Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Horton Plains Camping & Kirigalpoththa Hike

Trip Name: Camping at Horton Plains and Hiking Kirigalpoththa Nature Trail

Year and Month: February 2012

Number of Days : Three day Trip

Crew : 5 ( Akila, Danushka, Harsha, Samith, Sandun)

Accommodation : Horton Plains Camping Site 1

Transport : Train, Hired Van

Activities : Camping, Hiking, Sight Seeing

Weather : Misty, Cold, Sunny


Route :
Day 1
Avissawella > Pettah Railway Station > Ohiya > Horton Plains > Camp Site
Day 2
Camp Site > Horton Plains Far in Entrance > Kirigalpoththa > Camp Site
Day 3
Camp Site > Ohiya Railway Station > Heeloya Railway Station > Pettah Railway Station
Special remarks :
  • Camping site booking can be done in Baththaramulla Wildlife Department.
  • Be ready to face extreme weather conditions.(rain coats, comfortable  jackets)
  • Book Train Tickets prior to the departure date.
  • Convenient Foods – Noodles, Instant soup, Chocolate, Biscuits, sausages, Instant Fish Packs, Rice, Dhal, Bread, Meatballs and Eggs.
  • Ensure that your Camping Tent is in good condition.
  • Additional Flyover would come in handy if faced with heavy rain.
  • Bring Enough Blankets to cover yourself during night.( or a good sleeping bag)

Resources
:

Trail Guides
  • Horton Plains Trail Map ( Lakdasun.org)
  • Kirigalpoththa Trail Guide (Lakdasun.org)
  • There is a van which leaves for Horton Plains shortly after train arrives. (only in the morning). They will charge you around 200 LKR per person. Driver is a nice middle aged person who is quite entertaining to chat with. (You can arrange this same vehicle to come pick you up at Horton Plains)
  • Ohiya Van Tel - 057 5780378, 077 5312375, 072 8238480
  • Ohiya new van (Gaminie) - 057 4914266, 072 9126926
  • Gaminie might be able to provde you with home-stay accommodation and meals.
  • Baththaramulla Wildlife Department Tel - 011 2888585.
  • Ananda "the tent seller" Mob - 0779 966849
  • TNG global (refurbished camping tents)  Tel - 031 2260400, Fax - 031 2260260, email - sumudini_anm@yahoo.com, web
  • Edge (brand new camping tents) Tel - 011 2504602, 011 4410110, web
  • Last I checked Odel had few camping tents. Tel - 011 2682713, web

Train Route

Colombo Fort > Ragama > Veyangoda > Mirigama > Ambepussa > Polgahawela > Peradeniya > Gampola > Nawalapitiya > Hatton > Thalawakale > Great Western > Nanu Oya > Pattipola > Ohiya






If you have read this post then you are already aware of the situation we ha to face last time we tried to do this exact journey. Previous time we did most things right but nature and wild life trust's camping tent didn't want us to stay. It rained cats and dogs that day and our tent floor became flooded . All our equipments, back packs and food were drenched in rain water. To put it in to two words we looked just like " Themichcha Kukullu" that day.

After almost two years we wanted to do the same journey but this time without any obstacle. So first this we did was to determine the best time to visit Horton Plains to avoid rain or other extreme weather conditions. According  Lakdasun December to February is the best time of the year to visit Horton Plains. So we decided to schedule our journey in early February. Next thing we did was booking camping sites. To book Camping sites you have to visit Baththaramulla Wild Life Department (Tel 0112888585 ). To book a date in March you have to go there on first Monday of February. If that date is a public holiday you have to go there on next Monday in that month. (Visit them on the previous month's first Monday from the date you intend to get permission.). Once you get there you have to pat 250 LKR and buy a raffle ticket. The number you get will determine the position you get in the booking queue. With this number you will be given a form to fill out including the NIC numbers of all the participants who wish to enter camping site. So bring those numbers with you.You might have to wait here for few hours depending on the crowd. Since they give first priority to bungalows and dormitories we had to kill almost three hours to get our booking done. I've attached a few photos below for you to get a clearer idea about this place.








After getting it done we went to buy our Camping Tent. We bought it from a roadside seller known as "Ananda". He has a very good reputation among Sri Lankan outdoor enthusiasts for selling very good camping tents for a reasonable price. We bought our 6 person tent (wenzel pine ridge sport dome tent)  from him and an additional homemade rain-fly. (check resources section to see more places to buy camping tents)
Finally after all these preparations came the long awaited journey day. All of us arrived at Fort Railway Station around 5 pm. We had booked our train tickets in advance. First class sleeperettes will cost around 500 while sleeper compartment costs around 750. To view all the related info about reservations and schedule check Railway Departments Website.Badulla Nightmail arived at Fort Railway Station around 7.45 pm. It was so crowded that when it came to Fort station there were people without seats in second and third classes.



It was a long journey through dark and cold. After Alavva Station everything surrounding railway line took a ghostly look. Just dim light here and there and of course the sound of Yakada Yaka. Even though it was freezing cold I traveled most of the journey on foot board ( Be extremely careful when doing this) .


After Balana Station we passed  Kadugannawa Pilimatalawa Peradeniya Koshinna Gelioya Gampola Tembligala Ulapone Nawalapitiya consecutively and arrived at Inguruoya Railway Station.



We arrived at our destination (Ohiya Railway Station) around 5 am on the next day. Ohiya railway station is one of the railway stations which are maintained in very good condition.Just next to the Station office there is a public restroom where you can change your cloths and get ready for the next part of the journey. There is a public lavatory to the far left side of the station (maintained very well) and a drinkable water tap to the right (near Buddha Statue). While my good friend Dhanushka was booking our return tickets I called the Van owner who had promised to take us to Horotn Plains just under 45 minutes.





He arrived to the place shortly and introduced us to his driver. It took him one hour or so to arrive at Horton Plain's Far-In Entrance. (Do not buy park visiting tickets from this place if you have obtained permission to camp inside the park, Show them the camping documents and they will grant you entrance).
On our way to the park we saw heard of Sambar Deers.







We arrived at Horton Plains Far-in Entrance somewhere around 7 am. Sight of the park entrance in the morning was a stunning one. We bid farewell to the "uncle" (driver) and went under a summer hut to take our backpacks off our shoulders.









After pointing our cameras we had our breakfast. There is a water tap near summer huts and also a toilets behind the tuck shop. It was somewhere around 8 am when wildlife officers finally reported to duty. But to frighting us a little they said that their union is on a work to rule strike. But they said not worry and asked for our documents to get the verified with their head office. Even though we didn't had permission to enter the park before 12 O'clock they let us in since no one camped at our camp site on the previous day. Otherwise we would have had to stay until they vacate the area and leave.

We walk toward camp site with bubbling excitement. Both sunshine and cold wind made a perfect combination for a bracing feeling.






Trail to the camp site one starts 300 meters from the entrance gate. Its fairly visible to the circular trail. If you don't know the exact position of your camp site ask guidance from a wildlife officer at the Far-in gate to avoid any confusion. Trail to the camp site one goes almost horizontally on a small hill until you reach top of the hill. Then its a brief flat section until you start climbing down a small inclined foot path which leads directly to the camp site.













It was like seeing an old friend to see the camp site. Last time we visited this place we had to abort our journey due to heavy rain. But this time we were very much lucky. We took off our backpacks and rested for few minutes while enjoying the surrounding scenery.











Surrounding of the camp site was so beautiful that we all felt enchanted for a moment. water stream looked crystal clear and sudden urge to jump in and to have a cold batch kicked inside me but I had to contain it for the moment since we had to pitch in our tent and arrange other things in the camp site.Since I was not confidant with the stock rain-fly which I received with my tent, I had bought a homemade rain-fly. It didn't look pretty like the stock rain-fly which I had but It was capable of stopping water drops leaking in and keep the lower area of the tent away from bouncing water drops.











After pitching our tent we jumped in to the stream and had a bath. It was freezing cold but it gave us a soothing experience. After that we had our lunch and decided to do the Horton Plains Circular Trail. Since we had all the time till it gets dark we walked in a very slow pace while enjoying the surrounding area. We reached Mini World's End somewhere around 2 O'clock and Worlds End around 2.30 pm.

















Once you reach World's End you can see a small hill towards the right side of you. If you can climb this you will be able to get a much more clearer view of the both world's End Cliff and the surrounding area. After half an hour or so we started to walk towards Bakers Falls. To get to Bakers Falls you have to travel almost as the same amount of distance to the Worlds End from Far-in Entrance. To get to Bakers falls you have to climb small hil which is covered with dense forest.











This part of the trail seems somewhat difficult compered to the rest of the trail. After arriving at the top of the hill you have to walk down a stepped path to get to the Bakers Falls observation deck. Be careful when you walk on deck since it covered in moss.








We reached our camp site around 4 pm. We were quite exhausted due to the long trek we did. But we had to prepare our dinner before sun goes down. Therefore we looked for a place to keep our portable stove safely and away from wind. There is a small tunnel like pit near the bank of the stream. In my opinion its the best place to keep your camping stove away from wind. Plus if you place your camping stove towards the water stream you can turn the edge of the pit (mound) in to a nice little bench.



We had egg, sausage bread and a cup of Nestamolt for our dinner. Climate started to change little by little. Sun completely vanished from the western sky. soothing wind slowly turned in to a rumbling gale followed by a drizzle. Other three hurried into the tent while Sandun and I stay outside to boil water for later use ( If anybody catches a cold, a warm water cup would be very nice in situations like this). While Sandun was taking care of water I lit the kerosine lamp. Even though it was drizzling we didn't want to go inside the tent. It was so beautiful, it was my first time seeing Horton Plains after 6 pm.But we couldn't get inside all soaked so we filled all our thermal flasks with hot water and crawled in to the tent.




We had no intention of sleeping that night. We could hear wind blowing over the valley. Rain-fly was battling against wind. But I was pretty sure we pitched it strong enough to hold until the morning. We talked about Horton Plains, stories about it, how it became the first land to emerge from ocean to formulate our small island.



Even though we wanted to stay awake long trek we did during the day had made us all exhausted. One by one, we all fell asleep. According to Sandun he was the last one to fell asleep.



I woke up to a strange flapping sound during the middle of the night. It was our rain-fly. She was doing all she can to keep us safe from harsh wind and the rain. I checked on others. All of them were sound asleep tucked in to their jackets and blankets. But then all of a sudden Sandun talked to me.

Sandun : Eliye Amabanata hulanga ne machan,
Me       : Awulak wena ekak naha,api ata thanakinma gata gahuwane.
Sandun : Dan tikakata kalin wassa ban hayiyen.
Me       : Mata dan ban aharune, ape anith ayanam nidi wage
Sandun : Mata ninda giyema na ban. me bambuwa uda yanna dangalanawane.
Me       : Balamuko....
Sandun : Hmmm.....
I still remember that chat exactly the way it happened. Both of us fell asleep after few minutes.

We woke up around 6 am on the next day and had our morning tea. Then we prepared ourselves for  Kirigalpoththa Hike.
















We took our breakfast at the camp site ( Rise,Instant Fish Curry and Dhal) and packed our lunch( Eggs, Bread, Chocolate, Biscuit, Chili paste Butter and Jam)









After our breakfast we came to the Horton Plains Far-in and started our hike to Kirigalpoththa (nature trail start point is located near the canteen). I've attached Lakdasun Trail guide on the resource section so I wouldn't go into details to explain the trail. (This is neither a hard trail to tackle nor needs point to point guidance). The only place you have to remember is the Belihuloya crossing. From there you should take the trail towards your right not the one in front of you. This trail continuously goes through plains thick overgrowth and bamboo forests.









We took a small break near Belihuloya crossing (to have an early lunch) and continued our journey on the trail to the right.




To reach the upper base of the Kirigalpoththa you have to climb up and then down a small hilltop prior to Kirigalpoththa. After that its a continues climb until you reach the summit.











We met another group who had climbed the mountain through dense forest. I don't know whether its legal or not but it sounded like a good adventure. We lingered at the summit for half an hour and started to hike back.









We arrived back at our Camp Site somewhere around 4.30 pm. We took a good bath in the stream and prepared ourselves a hot tea. It started getting dark around 5.30 pm so we quickly prepared our dinner (Rise, Dhal, Instant Fish Curry ,sausages and chili paste)






We got up around 8 O'clock in the next morning. We had Noodles and sausages for our breakfast. Since we had no other plan for that day but to catch the returning train to Colombo we slowly started packing our stuff back in to backpacks. It was a sad thing to do but we had to do it. We came to Far-in Entrance a bit after 1 pm. From there we called our "uncle" ( driver who drove us to Horton Plains from Ohiya) and ask him to come as soon as possible. He came to pick us up somewhere around 2 O'clock. It took him more than two hours to get to the Ohiya station. Once we were in station Danushka returned to us from station office with suprising news. The officer who we asked to book train tickets hadn't done it properly. Instead of booking tickets on the day we asked him to he had booked them  for the previous day. We became little worried but soon we realized that if we could get in to the Colombo Badulla train we can travel to a station prior to Ohiya and increase our chances of getting a comfortable seat . So we bought five tickets to Heel-oya.


















Colombo Badulla train arrived at Ohiya station around 5 am and it took almost one hour for the train to reach Heel-oya. From there we bought five tickets (second class sleeperette) to Fort Railway Station.




We arrived at Fort Railway Station a bit after 7 am on the next day.

Video & Photo Courtesy : Akila, Harsha, Sandun

16 comments:

  1. Nice article dude...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, I am a adventure seeker on trials living down in Colombo. Unfortunately I dont have good motivated team to commence like you guys. Please let me informed if an team preparing for something like this or anyway to form such a team.

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am very much happy to hear your proposition mate. Its very rare to see Sri Lankan outdoor enthusiasts even though our country is blessed with such places. Stay with journeylanka(My Travelogues) and I will announce such opportunities where true adventure seekers can join us.
      Until then, try one of Sri Lankan Nature Forums. For example www.lakdasun.org is one of the finest nature forums and you will find huge user base where people are continuously plan and invite users to join trips.

      Good luck and Happy Touring!

      Delete
  3. This article is simply awesome. Me and my friends are planning to do this hike to Kirigalpoththa this June. This article gave us all what we needed. Thank you very much. :)

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  4. June is a good time to visit HP. lesser chance of rain but it will be windy. However it would be better if you can take raincoats or umbrellas as the country's weather has become unpredictable. Glad I could be of help.

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    Replies
    1. Pasindu AmarasingheMay 13, 2013 at 9:09 PM

      Samith,
      Thank you for response. Im part of Amran's friends goin on the hike. We would be very glad if you could help us answer the following questions. :)
      1. We have a kerosene stove, and would it be a hassle to use it there? or would you suggest a gas stove?
      2. Are there any leeches? should we take any salt with us?
      3. At around what time should we start the hike to Kirigalpoththa? How long will it take? We will be doing the horton plains circuit trail the first day and hoping to do the hike on the second day.

      Delete
    2. Hello Pasindu,
      Thank you for vising my site.

      1) Normal kerosene stove might be a problem due to the wind. Plus it will not give you enough heat considering that you have to cook and boil water outside(cold weather+wind). I think there are places where you can hire those small gas cylinders which comes with a aluminum stove on top of it. It would be best if you can carry one of those or at least a kerosene *pressure* stove. (But be sure to get a freeze free one as the low temperature tends to freeze the inner washers of the air pump. This happened to us during our off season visit to Sri Pada)

      2)AFAIK there are no leeches at Horton Plains. But if you want to take precaution anyway take few alum crystals. They work wonders fighting off leeches. Or a mixture of tobacco and salt (boiled together until it becomes a dark brown-green liquid.)

      3)Morning is the best time to start the hike. It would take total 6-7 hours to visit Kirigalpoththa peak and return to HP Far-In entrance. And remember to let ticketing office and park rangers know that you intend to do kirigalpoththa trail. For more info use lakdasun trail guide given in the resources section of this article.

      Kind Regards
      Samith
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    3. Thanks a lot Samith, very helpful information from you..
      thanks again for taking time for this..:-)

      Delete
  5. Hi Samith,

    We are planning to camp in Horton Plains on Saturday. We will be doing the Kirigalpoththa hike on Sunday. So would it be safe if we plant the tent on Saturday afternoon in the campsite and do the circular trail in the evening leaving the tents and backpacks in the campsite? or is it advisable to do the circular trail with the backpacks without leaving any belongings in the campsite? :)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Amran,

      You can leave tent and other stuff unattended at camp site. That's what we did on both days(circular trail and Kirigalpoththa trail). If you are camping at campsite No 1, then there is no chance any wanderer poking in as campsite 1 is pretty far away from the circular trail compered to other two sites. However take wallets,cameras and mobiles with you ( or any other high value stuff). I really doubt that anyone would be tempted to steal cocking provisions or a gas cooker while at HP :)

      Delete
    2. Thanks Samith

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  6. Awesome tour. Happy to see you guys enjoying nature of motherland. Keep it up.

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    Replies
    1. Hello Team Traveler. I think I know you guys. JKadithya and MrPerera? I too am a member of Elakiri. Happy to see you guys blogging your travelogues. That way more people can reach our content easily. Keep Traveling!

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    2. That's who we are. Ah..you too are an elakirians. It's nice to see you too.
      Yes. That's the reason why we begin blogging.

      Delete
  7. planning for one end of this year, anyone interested to make a group trip?

    ReplyDelete