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Sri Lanka is well endowed with natural beauty. But exploring her beauty in treacherous terrains is not a cakewalk. It demands skill and experience. Nation brings you our travel writer’s amazing experience in discovering Nature’s splendor of the country in a series of articles. This is the Part II of the series.

Last week we climbed to Kodiya-aragla, the spot where we crossed the stream to climb further up. To our surprise we heard beating of a drum from the jungle. It was the sound of a water column rhythmically hitting the rocky ground. I have never heard such a naturally generated melody in a jungle. The beat was so sweet that I recorded it on audio. This is the waterfall the villagers call ‘Beragahana Ella’ for the sound it generates. Though we wanted to spend more time in the place, aware of the long journey ahead, we reluctantly continued our climb re-energized and refreshed by the sweet melody.

Dwarf trees

We were now getting closer to the summit. The vegetation seemed to be different. Instead of huge trees, dwarf trees had taken their place, their growth stunted by strong winds. But trees of the same species had grown to huge heights in the lower part of the mountain.

We staggered up to the hilltop but it was not our final destination. The terrain was overgrown with a vast expanse of thick jungle covering the Piduruthalagala Mountain range. No more steep climbs ahead and it was a great relief. Our destination was within sight. We trudged to the summit creeping under the branches of dwarf trees.
There was a sudden opening at the edge of the precipice seemingly caused by a recent landslide. We carefully crossed the cleft to reach an open space from where we could see our destination where a flagstaff stands on the summit visible miles away.

Heavenly feeling

Either side of the path leading to the flagstaff was like a carpet of Bovitiya flowers (Osbeckia octandra). The summit appeared like a heavenly abode surrounded by lush greenery. Such panoramic view and cool soothing breeze imbued a heavenly sense of peace.
I peeped from the edge of the precipice to see the village at the bottom and saw the road from High Forest to Mandaram Nuwara appeared as a long, winding, dark line with houses lining the road like matchboxes. The sun shone brightly with intermittent scattering of clouds. The bright sky was a blessing because if it were to rain while climbing down, it would have been a precarious journey.

The flag fluttering in the wind was visible even to the most distant village. The flag was tied to a stick about twenty feet high. Upon coming closer, we realized that it was made of a bed sheet and a polythene sack.

Sumanathilaka Mama previously said that the flag had been hoisted very long ago. The rock on which the flag was hoisted might have been called Kodiya-aragala due to this reason. Frequently visiting villagers might have replaced the flag with new ones now and then.

While I captured more scenes on my camera, my companion, Thanura was busy picking discarded plastic bottles thrown away by previous careless visitors with blatant disregard for the environment. There was enough evidence of pollution to make it obvious that most visitors had spared no thought to preserving this pristine natural beauty. The main culprits are tourist guides who bring hordes of tourists overcapacity solely for financial gains.

In order to prevent pollution in the Kolapothana Ella village the Police together with the Forest Conservation Department have forbidden erecting camps on the banks of the stream on the request of the locals. Water sources are located upstream, in the valley and if the Forest Conservation Department establishes monitoring sites to regulate pollution caused by visitors, it would help mitigate environmental damage.

It was now about 2 pm and high time to climb down. We thought how lucky we would have been if we were able to watch the sun set beyond the mountain range and spend the night under the stars on the summit. But it was only wishful thinking.

Slippery slopes

Finding the way back was easy as our GPS indicated our way up from the village. Meanwhile, we contacted Malini Nenda to inform our return. She warned us to be more careful in climbing down due to the slippery nature of the path. At some places we had to wade through mud.

We hurried back to the place where we had hid our tripod on our way up. Thanura was keen to get out of the jungle. So, he turned down my request to have some refreshment and a little rest. We had to satisfy ourselves with some cold water from the stream and continued our journey along the pipe lines to the village.

Darkness grew early due to shadows of the mountain range though there was ample time to sunset. Now we were out of the jungle. Two dogs came barking to welcome us. Thanura turned back to run in fear, but he was stopped by the gruff voice of a villager.

(Translated by Ananda Elkaduwa)
To be continued…

Kodiya-aragala (4) Kodiya-aragala (3) Kodiya-aragala (2)