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.


Loshini said...

"...there were many water streams formed compared to last evening. Most probably that could have been the effect of overnight rain.."

"...we had the terrifying feeling that, we might meet a live elephant face-to-face..."

The way u guys walked downstream, then up.

That sort of experience works almost like a memory charm. It's gonna be with you forever, K.

And it was refreshing to get so many words out of a photoblogger! :)

I like the way Sri Pada's framed by the greenery! that IS Sri Pada, ya?

And as usual, my comment's the length of an essay. sorry bout that!:P

Rajesh said...

Very adventurous trip. Not finding the way back an no food is very scary.

Janith said...

Wow, that is quite an experience K! It's good that you managed to find your way out of there without panicking... Would've been pretty scary if you came face to face with a wild elephant though! O_O

So did you attempt this trail again?

Hoot-a-Toot said...

Sadly I've never been to Sri Pada. I do want to go and after reading this account will definitely stick the usual steps :)

Amila Salgado said...

What great adventure K. You should definitely try it again and share the pics.

I found that in the Eratna route, after 800-1,000m - where you get bamboo, you begin to see Elephant dung and Elephant tracks regularly. Did you encounter Elephant dung at lower elevations -in taller rain forest?

Betsy Banks Adams said...

What a great experience you had, K..... It is kinda scary to get lost ---but as you said, you now know that it was one of your best hiking experiences. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us.

Indrani said...

What an experience! Could feel the anxiety and excitement.

Diane AZ said...

What an adventure! Being lost with the possibility of meeting large wild animals would be scary. Glad you found your way back!

sumedha Obeysekera said...

I can understand how u feel about this experiance. These kind of hikes gives you some surprsingly good feeling after all..

Adams Peak is like an Encyclopedia you can never complete reading.. Cheers!

rainfield61 said...

It sounds interesting and adventurous, and if I can join...

Amaris in Wonderland said...

Adventures like this leave quite an imprint in our memory. I'm glad that you all made it home safely!

Beautiful photo!!!

Kirigalpoththa said...

Thanks very much for the long comment..:D I am not a good writer, so yes this was quite a long post for my standards.
And that is Sri Pada, but taken recently from a different route. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of that memorable journey.

Yep, I leant the value of food and safety that day :)

I cannot imagine what we would have done if we faced a jumbo that day. In fact we talked about it and decided one thing to do. Ie. Running as fast as we could at different directions.
I could not attempt Sri Pada from that route after that, but quite tempted to do it again. :)

Sri Pada is a ‘must go’ place! If you are doing it for the first time, I suggest you do via Nallathanni or Palabaddala. If you are going to do it via Palabaddala read the book ‘Sri Pada’ by William Skeen (written in 1870) before the journey :)

Yes, I must do it again..:) As you said, I really need to take a few photos along that route..
Uda-Maliboda is around 500m and we saw elephant dung soon after we went in to the jungle, so my guess is we saw them even below 800m. And definitely we saw them even above 1000m too.

You are most welcome. Yes, even though it was an unsuccessful journey the adventure itself was an unforgettable experience.

Yes I understood the real meaning of anxiety that day. :) Thanks for dropping by and for your comments!

Diane AZ,
Yes, we have never heard about any attacks of elephants in that region, yet you definitely get the scare when you are inside.

Yes, I too think, Adam’s Peak is a place where you cannot explore fully and finish off during your life time. It is such a diverse place.

You should go to Adam’s Peak if ever you come this way. After all that is a place even ancient explorers wanted to go (e.g. Marco Polo)

Thanks! Yes the imprint, that this hike made in my memory will be there forever.

Thanks all for your wonderful comments!

eileeninmd said...

What an hike! Sorry you got lost, will you try again? Looks like a pretty place.

Kirigalpoththa said...

Yes, I want to try it again :)
I'll update when I get the chance again..
Thanks a lot!

magerata said...

What a great experience. I am sure you will do it again. (I am yet to climb the Sripada from any route!)

Kirigalpoththa said...

Yes, I really wanna do it via that route again..

You should climb Sri Pada oneday! Take Nallathanni or Palabaddala route if you are doing it for the first time. Many people around the world visit Sri Lanka just to get this experience :)

Thanks all for comments!

NicoleB, Egypt said...

Scary, but at least you made the Best out of it :-)
Glad you found the trail back 'home' though :D

Kirigalpoththa said...

Thank a lot for your comments :D

සඳුන් රත්නායක said...

I saw your post when we collected details for our visit.
here is my experience.....

සඳුන් රත්නායක said...

You post helped us to plan our visit.
here is our experience....


Kirigalpoththa said...

Hi Sandun,
You conquered it! Weldone!!
Your post will help me when I try it again. Must try it in a more planned way.. like you did :)
Thanks a lot for the comment and keep on hiking!

Amila Kanchana said...

What an adventure! Reminds me of some books and movies. Gee, I'd like to try that too!

Kirigalpoththa said...

Thanks a lot for your comments! Yes you should try it oneday hopefully in a more planned way :)

samith said...

I did this same trail last year (off season). We too ware lost for about 3 hours until we found the correct trail. However we had to camp in one of the "Ambalama" in Kuruwita trail and continue our hike on the next day. I have written a complete travelogue about it and you can read it on the below link.