Hiking Sri Lanka’s Knuckles – To Meemure and Corbett’s Gap

Previous Post: The Manigala Hike In Sri Lanka’s Dumbara Hills (The Knuckles Range) 

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!

breakfast setting in the Knuckles Range

breakfast setting in the Knuckles Range

Knuckles Range sleeping tents and toiet:shower area

Knuckles Range sleeping tents and toilet/shower area

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.

Knuckles Range - The Thelgamu Oya at dawn

Knuckles Range – The Thelgamu Oya at dawn

Knuckles Range - The Thelgamu Oya at dawn - take two

Knuckles Range – The Thelgamu Oya at dawn – take two

a dawn view looking upstream in the Knuckles Range

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.

breakfast fruit and juice at ourThelgamu Oya camp

breakfast fruit and juice at our Thelgamu Oya camp

sharing dawn pics of the Thelgamu Oya

sharing dawn pics of the Thelgamu Oya

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.

Day Two morning - ready for a walk in the Knuckles Range

Day Two morning – ready for a walk in the Knuckles Range

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.

leech alert before our Knuckles Range hike continues

leech alert before our Knuckles Range hike continues

Knuckles Range Hiking Map

Knuckles Range Hiking Map

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.

The hills north of Meemure-2

 

Knuckles education and Training Center Illukkumbura sign

Knuckles education and Training Center Illukkumbura sign

Knuckles Range hikers - setting off on Day Two

Knuckles Range hikers – the group  setting off on Day Two

rice field in the Knuckles Range

rice field in the Knuckles Range

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.

stone path leading up in the Knuckles Range

stone path leading up in the Knuckles Range

stone path in Knuckles Range lush cloud forest

concrete steps on the way to Meemure

Knuckles Range cloud forest tree bark

Knuckles Range cloud forest tree bark

Knuckles Range stream trickling down

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.

scrambling up a rough path in the Knuckles Range

scrambling up a rough path in the Knuckles Range

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.

mountain-scape-north-of-meemure-village-in-the-knuckles-range-2

a Google Earth view of the hills to the NW of Meemure and the road to Corbett’s Gap

a view of the pyramid-like Lakegala Mtn.

a view of the pyramid-like Lakegala Mtn.

the terraced fields of Meemure village

the terraced fields of Meemure village

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.

local farmers and hikers near Lakegala Mountain in the Knuckles Range

local farmers and hikers near Lakegala Mountain in the Knuckles Range

a farmer tends his fields under Lakegala

a farmer tends his fields under Lakegala

farm dog poses with Lakegala Mountain in the background

farm dog poses with Lakegala Mountain in the background

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.

a view of the peaks from Corbet's Gap

a view of the peaks from Corbet’s Gap

Corbet Gap View - with road

Corbet Gap View – with road

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.

Corbet Gap- photo time

Corbett’s Gap – photo time

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.

delapidated sign and building at Corbet Gap

dilapidated sign and building at Corbett’s Gap – the Sphinx in the background

local farm dog watches the proceedings at Corbet Gap

local farm dog watches the proceedings at Corbet Gap

tuk tuk driver waits for his client at Corbet's Gap

tuk-tuk driver waits for his client at Corbett’s Gap

looking back towards Meemure from Corbet's Gap

looking back towards Meemure from Corbett’s Gap

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.

Corbett's Gap To Oruthota Chalets

Oruthota Chalets-2

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!

Oruthota Chalet room near the Victoria Resevoir

our room at the Oruthota Chalets at the north end of the Victoria reservoir

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.

Oruthota Chalets swimming pool with Victoria Resevoir in the distance

Oruthota Chalets swimming pool with Victoria reservoir in the distance

a view from the Oruthota Chalet dining area just after dawn

a view from the Oruthota Chalet dining area just after dawn

dawn view from the corner of the Oruthota Chalets dining area

dawn view from the corner of the Oruthota Chalets dining area

boatman at dawn on the Victoria Resevoir

boatman at dawn on the Victoria reservoir

dawn on Victoria Resevoir

dawn on Victoria 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.

Rehman Abubakr 2011 April ...from Wikipedia article on Victoria Dam

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

This entry was posted in hiking/trekking, Sri Lanka and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Your comments and questions are always appreciated, as are any suggestions on how to make this post more useful to future travellers. Just drop me a line or two!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s