It was a month before from today we all spent a couple of remarkable days of our lives which will not erase by where we go and whom with. The memory path was laid to the hilltop of Sripada along the Kuruwita – Erathna trail. Even though it is thirty days later, memories of the journey made me to go back and turn those priceless memories into words.
The crew was made of eighteen members with seven boys and eleven girls. Some of them were well known while some were seen for the first time in the life. But on our way to the starting point of the long walk, everybody had been much familiar to each other. Out of the three main trails to Sripada, we chose Kuruwita – Erathna trail, which is the third most popular trail and a classical route, as we sought some adventure than just stepping on concrete steps. The journey was adventurous from the very beginning as we traveled by public transport, and none of us had been to Sripada via this route. So, we had to search on the routes with the aid of the villagers. The crew was supposed to gather at Kuruwita bus stop as the members were from different areas of the island. So, I together with six other members came there through Colombo – Badulla route. By 11.00 am in the morning, all were gathered and we arrived in Erathna by bus within a journey of one hour.
From there we had to start our walk as the road was too narrow. The area was civilized with houses on both sides and had disturbed forest patches. The crew was pioneered by Kasun the ‘nade gura’ and the tail was led by Udesh, Ayomal and Pamod. Together with the information of the villagers, we could arrive to the thirteen kilometers long traditional path to Sripada which was laid along the undisturbed forest and rock beds. As villagers said, we were the biggest team to climb Sripada this time via this rout. Till 1.30 pm we walked along the path of street lamp posts as we were advised by the villagers. The beginning of the journey seemed to be tough with heavy backpacks and heavy sun right over the head. Then our screaming bellies were turned calm down near small stream. About forty-five minutes later, the walk was started again and we arrived the first permanent resting place; ‘Jambolagaha yata ambalama’ located about 1.6 km far from the trailhead. Secondly, we arrived to the ‘Diamond gala ambalama’. Everybody in the crew did not hesitate to rest for a while in these places. A huge rock had raised up to the sky and we could not see anything beyond its exposed rock surface.
The large rock which had risen into the sky
The route was laid over the footpaths and streams. Walking in to the jungle it exposed its scenic beauty of the dense forest. Smoothly curved large rocks had popped-up within closely packed trees. The canopy well shaded us from the sun and gave the sense of a tropical rain forest. The streams with extremely wet surrounding, filtered sunlight, silent vicinity, wet green stones with moss reminded us the view of a Zen garden. When we were under the thick canopy we had a fear of seeing an elephant emerging from the thick forest as Chathura said that pigmy elephants are present in the reserve. The surrounding of streams were so wet that surrounding trees had tangling mosses grown on their branches. There were small crabs of red and black and Madusha was playing with those fellows. She also played with small pebbles, keeping them one over the others while the rest of the crew were resting.
Thick forest which we walked through
Next we passed some large water pipes carrying water to a power plant, a shine of god Saman and then a large bed rock with a small gliding water way which appeared as a slanted waterfall. It was an ideal place to have bath since we could slide on the smooth rock surface. But we had to give up our thoughts on the first glimpse of the waterfall as it was warned not to have bath there as that the water level might raise immediately. Next we passed a small bridge and had a small rest sitting in the tea-shop there. It was about three in the evening and we were tired of the walk. Heavy back packs doubled the tiredness of walking. We got to know that there is a waterfall flowing inside the forest and then we decided to have a bath there. Hopefully, we went about 100 km into the forest and discovered the elegant cascade of water falling between two rocks forming a large pool of crystal clear water. We spent about an hour enjoying with ice cold water and then continued the walk.
We walked for a long time via a flat land and the large rock was well exposed to the way. There were tiny water falls falling over the rock and they were too thin as the area was out of rain. It was around five in the evening and the forest was turning dark as the sun was setting down in the sky. We had finish passing the plane land and there was a hilly area with a rocky path and the crew decided to have a rest sitting in the path itself. We were refreshed by roti and lunumiris brought by Kasun. The sky had almost devoured the red burning sun and had turned scarlet.
Scenic beauty of the environment in the sun set
Then we came across with a slope and we had to step up carefully as the whole environment was dark. But the risk of falling down was minimized as the rocks were not slippery and street lights expelled the darkness of the walking path. Far away from our location we could see the lights of Sripada and it motivated us to hurry as there were more to go. Solochana had some traditional verses and we recited in the ascent to Sripada. Reciting them rhythmically while walking stripped out the tiredness and we got the real sense of a traditional pilgrimage. As we climb on the mountain, temperature was sharply dropping and we all were wearing jerseys and ice caps. Around eight in the night we got our dinner; bread with cooked baby jack. The curry was iced due to the lower temperature of the surrounding. Later we got to know that it was a recorded low temperature for the past history and had dropped to 2 0C. Then we walked at a stretch till we arrive to ‘Seetha gangula’. There we had a hot coffee with ‘aggala’ and got a little relief from the freezing cold. Teashops popped up from place to place and recovered us from cold, tiredness and sleep. It was around ten in the night and the crescent-moon was top in the sky. The river had water below the knee level and stepping in to the ice cold water of Seetha gangula made us freeze. ‘Indikatupahana’ was there next on the way which is also known as ‘Geththampahana’ where Buddhists believe that Lord Buddha had sewed his torn robe staying over there. Passing over Indikatupahana, there comes the junction where Rathnapura trail meets Kuruwita – Erathna trail. The path led the way to ‘Haramitipana’ where Buddhists leave out walking sticks over there and start up climbing on their own effort. Next there was a continuous climb on the mountain and we arrived to ‘Andiyamalathenna’ which is the last permanent resting place in this rout. There we could see lighted Sripada raised in the sky. It was around two in the following day dawn and decided to have a little sleep before we climb the last section of the ascent. The freezing surrounding made all of us were shivered. Around five in the morning, climbing was started with the aim of seeing the Sun-rise. It took about an hour to reach the top passing four large bends passing over ‘Mahangiridambaya’ which is the hardest area to climb with steep stairs. Clouds were floating towards the mountain and were filling the top sky. Climbing on such an environment made us feel like we are walking on clouds. After completing a journey of 12 km we could arrive to the top of the mountain; the final destination.
Fantastic view of sun rise to the top of the mountain
Sripada is an isolated mountain surrounded by several mountain ranges. It was the tallest of everyone surround it. The sun rise was so beatific sun got peep from the mountains and came up in the sky after bumping over the hills several times. Colors of red, yellow, blue and white had well mixed in the sky and it was like a large lava ball melting on snow. White clouds had obscured the extent of visibility and appeared as a milky ocean. Vegetation on the peak had the characteristics of a pigmy forest. Extreme cold, dry cool air had turn plants in to thick, short stemmed dwarfs with twisted branches covered with mosses.
After worshiping the sacred foot-print we start descending via Nallathanniya – Hatton trail which is the shortest and easiest to travel. The rout had stairs along the path yet it was not easy to get down as the tired knees were shaking with endless steps. After about a five hour walk, we could get in to the Nallathanniya town.
As a whole, we climbed up with giggles and came down with unforgettable memories. Had two days just sticking to the nature and said good bye to each other with the hope that we will worship Sripada either from the Rathnapura trail or Deraniyagala trail next time.
By Udesh Amalinda