An adventure across the mountains
The mountains carry within them a multitude of trails, each taking you towards breathtaking encounters through verdant, mystical forests.
Leaving the hotel around 6.00 am, the drive to the starting point of this trail is around two hours through Theldeniya and passing the small town of Rangala, where you can stop to get some supplies for the journey ahead. The starting point is known as Thangappuwa, a village in the Central Province, southwest of Loolwatta, and east of Cottaganga State, with an elevation of 1,513 metres.
The drive itself is a sublime journey, where you would pass through rolling fields of tea, neatly laid out terrace farms alongside the mountains and spice gardens and a stunning glimpse of Victoria Lake from atop the hills. The in-house naturalist who accompanies you throughout the journey will be a library of information and the perfect companion for the trek, as he will spot or know exactly what the mysterious forests of the mountains have to offer.
The starting point is a trail that leads through a tea estate opposite a local school. Walking through the neatly landscaped estate, you take a turn of the path and start taking on the mountain.
The trail winds through thick jungle, and the climb becomes more challenging as the elevation increases. The waist-high tea plants slowly disappear, and the wilderness starts to take over the landscape; before you know it, the thick jungle and the mountains swallows you up.
The uphill climb becomes steeper and steeper, and you finally come across a small piece of flat with the trail. The climb takes you to a viewpoint with a flat rock as the trail takes a sharp right turn. A beautiful place to stop and catch your breath, where you will be served either a warm cup of hot chocolate, tea or coffee alongside some tasty sandwiches. Sitting atop the rock, this breakfast is one with a captivating view that is bound to leave you stunned.
After catching your breath and recovering from the climb, you'll find yourself taking on the mountain again, with the trail becoming slightly steeper for a short while and then easing out. Passing through thick foliage that is filled with a spectrum of creatures, some endemic to the Knuckles mountains themselves, the in-house naturalist would be quick to spot the otherwise camouflaged wildlife and impart some much-needed knowledge regarding the encounter.
There is a man-made wooden bridge laid over a large creek which blends with the wilderness, quite a welcome surprise amidst the forest. The last sign of human activity is before the mountains and forests completely take over and welcome you into the untouched wild.
The trail following this is filled with thrilling discoveries. Climbing across the sides of trees to get to the next step and encountering the wildlife within the forests or seeing the beautiful flora and fauna becomes a regular occurrence, with the in-house naturalist quick to point out anything and everything worth looking at.
This brings you to a valley between the mountains, where the mist comes rolling at you like someone laid out a smoke machine, and the cold mountain air comes and hugs you as a welcome to the top. With the trail easing out, you start noticing the intricate beauty of the wild terrain. You could spot an eagle or two surfing across the clouds or an owl peeking at you cautiously through the trees.
Following the trail, you again enter the thick forest, where the path starts going slightly downhill, and you begin to hear the gushing waters. The cold air becomes slightly colder, and you start getting goosebumps because you know there is an enthralling encounter awaiting your presence up ahead.
The rocks start becoming slightly moister with the moss around the area becoming more and more prevalent, so watch your step. Traversing and stepping across the rocks, you get a chance to look up, and for a second, your breath is truly taken away.
A steady stream of water falls from the mountaintop alongside a flat rock creating the perfect natural pool which beckons you to dive in. The water hits a rock and sprays into the misty surroundings, creating a magical ambience. Known as the Kotagangaella, this beautiful body of water brings about an air of serenity for the weary souls who traverse the mountains.
Finding a place to rest your weary body and soul, the rocks offer the best seats in the house to stare in wonder at the cascading body of water. A cup of tea to warm yourself up, and then just dive into the clear pool of water. The cold water sends any signs of weariness abruptly out of your body, and you once the initial shock of the cold water wears off, you can think of nothing else other than splashing around. You can even sit where the cascading stream of water falls from atop the mountainside and hits the bottom.
Once you decide it's time to get out, which becomes a much harder choice the longer you spend in the water, some beverages, delectable snacks and fresh fruits will be waiting for your indulgence. Munching into big juicy mango alongside a hot cup of tea will leave you totally refreshed and ready to take on the trail down.
After you bid goodbye to the waterfall, you come across a viewpoint looking into the valley below. Then climbing a bit further up, you come to the top of the waterfall, where somewhat smaller streams of water collide, coming down and then finally becoming one as it leaps over the edge of the cliff. And, of course, the view is stunning.
Then the trek to the bottom begins, which is an epic journey in itself. With the mind, body and soul entirely rejuvenated by the waterfall, you'll find bounce in your step, and the forest will throw at you one thrilling encounter after another. Views of the rest of the Knuckles mountains and the valleys below will be met with the calls of birds or, if you are lucky, the presence of a leopard or fishing cat hidden amidst the thick foliage.
Once you descend down the mountain, you will come across a trail that takes you through the village nestled between the mountains and the tea estates. A colourful glimpse into the lives of those who call the hills home, there is no better way to end the journey than indulging in a meal with locals. A typical meal of the mountain folk that is full of fiery flavours perfectly prepared to warm the soul and satisfy your hunger after an epic adventure.
W15 Hanthana is the perfect place to escape into the hills and refresh your soul while exploring all the beauty and wonder the mountains have to offer.
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