Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sri Pada (Adam's Peak) - Udamaliboda Trail - Off-season

Trip Name: Long forgotten Trail to Sri Pada

Year and Month: August 2012

Number of Days : Two Days

Crew : Samith(me), Sandun, Danushka (During Planing 7 but only 3 dared to embark)

Accommodation : Indikatupana Ambalama (camping)


Transport : Three-wheel

Activities : Religious Activity, Hiking, Sight Seeing

Weather : Cloudy, Gloomy

Route :
Avissawella > Deraniyagala > Udamaliboda > Dikelikanda > Pandeniya River Crossing > Indikatupana Amabalama > Sri Pada Peak Temple > Nallathanniya > Maskeliya > Hatton > Avissawella

Special remarks :
  • Be ready to face extreme weather conditions
  • Start from Pandeniya River Crossing as early as possible.
  • During off-season Resting Points (Ambalam) become unusable so its better to bring a camping tent.
  • DO NOT travel during night if you are doing this trail during off season.
  • GPS or a local tracker is a must during off-season
  • There is high chance of wildlife encounters, always try to avoid such situations and if faced do not panic and act wisely.
  • Do not bring along any meat products.
  • Bring extra food (energy bars and drinks).
  • Road from Udamaliboda Tea Factory to Pandeniya River Crossing cannot be accessible by cars or vehicle with low ground clearance.
  • Threewheel will charge around 2500 to get you to all the way up to Pandeniya River Crossing from Avissawella. But due to bad road condition local three wheelers show reluctance to travel this road.
  • You can buy leechsocks from EDGE, Kirulapone.
Resources :

Trail Map
Click to enlarge

Ever since I did both Kuruwita and Rathnapura trails to Sri Pada I've been anxiously waiting to do Udamaliboda trail. But due to various reasons I was unable to organize it until last month. I invited many nature enthusiasts I know and most of them said yes to my invitation at first. But once they got to know about the trail condition (specially during off-season) numbers started to plummet until it reached 2. But I was determined, so was my other two friends (Danushka and Sandun). Even though group of three is not good enough for this trail to deal with unforeseeable circumstances we decided to do it anyway. I should mention here that all three of us had previous experience regarding off season hikes to Sri Pada. So if you intend to do this, arrange a large group consisting experienced hikers. And frankly I do not recommend off season hikes via this route unless you are experienced and determined.

We started from Avissawella around 6.30 am. But it took 3 and half hours to get to the Pandeniya trail head. (our threewheel broke down and our driver had to replace a "sathapahe katta"). We took our breakfast at Pandeniya trail head.

The way we came




Road Condition

Udamaliboda Tea Factory

Power Plant?


Pandeniya Trail Head

Once you climb on to the other side of the Pandeniya River bank there are couple of Mangosteen trees. (look out for ripe treat if its the Mangosteen season). From this point onward trail moves along the river valley. Though the trail is well marked and unmistakeable leach attacks and thick undergrowth will make it hard to tackle. In this part of the trail, ascend is neither steep nor continues but you should be careful since you will be traveling closer to a somewhat steep edges of the river valley. First 7 km of this trail is an overall ascend along the mountain side of Heenpiduruthalagala. But the steepness of the ascend is not very hard except for few places.
Trail Head at Pandeniya River Crossing
After around 1km trail will move away from river valley and more in to the forest. Steepness of the climb will become somewhat hard.

Refreshment

Forest

Lets Take a Break

Thick Undergrowth You Say, Try Impossible!

After about 3km from the trail head sound of the river disappeared completely. Undergrowth became less compered to the previous section of the trail but to roots covered in moss forced us to maintain a steady slow pace.



Then we came across a large stream which flows over the trail. There is a small triangular shape carved in to a tree here which is used to light a small lamp (probably a place to worship territorial god).

It tastes better this way!
We took a long rest here and refiled our water bottle while having a small snack.



Notice the Blue Ribbon

Shrine?

Hopeless Attempts

In trickier sections of the trail there are man made marks on trees trunks or ribbons hanging from trees to direct travelers in to the right direction. After crossing this stream trail become less hard. Trail will present you with mild ascends and then a steep Ascend. After tackling that part of the trail we came across the second stream crossing which was mentioned in Lakdasun Trail Guide.


After this section it was overall mild ascend along the narrow path with brief flat sections. This pattern continues until you for few hundred meters and then we had to tackle a steep ascend which led us to a somewhat larger flat section In this area there were five different paths going to different directions. I turned on my mobiles GPS app but we weren't able to get exact directions since my mobile app's tracking system kept changing direction every five second. So after wondering a bit and reading Lakdasun trail guide we decided to take the path to the right which looked like a mild Descend. We traveled for almost 1 hour but trail just kept descending and descending and no sign of river. At this point we realized that we have taken a wrong path. Therefor we had two options. Either we could turn back and go all the way to the last known position on the map or continue on this and hope for the best. Since we didnt want to waste any daylight left and had no intention of abandoning the journey and return home, we chose the later option and pushed on. After another few hundred meters we heard sound of a stream. We thought that this should be the third streams which is mentioned in the Lakdasun Trail Guide. But when we got there it wasn't a stream. It was a swamp filled with various streams coming from the mountain side. As Nadegura I was really worried at this point. I turned on my GPS device but again it was showing that we are on the right path but only we weren't(it was showing a large circular area as our approximate position). I realized that trail tracking isn't going to do us any good and decided to go old school. I turned on the compass and marked Kuru Ganaga crossing as our destination (even though we got lager circular area as our position on GPS was enough since a landmark like Kuruganaga is very hard to miss and reduces the disadvantage of inaccuracy of GPS positioning). Then I told my two friends that Its time for us to find our own way through the dense jungle. They were ready for anything at that point. So we traveled uphill where our compass directed us. It was one of the most tiring yet most intense and exciting experience in my life. We continued hiking like this until we reached a small foot path. As soon as I got there I saw a small green ribbon hanging from a tree branch which confirmed that we are again on the right track (we had come across the trail while we were hiking towards Kuruganaga using compass ). We continued on this trail and passed the two streams (one large and one small) and finally came to the Kuru Ganaga Crossing around 5 pm. (unfortunately none of us took any photos during the whole time we were looking for the trail).

We were on the Right Track

Red is the Correct trail, Yellow is the Path We Took (Click To Enlarge)
After doing some research I was able to draft above picture to illustrate what I think happened to us on that day. We took a wrong turn at the descend point and it led us to a swamp where I decided to take a direct route to Kuruganga using a compass. And that route was bound to cross the traditional route. So while taking our own path through jungle we missed the third stream and came across the correct/traditional trail.. Therefor rather than crossing five streams as mentioned in Lakdasun trail guide we only had to cross four streams before Kuruganaga.


The Way We Came

Downstream

Upstream
Since we were two hours behind our planed schedule and loosing daylight with every minute we stayed idle, we decided not to wait and rest but to continue our journey all the way up to Indikatupahana Amabalama without stoping and conclude days journey there. (Unfortunately none of us took any photos of this part of the trail)

It took almost an hour to reach Kuruwita Erathna Road and another one hour to reach Indkatupana Amabalama. While Sandun and Danushka went on to find a good water source and firewood I stayed in the Amabalama to pitch our tent. It was a bit spooky experience for me; to stay all alone in a "Amabalama" which is probably hundred years old.


My friends returned with plenty of firewood but with no water. We had one 1ltr bottle left with us for all our water needs. While Sandun prepared our dinner (Noodles,Bread,Seenisambola and chile paste) Danushka and I blocked the Amabalama Entrance so we wouldn't be disturbed by wondering wild animals.

It Kept Burning For Hours


Blocked
It was not a good night sleep for any of us. As Danushka does on every journey he gave us some tablets and we swallowed them down. It relived pain and fatiguness but it didnt bring sleep this time. I was continuously awaken by the flapping sound of the tents rain cover against the wind. However we were able to get few hours sleep before the sunrise. We got up around 6 in the morning and prepared ourselves to do the rest of the hike. We ate chocolate cake and leftovers of last nights dinner for our breakfast. Since we had only few sips of water we decided to save it for the journey as none of us knew a place to refile our bottles between Galwangediya and Indikatupahana Amabalama.
 
Tent

My T-Shirt Covered in Blood

Goodbye!

Leaving
We started hiking around 7 pm and reached Galwangediya around 8 pm.

Balumgala Ambalama?

Balumgala Ambalama?
Reaching Galwangediya



Poor Thing Finished an Entire Family Pack of  Wafers
There is a water tap at Galwangediya as well as toilets. Sandun decided to make some tea and looked through his backpack for the saucepan only to realize that we had forgotten it at Indikatupana. So we ditched the idea of tea. But all of a sudden I heard sound of a puppy. If there is a puppy there could be a mom. And dogs don't wonder far beyond human settlements/companionship, specially moms. So I asked Sandun to come with me to the Heramitipana Amabalama resting point in Rathnapura Road ( Rathnapura and Kuruwita roads meet at Galwangediya and Rathnapura road's Heramitipana Ambalama is just few meters from Galwangediya). We looked for a caretaker there. I was sure that there must be a caretaker otherwise bitch wouldn't keep her puppy here. And confirming my assumption black tall person came out from one of the offices. We told him our situation and he gladly gave us a pot.

Portable Stove I Made Using an Old Redbull Can

Now We Wait



We enjoyed a long awaited tea and started moving again. Since I have posted separate travelogues ( Sripada via Kuruwita trail, Rathnapura Trail) about rest of the trail I will not explain the rest of the journey but I should mention that we had to face extreme wind conditions. It was so intense that at some points I feelt that my backpack was trying to fly. This was not the only obstacle nature threw at us that day. Cold mist kept our eye sight limited to few meters. As you can see in the 5th photo below, Danushka who was sitting just few meters from the camera is barely visible.












We reached the Sri Pada Temple around 11 am and stayed there for two hours and started descending on Hatton-Nallathanni Road.
 











Makarathorana in Hatton Trail
We reached Nallathanni Town around 5.30 pm and hired a Three-wheel all the way to Avissawella ( 4000 lkr)

2 comments:

  1. Tremendous Guys ,Please make visible your phone numbers ,hence we planned this trial on next year as we travel last five years during off season in normal Kuruwita Road & we need your advises.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much Chanaka. I prefer to communicate via email. (it's the usual way I converse with my readers so please don't take offense, use the contact form in this site or just comment here)

      Ask me anything you want to know about this trail and I will try my best to help you. Udamaliboda trail during off season is quite a challenge. Specially during August to November. Among locals this time period is known as "Hadda Aware". So make sure you are absolutely ready.

      If you would like to do it during pilgrimage season make sure to pick a date after January. Villagers in Dikellakanda and Udamaliboda organize an annual shramadhana during last week of January(usually) to clear and mark the trail. So it will be much easier to hike if you choose a date after that.

      Please feel free to ask anything.

      Delete