Sri Lanka, a biodiversity hot spot, is known for its surfing, sandy beaches, king coconuts and Ceylon Tea. What, at times, doesn’t catch the eye of many tourists is the fact that Sri Lanka has some INSANE jungles, mangroves, rivers and mountains. Perfect terrain for adventure junkies looking for a good trek.
The heart of Sri Lanka is all mountain country. Many of these mountains are famous for various reasons. One has the footprint of, what some people believe, is someone famous (Prophet Adam or Lord Buddha, depending on who you ask ). Another has an ancient fortress built on top of it, where an Indian prince hid away his stolen prize who happened to be some other dudes girl (typical right?). I wish it had a more captivating story because when you stand at the entrance and stare at the two stone lions guarding the entrance, it makes you think of how majestic it would have looked when it was filled with royalty and guarded by soldiers.
Anyway, enough with the ramblings. This is my take on the trek and a few tips on how to get there and what to be prepared for.
Knuckles range is a famous mountain range in central Sri Lanka. Its name is testament to the shape of its peaks, which looks like your knuckles when you clench your fist. We camped on the highest peak (which would be the knuckle on your middle finger- let me see you flip the closest person off, with love 😛 ).
The trek was intense. Our guides from Pathfinders helped us find the path to the peak, they cooked for us, set up our tent and brought us back down in one, very painful yet satisfied, piece. Special shoutout to Sumedha for making this trek one of those memories that we will always remember 🙂
We started from the base at around 12 noon. Things would have gone a lot smoother had it not started raining like crazy one hour into the climb. The unyielding rain turned the path up the mountain into a mini river, with a very obvious purpose- to test us. The rain seemed to rejuvenate the leeches. They attacked with vengeance and seemed to be coming from everywhere.
Getting to the peak was not easy. After around 4 hours of climbing we reached the first camp site. The peak could be seen from there and it looked a gruel-some trek. The last bit was almost pretty much vertical, we had to use tree roots to pull ourselves up in some points. Taking breaks was becoming less enjoyable as the climb continued, mainly due to the families of leeches that would latch on to you for their occasional buffet. One thing became certain to us, we had to push on, the peak seemed like our only sanctuary.
It took us around 6 hours to reach the peak, just in time for one of the most beautiful sunsets that I have seen. There’s something uplifting of standing on the peak, watching an orange globe descend into darkness, while casting a orange shadow on everything that our eyes could see.
The night was cold (around 4 or 5 degrees) but we woke up to a view that was breathtaking. When the sun appeared the colours of the world emerged from their hiding places. We were audience to the unfolding of the surrounding mountain ranges, a feeling that made the climb, the camping and the leeches totally worth it.
Sumedha and the rest of our guides prepared breakfast for us. This included a very Sri Lankan herbal porridge called Kola Kanda, with flowers collected by the guides on our climb up. (the climb up the mountain was littered with flower and berry eating pit stops) credits again to Sumedha 🙂
We descended the next morning, tired, covered in leech bites, but energized with the fact that we had conquered the peak and seen some beautiful views. On the way down we stopped at a mini waterfall to unwind, have breakfast and take a much needed bath.
How to get there?
If you are travelling from Colombo, you will have need to take a train and a bus to get there, assuming that you are not traveling by taxi (don’t take the taxi! It’s a huge waste of money, especially if you are travelling alone).
Take the train from Colombo to Kandy. The train journey will take you approximately 3 hours from Colombo. You can find a list of the train timings here. Train tickets for public compartments can be booked at the Colombo Fort station. I would advise you to book first or second class. Third class is fine for the budget backpacker but for a little bit more you can get a confirmed seat in second class. I recommend second class 🙂
If you want a slightly more luxurious compartment you can book tickets from a few private travel companies such as Expo Rail.
Once you get to Kandy, head over to the bus stop. Kandy can be a bit of a confusing town because of the way it is laid out so ask a local if you are not too sure.
Take a bus from Kandy to Hunasgiriya, which is where the Knuckles reserve technically starts.
It’s about a 3-4km walk from the Hunasgiriya bus stand to the base of the trekking path, which leads up to the peak.
- Asking locals for directions can help you save LOADS of time.
- If you can rent a 4 wheel drive it will save you loads of time as you can drive right up to the base of the trekking path
- Take lots of water and enough food
- Rain coats are a must if you climbing in the rainy season
- Leach socks or leach repellent is important. You can make leach repellent using Siddhalepa, an Ayurvedic paste. The smell is pretty intense but it works rather well.
- If you’re not familiar with the place remember to go with a guide or someone who has had experience with trekking those routes.
If you ever visit Knuckles range remember to not pollute. Observe, breath in the fresh mountain air and leave as if you were never there. Happy exploring!
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