The Knuckles Range – The Island


by Dishana H. Uragoda

My first jungle journeys have been made with the household. The very first, so far as my reminiscence goes, was within the mid Seventies, after we travelled in an Austin A 60 automotive to Lahugala, Ampara, Batticaloa, Polonnaruva and Sigiriya. I used to be most likely 5 years outdated on the time. Since then there have been numerous such lengthy journeys we made as a household, till 1984 after we joined Mr. Meryl Fernando and his touring companions on a visit to Rakwana.

It was on this journey that I made my first memorable jungle hike, which was to the well-known Waulpane cave. Since that journey, we made numerous journeys to Yala the place we primarily based ourselves on the Palatupana bungalow run by the Wildlife and Nature Safety Society. We used to make these journeys in Uncle Meryl’s Mitsubishi J40 jeep and trailer, pushed by the expensive driver Simon, whose nephew Wimaladasa was in command of the bungalow at Palatupana.

Throughout this era, one other anchorman to our journeys stepped into our lives. He was Senath Abeygunawardena, who was a detailed good friend of my brother. In subsequent years, we made many journeys with a bunch of mates whom he launched to our household, comparable to Bimal Perera, Niranjan Perera and Imaran Seneviratne. In actual fact, we nonetheless proceed to go on journeys with them, along with my sister’s father-in-law, Dr. Walter Gooneratne, Air Vice Marshall Paddy Mendis and the Vernon Edirisinghe household. In between, there was one other group with whom I made numerous journeys through the early Nineteen Nineties, and it’s one among these that I want to elaborate on.

All of it started after I joined an institute in Colombo to learn for a level in pc science in August 1990 shortly after leaving college. Right here I got here throughout a bunch of boys who developed a eager curiosity in sharing the thrills of touring in Sri Lanka. Their curiosity could have been partly created by their seeing my images and listening to my narrations of fascinating incidents of journeys undertaken with my household. The curiosity so created resulted in altogether 5 journeys being made throughout end-of-semester holidays to fascinating locations, specifically Adam’s Peak, Horton Plains, Namunukula, Anuradhapura and the Knuckles. These journeys have been full of laughter, gossip, bullying and idle speak. They have been all price range journeys main a frugal existence, and that made all of them the extra fascinating. After our three years on the institute, virtually all of us joined universities within the USA and are actually dispersed around the world, but most of our hyperlinks and friendships stay as earlier than.

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Planning the journey

On the institute we had two weeks holidays in between semesters, and needed to squeeze in all of the motion and leisure we might consider inside that interval. On this specific event, we selected the Knuckles area as our vacation spot. I had some expertise of the realm, having been there twice earlier than on household journeys, one among which was a profitable try at reaching the well-known Nitre Cave. The opposite journey was a complete catastrophe, with heavy rains, sturdy winds, earthslips, floods and leeches. We deliberate the current journey with a view to keep away from the wet season.

On one among these earlier visits, I occurred to acquire the deal with of the Village Headman of Kumbukgolle off Mimure. He was Heenbanda alias Polgas Seeman Aiya, who was a respectable-looking, small constructed, vigorous man in his 50s. My brother and his mates had spent a couple of nights with him some years earlier on one among their journeys; therefore I knew we had an opportunity of spending a couple of nights with him. After a letter or two of correspondence, we have been assured of a spot to spend the nights. Our targets have been the Nitre Cave and Lakegala Peak of the Knuckles vary.

The previous might be reached through the use of Heenbanda’s house as the bottom, however to get to Lakegala, we needed to discover lodging within the extra well-known village of Mimure. Since we didn’t have any contacts there, we have been contemplating both the college or the temple as our base. As a backup plan, we have been considering the potential for tenting out. We had no thought the place to camp, however we knew the river Heen Ganga wound by Mimure and it could be sensible to camp on its financial institution.

Six individuals agreed to make the journey, and so they have been Azard Barie, Chandima Wimalasena, Nishantha Nawalage, Tharaka de Silva, Udara Gunawardena and myself. We tried very onerous to persuade an everyday member of our staff, Lakshita Surasinghe as nicely, however he opted out with a trivial excuse. Taking a look at this record of names at this time, they’ve all turned out to be Data Know-how professionals of various flavours primarily based across the globe. One unhappy truth is that our expensive good friend Azard Barie isn’t any extra. He handed away within the UK in January 2003. As can be anticipated, we have been all bachelors then, however now are both fathers, fathers-to-be, separated, fiances, singletons or playboys.

We deliberate to be out for 3 nights and therefore the meals needed to be something that lasted with out refrigeration for a couple of days. We knew we’d be supplied with meals at Heenbanda’s, however we needed to inventory ourselves with some for the stability interval, the best being immediate noodles, sliced bread, tinned fish, butter, jam and a few biscuit packets. We anticipated to acquire water of pristine purity from the streams discovered within the Knuckles. Whereas this settled the meals drawback for me, there have been protests from the remainder of the boys, who have been all heavy eaters and seekers of consolation. That they had a notion that I knew considerably higher than they concerning journeys and went on with my suggestions, however now I really feel they made a mistake!

Backup plan of tenting was a beneficial choice to placing up at a faculty or temple, and we determined to arrange ourselves for it. We required two tents, a transportable kerosene cooker, and at the very least one kerosene lantern. I had two tents which we recurrently used on our household journeys. We purchased a kerosene cooker, and some of us obtained lanterns from house.

The subsequent step was to determine the path to be taken. I obtained some assist from my father who knew these areas higher than we did. We determined to go to Kandy, after which to Hunasgiriya, the place we have been to show in direction of Looloowatta Property and attain the gorgeous Corbet’s Hole, the place the street branched off west to Mimure (3 km) and east to Kumbukgolla (3 km). The subsequent main hurdle was organising transport. In all our earlier faculty journeys we used public transport, however this journey required a automobile. For our success, Chandi’s father allowed us using his Toyota Lightace van, and all was set to go.

Journey ultimately

Departure was set for Wednesday, August 12, 1992, and return was three nights later, on Sunday fifteenth. The dates have been chosen to make the most of the total moon of Nikini poya, which fell on the thirteenth. All meals objects, provisions, tents, a big haversack, kettle, kerosene cooker, lamps and different paraphernalia have been packed in Chandi’s van the earlier evening. Early subsequent morning, together with our private objects, we left Colombo. It was an awesome begin regardless of the brief delay and the slightly harsh rock music that blared into my ears behind the automobile. The 2 consultants who supplied the music have been Chandi and Nish. Their preferences have been a far cry from the peaceable pop or nation music that I appreciated, however for my luck Nish had introduced a couple of cassettes of my flavour.

Many people had introduced sandwiches for breakfast, which we had while on the transfer. The thought was to lose as little time as potential by the use of wayside stops. As anticipated, the van was in an explosive environment with a lot chattering and laughter. After some time, we started attempting out our singing expertise. Tharaka knew a lot of the “Large match” type of Sinhala songs, whereas Azard and I have been considerably proficient in common baila songs. Nish was an knowledgeable of English pop songs to which we’d hear with admiration.

The drive was slightly gradual and comfy with Chandi on the wheel. We reached Kandy round 10 am, and we determined to wander across the city and ultimately break journey by going to the home of Nish’s aunt for snacks and drinks. After delaying a short while in Kandy, we once more took the street. Although the street circumstances weren’t at their finest, it was fairly a scenic route. We handed the Victoria reservoir, the place the water stage was low on the time, and reached Hunnasgiriya round 2.30 pm. There, with the assistance of instructions from a wayside villager, we proceeded north in direction of Looloowatta Property.

Street circumstances turned much less snug and we needed to proceed fairly slowly, with the van bouncing alongside. For our luck, there was no rain though it was fairly overcast. By 3.45 pm or so we reached Looloowatta Property, and although all have been now hungry, there was no time to waste as our general plan of reaching Kumbukgolla in time was of upper precedence. With the cloudy sky, it turned out to be barely chilly.

On the small city of Looloowatta, we stopped for instructions as soon as once more, and there we have been requested if we might give three hefty males a carry to Mimure. We didn’t suppose it was a good suggestion to overload the automobile. Then two of them defined to us that the third member was the officer in command of the Police Station at Mimure, and requested us to oblige by giving solely him a carry. We agreed and put him within the entrance seat. Chandi wished me to take the wheel. One cause was his being drained, and the opposite was his considering that I used to be higher at retaining the visitor firm.

Knuckles

This was the primary time I used to be driving a van, and I took off within the method of driving the Land Rover again house. Nevertheless, it didn’t take lengthy to determine that the van had a lot softer suspension because it bounced and oscillated frightfully. I proceeded slowly on the street going northwards in direction of Corbet’s Hole and admiring the gorgeous mountain surroundings amidst the coolness of the night. The vegetation round and the lengthy grass that coated the edges of the street have been added sights. I stored on chatting with the policeman, who gave related particulars of the realm and identified the assorted mountain peaks, however the others behind the van noticed silence, most likely induced by starvation. We had proceeded a couple of kilometres down the street and I used to be retaining barely to the left, as there was a deep drop into the ravine beneath on the proper. There was loads of grass on the roadside to the left. I loved the gorgeous view whereas driving.

Out of the blue there was a loud explosion which shook the entire automobile. I felt it strongly on the steering. There was an eerie rumble as I slowed down the automobile to a cease. We have been in a state of shock and shock. We acquired down in a rush and rushed to test what was unsuitable. We discovered the left entrance tyre deflated with a two-inch gash on it. It was an enormous blow to us since we had a protracted strategy to go and we couldn’t proceed with out a spare wheel. I used to be upset because it was I who was driving Chandi’s van. We have been questioning what triggered the gash within the tyre as there was apparently nothing on the floor of the street to account for it. Nevertheless, on nearer inspection, we found rocks with jagged edges underneath the comfortable carpet of lovely grass on the roadside. Certainly one of them was prone to be chargeable for the injury.

It was a impolite introduction to the brand new terrain we have been in. The policeman, who was slightly calm, had a have a look at the tyre and declared he would get it repaired in order that we might acquire it after we visited Mimure a day later. He sounded slightly assured, and that gave us some aid. It additionally made us realise how fortunate we have been to have given him the carry. He additionally gave us permission to camp subsequent to the bridge over the river Heen Ganga, a tributary of Mahaweli, that went by Mimure.

I let Chandi take over the wheel since I used to be feeling slightly dangerous at what had occurred. We handed the gorgeous Corbet’s Hole and ultimately got here to the fork on the street. The street up up to now was tarred and really a lot motorable. However now, each branches of the fork have been typical jeep tracks with massive rocks on the gravel floor. The time was round 4.30 pm and it was getting late. We took the left department going to Mimure to drop the policeman. A couple of of us needed to actually stroll with the automobile, transferring apart rocks on the street that might injury the tyres and the suspension. Driving was not getting any simpler, with the eyes straining to be careful for hazard spots.

We proceeded a very good two km earlier than we got here to the police station, at which level the policeman acquired down with the broken wheel in his care. We got here again on the identical route, after which went down the opposite department of the fork, going west to the Kumbukgolla village. The street was no higher, and we ultimately got here to Kumbukgolla round 6 pm.

Heenbanda’s home was solely about 100 metres away, but we needed to take the van throughout a dry tributary of Heen Ganga that was studded with boulders. By this time, phrase had acquired spherical of our arrival and Heenbanda, accompanied by many villagers, was there to greet us. We have been accorded a heat welcome and Heenbanda was pleased to see me. We talked of our earlier journeys there, in addition to my brother’s. Heenbanda wished us to take the automobile to his home and taking command of the operation, he ordered and directed the villagers round who just about lifted the van throughout the tough, massive rocks.

The solar had set a very good half an hour earlier, but there was some daylight out there. So we rushed into unloading solely our luggage and some different important objects, as we knew we needed to take off to Mimure the following day. We have been getting lodging in a single large room, which was a very good portion of Heenbanda’s home. It had a neatly tiled roof, a cemented unpolished ground, white plastered partitions and ample furnishings for us to take a seat and make ourselves snug.

We have been all eagerly ready to have a wash, after we have been knowledgeable that it must be on the river that we crossed. Since we have been all dog-tired, a toilet would have been most welcome. Now that we needed to stroll upstream looking for water at nighttime and in chilly climate, the eagerness to have a shower was considerably diluted. Heenbanda was sending a information with us to take us to the washing spot, and we motivated ourselves to hurry with the wash as there was nonetheless some mild exterior. We walked upstream about 100 metres from the place we crossed the river, and there it was, water being channeled alongside strips of banana stems appearing as a gutter. The water was fairly chilly, however after finishing the wash with the assistance of kerosene lamps, it was certainly fairly refreshing. We rushed again to our abode shivering and acquired into hotter garments.

Heenbanda and his spouse, a pleasant quiet and aged girl served us with an early dinner and we have been as soon as once more rejuvenated. There was no electrical energy however numerous kerosene oil lamps have been lit, and we have been supplied with woven mats, one every for the six of us to sleep on. As soon as bedding was organized, we had Heenbanda’s permission to take a stroll within the evening. We stepped out with our torches, and it was a gorgeous evening with loads of moonlight. I proudly took a branded American 3-cell torch, which was very efficient and never quite common on the time. We determined to stroll to the riverbed to chill out, after which because the ever-so-hungry or thirsty lot wished to have espresso, I assumed it finest to check the brand new kerosene cooker. We took it out of the van with the kettle, cups, espresso, milk and sugar, and took a cool stroll to the riverbed.

(To be continued)



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