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|Year and Month||19-21 Feb, 2016|
|Number of Days||3|
|Crew||Ana, Atha, Prasa, D & Me|
|Accommodation||Kaluganga Wana Niwahana|
|Transport||By SUV, Tuk-Tuk and on Foot.|
|Activities||Waterfalls, Hiking, Photography, Sightseeing, Relaxing, etc…|
|Weather||Excellent in the mornings up to early afternoon around 2pm then rains till evening.|
Return on Rambukoluwa->Pitawala->Riverston->Rattota->Matale->Mawathagama->Kurunegala->Narammala->Giriulla->Pasyala->Aththanagalla->Kaduwela->Malabe.
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
Hello folks, here I’m once again with yet another wonderful journey. I’m sure you’re gonna like this more and so let’s get started, shall we?
This is sort of our monthly journey which we go with Ana. We’ve been doing it for some time now and covered a lot of ground in that time. So, our February adventure was aimed at Knuckles but from Ilukkumbura, Rambukoluwa, Pitawala and Atanwala side. As you might be aware, there are many access points to Knuckles, practically from all directions. Such as:
- Hunnasgiriya->Corbet’s Gap->Thangappuwa.
- Hasalaka->Gala Muduna->Dandenikumbura.
- Matale->Rattota->Riverston->Pitawala Pathana.
- Matale->Rattota->Riverston->Pitawala Pathana ->Pitawala->Atanwala.
Well, I hope I’ve covered every access route. However there must be many other unknown or not so popular access points which I’ve missed above. No wonder Knuckles is so popular among the travel enthusiast as it is easily accessible from all around it. Despite the forest destruction due to the Cardamom Plantations some 3-4 decades before, Knuckles has regained her former glory thanks to the many efforts by the authorities, notably the Forest Department. As a result, we’ve this beautiful and unique piece of Forest Reserve to go and reenergize ourselves. So we must do everything possible to protect it for the future generations.
I’ve been more than lucky enough to visit Knuckles from most of the above mentioned paths. However only this time I managed to visit it from Naula-Elahera-Pallegama end coz other times it’d been either Hunnasgiriya or Matale-Rattota access routes. Just be warned about the Naula-Elahera road as it’s not in good condition mainly due to the Moragahakanda Project and the many Sand Lorries which come from Manampitiya and Bakamuna areas. The road is still under construction so it’s best if you avoid it for some time. However if you have a high clearance vehicle, this can still be done but with a great difficulty and more time.
Unfortunately we weren’t aware of this so decided to take this road just for a change. Our crew was the usual and we left at 3am as usual which is a great time to start and it’ll help save a lot of time especially when travelling.
- Sera Ella, Puwakpitiya.
- Wambatuhena Ella, Puwakpitiya.
- Maningala, Ilukkumbura to Atanwala.
- Vedda Peni Ella, Atanwala.
- Pitawala Pathana, Riverston.
- Bambarakiri Ella, Rattota.
We made good progress and arrived at Kurunegala by 5.30am and as there were no shops open for business we carried on towards Rideegama and then took the road that connect to A9 at Nalanda. It was under construction and should be completed within a year or so, fingers crossed. Around 7am we reached the A9 at Kawudupelella and found a nice hotel for our breakfast. The variety of food was really good and they were straight from the kitchen so we devoured a hearty meal and were on our way in a half hour or so later.
From Naula we took the right turn towards Elahera. There were hundreds of 4-ton trucks coming from Bakamuna side full of earth and sand. They were probably headed towards the Moragahakanda Project. Passing Elahera and Kalu Ganga Towns were really time-consuming as the roads were still not completed. I wonder if they would be done before the end of Moragahakanda Project which is now scheduled to be completed in 2017 instead of Jul 2016. We stopped by one of the would-be viewing points of Moragahakanda Reservoir when it’s completed for a short break before resuming our journey towards Pallegama and then to Ilukkumbura.
From Pallegama the road was very much isolated as it started to wind uphill through Knuckles. Either side was the dense jungle and endless greenery. All of a sudden we felt a lot better despite wasting good hour and a half to the endless traffic and terrible conditions on the road. Passing Rambukoluwa where our turn off to Kaluganga Niwahana was, we reached Ilukkumbura where the Thelgamu Oya Niwahana and Dumbara Niwahana are. We were not able to book either of them and just got lucky to have found the Kaluganga Niwahana. It’d been closed for nearly 5 years and was just open for public when we happened to come across it. Do take a look at the pictures and notes I’d posted under it.
We reached Puwakpitiya turn off and went towards Sera Ella that is about 10km away. There were new developments coz we saw that there are attempts to erect electricity poles along the road. Further there were stretches of elephant fence too bordering the jungle and paddy fields all the way. I wonder if there’s a threat of wild elephants in the area coz there had been jumbos roaming in the area. There had been sightings of them on Pitawala Pathana too. Anyhow, we couldn’t find any information on this and we soon arrived at our destination just after 10.30am.
Having parked our vehicle, we started to descend along the path towards the falls. From the start of the trail, we could hear the distant roar of this beauty and I was hoping for a full flow. Usually you can see the left side cascade and the somewhat wider right hand cascade. It’s a very rare occurrence to be able to see the whole width of the rock covered with water. Both my previous times had been very good but not enough. So I always had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind wanting for a fuller and richer Sera Ella.
Little did I know that my dream was about to be fulfilled. We walked on and at every step the roar became stronger and my heart beating faster. Thankfully it’s about 300m descend to the falls. If it was more than that, I’d probably have had a heart attack due to the sheer excitement. As we were closer and I could see this white cloud through the leaves and branches, I could halt it no longer and I ran down to the left where the path branches off to the base of the pool. Coming out into the open was the moment of truth and one of the most-awaited moments in my life.
There was no sign of a rock; instead there was this long veil of white water falling down majestically. I almost forgot to exhale. This was anybody’s dream and I stood still marveling at the beauty of the Mother Nature. Well, here’s what you have been waiting all this time. If you’ve never been so lucky to see her in full flow, this will hopefully compensate in one way or the other.
On our return journey, we stopped by a bridge (actually it’s the only bridge if I’m not mistaken you encounter on the way to Sera Ella about 4-5km from the turn off) to look at the Wambatuhena Ella. It was Niroshan who introduced her as Wambatuhena Ella so I’m sticking by the name. She too had a fair amount of water and you can get to the base of the falls by following the footpath to the right of the bridge. It’s a bit slippery but not difficult. Here are some pictures.
Kaluganga Wana Niwahana
Time had flown and it was past mid-day after we came to the vehicle after Wambatuhena Ella. So everyone unanimously decided to go to our resting place and put up for the rest of the day. Mind you, there was a hint of rain in the air too so it seemed to be the logical thing to do. Kaluganga Wana Niwahana is about 9km from Ilukkumbura towards Pallegama and you’ll find a notice board to the right and it leads to Rambukoluwa as well. Kaluganga Wana Niwahana is about 3km from the turn off.
In terms of the road, it’s concrete-paved for about 600-800m and thereafter it’s killer terrain for low clearance vehicles. I know most of the people travel by family cars which have very little clearance. So this road is not for you unless it’s a rented car or you don’t mind damaging it heavily. There isn’t even a place where you can leave your cars and go the rest of the way so it’s always a sound idea to avoid going in a low clearance vehicle. Of course, tuk-tuks can handle it but with a lot of careful maneuvering. There are at least two streams that flow across the road which can be impassable during the heavy rainy season. So be mindful of the time of the year too. For those who have cars, Ilukkumbura is the best option to stay as there are two FD bungalows.
We arrived at the bungalow closer to 1pm and were greeted by Ananda (not Ananda Welikala) who’s one of the very good caretakers we’ve come across. We certainly have come across a good many of them in our travelling times. He was very friendly and accommodating and will not interfere unnecessarily with the guests. That’s exactly how we like them. I’ve given some pictures in the post but here are some more for you to take a look at the place while Ananda make our lunch and we get comfortable.
Well just a brief note about the bungalow. It has two adjoining rooms and can accommodate 8 people. Please be warned that they will not have extra people so don’t take more than the mentioned amount otherwise they’ll turn around the extra people. It’s always best to stick to the guidelines in order to avoid disappointments. There are two double beds and two single beds but they are bunk beds so you should have two people willing to occupy them. There are two toilets (one with a commode and another squatting pan). Electricity is generated by a hydro power plant which is not reliable and is available only in the night. So be prepared for the dark and have some flashlights and candles with you. They’ll give you bed covers and pillow cases but always a good thing to carry them with you. All in all, do not expect anything luxurious and all will be well then.
As predicted, it started to rain around 2pm and we were relieved that we made it in time despite the early delay. After a hearty meal, we all took a nap and then got up to find the evening had arrived with no warning. It was still drizzling so we stayed indoors and had some coffee. Afterwards until the dinner time, we kept chatting about this and that. The power kept playing games with us coming and then going. Ananda is the president of the village committee so he went to investigate the problem yet it kept going on and off. Finally after another excellent dinner, we were snoring heavily while the rain was pelting down on the roof.
I was wishing for good weather as we’d big plans for the following morning. It was good to be among the Mother Nature and being able to stay away from the non-stop manic rush of the city. No wonder many people are at the brink of mental breakdown as they are constantly being harassed by their busy schedules. It’d do them a world of good if they manage to creep into the woods every now and then. It will also help this world retain what’s left of the forests and natural resources. Well, that’s thoughts for you to ponder over and I’m gonna turn in. I can hear Prasa and Atha snoring in tandem. Hopefully the sleeping angels will take me away from that.
We woke up to a misty but beautiful morning. The rains have gone away and the sun was on his way up. The birds were chirping merrily as they went in search of breakfast. In the meantime two Anandas were in full swing at the kitchen getting things ready for our journey. Ana was suffering from a bad cold so decided to stay behind which was a great pity. So the rest of us got ready and after a quick breakfast we departed to Ilukkumbura with packed meals for lunch. I’d coordinated with Wasantha in advance of having a guide from Pitawala. He said he’d send him to Ilukkumbura by 6.45am in the first bus.
I know you might be wondering (especially those who have done this) why on earth would we need a guide for such an easy hike where the trail is quite straight forward. Well, I always try to take the precaution of having somebody who knows the area really well. You never know what would happen and what sort of terrain you’re getting yourselves into so it’s always a good idea to have someone local with you. It’d also help those people make some money. In turn, they’ll understand the value of these places and put an extra effort to protect them.
It was around 7.30am when we reached Ilukkumbura and found Bandara, who was to be our guide, waiting anxiously. He must’ve been wondering whether to leave or not as we were more than half hour late. Well, while we get together and bid farewell to Ana who was going back to chill out at the bungalow, you can enjoy these pictures in and around Thelgamu Oya.
We set off and entered the thick forest but the path was very clear and had no trouble. Even though there were rains, only a few leeches bothered us so it was a great relief. It’s a heavenly feeling to be able to walk through a forest as it’ll take all your burdens and worries and will in return fill you with joy, strength and happiness. I wonder how on earth people make up their mind to destroy forests. It’s such a cruel and heartless act and if only they would feel the benefits of mental health they give us, they wouldn’t dare touch those trees.
So folks, teach your children the importance of trees, wildlife, forests, rivers and waterfalls. Show them how beneficial they can be and what they give us is simply priceless. When the bees are gone off the face of the earth, there’ll be nothing worthwhile for us to eat. When the trees don’t produce oxygen anymore, we’d be walking skeletons. I can go on and on but I’m sure you get the idea. We always brag about leaving a better world for the kids but there’s hardly anyone who says that we have to leave better children for this world. When the people are sane and act wisely, this world will be a more beautiful place. It’s the people who have to change not the world coz when the world changes due to our continuous abusing, we’d wish we were dead. The results will be more than any of us can bear.
The climb got steeper as we went on. I always prefer to go up in steep slopes like these than to come down coz it is a great strain for the knees and ankles. That’s the reason why we decided to go up from Ilukkumbura and get down to Atanwala. I’m sure you can do as you like it. It was a great challenge and we kept pushing slowly but steadily. Around halfway through the hike, we could see the surrounding areas through the tree openings. The mountains all the way towards Riverston could be seen and the entire area looked as if covered with a green carpet with many shades. After about an hour and a half we sort of arrived at a flat area and there was a stream flowing nearby.
In fact we were very low on water and this was a great find. So we decided to have our brunch here as there was a lot of crystal clear water and we were in the middle of the forest with plenty of cover. So getting around a tiny pond on the stream, we unpacked our food stuff and had our brunch. In the meantime, Atha discovered this was in fact a stream appearing out of the ground which had buried about 50ft above. Ok, while we have our meals, you can see our progress so far.
We resumed our journey in about half hour later. The path still ran through the dense forest but after a short while we encountered something really frightening. There was a load of elephant dung on the middle of the trail. Oh blimey, the scary memories of Uda Maliboda Trail came flooding back to me. Is this for real or have we found something similar? However looking closer, we knew that this was no mistake but the real jumbo dung. They were not new and a few mushrooms were growing from them. However this was pretty alarming sight as it’d be really unpleasant to come across any of them on your way.
Feeling a bit shaky, we walked on and Prasa kept up with Bandara not moving an inch away from him ever since he saw the elephant dung. We then came to a sort of a waiting area with rocks place in a circle as if to rest and have a meal. There are places like this that I had come across in Meemure. We all sat down and enjoyed a quiet little chat. Bandara said that the jumbos are known to be roaming in these areas especially during the dry season when they come looking for food from Wasgamuwa.
Afterwards, we hurried on and came to another opening which gave a grandeur view of Pitawala and Rathkinda. Beautiful and tall Rathkinda Ella could be seen in the distance. She is such a lovely lass with many cascades forming on her way down. If you read my previous account of Pitawala, you’d be able to get an idea as to how to reach her and see some lovely pictures as well. Afterwards we entered once again into the forest and kept on climbing. Remember, all this time we were going uphill yet the climb was moderate after the first km or so.
We found much more jumbo dung along the trail but were old coz there were many beautiful varieties of mushrooms popping out of them. It just shows how fertile the jumbo dung is and the farmers could probably use them just like they do cattle’s. Afterwards we reached another opening with a wider view of the surrounding mountains including Riverston and Pitawala Pathana in the far distance. We were near the summit so without further delay, hurried up and after another half hour or so arrived at the summit point. Usually those who come from Atanwala side don’t come to the summit point, unless they cross the whole length and get down to Ilukkumbura, as they stop by the viewing point which gives a grand view of Pitawala and the other mountain ranges. We found a beautiful butterfly waiting for us to give a warm welcome. While we enjoy her company, you may take a look at the journey so far.
The summit was not a very scenic point coz it was covered almost all around with high bushes and would not give you a panoramic view. That’s one of the reasons why most of the tourists do not bother to come to the summit point. Remember the Kirigalpoththa? She too has a very narrow field of view at the summit but about 100m before; you get a nice 180-degree panoramic view. We walked on along the flat grassy and bushy terrain towards the viewing point.
We were low on water once again and thankfully Bandara found us a nice little stream to fill our containers. Remember folks, these streams are not there in dry season and also make sure to fill your containers from the springs themselves as the roaming cattle use these water holes at will. You wouldn’t want to catch any harmful disease as a result. Do you see that this is one of the reasons why we always tend to hire local help? It’s always important to know subtle things like these and the local knowledge can be invaluable. The guide fees you have to pay them will be fully worth. We encountered a herd of buffaloes taking a break after their work rosters at the paddy fields below in Pitawala, Atanwala and Rathkinda. Unlike the buffaloes you’re familiar with, these are sort of a hybrid specie coz half the year they are on their own while the other times with their owners. So the tendency for them to have arrogant qualities is very high so you gotta tread carefully in order not to antagonize them.
We then arrived at the viewing point and oh whoa! This was a scene worth seeing over and over again. All over you can see were the many shades of eye-soothing green and overhead was the blue sky with white clouds. What else could a man, who’s been under the pump in the city for so long, ask for from the ever loving Mother Nature? She’s so tolerant and kind-hearted and will continue to look after us despite the much harassment and abusing she’s had to undergo day in day out.
We admired the scene in front of us greatly and took a lot of photographs. There was a group of foreigners coming from Atanwala side and they soon joined us in admiring the beauty of our country. The paddy fields below had just been ploughed and sowed. There were tiny plants sprouting from the seeds so the square and steps-shaped fields had a mixture of green and brown. I’m a real big fan of paddy fields like these and was filled with so much joy at the sight of them. Atanwala temple could also be seen from where we were. Here are the pictures which you’ve been waiting impatiently. There are a few black clouds appearing in the distance so we have to hurry up and get down. The time was 12.30pm already so we called Wasantha from the view point and arranged for a tuk-tuk to meet us near the Vedda Peni Ella to take us back to the bungalow.
We left for Atanwala and on our way could see at least 3 waterfalls of the Knuckles Doovili Eli in the far distance. It’s yet another dream of mine to visit the Knuckles Doovili Eli. Afterwards we entered another patch of the dense forest and followed the path downhill. Compared to Ilukkumbura, this is a moderate slope and wouldn’t be as bad. We got down fairly quickly and by 1.15pm reached the village. Bandara then led us through a road which ran between the lush green paddy fields and from here we could see the entire rock of Maningala. I’m sure that you have heard this is called Maningala (Time Rock in English) as it was used by the villagers in the old days to read the time. There’s a crack in the middle of the rock and it’d been used to check the time with such precision when the clocks were not there. Unfortunately I still haven’t found anyone who could explain the whole process as to how it was done.
It was a really rewarding feeling to have been able to achieve another of my goals and all the time the nature kept us safe and provided with the best of the weather. It really was a grand journey and it took us almost 6 hours to complete it which you might consider to be overkill coz it’s not that long, probably 6-7km in total length. My eyes were smiling broadly coz they’d seen enough of the dusty concrete structures, charcoal grey roads and many eyesores in the city. However in this trip, I managed to give them a feast of greenery which would last for a very long time. However they’re so much spoiled by me and I’m sure before long they’d be itching for another grand view like this. We’re going to see Vedda Peni Ella and then must wait for the tuk-tuk if he’s not there and in the meantime, why not check out these breath-taking pictures.
Vedda Peni Ella
We followed the concrete-paved path and then join the bridge that goes across the river which forms Vedda Peni Ella underneath. One can easily get there and take a look at this unique falls. As the name suggests, an indigenous person (Vedda) had fallen to his death when he was returning from one of his errands. Some legends say that he’d jumped to his death probably due to some dispute over something. You gotta be very careful not to get too closer to the crevice where the water is gushing. If you remember the Uran Wetuna Ella in Lankagama, the crevice is something similar. Pilithuda Ella in Athwelthota is another similar falls.
Our tuk-tuk driver, Sagara was on his way so we got out of the waterfall and stayed on the road. If you must, you can have a bath towards the top of the stream about 100ft upstream from the falls. It’s now a very popular bathing place among the travelers. You’ll be amazed to see the number of people visiting Pitawala nowadays in very large groups just to have a bath and sing a song. It’s being marketed like Meemure and I felt very bad about it coz most of these people give no hoot about the nature or the lives of the villagers. Instead they leave so much polythene and garbage behind dirtying the rivers, green fields and the nature which result in so much natural destruction.
Looking at these irresponsible so-called travelers, I too feel guilty as reports like these have encouraged them to visit these areas at an unprecedented rate. If you see the situation in Meemure now, you’re bound to feel disgusted the way our folks behave. I guess I have to think very seriously about writing trip reports on places like these as we really can’t seem to trust our people to act decently and responsibly when they visit sensitive areas like these. Therefore I beg of you to be more careful and leave no harmful things such as polythene behind and also to be more careful how you behave at places like these. Make sure you respect the villagers first and foremost and do nothing to make them feel uncomfortable.
Sagara was a really good person and asked only for Rs. 700/- from Atanwala to Kaluganga Wana Niwahana which for us seemed to be really cheap considering the fact that there were 4 of us (now don’t scream blue murder it’s against the rules) and there was more than 15km to go, not to forget the killer road conditions at Rambukoluwa.
We reached the bungalow around 2.30pm and paid him Rs. 1000/-, a decision we all had reached unanimously but silently. As soon as we went inside the rain arrived in full force. It was as if it had held all this time for us to get to the safety of our bungalow to start pouring down. The lunch was ready and two Anandas were having a nice little chat. Our routine was very much like day before. Lunch, a nap then a chat and dinner followed by more sleep was how it went.
Tomorrow we’ll have to say good-bye to this wonderful place and leave for Colombo. We’ve decided to take the Riverston-Rattota-Matale Road and on the way visit Pitawala Pathana and Bambarakiri Ella. We’ll see you tomorrow morning then.
Good morning and as usual the rain lasted throughout the night but by the time we woke up it had disappeared somewhere far away. We got ready and sat down for a hearty breakfast. We’d not be having a proper lunch so it was important to have a delicious meal in the morning. Having bid our farewell to Ananda, we set off around 6.15am towards Pitawala Pathana hoping to reach it before anyone else did as this was a Sunday.
We arrived at Pitawala Pathana around 7am to find the office is still closed. It was sort of a dilemma as we didn’t wanna go without permission and tickets and was wondering what to do. Then we decided that we couldn’t wait any longer as we had this long journey back to Colombo and decided to come and buy the tickets on our way back. It really was a superb morning and we all felt the freshness of the mountain air coming. The sun was still mild and had lit up the entire area as far as the eyes can see. The grass and leaves looked greener than ever. Distant mountains rose higher towards the clear blue sky as if to show their might.
Pitawala Pathana is home to one of the endemic frogs in Sri Lanka. In fact they are endemic to Knuckles and can’t be found anywhere else in SL. It’s called Dumbara Galapara Mediya or Dumbara Rock Frog in English. Unfortunately it’s on the way to become extinct due to the large amount of cattle roam around in Pitawala Pathana thus killing these species. There are many other little species like these who are endangered due to the lose cattle on flat lands in Knuckles. There was already a large herd of cattle nibbling at the grass probably belonging to the farmers at Pitawala or nearby villages. We started to walk along the path which is marked by the FD. Please don’t venture beyond the marked path (you will find white spots and arrows with a width of almost 10ft) as it’d only degrade this place further.
After many dozen pictures, we walked and reached the Mini World’s End. There are many places like this all around Sri Lanka apart from the the Great World’s End at HP and her sister nearby. You’ll find World’s Ends at Deanston, Madolsima, Hatale and many other places. It was a crystal clear morning so the visibility was exceptionally good. Riverston was rising majestically into the blue sky with her many towers giving precious communication facilities to the country.
We all enjoyed a good half hour to 45 mins in the hands of the Mother Nature and as it was still the early morning there was nobody around so we had the whole place to ourselves. The feeling was blissful and heavenly and I didn’t want it to finish but we had a long journey ahead of us so we had to say our goodbyes even though with a great difficulty.
We returned to find that there are a few crowds gathering around the car park. The office was open so we went and informed them about our going ahead without the tickets as they were closed. When inquired if we could buy the tickets, the officer on duty sort of was hesitant to take money from us and said we could buy if we wished to. He also mentioned that they too have to come by bus in the morning to open the office which was the reason for them to have not opened when we arrived early. I guess he was feeling bad for not being there when we arrived. However, being the law-abiding citizens we are, we went and paid for the tickets much to the joy of him.
Afterwards we left there and drove towards Riverston. We saw many vehicles and plenty of garbage scattered around the junction where you have to leave your vehicles and start walking along the road. Even the thought of stopping there sent a chill down my spine so we went on straight to Bambarakiri Ella to find it too is under attack by many people.
The water levels were healthy but taking a picture of the falls alone was next to impossible. We waited as long as we could but there were only a couple of precious seconds which were on offer for such opportunity. To make matters worse, so many people were on the suspension bridge and we don’t even know how many it could hold at a time safely. Those who were on the top of it started swaying it back and forth as if this was a see-saw.
I got very scared and got down and waited on the solid ground and managed to take these pictures for you.
What do you think? Hope they were better than you expected. And we’ve now come to the end of our journey. It’s been such a grandeur journey right throughout and we were blessed with superb weather all the time. Even when the rains came, they held it until we were safely tucked up in our bungalow. Well as the saying goes, “If You Live by Dhamma; You’ll be Protected by Dhamma”. Likewise, if you care for and protect the Mother Nature, she’ll in turn care for you and protect you.
So people, just keep that in mind and please help save our nature and take every step to reduce the use of polythene and plastic items. Dispose of them wisely and carefully, even the bio-degradable ones. We must leave a better world for our future generations but have to make sure those generations are also better than we are now.
So this is Sri signing off for now and I’ll see you hopefully with another journey like this so long as I make up my mind to continue writing.
Take care and keep travelling!