|Day Tours - Sights around Haputale|
Story by Dimitry Fernando (Sri Lanka). Photos and text from E. Oliver (Germany)
Nested in the Bosom of the Hills
by Dimitri Fernando
(Sri Lanka 1997)
Lipton Seat view from "White Monkey - Dias Rest".
"... If one has the time it is certainly worthwhile to take a drive along Dambatenne Road as it is one of the most scenic stretches of road in this country. This six mile stretch of road ends in a cul-de-sac on the other side of the Poonagala-Ampettikanda range. Far down in the valley below, is a gigantic gap between two mountains, and everywhere there are streams and waterfalls and hills that rise up majestically to over 6000 feet. Beyond and below the gap is the road to Koslanda and Wellawaya and around it the basin of one of the mainstreams of the Walawe river. Above the road and to its left is the Haputale Forest Reserve, which is well served by streams and is ideal for camping, except during the rainy season or in January or February, when mist reduces visibility almost to nil.
Haputale Railway Station and colonial stores.
Five miles from Haputale is Idalgashinna, a tiny hamlet on the railway. At a height of about 5300 feet, it boasts a truly spectacular view on both sides of the railway line. To appreciate the beauty of the place, one needs to get off the train and spend at least a few hours absorbing the tranquillity of the place, perhaps seated at the top of the small hill behind the station as I did. The view from the top of the hill is magnificent, and I could see the mist rising up from the valley below into my face. The sound of the mist and wind among the trees evokes images of pine trees murmuring the timeless beauty of Idalgashinna. The hills fall perpendicularly downward and a false step could easily send the unfortunate plunging downwards to their death.
Glenanore Idalgashinna Railway Station (Glenanore goods only!).
It is an enjoyable walk along the railway line back to Haputale. Stretching for five miles between Haputale and Idalgashinna is a little known nature reserve - the Tangamalai Wildlife Sanctuary. Not many large animals are to be seen, but birds of bright hues can be seen in profusion.
behind the Idalgashinna railway station, a gravel track takes off, skirting
the other side of the ridge, traversed by the railway line on its way to Ohiya.
Five miles beyond, it joins the Boralanda-Ohiya-Kalupahana road, two or three
hundred yards below the Ohiya Gap.
three miles below Idalgashinna station, the southern slope of the range and
surrounded by the Needwood Tea Plantation is an old abandoned fortress, the
Kotugodella Fort, at an elevation of about 3800
feet. The Portuguese once attempted to use the Idalgashinna Pass to force a
way into the Uva. Hardly anything of the Fort remains today; a few scattered
stones and the semicircular outlines of ancient bastions are the only reminders
that such a majestic structure once stood there.
Those who love walking could take a hike from Haputale to Ohiya station which sits at an elevation of about 6000 feet. The Ohiya Pass is not as scenic as the passes at Haputale and Idalgashinna, since the view is only on the southern side of the range, the other side being in forest. From the head of the Gap to the station is a stretch of two delightful miles through avenues of eucalyptus, and cypress. The Gap looks out to the Horton Plains massiv to the right and over the steep descent to the main road to Haputale below. Far down in the valley below is the 4900 foot peak of Bambaragala. If one is taking the train from Bandarawela to Ohiya, there are two trains at 7.20 a.m. and 10.20 a.m.* The only train from Ohiya back to Bandarawela or Haputale is the "Podi Menike" which arrives at Ohiya station at about 2 p.m. If one misses this train, it becomes necessary to take the bus to Nuwara Eliya and from there take another bus to Bandarawela or Haputale.
*Times have ben changed. Incase you miss the last train go to the first shop after the railroad and ask for Gamini. He has a 3-wheeler and a guesthouse.
Ohiya Railway Station
The Ohiya Gap may not be as spectacular a sight as the Haputale and Idalgashinna passes, but is distinct in its utter loneliness, where one may not meet more than half a dozen people in a whole day.
From the station there is a dirt track leading upwards where 11 kilometres later it leads to the Farr Inn*, a popular stop before travellers venture out into the beautiful and desolate Horton Plains. This area is haunted by many species of deer and if one is lucky, at night, one might see sambhur (elk) as well.
* A tar road is going up to Horton Plains. The Farr Inn guesthouse is closed. The ticket counter for entrance fees has changed from the park entry to the main road. There are extra charges for the vehicle. You have to hike some more kilometers, if you don´t like to enter the park by vehicle.
The Swarna Lily Rest & Shop is in the Ohiya Station Road (next to the railroad crossing). Gamini has some guest rooms and a 3-wheeler taxi for tours. A good place to start early hikes to Horton Plains and Bambarakanda Fall (240 m). They offer meals and food parcels. Tel. shop: +94-(0)57-4914299 Mobile: (0)724505218, (0)729126926 (tamil/singh. only). Rooms: 2 triple rooms, 1 family room, 1,500-1,700 Rs. GPS-Coordinates: N06°49.098' E080°50.590'
Another way up to Horton Plains is a real jungle trail. Walk some km west alongside the railway track to the first tunnel. Left side up infront of this tunnel is an old path. Beware! - There will be nobody else then you and some monkeys in case of emergency!
A 14 kilometre walk, along the railway track from Ohiya to Pattipola, the highest station in Sri Lanka, takes the hiker through utterly desolate landscapes with blue and red gum trees and winding vines with almost luminously blue-green leaves that entwine around taller trees. There is not a soul to be seen, and the atmosphere is often misty and at times visibility reduces to a few feet ahead of you. If one decides to do this hike, it is advisable to take a good torch, as many of the tunnels are quite long and walking in the darkness could lead to sprained ankles or worse.
Potipola Toplevel 1898.1 m
Close behind the Haputale station is the Buena Vista Hotel, a grand old hotel of bygone days perched on the edge of the mountain, which sadly has been converted into an office. Below the station can be found a house that used to belong to Sir James Peiris.
A few kilometres ... one comes to a turnoff leading upto the monastery of the Sylvestro Benedictine monks, called Adisham. This large stone building, initially built by Sir Thomas Lester Villiers, a tea planter, was sold in 1931 to the Benedictine monks. Novices are trained for a period of a year at this monastery. There are a few rooms for occupation by outsiders, but these are kept strictly separate from the quarters of the novice monks. „There are many sightseers who come here and make a big disturbance and even shout at us if we don´t show them round the entire building, including the quarters of the monks which are strictly out of bounds for visitors,“ said Rev. Fr. Bernard Ramanayake, Father Superior of the monastery. Those who wish to spend a few days in the quiet environment of Adisham, must write to Father Bernard who would then consider the request. The gates are closed at 4.30 p.m. after which no outsiders can enter the premises. Residents need to tell the monks if they are going to be out late."
1. Lipton Seat
Lipton Seat became popular cause it shall be that viewing point which Sir Thomas Lipton liked mostly.
Lipton Seat and St. Catherine´s Hill are the highest mountains east from Haputale. To find them follow the Haputale Dambatenne Road about 9,5 km to the Dambatenne tea factory (former owner Sir Thomas Lipton). 3 km less from "White Monkey - Dias Rest". Right behind the tea factory is an upper valley with thousands of green tea bushes. To the right is Lipton Seat (1.905 m), to the left (SLBT-antenna) is St. Catherine´s Hill (1.935 m). The peak area around the SLBT tower is restricted area. Follow the zigzag road to the top and turn right. Road boards will guide you to Lipton Seat. Since some years there is a gate and board asking vehicles for entrance fee. End of 2010 it has been changed. There is a little tea shop ticketing all hikers 50 Rs. Guest reported us they got a 50 Rs. ticket and a tea for free. At clear days you will have a good roundview to the southern plains and costline from east to south.
A shorter road for hiker is after the yellow temple and over the school yard. Surround the vegetable gardens counter clockwise and climb up to the highest peak, Lipton Seat.
Watching to the west you can see another hill with a white wall. That is Samimale Rocktemple well known for very good viewpoints but also far away from touristic trouble.
2. Dambatenne tea factory
Most visited tea factory all around Haputale. The Dambatenne tea factory was built here in 1890 by Sir Thomas Lipton. Visitor can have a tour all around the old machines used since from colonial time. You can learn about the processes of fermentation, rolling, drying, cutting, sieving and grading of tea. Finally you can see how they prove the tea quality from several cups. A tour cost 200 Rs each person.
Meanwhile there are also new machines. Since some years it´s forbidden to make any photos - cause of industrial spy. Special permits can be given only by the tea bord in Colombo.
Opposite the tea factory is a cantine (20 m down turn right) with sorftdrinks, shorties and sweets. Nearby is a colorful Hindu temple.
3. Haputale Forest & Panketiya Forest
The Haputale Forest runs under the Forest Department. It has been opened in December 2010. Unknown to most of visitors in Haputale this is one of most interesting places to hike around. The 3 km roundtrail starts at the ticket counter behind the Forest Department (Bandarawela Road, near post office). It offers a wide range of flora and fauna with up to 60 m high trees. Several trees have name boards.
Geocachers will find here some special places. A second trail leaves the roundtrail westwards to Panketiya.
Open: Monday - Friday. Entrance fee: Locals 25 Rs. Foreighners 200 Rs.
Several guests reported us that the staff asked for local fees only. This sems to be fair cause this forest needs much more time to become worth like a botanical garden.
4. Samimale Rocktemple
This little temple is unknown to most of travellers. Most of visitors are tea pluckers and local prayers at holy days only. Samimale lies directly above the Dambatenne tea factory. It has some good points to overview the surrounding landscape. The last road bench to the west is our "White Monkey - Dias Rest".
You can reach Samimale by the same road like Lipton Seat. But close to the end of the zigzag road turn left to the SLBT-antenna Nayabedde. Next two junctions turn left and follow an sandy estate road to a car turn. At the end is a cement piste for 3-wheeler. The first viewpoint is directly above Dambatenne tea factory. Following the steps you will come to Samimale Rocktemple. Opposite is the peak of Lipton Seat. Down under is the upper valley of Dambatenne.
Some hundred meter after the zigzag junction to the SLBT tower is a cave in the right road wall (looks like a tunnel). It goes about 25 m inside. But there is nothing special to be seen. And during rain season some feet under water.
5. Eaglerock Thotulagala
This is our houserock just 20 minutes walk from our guesthouse. Eagles can be seen there every day. This rock looks like nothing special from backwards but do you come from all other sides, it has amazing cliffwalls falling some hundred meters down. Best view ofcourse is from our cottage and roof top terrace. The nearby Wellawaya - Haputale road passes 700 m below Eaglerock.
Most of guests who came here told us, this is a place worth to be compaired with World´s End. And leaves the question open, why to spend lot of money for tour and entrance fee.
Eagle Rock from our cottage.
Eastside of Eaglerock.
6. Surungamuni Kovil, Nayabedde Cave and Haputale viewpoint
The temple is quite simple and modern. Just a statue and a bell. But the view is amazing. For sure the best place all around Haputale.
Surungamuni is a Kovil (temple) located on the eastern mountain from Haputale. 300 m above the town, visitors will have an amazing view all over Uva province. Haputale lies down like an open map. The space between is the Haputale forest. The montain ridge starts from Haputale via Idalgashinna Gap to the highlands around Ohiya, World´s End and Horton Plains. Adams Peak can be seen at clear days. Little bit closer are the mountains Kirigalpotta (2389 m) and Totupolakanda (2357 m).
To the east is Lipton Seat, in the northwest Diyatalawa and down south the plains, costline, Sabaragamuwa Province and Udawalawe Nationalpark. A hike to the top needs about 1-1.5 hours.
7. Adisham Bungalow
Adisham Monestary - follow the shortcut from the Railway Station to Temple Road about 2.6 km, than turn left and walk 1.2 km through the forest.
8. Idalgashinna Gap
9. Portuguese Fort Haldamulla
10. Ella, Ella Rock, Little Adams Peak
11. Bogoda Bridge
12. Doha Temple
13. Demodara Railwaystation
14. Bambarakanda Waterfall (241 m)
15. Diyaluma Waterfall Koslanda (221 m)
16. Dunhinda Waterfall Badulla (60 m)
17. Ohiya & Udaveriya
18. Horton Plains, Worlds End, Baker Falls, Kirigalpota and Totapola
19. Adams Peak - Sri Pada
20. Wellawaya and Budurulagala