The next morning our campsite on the banks of the Thelgamu Oya near Illukumbura provided those keen on photography with some beautiful river views. My roommate and I got up just after dawn – we were sure we were the first up – and we carried our duffel bags up to the parking area. The kitchen staff was already at work and the breakfast table was set!
We headed back down past the toilet tent and the sleeping tents to the river and framed different views of the water and the shoreline and especially the small waterfall. A slight mist hung over the river and made things even more atmospheric.
By the time we got back up to the breakfast underneath the covered porch some of our fellow travellers were already seated and looking at plates very much like the one in the photo below. They were also being treated to a display of the morning’s photo shoot from down by the river.
We set off shortly after 8. Up on the road was the Mahoora Safari truck that had brought all the tenting and other gear as well as the staff to the camping site. The Mahoora crew had done a fine job of creating a very livable temporary space for us on the banks of the Thelgamu Oya.
Now it was time to bus over to the day’s trailhead at Ranamuregama. (The village is the site of a temple called Narangamuwa.) From there we would spend the morning and early afternoon walking to Meemure.
As we stood there the conversation turned to leeches. A number of the walkers had pulled leeches from their legs during the previous day’s walk up to the Manigala ridge. Now they were staring at the first of a new day’s batch. I went the entire hike without seeing a bloodsucker on me until the last hour as we approached Meemure. I had treated my long pants with permethrin and also sprayed a 30% Deet insect repellent on my boots and lower pant legs before we set off. It seems to have done the job.
After a short drive from Illukumbura to the Narangamuwa Temple at Ranamuregama it was time to pull out the trekking poles and start our walk. The trip notes describe the walk this way:
We pass rice paddies and coconut groves and enter a heavily forested area. The trail climbs gently for an hour and then levels out and undulates though this wonderful forest. The only sounds we can hear is the birdsong all around us. We emerge from the forest at Meemure village and looking back we get great views of the pointed peak of Lakegala.
(See here for the Exodus itinerary – this was Day Four.)
And here is a Google Earth view of the 12-kilomter walk – or, at least, my best guess as to the path we took to get to Meemure.
After a very flat beginning, the path, parts of which had concrete or stone steps, would take a decided uphill slant. The series of photos below captures some of the beautiful lush cloud forest terrain we scrambled through.
We had started our walk about 9 a.m. By 12:30 we were scampering up the trail in the photo below. We stopped more than once for a water break and munched on the day’s snacks.
Lunch would have to wait until we got to Meemure, where our guide had arranged for a box lunch for us. By 1:45 pm we were approaching Meemure, the end point of a little hike. It is a fairly isolated village set in the Knuckles Range with the eye-catching mountain called Lakegala as a backdrop. The Google Earth satellite view does not really capture the pointy nature of the peak. (i am assuming that it is the one on the left.) Compare it to the photo immediately below to see what I mean.
Our great little hike for the day was almost done. Just beyond the fields was the village of Meemure (also written Mimure), a small fairly isolated community of 400 or so. Only a rough dirt track connects it to the road some ten kilometers to the south.
After our lunch in front of the tea shop in Meemure, a couple of local jeeps took us to Corbett’s Gap (also spelled Corbet’s and Corbert’s) for some great views of the main peaks of the Knuckles Range.
Given the nature of the road up to Corbett’s Gap, our bus driver had not driven the bus up to the meeting point. While our jeeps returned to Meemure, there was another vehicle waiting to take us down the series of severe switchbacks where we met up with him. This was just one of the many instances on our two-week tour when the excellence of our guide’s and his team’s work shone through. He was often on his cell phone making arrangements and ensuring that people were where they were supposed to be. Everything worked seamlessly and little time was wasted standing around waiting. Very impressive. Perhaps I could have done all of this on my own but it would have taken an extra week and involved much more stress! In the end, you do get what you pay for!
Corbett’s Gap at 1127 meters (3698 feet) provides a fantastic vantage point from which to take in some of the peaks of Knuckles Range. In the two photos below I am looking south at some peaks framed by a bit of cloud.
The jeeps gone, now our red truck sat there while we turned in various directions and gobbled up the scene. Up there with us was a tuk-tuk who had brought up a visitor to check out the views.
I looked back to the north and spotted a bump on the horizon known as The Sphinx. Also visible on the hillside was the ruins of what once may have been a lodge and just a bit down below was a small farm.
Eventually everyone had the photos they wanted and we hopped into the truck for our brief ride down to the waiting tour bus. By 5:30 or so – the end of a busy day – we were approaching Orutota and our hotel for the night on a very scenic spot overlooking the Victoria Reservoir.
We got to our rooms for the night just as the sun was disappearing for another day. After unpacking and showering and all of that, we spent the evening at the outdoor covered restaurant, sampling some Sri Lankan beer and – for me as a vegetarian at least – more great rice and veg curry dishes. My fellow travelers did ask if I didn’t get tired of rice and veg curry every day. My response – most of the dishes were excellent and, given the different cooks, were often quite different from each other. So no – not boring at all. Certainly no more boring than meat and potatoes!
I did get up early the next morning and, after checking the restaurant area to see if there was any coffee available, wandered down to the banks of the reservoir.
The Victoria Reservoir is the result of the Dam which was completed in 1984. From our spot at Orutota to the dam itself at the other end of the reservoir is a straight line distance of ten kilometers.
Its dual purpose was to enhance irrigation and provided hydro-electric power but as a result of the project some 30,000 villagers and farmers had to be relocated. (See here for a Wikipedia article which provides the basic history. You will also see where I found the image below – a photo by Rehman Abubakr shot in 2011.
Later that morning we made the short ride into Kandy for a quick visit to the Temple of the Tooth and walk around the surrounding area.
Soon to come – Kandy and the Temple of the Tooth