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|Year and Month||Jun, 2015|
|Number of Days||2|
|Crew||Ana, Atha, Prasa, D and Me|
|Transport||By Train, on foot and by Van|
|Activities||Hiking, Photography, Relaxing, etc…|
|Weather||Excellent (Gloomy towards the evening)|
|Route||Colombo->Ohiya by Night Mail.
Ohiya->Bambarakanda on foot.
Bambarakanda->Ohiya by Van.
Ohiya->Colombo by Train.
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
Hiya! Hope you guys getting on nicely. After the 100th trip report, I kinda wanted to take a break from writing and just reflect on the road I’d come. However when I realized that there was another hike coming up, I had to forget about the break and wear my writing pants once again. This time it was another of my long-awaited hikes and one of the mile-long list of things in my to-do-list.
I’d always wanted to hike from Ohiya to Bambarakanda. Even during my first ever visit to Bambarakanda, I attempted to do it the reverse order but had to cut it out just before the Devil’s Staircase. When Ana suggested we do the hike from Ohiya, I couldn’t wait for it. Doctor D managed to get the last 5 tickets of the 12 sleeping births and we all got together at the Fort Station around 7pm. While the most of the people coming into the station were intent on getting home, we just idled around waiting for the train. It was good to be back again together and I felt like in one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories.
I’d booked the Bambarakanda Rest before setting off and Mrs. Mayakaduwa, the owner, sounded delighted to hear that we were coming. I hope you guys remember our previous journey around Bambarakanda in 2014 where we had a marathon waterfall hunt. This time the rains were very awkward and never looked falling according to a pattern making it really hard to plan for a waterfall hunt. Bambarakanda sounded really cool and soothing after my long Jaffna tour amid unforgiving sun.
Finally the train came to the platform and we got on board. The tiny cubicles with bunk beds were hardly enough for two people to move about but were adequate for our purpose. After a light meal, we settled down in one cubicle and had a chat. It was a very hot evening and we felt as if inside a furnace. Fortunately as the train started moving things got better. Finally we all settled in our beds hoping to catch some sleep but nobody did get more than a couple of hours of sleep due to the roar of the train and the constant uneven moving. It was nevertheless so much better than the seats. Finally after what felt like a long night we reached Pattipola and waited for the two German ladies to get together in the front. You like to see a few pictures of the cabins while they do? Well, I’m always willing to co-operate.
We arrived at the Ohiya station right on time around 4.40am. Surprisingly it wasn’t that cold. I remembered how we shivered like fur-less polar bears before we started the rail hike from Ohiya to Pattipola. The station master was very friendly and even offered us some tea but we had our portable cooker with us. Ana and Prasa as usual got the things going and within no time, we were sipping on hot coffee. The winds made us shiver slightly from time to time but it wasn’t unbearable. After the washing and brushing we were ready to hit the road but not before the inevitable photo shoot. We had brought sandwiches so didn’t have to wait for Gamini to open his shop in front of the station. Just after 5.30am while it was still pretty dark, we started our hike with torches. It was tough going with the laden backpacks. So until we get used to the weight, you guys enjoy these pictures.
We walked in the dark feeling the chill of the mountain air. Except for the dogs, everyone seemed to be asleep. One of the dogs took a fancy to us and started following us probably thinking we were going to the Horton Plains. Probably he might have even smelt the egg sandwiches we were carrying. The light started to chase the darkness away. The morning sun rays filtered through the woods lifting the mist hung over the trees.
There was just one vehicle coming from the Horton Plains and we were wondering what they were up to. After about 40 mins, we reached the turn off to the Udaveriya Estate road that runs through the Devil’s Staircase. There is a big sign board so you can’t miss the turn. We were going uphill from the station to this place along the road and it looked to get steeper towards the Horton Plains. The doggy thinking we were going to the Horton Plains kept going up while we took a break and unwrapped the delicious egg and potato sandwiches, another of Ana’s experiments.
However the doggy didn’t approve of the brown bread and flatly refused to eat anything. After a short break and more than half the sandwiches gone we decided to hurry as there was so much to cover. The surrounding was fully lighted so we wanted to cover the open area before the Devil’s Staircase before it got really hot and uncomfortable. So while we get ready, you look at some of the pictures up to now.
We walked for about three quarters of a km before coming to the open terrain. The view was simply amazing as the Gon Molliya Range rose to our right and the thick tree cover of the Horton Plains was also visible. I remembered the happy moments we had during our stay at Nagrak which was beyond the Gon Molliya and Balathuduwa. We could see the Udaveriya estate houses and the two abandoned factories below.
One of those factories is the one you can see while traveling along A4 between Belihul Oya and Kalupahana so far up you would wonder how on earth they built it up there. Walking along the road and at times taking short cuts through the tea bushes felt very nice. Around 8.30, we arrived at the factories and stopped for a few more pictures before heading further. Well here are some to satisfy your curiosity.
Sensational, weren’t they? Let’s move on coz sun is getting het up. We made some Jeevani to help us fight against the dehydration. There was a boy who walked behind us telling us about the surrounding in Tamil. Even though we understood most of what he said there was very little we could reply in return. The funny thing was in his excited speech the boy pointed towards the Horton Plains and exclaimed “Ande, Singam Irikka” which meant there are Lions (no mistake there) in that area which is the forest belonging to Horton Plains.
His face showed the terror as he said that. We all started laughing as he said that and he looked scornfully at us. Doctor D sensing his discomfort soothed him and corrected him saying “Singam Illei, Puli Irikku” which means there is no Lion but Leopard. He shook his head vehemently and insisted that it was the Singam aka Lion not the Puli aka Leopard. Apparently he didn’t even know the word ‘Puli’. Anyhow we all had a good laugh at his expense. He turned to his house after a while waving at us and we kept going.
The going got tougher but as the saying goes “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, we didn’t feel disheartened by the difficulty. Finally we came to the stretch that is famously known as the Devil’s Staircase. It’s the sheer difficulty of the road that must have got this name. We saw two Mitsubishi Delica vans which are great workhorses. In Sri Lanka, we refer to this particular vehicle as JR Model, Rukmani Model, etc. I’m sure old Tony would give a better explanation in the comments.
It’s a real surprise how that model goes on this road coz it’s being used as the mode of transportation by the people living in the area. Similarly there are two other vans in Meemure but made by Isuzu. We passed the Devil’s Staircase and started to get to the tarred area just before the Udaveriya Estate sign board. It took a heavy toll on our legs and bodies to get up to this place. We all took a much needed break and the shade offered by the trees bordering either side of the road. This is where I reached in my very first visit. Before we go any further, take the time to see the pictures up to now. Then let’s go downhill.
Now it was the typical estate road through Udaveriya and Yahalathenna estates. The team was exhausted but kept going. Mobile reception is terrible and the clouds appeared from the HP making us wary of the rain. Eventually we arrived at the point where we reached the Udaveriya road after the last Waterfall Hunt.
Passing on, we then reached the turn to the top of Bambarakanda Ella. Last time we had a nightmarish walk downtown in the heavy rains and over slippery pine needles and loose rocks. Afterwards we crossed the stream that feeds the Bambarakanda Ella. Finally we arrived at the famous V Cut and took another break. Up to the stream that feeds Bambarakanda Ella, they have laid 1/4 rocks as the foundation before finishing with the interlocking stones. About 500m towards the Bambarakanda Rest from the V cut, the road is completed and in good condition. Ok, the pictures up to that point will help you digest the journey better.
All the time it was walking on the uneven road but finally this well finished section brought some smiles to our battered feet. We got to the Bambarakanda Rest in one piece around 12.15pm after 7hrs of walking and were welcomed by Mrs. Mayakaduwa. While the lunch was being served, we had a nice bath and let the tightened muscles unwind. There was a hint of rain in the air as well. After a hearty meal, we took a nap. The chill helped us settle more comfortably.
The evening was spent chatting about and recalling the day’s events. As usual we had an early dinner and hit the sack once again to rest our bodies more. Even though we had nothing planned for the following day, we wanted to get up early and enjoy the fresh mountain air and the sunrise. Ok folks, it’s time you too took a break and meet us tomorrow for the return journey. Good night!
The morning dawned on the Bambarakanda Ella and the Gon Molliya range lighting up everything little by little. We got up and savored every second of this ritual. Last night’s rain had freshened the trees and shrubs making them greener than ever. A group of people had camped out on the open area between the Wangedigala and Balathuduwa. We could faintly make out their tent. It must have been a grand experience but the drizzle must have troubled them a little.
The view from the rest is something you can’t get enough of. We enjoyed our morning tea and had company of the two adorable dogs in the rest, Changumi and Ruby. Now don’t get worked up about their names. They were simply cute and we enjoyed their company as much as they enjoyed ours. The breakfast was then in the list of things for the morning. The van Mrs. Mayakaduwa had arranged for us to go to the station came right on time.
Finally it was time to bid farewell to the Bambarakanda and take our leave. Mrs. Mayakaduwa had made toast for us to take with us as well. We got in the vehicle and waved our hosts goodbye. The morning drive did us good and we could see the Udaveriya Tea Factory so far up in the mountains and wondered how on earth we got down even though it was along the road. Right while we head towards the station, you enjoy these pictures.
We arrived at the station well ahead of time for the train and spent that time lazily lying on the benches. Out of nowhere a mist appeared and enveloping the whole area. I wish this had come when we were doing the rail hike from Haputale to Ohiya. The train arrived on time and we got to the first class carriage which was air-conditioned. The seats were big and comfortable just like inside an airliner. We settled in our seats and relaxed our weary bodies against the comfy cushions. Well enjoy this final set of pictures.
Well folks, what do you think? For me that was a great journey and a dream come true. Like to see a couple of Panos?
Hope you enjoyed this 101st story and hopefully I will send some others in the future. However I might take a break from this intense writing as there are many new members nowadays who send some really good trip reports.
This is Sri signing off for now. See you later. Take care and keep traveling…