My Best Adventure with AquaLIFE
Hiking and experiencing adventure trails are two of the most interesting activities conducted at Aqua Life. Taking up the challenge of completing the Kirigalpoththa Nature Trail was our latest adventure as enthusiastic and energetic swimmers of AquaLIFE Swimming Academy. Kirigalpoththa is the second highest mountain located in Horton Plains within the Nuwara Eliya District in the Central Province of Sri Lanka.
As we were inspired by the urge to gain a novel experience we all got together to Royal Institute Swimming Pool premises on 12th December 2014 around 10pm as agreed. By then the bus we planned to hire was already there waiting for our arrival. There were 32 participants in our troop that represented a wide age span including two senior citizens. The first few hours of the journey were spent in the bus without any special thing to mention.
We halted our journey after a couple of hours (around midnight) for a quick meal which turned out to be quite heavy for some of us who had roast paan (bread), egg omlets, chicken curry and inguru (ginger) tea etc. Half an hour later we continued with the journey heading to Pattipola via Hatton, Ginigathhena highway. Around 3 am we took a break at Hatton/Thalawakelle to refresh ourselves with some snacks (pol rottees) and coffee since all of us were almost sleeping after the hearty meal we had in the midnight and to that end, was it really the unbearable coldness that made us ordering more coffee than the head count? I am still wondering.
On the way to Pattipola we passed Kotagala, Thalawakelle, Nanuoya and Ambewela. Then we halted the journey a while at Pattipola railway station as it was the right time to witness an instance where two isolated power sets got coupled for a common goal; as if to set the correct example for a bunch of adventure seeking swimmers from AquaLife being united in their effort to reach the highest position which the general public is allowed to go in Sri Lanka. We spent about 1.5 hours at the Pattipola station observing the countless number of shining stars before we started heading towards the main entrance of Horton Plains around 5.30 am. The gleaming eyes of the participants showed us the path even in the slight darkness at dawn. Even the dew drops of the morning erased away our fatigue making us almost ready for the trail.
Among the list of most exciting experiences of our trip; we had the luxury of experiencing a few extremely horrifying bends where our driver had to reverse the bus to “hela” keeping us alarmed for a moment. Since the general public is only allowed into the park after 6 am, we were able to spend a few minutes at the entrance experiencing the early morning coldness at Horton Plains. By 6.30 am we were at Horton Plains –dormitory where we had breakfast and refreshed ourselves a bit before starting the hike. And we didn’t forget to cover ourselves with the jerseys/ jackets to avoid the freezing cold breeze.
Around 8.15 am 32 of us started the 7km long journey to the summit from the Far-Inn forming ourselves in two batches to make it easy for us to take care of each other as a team. Kirigalpoththa is a well-known trail among most of the nature lovers because no words can explain that magnificent experience where it paints a beautiful picture on the summit when the sunlight shone on the peak making it white in colour as if milk poured on it. It’s so impressive that it gives you an irresistible desire which makes it harder for you to take your eyes off from it. Being a hiker if you miss that glamour it’s worth giving it another try.
Trail to the summit of Kirigalpoththa is a good reflection of unique and fragile eco-system of Horton Plains. One could see many endemic plants, endangered animals and very rare flaura & fauna in the Horton Plains forest reserve which is rich in bio – diversity. Not only that, (but also) it also provides a natural habitat for a variety of shrubs, woody climbers, canopies formed by the foliage in the woods, small plants, tall trees and ferns and moss. Herds of Sambur were a common sight throughout the way. Travellers can also see special wild flowers (such as Binara & Nelu which blossom only in a particular season) which have the power to lift our spirits giving a therapeutic effect to our weary minds.
The foot path to Kirigalpoththa lies through the misty, cold and grassy plains across narrow brooks. It gave a real delight to walk through that beautiful environment. We walked in a very slow pace while enjoying the surrounding area. It was so spectacular that we didn’t feel like leaving it. Sitting on a rock beside a stream with our feet in the icy cold water we could wash away our weariness. Even if it was freezing cold it gave us a soothing experience. The splendid scene combined with the sound of the stream, the chirping of the birds and the fragrance of the flowers refreshed us adding another beautiful moment to our life which will remain in our memories forever. Further by watching the birds feed and entice their young ones to fly made us happier than words can express. This reminded us that things which could give us immense pleasure, go unnoticed in life because we are too busy wrapped up in our work, education etc.
The remarkable sight of hills and mountains stretched in never ending line reminded me of the poem ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ by William Wordsworth where he compared himself to a “cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills”. It inadvertently made me compare myself with the position of poet. I clearly felt the difference from the polluted urban air we breathe everyday with the fresh, pure air of that environment which gusts our body with the mild breeze. It gave me a sudden urge to hide from my own urban friends and get lost in the friendly greenery.
Although the walk was not too difficult, we stopped at regular intervals since it was quite challenging to make it at one go. We took off our backpacks for a while and rested for few minutes enjoying the natural beauty of Horton Plains. Meanwhile everybody was so eager to capture some snaps of the most eye-catching places in Horton Plains which will be an unforgettable experience to them. Except for that the crazy acts of our own friends were framed in the snap shots.
On our way to Kirigalpoththa, the cold wind made a strange low sound as if to frighten us but we were delighted to climb along enjoying the surrounding scenery. Since it had rained a bit on the day prior to our trail we had to wade through heath & mud in some occasions. By then the girls were already pleading for help in the hike. At certain points the hike was excruciatingly difficult as we slipped in ditches and had our feet buried ankle-deep in boggy areas. Some of us were mired down in the knee-deep mud and some of the others who tried to help them also faced the same experience making it quite hilarious. Apart from that the trail went through scrublands, grasslands and cloud forests. And also it is unforgettable how we trekked through the jungle once and clambered up the rocks as if snails. But we tried our best not to stray away from the established trails.
Above all it was a great day with wonderful weather which made it a perfect combination for our trail together with sunshine and cold wind. Along the way we were cracking jokes and having snacks to keep up with our pace. Suddenly it made our hair bristle by seeing some footprints of leopards and fresh leopard dung here and there in the jungle which proved that they have been roaming close to our footpath. Hearing about the leopard movements for the first time some of the girls who were novices in our batch showed a great fear to walk ahead. It was a fine example which manifested the real aspects of nature where it can bring both over-brimming happiness and fear at once; happiness by the beauty of environment and fear by one of the species living in it.
It took us almost four hours to reach our destination. To be acute, by sharp 11.52am we were at the summit of Kirigalpoththa. Reaching the top of it we were able to view the most spectacular views of the mountains and valleys below. We were elated to see the breathtaking, magnificent scenery around us together with the vastness of the plains. Among them we saw small hills covered with dense forest as well as misty moors surrounded by jungles. Actually we were too anxious to absorb all the enchanting beauty at once or at least to have a glimpse of it. We almost forgot the challenging experience of climbing such a height. So we spent some time relaxing and after that we had our lunch while enjoying the beautiful, silent, strange world which is a unique natural attraction in Sri Lanka.
Finally with the greatest reluctance to leave that divine place we started trudging back to the place where we started our trail – the dormitory at the entrance to the Horton Plains before night falls. So by 1.30pm we left the summit with the wish of returning once again in future.
Note : Being nature lovers who are well aware of our responsibility to protect our beautiful and valuable nature, we were more careful not to throw away any plastics or disposals here and there along our trail. So we followed the rules to the letter.
We returned to the premises of dormitory safely by 5.30pm and the smell of the dinner being prepared made us more impatient to get ready for the dinner as soon as possible. Truly it was a nice dinner given in the freezing weather conditions. Something important that I should mention here is that we were warned by the dormitory keeper not to go out after 6.30 PM as there could be possible leopard movements around the place.
To mention about the dormitory, it is truly a very comfortable place maintained by the National Wildlife Conservation Department. It is very spacious and there is hot water for us to take a refreshing shower and to have a sound sleep after the long tiring journey.
Thank you AquaLife for organizing such a wonderful adventure and we look forward to more of them in future!!!