Scrambling through the Sinharaja Rainforest is not just about plucking slimy leeches off my clothes. Once I perfect the art of annihilation or flicking them away, it is good to enjoy and appreciate the amazing foliage around me, especially the colourful and intricate lichen.
The Sinharaja Rainforest is an amazing bio hotspot and unique lowland forest. It is also the only such forest remaining in Sri Lanka.
It’s 5:30 a.m. and the lobby of the Deer Park Hotel is buzzing with excitement …or is it anticipation? Today we try to summit the much-talked about and carefully planned hike to the top of Danigala. This rock is also known as the Alien Mountain because of its unique semi-circular shape caused by geological activities and weathering conditions or, perhaps some mysterious alien activity. It is also, interestingly, called the ‘Star Gate of King Ravana’, because, according to folklore, it is where Ravana landed his famed ‘Dandu Monara’.
We travel towards Aralaganwila to the Kandegama Rajamaha Viharaya, (also called Dhananjaya Rajamaha Viharaya), that lies at the foothill of this mysterious mountain. Again, it is the head priest that has to allow us to climb and he sends for a villager to act as our guide. No one is allowed to climb without one and we will soon find out why!
There are four vehicles with 20 excited travellers, all prepped and ready for a weekend of serious climbing. We leave Colombo at 4:30 a.m. and journey on the Minuwangoda – Giriulla – Narammala – Wariyapola – Maho – Madagalla road towards Nikawewa.
Our first stop is the Sri Nagala Rajamaha Viharaya, that lies at the foothill of the Nikawewa mountain range. But our goal is to climb the mountain to reach the ancient stupa and image house that clings onto the edge of this mountain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.