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|Year and Month||22 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||Hiking, Wild Life, Photography, Scenic Drive, etc…|
|Weather||Excellent but very misty in the morning and the evening.|
|Route||Pattipola->Horton Plains and back to Pattipola->Nanu Oya->Hatton via Talawakele->Awissawella->Colombo|
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
I woke up with a jolt, feeling the cold creeping up my body and looking at the time made me jump. It’d just gone 5am, even though I’d set the alarm for 6, I wanted to be up and see the fogy surrounding mountains. It was so cold I couldn’t feel my face with the numb finger tips. Looking through the window pane was like looking at a milky sea. While I was pondering over others came awake one by one. Planning for the day was pretty much straight forward coz I wanted to do the Kirigallpoththa and if time permits visit the Galway forest reserves too. However it wasn’t to be as the Kirigallpoththa trail turned out to be more challenging than we’d imagined.
Karunadasa was at the door with steaming cups of mind lifting coffee which disappeared down our throats warming the inner body. We’d asked him to have our breakfast packed and ready and were hoping to get back for lunch. Washing and getting ready didn’t take long for us. So by 7am we were on our way struggling through the misty road uphill while Sheham vowing for the umpteenth time not to come again without fog lamps. The mountain air was so fresh you wouldn’t get it any fresher than that. Just climbing the hilly terrain we came across a long jungle fowl hunting for breakfast and stopped for a pic. He was the first of many we came across that day. Tony kept wondering out loud how beautiful all the male ones were compared to the female ones including the humans.
We reached the ticket office just before 8am but it felt like around 5am with the mist obscuring the view and darkness still lurking around. There weren’t a lot at the ticket counter so we soon were waved through. Surprisingly the Nelu flowers were still there though not as many as it was a month ago but enough to keep the people shooting under terribly bad lighting. Passing Thotupola mountain trail brought back some happy memories (You can read them here)
We came across a female Sambar deer and when I got out for a clear shot; saw another among the trees, probably a whole gang nearby. Passing the Mahaeliya bungalow and the dormitory we stopped at the opening bit of the road for yet another pic opportunity. Sri Pada was far away covered in mist but the Kirigallpoththa and undocumented Agra Bopath were clearly visible. In fact the Agra Bopath is the 3rd highest after Piduruthalagala and Kirigallpoththa but not on the books giving the bronze medal to Thotupola. It’s much closer than the Kirigallpoththa and the trail goes keeping it to our right very closely most of the way.
We came to the Farr Inn and had our still warm breakfast. Karunadasa had, in his hurry to pack the breakfast, given only 3 packets instead of 4. Fortunately they were bigger than usual and Sheham being a light eater helped a lot. Tempered Sprats, Egg Omelet, Coconut Sambol and Dhal Curry with Rice were just what the tummy ordered and we wolfed them down instantly. Then we went to the ticket counter to show our tickets and being patted by the officers checking for anything not allowed inside such as polythene, cigarettes, matches or lighters, etc. Even the biscuit and toffee wrappers are not allowed. They now have very stylish paper bags sponsored by Asian Alliance for visitors to use for taking things with them. This is an excellent and commendable thing to do and I feel everywhere like these must adopt strict measures like these.
If you remember there didn’t use to be female officers working at the entrance which was a way for most people to take unnecessary things hiding on their bodies coz male officials weren’t gonna search them thoroughly. Now it’s not possible folks, they’ve been sensible enough to identify the gap in their system and patch it up. Great job folks, hats off to you. Just remember to show your ticket to the entrance to the circular trail counter as they haven’t got a counter dedicated for Kirigalpoththa trail. Now don’t get the notion you can simply walking taking anything you want coz there are many officials just wandering around keeping an eye out for people like that and if caught the repercussions would be severe.
It was a touch past 9am when we set off, the notice informing there are 7km to the summit and I was very glad not to have had to do the circular trail as everyone was heading towards Gonagala falls and World’s end. After about 100m we crossed a small stream with a tiny bridge made of sleepers. Wonder how they managed to get out there. It was all open country with Agra Bopath towering to our right. We came to a somewhat marshy area full of flattened grass as if a bunch of Sambar deer had had a wrestling match and maneuvering around it was a nightmare coz we all except Atha wore shoes and getting them muddy and wet almost at the beginning couldn’t be condoned. Turning to the right we went past those prickly invading bushes (Yoda Nidikumba) towards some dead trees. Passing them we entered the first forest and walking through it for about a couple of hundred meters came to an opening.
Along the path we reached a somewhat larger stream. This is a bit tricky place coz in the past you had to take the left and walk through the dense forest but recently the officials have made a path to the right parallel to the tiny bamboo shrubs. We initially took the left out of curiosity and realized there was no way through the forest so decided to retrace our steps back to the stream and took the right along the clear path.
The recent rains and dew had made the path muddy at many places walking extremely difficult and slippery. It took us so long to walk around these muddy areas. Atha finally decided to wear his shoes as the going was very tough. It was for no avail coz just after wearing them; he plunged into mud nearly losing his right shoe. The Nelu flowers bordered the path and we saw plenty of buds signaling more flowers to come in the foreseeable future. Walking through thick forest along not ventured path was so difficult. There were lots of trees overgrown covering the path and many places we had to bend half and crawl through. Wish we had a long knife to clear the path but it was only wishful thinking. The branches kept entangling our clothes and backpacks, scraping our exposed skin and nearly blinding us too. I then saw a huge wasps’ nest (Bambara Wadayak) but had been vacated probably due to eagles’ attacks. We saw another but broken down into pieces again could be by the eagles.
After it felt like ages, we came to the base of Kirigalpoththa where we had plenty of Jeewani and biscuits. There was a very cool water way from which we replenished our water bottles. All was set for the final push. Climbing uphill wasn’t a walk in the park. We reached a clear rocky slab that gave a superb view towards the Farr Inn. We could make out the car park, vehicle windows glinting in the sun, vehicles coming and going on Pattipola and Ohiya roads. It simply was amazing. We pushed on taking frequent breaks to compensate for the lack of oxygen. All of a sudden we heard Tony calling “Sheham, Sheham” and there was a hint of anxiety in his voice. Atha and I were in front about 10-15ft ahead of Sheham while Tony was also around 10-15ft behind Sheham. When we all got together Tony said that he saw a leopard sitting and staring at us. Sheham too had heard a soft growl but ignored thinking it was coming from his O2-deprived lungs.
Tony was clearly shaken and found it difficult to tell us at first what had happened. He was stammering and shivering while we all tried to calm his nerves. In his frightful moment the fella had forgotten completely about the camera and a very rare pic opportunity of a leopard at Horton plains was lost. The leopard had been about 20ft among the trees according to Tony. It may have been a bit farther away, coz Tony’s shot-to-hell nerves wouldn’t have known left from right at that time. It’s always important to stick together when you are doing a hike through the forest to avoid being separated from your group.
*The approximate GPS coordinates of where we saw the leopard is 6°48’3.52″N 80°46’31.18″E
After a long journey we were finally almost on top. We reached an opening about 100ft below the summit where it gave a 180-degree panoramic view. This is where you can get the best view more than even the summit coz the summit point is covered to a certain extent by trees. We rested our tortured legs and had our energy bars and drinks giving us a boost for the rest of the day. I took hundreds of pics and managed to get Tony to do a short documentary too. We heard voices and a bunch of boys appeared through the trees. They were just after A/Ls and had found the information and trail guides off Lakdasun. Would you believe it? It shows extent of the silent service rendered by Lakdasun and its members. That is why I always try to write trip reports so that they are there forever and anyone can get useful information from them. Those boys even knew us by names which surprised both them and us.
Leaving them to get a break, we left for the summit which was about 100m uphill. Just be warned not to take the narrow path along the edge of the rock. Instead take the path through the trees onto your left and go uphill. We reached the summit in record time and felt all our tiredness vanish into thin mountain air. We took pics and celebrated our achievement; there were tiny guavas on the surrounding trees which we helped to ourselves. They were very tasty but available only around the summit. We came back to where those boys were still resting and had long chat with them. Bidding our farewell and warning them about the leopard we were on our way. It must be noted that we didn’t find any garbage or polythene along the path. In fact we saw only two toffee wrappers which we picked up. It could be the strict measures adopted by the officials and not many people opting to do the Kirigalpoththa trail. Only the serious nature lovers would attempt this and they wouldn’t be too reckless with garbage and polythene.
On the way back we met another group going up. Coming down was easier and faster so we made good time. Tony showed us where he came across the leopard recalling the dreadful experience. We then saw yet more wasps around a tree trunk probably building another home and left quietly. You gotta be very careful about them as they can be deadly dangerous if roused. You will be left with nowhere to run or hide. So do be quiet as much as possible right throughout. We then saw freshly disgorged leopard’s scat at the side of the path. Sheer sighting of it sent shock waves through Tony’s body. He figured it to be just laid and wanted to hurry along.
Almost 1km away from the trail head we met another group with a professor looking gentleman and 3 others, one of which was the officer at the ticket checking counter. He remembered us well and we told them about the leopard and wasps. Coincidentally they were doing a research on wasps and on their way to pic them in the night. So our sightings of Wasps helped them immensely.
Leaving them we reached the trail head around 3.30pm exhausted but I got Tony to do a post trail documentary. As I said at the beginning the notice says it’s 7km to the summit but we calculated with our GPS to be around 5.4km. It could be the longer path through the dense forest that is 7km, but the new one’s definitely shorter. We were so tired and hungry and way past our lunch time. So hurriedly went back and so a bunch of Sambar deer resting faraway while two of them were nibbling at grass around 200m from the road. Taking a quick snap we headed towards the dormitory where we spotted this magnificent male Sambar deer with a remarkable set of horns. There were two others nearby but this fellow was begging for food like Gemunu in Yala. There was a van stopped almost touching distance of him and passengers were putting out their hands urging the fellow to them. One guy got out with a camcorder and people inside were showing melon trying to lure the animal to feed off their hands while the guy with the camcorder recorded this silly act.
We got very angry but kept to ourselves and I managed to take pics of this crazy, illegal and dangerous incident. (Check it out here)
We left and reached the guest and anxiously waiting Karunadasa. The lunch was ready with Soya Meat, Fresh Potato Curry, Mallung and Boiled Eggs with Steaming Rice. We gobbled as much as our tummies could manage and paying our bill which was unbelievably cheap, bid farewell to this hospitable person. Should you ever wanna stay close to Pattipola, this is the ideal place and we highly recommend it. I even told him about Lakdasun, so if you go just tell him that.
Back to the misty road crawling till Black pool where it eased a bit. We chose to take the Nanu Oya – Hatton road though under construction we wanted to avoid the winding N’Eliya – Gampola road and then hectic Kandy road. Until Talawakele the road is worse (not recommended for cars with low ground clearance) but there after vastly improved. We made good time but it was midnight when we reached home.
Ok guys, there ends yet another fairy tale of mine. What a cracker of 48hrs we had. I had to do two reports to give you the details and fit in as many pics as I could.
Hope you enjoyed this and do take a look at the wonderful panos too. Hopefully I’ll see you soon with another story. Until then take care.