upcountry line. They built those bridges to last long and strong. Even after a century or so, they are still standing proudly telling us about the engineering marvels of the good old days while modern ones fall apart at the slightest disturbance. We walked back to the station and then onto the road looking for a bus to get to another place close to me, Nuwara Eliya. I tend to get the chance to visit her even for a brief period close to the end of every year.
Lovers’ Leap Falls
We reached Nuwara Eliya around 11am. Getting off at the temple we could see the Glen Falls in the distance over the Grand Hotel and the buildings around. She has also become seasonal with a height around 30ft now was active thanks to the rains. We didn’t stop to enjoy her as we were pressed for time. We might get a chance for a sniper shot on our way back. The main Nuwara Eliya-Welimada-Badulla Road had caved in close to Gregory Lake cutting off the traffic. The vehicles were rerouted through the Kandapola Road. On any other time in Dec, especially the 31st, Nuwara Eliya would be chaotic with thousands of tourists wandering around in groups wrapped up in their multi-colored sweaters talking nonstop shooting with their cameras but this Dec 31st was something entirely different. Nuwara Eliya was like a ghost town, the streets were empty, apart from the locals who were doing the last minute shopping, and there were only a handful of tourists about. We had this irresistible city pretty much for ourselves thanks to the landslides and heavy rains. According to the locals, Nuwara Eliya was almost cut off from the rest of the country as all of the entering roads were blocked by the horrific landslides and fallen rocks in the last couple of days.
We got into an overloaded Boralanda bus in front of the Victoria Park that drove dangerously fast. Getting only a tiny foothold on the footboard I felt like flying in the winds. Thankfully the misery came to an end at the Nuwara Eliya hospital as nearly whole the bus was emptied. We got off at Boralanda with Pedro Tea Factory to our right and the Bomburu Ela Reservoir that feeds the Uva-Paranagama valley, beyond that. I was tempted to go see that too but we simply had no time. So we continued along the Pedro Estate road which is terrible, not good for anything other than a tuk-tuk, tractor or a jeep. You’re anyway better off walking. It’s about 1-1.5km to the Lovers’ Leap Falls. We walked avoiding the muddy areas as best as we could. The rocky hill to the right of Lovers’ Leap Falls was rising into the clear blue sky. However there was a thick cloud of mist floating from the Welimada valley engulfing Boralanda.
The walk was very pleasurable and we got glimpses of this beautiful and unique fall in the distance. The Kovil that was merely a cement step now has been constructed well. Walking through the gate of the Kovil we found the well-used footpath to the base of the falls. Even though I’d been to this lovely lady before (another late December) it didn’t feel like so. She was beautiful in a completely different way. I took pictures of her and getting closer to the base was very tough as the crashing down water sent millions of droplets shooting at you as if warning you not to get any closer. I obeyed fully and got only as close as she would allow then took a path that goes uphill the right of the falls to get a side view.
Afterwards, we bid farewell to her but to our disgust, saw many left beer cans, plastic bottles and polythene bags among the trees and bushes. It’s not easy getting the reckless and careless tourists to take care of the Mother Nature. Let’s hope at least the next generation will be more careful. We took another short cut climbing straight down through the tea patch and then entering a village, passing a bigger Kovil finally getting to the main road about 1km before where we got off and took to the path.
Got a bus and got off at the hospital. We were thirsty so had a quick soft drink before walking towards the hospital. Take the road to the right of the hospital that will go in a semi-circle and at the end will be the Galwala Ella. We could see the falls clearly even from the main road signaling the rains had done the trick. She too is a seasonal falls only coming alive during the heavy rains. Among the large crowd of people going to the hospital for the midday visit, we were carried on. We then took the road to the right and followed it close to a km till the falls.
She was great looking and the houses around were busy with people trying to dry their clothes in the long delayed sun. The stream originates from the Piduruthalagala range and due to the position of large rocks along the stream, the name Galwala Ella. It’s said that during the colonial era, the British soldiers used this as a bathing place. There is a tank built on the top diverting water to the city and as a result, she only comes alive during the heavy rains. We were lucky to have been at the ideal time.
After the typical Sri Photo Gallery, we got back feeling ravenous and got a bus to the Nuwara Eliya town.
We had a lunch of Wadei and Masala Thosai washed down with Ginger Beer. We felt better and got to find a bus to Nanu Oya. The next bus was due in about half hour so we took a walk towards the racecourse hoping to get a look at this beauty as well. She too like many waterfalls in Nuwara Eliya has become a seasonal fall as the water is diverted to supply the never ending demand in the city.
We could get a very good view from the front of racecourse and thanks to the long reach managed not only some long range shots but a short video clip as well. Just as I was finishing the thing, the bus appeared making us jump. We managed to get in and Morgan found that the S12 had reached Talawakele on her way to Nanu Oya. I was to take it back to Colombo. We arrived at the station with plenty of time to spare. The train arrived with only a handful of passengers coz this was only the second day since they resumed operations after the earth slips.
Getting in, I had a whole second class carriage to myself, something that’s not likely to happen again. So having inspected all the seats, I finally made up my mind where to sit. Morgan accompanied me up to Great Western where we parted company. It was good to be there once again and looking at the Great Western Mountain, made me wanna climb her once again. Well, I might as well do it, you never know with me.
Well folks, that is the end of the 16th dedicated waterfall tour. I’ve only got 5 more to beat the Tour de France. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to do so in 2015.
Thanks for patiently reading up to now. I’ll bid you farewell for now. By the time I finish this fairy tale, I’d done another big one, something only a handful of the ordinary folks would have the luxury of doing.
It’s another fairy tale, I’ll see with that in the future.
Till then, be safe and keep traveling.