Life is an ever moving phenomenon. It will always move forward with the time with no turning back. You can live in the moment and dwell in those captured memories in the future. To fulfil these two desires, you have to sacrifice your time, energy and money. Travelling is the one thing you can use to fulfil this requirement. Hike gives you an opportunity to enjoy life to the maximum in addition to being healthy and healing your soul.
This time we went to capture those memories from a village veiled with green mountains and mystic haze. This Beautiful village is called Kohonawala and the story of this village runs back two centuries. During the 1818 Uva Wellassa revolution two villagers ran away to hide from the Englishmen, after some time the couple bore kids together and they grew as family. When you look at villagers you can see they all have similar features and are identical in many ways. There are many other folklore about the village, but the lore above mentioned one is the one which is most credible.
There are two routes to reach this magnificent lonely village. One is from Kahataruppa, about 15.5 km off Badulla Town and the other is from Madolsima, 41 km off Badulla Town. The first one, Kahataruppa is the better route as the travelling is relatively easier, especially when the Loggal Oya is in a calm mood. There are brownish roads strips to reach up Loggal Oya and no bridge to get to the village. Travellers have to cross the waterways, which is very difficult during the rainy season.
The other route is magnificent, but is very hard difficult to traverse with roads with hair pin bends filled with Mana grass. It’s a 9 km walk to the village and trust me that’s not an easy task. We started our journey from the famous Madolsima to Kohonawala route. Unfortunately we started our journey in the evening around 6.30 pm. It was late when we reached the Madolsima town and this time around we could only capture the sunset.
Once we started the journey it was getting so dark we could not even find the trail used by the villagers to reach this solitary village. Luckily we were able to commission a young tot from village to show us the way. He was very fast in this wild trails, which were very hard and strange to us. We climbed down carrying our backpacks and the stationery and school bags for the children in the village. This rock was slippery and we were beaten by grass repeatedly while on our way to the village.
However, bolstered by team spirit and unity we managed to reach the village around 9 pm. The trip took us almost three hours. We were told that villagers normally take one and half hours to reach the Kohonalawa village.
Early in the morning we saw the beauty of the village for the first time and it was quite astonishing. Our vantage point offered a panoramic view of mountains and the azure sky. Some say that daybreak at the village is at around 9 am and till such time the village is engulfed in darkness. In reality villagers can see the sunrise by 9 am from the top of mountains.
We had a traditional villager’s meal as our breakfast, which consisted of Heen Bovitiya (Osbeckia octrandra) porridge enriched with Ayurvedic benefits and mixture of black beans and corn with a spicy paste of chillies and onion. Then we started distributing the school bags and stationery to the children in the village. There were about 25 schoolchildren and it was a very happy moment for them and also us. The children have to walk around 18 km up and down per day to reach school and back. These children lead a difficult life with lacked facilities but they are content with what they have.
When we left the village, we selected the other route which leads to the Kahataruppa Town. Vehicles travel up to Loggal Oya and some distance into the village, but if you are planning to go by vehicle then it must be 4×4 vehicle with higher ground clearance, because this road is not levelled and you would also have to cross the Loggal Oya which is about 20 metres and can only be crossed when the water level is low. Most of the time you can reach Loggal Oya via tuk tuk and the ride is very bumpy and rough. Sometimes you are lifted about six to 12 inches off your seat. I strongly suggest not having any food before you start this tuk tuk ride.
The main source of income for these villagers is paddy, pepper, vegetable and fruit cultivation. They are self-sufficient in many ways because of the very bare necessities to sustain life here. Things like coconuts, fish, Maldive fish and newspapers are hard to come by here. Since the Kohonawala School has classes up to grade 5, children have to go to Kahataruppa or Madolsima Schools after grade 6 which means an 18-kilometre hike per day. Due to this reason most children drop out at the age of 10 and continue to support their parents.
On our return journey we felt as if a part of us were missing, the villagers and their unhurried lifestyle carving out a great whole in our hearts. Nonetheless, we walked back with a heavy heart readying ourselves for the rat race from Monday to Friday. These villagers are far healthier and wealthier at heart compared to us. Everywhere, as far as the eyes could see was greenery, fields and wilderness and the blue sky. This is the way us humans should live. Living is not being prisoners in the concrete jungle, enslaved by urban life.
This village was hidden from the strangers for centuries, if you are planning to go to the village please don’t destroy the natural beauty or the pure souls of these villagers. They are very friendly and helpful until you destroy their living patterns, and don’t forget to bring something for the children in the village. Of course they would be just as glad to see you in their village and spend some time together.
TEXT AND PICS BY BHAGYA ALWIS