Sri Lanka is well endowed with natural beauty. But exploring her beauty in treacherous terrains is not a cakewalk. It demands skill and experience. The Nation brings you the present writer’s amazing experience in discovering nature’s splendor of the country in a series of articles.
Last year we celebrated the New Year at Meemure and this year at Mandaram Nuwara in the Nuwara Eliya district. But the difference was this time we celebrated the New Year according to the real sense of the New Year traditions in a rural village courtesy Sumanathilaka Mama, a villager in Mandaram Nuwara.
Mandaram Nuwara (Misty city) is a small village situated at the foot of the Pidurutalagala mountain range which is shrouded in mist most of the day. It’s referred to as Mandaram Nuwara for this very reason; it’s a perpetual dawn at Mandaram Nuwara.
We reached Mandaram Nuwara on the eve of New Year Day. We had a princely dinner served by Malini Nanda before the time to cease work called Nonegathe.
On New Year Day according the old traditions, Sumane Mama at the auspicious time fed us milk rice mixed with ghee and treacle making us to face the auspicious direction as we were their own family members.
With the blessings of Sumane Mama’s family we thus started our journey to climb the Kodiyagala-ara Mountain.
At the beginning we felt the breeze sweeping through the lush trees swinging the leaves and enhancing the beauty of the Kolapathana Fall above the valley of Mandaram Nuwara. Yellow leaves falling from trees gliding in the breeze added loveliness to cascading water.
Though we were keen to know why the Kolapathana Ella was named so, many villagers were clueless about how it was so named many generations ago. But an elderly woman called Malani Nanda provided us the clue to it. According to folklore, a queen called Malsara visited the waterfall and left behind the areca nut sheath in which she brought her lunch wrapped in it at the spot. Since then the waterfall has been named Kolapathana.
Strangely, except my companion Thanura and myself no one was around to savour the eerie aloofness because on any other day hordes of sight-seers flock to see the waterfall.
It was New Year Day and the time was very early morning. That was why a few people were seen. But soon a group of kids came running towards the waterfall followed by adults. That might have been the only day local villagers could see the fall leisurely as the spot is frequently milling with crowds on other days.
We then started our next leg of the journey to Kodiyaaragala. The gigantic Kodiyaaragala Mountain stands at the high altitude of the Mandaram Nuwara Valley and visible as a triangular-shaped edifice to the village. Sumanathilaka Mama advised us to climb the mountain from the foothill on the left. We now crossed a seemingly abandoned farmland belonging to the Forest Conservation Department which was vested in the government recently. Above it was a well-tended vegetable plot with lush bean and carrot cultivation. We decided to have a chat with the farmer weeding in the plot on our return journey as we were pressed for time.
There were several footpaths by the boundary marks and we decided to take the much trekked path. Along with it there were several pipelines. I checked the GPS map and preferred to take the footpath than trudging the thick jungle.
Further climbing up we came across several spouts and streams with crystal clear water springing from the Kolapathana Ella. Villagers call this stream flowing across the village Belihul Oya which should not be confused with the Belihul Oya which starts from Horton Plains.
We were still on the left side of the Belihul Oya but our destination was on the right side of the fall and climbing the rocky mountain was arduous. But at some point we had to cross the stream and we had not reached that spot yet. The trail we trekked vanished all of a sudden and we were clueless which way to take.
We heard a murmur of water falling and proceeded towards that direction. The sound grew louder and the rhythm was like the beating of a drum. It was surely the sound of falling water striking the ground. Then we proceeded along the stream which became wider. Across it a dam is constructed.
The villagers in Mandaram Nuwara in the past used spring water for their domestic needs with the help of Kithul tree trunks made hollow after scooping out the interior for diverting water like pipes.
Nowadays they use PVC pipes to divert water and the old hydraulic system is no more.
Thanura carried provisions on his back and I the camera equipment. Thanura frequently suggested leaving behind the tripod as I could not trudge with it but finally I agreed to it because there was no necessity of a tripod to take high shutter shots.
We reached the spot where we should cross the stream from the left side to the right side. The peak is called Kodyaaragala. It is so steep and we had to climb on all fours. Thanura found difficulty in wading across with his slippers and was always trailing behind me.
By now, we were fully exhausted of climbing. Viewing from the right side of the hilltop the houses in the high region of the Mandaram Nuwara Valley appeared as small as matchboxes. I was so enthralled by the sight of it that I breathed a sigh of relief and leaned against a tree to relax.
(Translated by Ananda Elkaduwa)
To be continued…