Tuesday, October 27, 2015

In Search of Greater Challenge - Great Western

Trip Name : Hiking Great Western Mountain and Camping at the summit.

Year & Month : September 2014

Crew : 4 plus two guides (Danushka, Harsha, Samith, Sandun)

Accommodation : Camping on the top of Great Western summit.

Transport : Colombo - Badulla Nightmail, Tuktuk, Bus

Activities : Hiking, Camping, Sightseeing

Itinerary : Hiking Great Western Mountain

Opening Hours: n/a

Tickets : n/a

Weather : Rainy, Cold, Misty

Trail/Road Info : This is a strenuous hike. There is no visible trail.

Special Remarks
  • Getting a local guide is recommended.
  • There are several local guides, Our guide, Morgan (077 0791002) was a friendly guy who new the trail very well. I highly recommend him.
  • Call your guide in advance to check on weather. You should avoid hiking if its raining as the trail becomes extremely hard to tackle. (slippery, muddy and soggy)
  • Best way to travel to Great Western is by train. From the railway station its just a 1.5km rail hike to the trail head.
  • In the middle section of the trail you will constantly have to tackle 60 - 30 degree climb with on and off short flat stretches. At some points climb is almost vertical. Climbing ropes and sticks will come in handy.
  • Keep a decent space between yourself and the hiker before you. This will reduce the chance of getting whacked by branches or fellow hikers slipping and landing on you or worse.
  • Keep an eye on fellow hikers as this is a strenuous hike. There is not much mental stress involved, but it will definitely test your endurance and strength.
  • There is a water source just 500m before the camping site. It's better to refill your canisters here and continue, rather than double back to get water.
  • Camping ground on top of the mountain can accommodate 5-6 person tent and a 3-4 person tent. But you cannot pitch one large, say 10 person tent due to uneven ground.
  • Wind can become quite harsh and always expect rain. Therefore PROPERLY sealed rain fly is a must.
  • Cold is not that  big a deal. But the rain can cause condensation inside the tent. One way to avoid this is by keeping wet cloths, socks/shoes outside and opening rear tent window and main door covers(but keep the mesh cover closed). This will ensure proper ventilation inside the tent. Its better to sleep inside a cold tent rather than in a puddle.
  • Do not wander off from the camping ground as it is close to the rocky edge of the mountain. Wet moss makes it worse.
  • Remember to bring a first-aid kit.
  • There was remnants of camp fire but I do not recommend it. 
  • Morgan can provide meals for you. But you are going to have to inform him in advance. He even can arrange transportation to the nearest town. (tuktuks)
  • We found several plastic bags/wraps and a polythene cover at the top of the mountain. Probably locals or hikers left those. Respect the nature leave only footprints.
Our team got the idea of climbing this during our return trip from Thotupala hike. But we were bit hesitant toward doing it as many veteran hikers mentioned this as a strenuous hike and the perilous condition of the trail. Plus we wanted to push the current limit further by camping on the top. At the time of planning there were handful of travelogues on the Internet but none of the authors had camped on the top. Being kind of the group we are we decided to take the challenge head on and camp on the top.

Picture from Thotupala hike, Great Western Railway Station

Majestic she stood

There were two main problems we came across. First one was weather. Great western usually has a dry sunny season starting from December to April. But the area still gets drizzle and limited rain. Rain makes this trail extremely slippery and hard to tackle. But that time period was not suitable for everybody in our group. Therefore we decided to do this in November and kept in touch with Morgan to inform us on a suitable date.

Picture from Thotupala hike, We will be back for you....
The second problem was water. There is only a small single water spring on top of the mountain and we were not sure that it would suffice. Therefore we decided to take 4 litters of water per person and refill bottles at the aforementioned water source and continue the hike.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Epiphany of Water

Trip Name : Visiting Botha Ella (Bopath Falls)

Year and Month : November 2013

Number of Days : One

Crew : 2 (Amila and I)

Accommodation : None

Transport : Bus and Tuk-Tuk

Activities : Sight Seeing,Waterfall Hunting

Itinerary :Boptha Falls, Diva Guhawa and Saman Devalaya (in part 2)

Opening Hours : 6.00 AM to 7.00 PM

Tickets : Adult 20 LKR, Children 10 LKR

Weather : Sunny, Overcast

Trail/Road Info : Avissawella > Kuruwita Town > Devipahala > Junction with a large Bopath Falls name board (take a right) Bopath Falls car park > Bopath Falls

Special remarks :
  • There is a bus running from Kuruwita town to Devipahala, but taking a tuk tuk is the best option.
  • Tuk tuk park at Kuruwita bus stand have this system where you can share a tuktuk with several others. You only have to pay 30lkr for the entire one way ride.
  • If you want to travel by above method go to the far left side of the bus stand market. There should be at least one tuktuk parked near the side entrance of the market which offer above service.
  • You have to cross and walk up the river to get to the waterfall, so wear accordingly.
  • There are restrooms (separate men's and women's) at entrance premises where you can change cloths
  • There is a hotel near the waterfall where you might be able to get meals but I haven't been to the place so cant comment on quality or service.
  • Car park is situated 500m before the entrance gate.
  • Second part of this travelogue (will be published in near future)
  • Kuruwita police telephone numbers 045 2262222, 045 222223

I have a passionate liking about hiking and camping. Wondering on a jungle trail, immersing myself in the untouched wilderness, making a pit stop to drink silky water from a virgin stream, camping for the night on a cold mystique hill top; In my mind those are the topmost activities for a perfect getaway, until I ventured on a rather unplanned journey to Bopath falls.

It was a lazy morning and I was looking up Lakdasun trip report archives for good reading material. While shuffling through trip reports I stumbled upon one of Sri's waterfall hunting trip report. For this guy, waterfalls bear rather unique allure. But honestly, I didn't get it. For me they were just waterfalls. Of course they are beautiful to look at but at the time, that was it for me.

Anyhow, reading Sri's waterfall trip reports made me want to visit one and see if I could rediscover their beauty. Little did I know, I was in for a whole new level of rediscovering.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hike Along a Colonial Memory

Trip Name : Rail Hike from Pattipola to Idalgashinna

Year and Month : October 2013

Number of Days : Two Nights & Two Days (read the first part of this travelogue here)

Crew : 6 (Akila, Asela, Danushka, Pranama, Samith (me), Sandun

Accommodation : Unofficial Camp site near Pattipola - HP Road (Forrest Department Resting Point)

Transport : Badulla Nightmail Sleeping Compartments, Badulla (Udaratamanike) Observation Cart

Activities : Sight Seeing, Hiking, Camping, Train Journey

Itinerary : Railway Line from Pattipola to Idalgashinna

Opening Hours : N/A

Tickets : N/A

Weather : Sunny, Cold, Dry

Trail/Road Info : Pattipola Station > Ohiya Station > Idalgashinna Station > Colombo Fort Railway Station.

Special remarks : 
  • Its against law to hike on the railway line. But SLR personals don't try to enforce it anymore. But remember to inform station masters and get their verbal permission. ( update - Now SLR take strict actions against hikers on railway line. I or this site do not encourage rail hiking. Please read site disclaimer).
  • Check in with each train station for train schedule.
  • Bright torch or a proper headlamp is a must to travel in railway tunnels.
  • Be vigilant for unscheduled trains, specially in tunnels.
  • Lookout for railway trolleys.
  • Talk to locals they will provide you with very good insight.
  • Railway inside the tunnels was extremely slippery. Shoes with rubber lug soles recommended.
  • Bats and Birds have nested inside tunnels. Watch out for them but do not invade or harm them.
  • Bring enough water.
  • There are no shops along the railway line except a single shop opposite Ohiya railway station.
  • Do not amble inside tunnels.
  • There are holes on the side walls of tunnels. one or two persons can fit in to one these in case of a train arriving while you are still inside a tunnel. But the ones I noticed were slippery,wet and foul smelling.
  • Use these holes (cubbyholes or safety holes?) as a last resort and always keep train schedule in mind. (download the train schedule from resource section)
Resources : 

I was between sleep and awake when Danushka's alarm went off. BEEP BEEP BEEP!!! It was 4 am! . Last night we all had agreed to wake up early as possible so that we would be able to finish rail hike before our way back train reach Idalgashinna station. So we prepared a quick breakfast (eggs, chili paste, and jam sandwiches) and packed everything.

On our way to Pattipola

Would've looked lot nicer without the power lines

Arriving at Pattipola station

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hiking Thotupola Kanda on a Crisp Morning

Trip Name: Nightmail Berth Train Journey to Pattipola & Hiking Thotupola Kanda

Year and Month: October 2013

Number of Days : Two Nights & Two Days

Crew : 6 (Akila, Asela, Danushka, Pranama, Samith (me), Sandun

Accommodation : Unofficial Camp site near Pattipola - HP Road (Forrest Department Resting Point)

Transport : Badulla Nightmail Sleeping Compartments, Badulla (Udaratamanike) Observation Cart

Activities : Sight Seeing, Hiking, Camping, Train Journey

Opening Hours : 7 am - 5.30 pm

Tickets : Foreign Adult  -  15 USD
              Foreign Child
  -    8 USD
Local Adult     -  60 LKR
Local Child     -   30 LKR
              visit this site for detailed info

Weather : Sunny, Cold, Drizzle, Heavy Rain(afternoon)

Route :
Colombo Fort Railway Station > Pattipola Railway Station > Pattipola Horton Plains Entrance > Thotupala Kanda Trail Head > Thotupala Kanda Summit > Pattipola Horton Plains Entrance > Camping Ground Near Pattipola

Trail/Road Info :
Pattipola to Thotupala Kanda Trail Head - 5.8 km, well paved(tarmac), 273 m elevation gain(Pattipola - 1897 m, Thotupala Kanda trailhead - 2170 m)
Thotupala Kanda Trail - 1.3 km, easy to tackle, 200 m elevation gain(trail head: 2170 m, trail end - 2361m)
Special remarks :
  • Make sure to book train tickets 14 days in advance.
  • Badulla Nightmail Sleeperette/sleeperate (2nd class) and Berths (Sleeping Compartments) are the first ones to be sold out so you need to be at the ticket counter as early as possible to increase your chance of getting tickets.
  • Regulars keep berths tightly booked during week.
  • Smalltime sellers like "Wade Uncle" or "Kiri Kopi Uncle" doesn't visit berth compartments. But if you need anything you could ask the guard to open the cart door so you can buy.
  • Berths are OK. But apart from getting a proper sleep there is nothing more.
  • Leave for HP as soon as you get to Pattipola.
  • Make sure you stay awake after 4am as you might sleep through your destination. Train usually reaches Pattipola around 4-5 am.
  • Lone travelers are not allowed in the park.
  • Bring enough water (1 ltr per person)
  • Do not litter.
Resources :

View Larger Map

Click to Enlarge
It all started during our last camping journey to Horton Plains. Originally we wanted to do both Kirigalpoththa and Thotupala trails but we ended up doing only Kirigalpoththa. On our way back we decided to arrange a hike to Thotupala so we would have conquered major peaks in Horotn Plains. However we didn't have a proper chance to organize it until October 2013. As usual we decided to take Badulla Nightmail to reach Pattipola and  went through the usual charade of booking train tickets and arranging other camping stuff. However, from our previous experiences we knew that traveling overnight on a 2nd class sleeperette to be a tiresome experience. Therefor this time we went ahead and booked Sleeping Berths.
[travel tips] Single berth costs 1200 lkr regardless destination.

Train arrived at Colombo Fort Station around 7.30. We had heard mixed reviews about berth compartments before but never actually been on one. So we went there with mixed feelings about what we might get.
Considering SLRs current state I was kind of relieved to see a bunk bed (two berths) covered in clean looking bed sheets, small cupboard, and a private toilet (later I realized that these are shared with two berth compartments).


Monday, October 21, 2013

Sigiriya - The Enigmatic Monolith of Sri Lanka

Trip Name: Sigiriya - The Enigmatic Monolith of Sri Lanka

Year and Month: August 2012

Number of Days : One Day

Crew : Family Members and Relatives

Accommodation : None

Transport : Van

Activities : Sight Seeing

Opening Hours : 7 am - 5.30 pm

Tickets : Foreign Adult -  30 USD
              Foreign Child
-  30 USD
Natives          - 100 LKR

Weather : Gloomy, Windy, Partially sunny

Route :
Medirigiriya > Minneriya > Habarana > Inamaluwa Junction (turn left).

Special remarks :
  • Morning or Evening is the best time to visit.
  • There is a canteen but I wouldn't recommend it.
  • Bring a water bottle
  • Tickets can be obtained from either car park office or Sigiriya garden entrance.
Resources :
  • For inquiries contact Central Cultural Fund, Sigiriya Project. Tel - 94-(0)66-2286946  94-(0)66-2286946.

View Larger Map
We were returning from Polonnaruwa, from our family's August vacation. We were somewhere between Habarana and Inamaluwa Junction when my niblings said that they wanted to visit Sigiriya. Since we had no other plans for that evening  we all decided to comply with my sisters "Little Governors" . It took us some 30 minutes to arrive at Sigiriya Car Park and from there we had to walk through dusty path with boutiques on both sides and then Sigiriya Sanctuary/Preserve consecutively to get to the Sigiriya Pleasure Gardens Entrance.

Dusty Path

Sigiriya Sanctuary

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Renovation of Kaudulla Reservoir

Trip Name: Renovation of Kaudulla Reservoir

Year and Month: August 2012

Number of Days : One Day

Crew : Alone

Accommodation : None

Transport : Mountain Bycicle

Activities : Cycling, Sight Seeing

Weather : Sunny, Windy,

Route :
Newtown > Kaudulla Reservoir Police Check Point > Kaudulla Reservoir.

Special remarks :
  • If you intend take bath ask a local to point out suitable places.
  • Do not swim far in to the reservior.
  • Do not approach or provoke wild animals.
Resources : 
  • There is a small island which is connected to the main land via a thin sand bridge. This place is an excellent choice to see the surrounding.
View Larger Map

If you read my Somawathiya Travelogue then you know I spent my August vacation in Newtown, Medirigiriya with my relatives. On one morning while I was there, I overheard a chat between my uncle and a friend of him. They kept talking about renovation of Kaudulla Reservior and an underwater canal. An underwater canal. An UNDERWATER canal!!?? what the hell is an underwater canal!; yes that's the same thing I thought when I heard it first. I waited for uncles friend to leave and asked him about it. Then he told me of a canal which is in the base of the Kaudulla Reservoir. He said that its purpose is to direct water current towards the sluice gates. Then he told me I could go see it being renovated by government contractors.

On My Way

Man Made Chanel Gone Dry
I was so thrilled to hear this I almost forgot to pack my camera. It took me half an hour to arrive at the reservoir.

Sluice Gates

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Somawathiya Revisited - Photolog

Trip Name: Somawathiya Revisited - Photolog

Year and Month: August 2012

Number of Days : One Day

Crew : 10 (Family Members and Relatives)

Accommodation : None

Transport : 1 Van

Activities : Religious Activity

Weather : Sunny, Soothing Breez

Route :
Newtown > Hingurakgoda > Somwathiya Sanctuary > Somawathi Temple

Special remarks :
  • Behave accordingly in Religious Places.
  • Do not harm archeological sites.
  • Do not approach or provoke wild animals ( Elephants and wild boar can be extremely dangerous)
  • Don't wonder beyond Temple premises. (specially during night)
  • Ruins of old temple and several stone inscriptions can be fond behind the picture gallery near Bodhiya (Bo Tree) 
  • Road condition have improved significantly since my last visit. Now vehicles with low ground clearance can access the road.
Resources :
  • Expect rough road conditions from Hingurakgoda Town to Somawathi Sthupa.
  • Road becomes extremely dusty after entering Somawathi Sanctuary.
  • You can stay either at free rest rooms or rent small cottage like houses for a very cheap price.
  • All the rest rooms are available on first come first serve basis.
  • Somawathiya Temple Tel No : 027 32 79285

View Larger Map

I wouldn't explain all the historical importance of this place as I have done it in my previous travelogue related to Somawathiya. However this time I noticed few stone inscriptions and ruins of ancient somawathi temple behind the picture gallery near Bodhiya (Bo Tree). So when you visit next time do remember to look for them.

On Our Way to Temple


Hasthi Pond - Depicting Elephants Worshiping the Vehera