A Mountain Retreat. Fishing Hut in Maskeliya.
It’s pitch dark outside in spite of the few stars that dot the cloudy sky. Intermittently, the rains come crashing down. And it is very cold. The three of us are huddled under blankets, with a fierce fire burning at our feet.
Despite the cold weather, the lack of electricity and thankfully, no telephone signals, we are enjoying a deep sense of solitude, serenity and absolute calmness. Needless to say, the German wine adds to the mood. We are at the Fishing Hut, on Moray Estate in Maskeliya, located in the back of beyond, as it were.
Getting here is long and arduous. From the turn off at Mousekele, the 8 km road is wet and steep and narrow and extremely precipitous and despite the travel advisory to get here early, we arrive after dark and make the rest of the journey with pounding hearts!
Expecting the worst, I am pleasantly surprised at how absolute basic accommodation can be made to feel so comfortable. The entire Fishing Hut is constructed out of wooden logs. Our hut, which is one of four, comprises three bedrooms, two of which have en suite bathrooms and can accommodate six people comfortably. A rustic dining area is made of wooden benches on either side of a wooden table.
Kerosene lanterns, the only form of light, adds warmth to the Hut. At the entrance is a wooden sit out overlooking the noisy Batulu Oya’- a swirling, foamy mountain stream that runs past all the huts. If the weather had been better, we would have taken the dinghy out for a paddle down this stream. But not today as it is freezing and the very thought of it makes me shiver! On the other side of this stream is the thick forest of the Adam’s Peak Sanctuary.
We wake up to the call of the elusive Sri Lanka Blue Magpie. Outside, the air remains cold and misty, the forest cover dripping with last night’s rain and I notice that the stream has risen by a couple of inches. The Blue Magpie calls from afar, camouflaged in this thick forest canopy. Our fingers are crossed hoping to get a glance of this elusive, yet mesmerizing bird.
By the time we finish a hearty breakfast, the sky has cleared and the sun is out. It’s time to take a walk. Up the gravel estate roads we trek, only stopping to gasp at the beautiful panoramic views of the Maskeliya town far away, and tresses of waterfalls that cascade down steep mountainous facades. As always, I am astounded by the beauty of this land.
Heck! The rains come crashing down again and we desperately look for shelter. With nothing but tea fields all around us, we are soon soaked to the skin. So, we continue on our trek in the rain and enjoy the experience, reminiscing on younger days when rain baths were accepted and encouraged by our parents!
There is a road that leads to the foot of the Adam’s Peak just around the corner. This is an alternate road and I remember climbing down this way on a descent from the great Adam’s Peak several years ago and shudder at that experience when leeches, and rocky inclines and the unbeaten path took its toll on us. But now, no amount of coaxing can get me up the sacred mountain again.
Back in the hut, we are ready for a delicious lunch comprising rice and curry. Breakfasts and dinners have been equally delicious and Manoj, our appu, has sated our appetites justifiably.
On Sunday morning, we are in for a treat. As the rasping call of the Blue Magpie gets closer, we wait impatiently. Suddenly, one swoops down to the tree just in front of us. Then comes another and another …and soon we enjoy the company of six of these endemic birds as they give us a show of a lifetime. Too stunned to even reach for the camera, we gape at them in awe, standing stock still not wanting to spoil this moment. Our trip is complete. We have enjoyed the weekend, and are now ready to return home where dipping our faces into water does not freeze our brains!
My advice to anyone wanting to experience this adventure is to arrive early, carry plenty of warm clothing, blankets and a raincoat is a must. You do not need a mobile phone to disturb your thoughts and nor do you want loud music…nature’s cacophony is more than enough. Visitors are advised to bring their own linen and food provisions. And remember, the drive back to the nearest town is a long and lonely 26 kms, so come prepared. The Fishing Hut is also not very child-friendly, nor is it the ideal location for people with problems with mobility.
As we make our way back to Colombo, we stop at the beautiful Christ Church Warleigh in Dickoya. Built in 1878 by William Scott, the governor of Governor’s Mansion, the church architecture is typically British with stained glass windows, wooden pews, an enormous pipe organ and the well-preserved original Bible that was gifted to the church 135 years ago. We are informed that during the two services held each month, the reading is taken from this Bible.
Outside, we walk amongst gravestones of those who have passed away almost a century ago. I think to myself that none can ask for a better resting place than this, as the breathtaking view is of the Castlereagh Reservoir reaching far across this vista.
Will I return to the Fishing Hut? Absolutely!