Having visited the majestic Sinharaja Rainforest from the Pitadeniya entrance just last week, this weekend we are on our way to Morningside. I’ve heard too much about this side to miss this opportunity.

Morningside is in the eastern side of the Sinharaja, hence named by colonial tea planters of the Lankaberiya Estate.  It is located off Suriyakanda between Rakwana and Deniyaya and you guessed right…the road leading up to the bungalow is terrible! The Sinhala translation is “himidiri pedesa”.

But once there, the views are somewhat breathtaking.

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Looking for someplace closer to Colombo to travel to, I stumbled upon The Ark in Matugama. The journey along the Southern Expressway was less than an hour and yet the steep climb in the latter part of the trip makes it seem as if I am in the central province.

The narrow winding road climbs through shrub and (sometimes) dense jungle up until the car park. From that point, there is a short walk to The Ark.

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Happy birthday Rajah!

So it’s back to the Rainforest Eco Lodge for a birthday celebration. This time, the Southern Expressway cuts down my travel time considerably although the last hour of the road condition leading up to the Lodge is pretty messed up.

Once I pass the Park Office gates and enter the protected forest area, the scenery changes dramatically. Driving through the forest is like entering a layered crayon box of green colors. From the differing shades of colors of the foliage, to the serenity, the fresh air, the sounds of birds, crickets and other small insects adds another dimension to this forest.

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At an altitude of  1280m, the Tillicoultry bungalow is located at a very picturesque setting. That, together with the chill in the air and the company is already making this weekend quite welcoming.

The Tillicoultry bungalow is located in Lindula, in the Nuwara Eliya district.  This colonial-styled estate bungalow has five large rooms, with a large garden that overlooks the Horana Plantation tea fields.

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It has not been easy staying indoors and being deprived of travel. Lockdowns, locked in, quarantine, and safety protocols have taken a toll on most travel during 2020, though I’ve had the good fortune of racking up the miles, locally.

One of my last trips in 2020 is to Mannar. Ideally it should have been Myanmar but I had to settle for Mannar. I am returning after one year and looking for different experiences.

On the main Madawachchiya- Mannar road, just in front of the turnoff to the revered Madhu Church is a small road that leads to the Kunchukulam Hanging Bridge.

Five-arch Bridge

 

But first I pass a concrete five-arch bridge. Built in 2013, this is a flow control bridge which possibly carries the excess water back to the main tributary.

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The CeyCat 53 has arrived at the coastline of Lanka Patuna, south of Trincomalee.

It took us almost six hours of sailing having seen the amazing whale shark and thousands of dolphins along the way. It is time to take a short ride in the dinghy and disembark on the sea shore because I have been told the temple here is worth visiting.

The beach is relatively deserted except for some fisherfolk mending their nets, and some curious village children, peering at us from their perch atop an upturned boat.

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The catamaran bobs gently in the sea. The sky is overcast, the wind is dying down and the evening is pleasantly cooling.

We are anchored out at sea, at the foot of the Koneshwaran temple in Trincomalee. I am onboard the Emerald CeyCat 53, a custom built, six-cabin catamaran belonging to Sail Lanka. This is just day one of our three day cruise along Sri Lanka’s renowned east coast.

This afternoon, having traveled from Colombo, we arrive at the Dutch Bay Trincomalee by 3:45 p.m.

Three Sail Lanka vessels are anchored off site waiting for their next passengers.

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Within the boundaries of the Kumana National Park are many ancient archeological sites that date back to the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. In fact, the Kumana area has been the site of an ancient civilisation dating back to the 3rd century BC.

During my recent camping trip with Xtreme Nature Tours, we visit Bovattagala, one of the many ancient sites located in the middle of the park.

There is a cobbled path that leads through the thick jungle to the base of what was once a massive monastic complex. We climb a short distance, scaling the hot rocky façade until we reach the main cave.

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It’s not authentic camping and neither does it have the trimmings of glamping. But it has got all the coolness of tented accommodation, the buzzing of insects, the sounds of guttural sawing of a lurking leopard, the caressing of warm breezes that waft across the riverbed and the thrill of burying my toes in the sand while eating my meals under the open canopied tent.

Having driven almost seven hours from Colombo (along the newly opened expressway), we reach the entrance of the Kumana National Park by 11 a.m. to be met by Chris, the man behind the Xtreme Nature Tours and Marlon, his “grounded” sidekick and a business partner.

We transfer our luggage into the two waiting safari jeeps and off we go on a bumpy, dusty ride to the campsite at Eda Kumbukkana Two.

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A short drive up the road right next to the Belihuloya Rest House is a waterfall and natural pool that has been a must-see attraction on my bucket list for too long. I have managed to coax the rest to visit this site and we are finally en route. We park the vehicles at a nearby car park for a small fee.

Hat in hand I walk down a short distance from the car park to the entrance post where a solitary chap issues tickets and warns us of the dangers of bathing at this waterfall. A plaque, erected by a bereaved parent in memory of his young son who had lost his life here is a stark warning. “This waterfall has taken many lives. Stay out of the water!” the gatekeeper cautions us. I am also thankful that there is no one else here, except us, and glad to explore on our own.

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