Aesthetics of Seven Virgins Mountain range marred by hydropower plant
The Seven Virgins Mountain range is located on the west side of Adam’s Peak sanctuary. When a plane crashed into the Seven Virgins Mountain range years ago our companion Kodithuwakku had gone to the scene to see the crash. But we wondered how he trekked this steep and treacherous gradient.
Now, we were on the border of Maliboda in Deranigala. Kodithuwakku seeing our morose faces said the jungle route was a short cut, which we realized when we referred the map. We reached Maliboda through the Noori estate in Deranigala, driving along the Seethawaka River, to reach the destination. As travelling by our vehicle on that route was difficult Kodithuwakku arranged a three-wheeler for the remainder of our journey.
It was a difficult journey as the road was full of potholes with steep climbs. On either side of the road were tea plantations. The road gradually became narrower and at times we had to alight and push the three-wheeler. It was a thrilling experience despite the toil.
We spied the Seven Virgins Mountain range and the water columns cascading from the waterfall originating from the mountains, frothing silvery bubbles.
The three-wheel driver informed us that we had reached the spot we should commence our climb up, where there was a hydropower station close to the waterfall. As there was no one at the power station to take permission we proceeded to see it nevertheless.
Grandeur of waterfall
The Seethawaka waterfall consists of seven small sub waterfalls which are almost stream-length. We were at the bottom of the first waterfall and the sound of the fall was drowned out by the roaring noise of the turbines. Had the water not been diverted to the turbines, we could have beheld the full splendour of the waterfall.
We were told, if we proceeded along the pipelines, we could reach the next waterfall easily. We stopped the journey intermittently to take some rest as the uphill climb was not an easy task. While trekking to the second waterfall we heard a sound of another waterfall but we skipped it and climbed further up in order to save time to put up camp.
At sunset we reached the second waterfall. The site was an open air rocky glade unlike the thick wilderness we just came through. The setting sun was a burning ball of fire. The exhilarating sight made us forget to set up our camp.
Though we preferred to camp in the rocky valley, I realized it was risky, as if it rained upstream in the night, we would slip down the rock.
The water from the fall was diverted to the power station from this spot. A bund has constructed across the river to feed the power station and we felt it was safe to erect the tent by the side of the bund. It would be safe from flooding because of the bund. So, we erected our camp and prepared dinner.
We saw two silhouetted figures reach us through the bush guided by flash light in the night. They were two employees from the power station visiting to remove debris that frequently blocked the turbines. They affirmed that the camping site was very safe. When I asked what they would do during the dry season they replied that they would shut down the turbines. But this would make a huge impact on the local fauna and flora.
The next morning we set out to see the rest of the waterfalls. We encountered a rock cave on our way, which gave the impression that someone had taken refuge in it.
Passing the spot we came across three waterfalls. The next part of the journey was very arduous. At times we had to hang on to creepers in order to climb huge rocks and at times we took long routes to overcome huge rocks.
“There’s a blowhole here,” shouted one of our guys. It looked like a blowhole on the seashore, but smaller in scale.
A hut furnished with a ramshackle bed made of sticks appeared out of nowhere. No one would live in such a remote place other than the illegal gem miners who vandalized the forest.
Soon afterwards a heavy downpour started and we abandoned our climb for another day.
(Translated by Ananda Elkaduwa)