25 February 2010
Lost in Samanala Adaviya
This was happened sometime back, but thought of writing the full story as I have mentioned about it a few times, here and there.
A few of us planned to climb Sri Pada during off season via one of the lesser known routes. The trail head of this particular route is at Uda Maliboda village off Deraniyagala. We left Colombo early in the morning and reached Deraniyagala via Avissawella by bus. From there, we took Uda Maliboda bus and reached the village around 12 noon. Uda Maliboda is situated at the border of Adam’s Peak Wilderness Sanctuary (Samanala Adaviya).
Once we reached the village, we got some information about the route from villagers. Quite a few mentioned that the path is not cleared for sometime, since it was the off-season and it would be difficult to find the trail. Still we decided to set off the journey and left the village around 1 pm.
At the start, we crossed a stream probably a tributary of River Kelani. The first one hour of walking was easy and soon we came to another stream ran parallel to our path. Since it is customary to have a bath before going to Sri Pada, we spent another one hour in the cool spring water. Most of all, this particular area was very scenic and we enjoyed the natural beauty and the crystal clear icy spring water to our heart content.
From that point onwards, the route became tricky. The path was getting smaller and at some points, we find it extremely difficult to locate the exact path. At certain points, there were multiple paths created by various wild animals like, sambhurs and wild boars. Also we found quite a few tracks created by wild elephants. Although we didn’t meet any of those, we saw enough animal droppings to prove it. Meanwhile, the path started to ascend.
We crossed many smaller streams and the hike became more difficult, since it was infested with leaches. The trail was through a thick forest and we were walking quite fast to reach an open area mentioned by the villagers. A drizzle started to fall and we kept on walking. Still no indication of any of the waypoints mentioned by the villagers and we could not see any signs of Sri Pada. Slowly it started to get darker and we found it ever so difficult to find the trail. We started feeling that we have already diverged from the right path and wandered into the jungle.
Finally we saw a small open area. It was around 6.30 in the evening and the light was dim. We decided to spend the night there, although we hardly had enough room to pitch a tent. Furthermore, we were quite scared to pitch a tent there, since we had the terrifying feeling that, we might meet a live elephant face-to-face.
So we decided to lay the tent over a slanted rock surface and spend the night there. To make matters worse, it stared to rain. Somehow or the other, we managed the night without further panics, although I must say it was a sleepless night for all of us.
Next day, we packed our stuff and tried to find our way forward. We managed to walk about half a kilometer, but then we came to a cul-de-sac. So we decided to turn back! The idea was to find the place we diverged from the exact path.
We walked pass where we spent the night, the other day and then came to another dead end. This time we knew that we were lost, lock stock and barrel! We tried a few more routes and to our utter dismay, we ended up at the same place after a round trip. One observation we made was that, there were many water streams formed compared to last evening. Most probably that could have been the effect of overnight rain. We tried a few more alternatives. We selected one of the streams and walked along it towards downstream through the thick forest. After walking about 30 minutes, our journey was curtailed by a massive precipice. Then we did the opposite. We walked upstream, and there too, the stream suddenly disappeared without any sign. The reason is that the stream had turned in to a small spring and it had gone through the mountain, underneath the earth crust. After hours of futile efforts to find our way back, we were utterly exhausted and felt desperate.
It was almost noon and we finished all our food that we brought in with us. Actually, we planned to be at the top of Sri Pada by morning.
We continued our search to find the way back and after about another hour or so, we finally managed to find a foot path and that lead us to the same trail we came. By that time, we were already late and we had to abort our journey and return back to the village.
Anyway we were quite happy at the end, to find our way back. We did not use even the simplest of way finding techniques and that made our hike a disaster. Even if you use maps, compass or GPS still there is a high chance of getting lost there, as Peak Wilderness Area is highly dense forest. So it is always advisable to stick to routine paths.
We never knew where exactly we roamed. Definitely, we never come even closer to Adevikanda or normal Erathna route. In fact we must have walked parallel to Erathna route further north of it. Even to-date, I rate this as one of my best hiking experiences.