The current situation:
Very long ago there was an idea to go to Srinagar, and then specially the Dal lake, it was idealised at that time as the ultimate travel destination, later the idea faded, caused by bombings and other terrorist activities in that region of India. Last year was finally there to visit the area, I must add that it is now one of the busiest tourist regions in India, and also the most heavily guarded areas, with a lot amounts of military barracks and obvious presence of soldiers with machine guns and other artillery. Roadblocks are also present here and there. Is that a reason to stay away as a Western tourist, no not really at the moment. Life is going its normal course there. Although you should always keep in the back of your mind that there may be another madman there who keeps things alive. Anyway fortunately, everything passes by quietly, and we enjoy the lake and the surrounding mountains.
The first sight:
With a Shikara picking us up at the houseboat, we do a tour along the narrow channels connecting Dal lake and Nigeen lake. The houseboats alternate with all kinds of boat shops we passed, which sell clothes, leather bags to gold jewellery and carpets are also a favourite item among tourists, scarves made of Pashmina wool are also available at high prices. Then there are souvenirs to be found from toy shikaras to papier maché bowls. An occasional small supermarket can also be visited for a soft drink or a bag of Lays chips. In the late afternoon there are enough shikaras rowing through the channels and the lake. Some are packed with tourists and their luggage. It’s very busy. Sometimes the shikaras has to stop to give access to other boats and shikaras. The trip on these channels of the lake, gives a good impression of how the population works and lives here, between all the house boats, the estimate is currently around 1400 houseboats have been around. Add to that the Shikaras about 3000 pieces, and the flat -bottomed boats that the population uses for their own transport, that gives you an idea of the crowds at times. Remember that the house boats are only accessible by shikara. The house boats and some few real buildings are connected by boardwalks. Slowly we are approaching the lake again, the sun seeks shelter behind the mountains, the light goes out, the night falls into.
The second sight:
This morning we get up very early, 6 am we are already in the boat to go to the floating market, it is still dark when we leave, slowly the light comes on in the distance, paddling quietly we come across a floating tea and coffee vendor trying to sell his wares. We see that the wading birds are also up early, a kingfisher skims over my head, the species we see in multitude are little grebe, moorhen, Indian heron as the little white heron. Also regularly flying above our heads is the black kite, which is common here …. common here. The water is so smooth like a mirror that water plants grow on the surface in some quiet places. Both lotus and vegetables are grown here. Slowly, you can see water mist rising which creates a fairy-tale atmosphere and especially when you see the small boats with vendors passing by from a distance. Not much later, there is a place where a few boats have gathered and vegetables and flowers are being traded, the vendors are engaged in conversations with each other, sharing information of daily activities. slowly, the first Shikara arrive with the first tourists, the calm and serenity disappearing like the sun before the snow. Chaos and rumour prevail, the first vendors slowly sail away from the crowds, the shikaras taking over. We also embark on the return trip to our houseboat for breakfast….
MZuiko 8-25mm f/4
MZuiko 40-150mm f/2.8
In the clouds, we start a hike that begins at Adishan bungalow, a few kilometers from the town of Haputale and part of the Pekoe trail, about which more later. Completely immersed in nature in Sri Lanka’s central mountain country, the trail is easy to follow with GPS coordinates. However, it takes a while to find the right path of the trail, we continue the hike through a piece of pine-tree covered slope. The beginning is still a wide path which later becomes an indistinct narrow path, it is still a bit confusing. Fragments of clouds get stuck against the slope, the photographer enjoys this the more the better, it isolates trees or their trunks for a better composition. The hike continues slowly through tall grass, watch out here for the ever-present leeches, fortunately I am spared any discomfort today. the terrain is very varied, nature shows its best side. Small flowers, fungi settling on dead and fallen trees. Mosses cover the trees, giving the trunks an intense green color. We pass through a section of forest with turpentine trees, it seems that a forest fire once took place there, you can find blackened trunks as well as fallen trees. bit bizarre place. Sometimes we find our path through flooded areas with water, which does not make walking easier, it is slippery. So we slowly continue without accidents. We sometimes pass sections that look like a real jungle with the lush vegetation. intense green colors soothe the mind, any moment a jungle animal might loom in front of you, or behind you, like the wild pig, deer or porcupine or the pesky Toque Macaques , maybe a leopard then, it’s all possible. Fortunately, it remains quiet without these animals. Even the birds give up today , we do hear singing far away in the bushes or treetops, but they do not show themselves today, even high in the sky or in the clouds you hear the call of the Crested Hawk Eagle, otherwise it is very quiet on this hike, you can hear the wind and the clatter of water in the distance.
In some places we stop to photograph a little more elaborate subjects, such as the various fungi on the tree trunks, small flowers a small vista with lush green of the small fern whose every stage can be seen from birth to the end of its life. It has a calming effect on your mind.
We continue our hike the light comes and goes, then patches of clouds passing between the trees, a moment later the sky is blue again, it alternates quickly. Fortunately, it remains dry, and this morning’s drizzle stays away. We arrive at a stretch covered with grass that comes up to your hips, the terrain is open here. Below us we see the Colombo - Badulla railroad, in the distance we see the buildings of Diyatalawa and Bandarawela. The view from here is beautiful.
Slowly descending toward Idalgasinna, it is also time for lunch. One more time we go uphill before the actual descent begins. We continue the hike, the descent provides several beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. In clear weather, you can see as far as Hambantota and a little closer to Udawalawe National Park. Not today unfortunately, it was quite cloudy on that side as well. After the descent, you come out to the rails. We look for a place to have lunch. Here we see some more birds flying around like the super fast Swift, which is difficult to photograph in flight. Suddenly a large Black Eagle looms above us, this giant has a wing width of 2 to 2.5 meters. It enjoys the thermals around this part of the mountains. Magnificent sight of this bird. After lunch we continue our way to the station of Idalgasinna. Here it is very windy and cold, we have to wait about an hour before we take the train home. This hike is very recommendable in general, not too heavy and with some rest points well done. A well spent day.
The Pekoe Route:
For full history, best read their website:
The section we walked is part of Today is one of the most exciting days of The Pekoe Trail. The Udaweriya Valley is one of the most remote valleys in the tea country. Some call it the hidden valley. The valley overlooks southern Sri Lanka and on a clear day you can see the ocean. The view is really fantastic, without a doubt one of the best in tea country.
In the morning we take the train from Ella or Haputale to Ohiya and embark on the 12 forests of the Pekoe Trail known for their therapeutic effect on body, mind and spirit. Scientific studies have shown that natural environments can have remarkable benefits for human health. Natural environments rather promote positive emotions; walking in nature is associated with increased physical and mental energy.Walking through different types of forests, not experienced by everyday tourists, we walk on a road for about half an hour and come to a panoramic viewpoint in the tea plantation and walk about a 30 minutes in the tea plantation and the Remote tea estate villages where the tea plantation workers live you will meet the families
then go into the forest and the pine forest & natural forest also in the eucalyptus forest, rain forest, walk through the tea plantations of this beautiful hill country and see Sri Lanka at its best. And one of the most beautiful views of the north and south can be seen during this hike. We also have the chance to walk in the railroad line for about half an hour and also go through a tunnel on the railroad line. During this trek, we have a picnic stop with a panoramic view and enjoy our picnic,
The forest walk is considered by tourists as one of the most beautiful treks in the country.
And a trek through the Thangamale bird sanctuary is an experience for someone interested in bird watching in a peaceful environment while enjoying the breathtaking scenery, the Thangamale bird sanctuary is the ideal location for it.
The bird sanctuary is located in Thangamale, the golden mountain. The best and most interesting way to approach this reserve is a trek down the mountain.
The trek has a distance of about five to six km and the route offers you breathtaking views: the Uva Basin on the left and the majestic Thangamale Mountain on the right.
It is home to blue magpies, paradise flycatchers, green barbets, miniature feathered hornbills, golden orioles and numerous other bird species, including the winged thrush, black-crowned monarch, yellow-eared bulbul, velvet-tree chickadee, Malabar trogon, crumbly-billed babbler and black eagle. Besides the wide variety of birds, you can also see giant squirrels, porcupines and barking deer.
At the end of the trek you will visit the old colonial Adisham Bungalow The house was built in 1931 by an English tea planter and is now a monastery for the holy Benedictine The house is well preserved and is open to visitors.
The 6-hour trekking is an unforgettable experience once we finish the trekking in Haputale and from Haputale you can take any transport to your next destination.
A morning visit to Dunhinda waterfall.
A legend beforehand:
In the 14th century, Princess Mampitiya Anuhas Menike Bandara fled with her lover, commoner Kahapitiya Arachchi Bandara, from the wrath of her father, the ruler of Gampola. Frustrated by the inability to remove traces and marks from wherever they were, the lovers, promising their eternal love, plunged into the depths of the pool. It is said that after their tragedy, more tragedy fell upon the surrounding villages: a terrible storm swept away entire villages, including Kosgolla, along with people, livestock, poultry and everything.
The name of the princess “Anuhas” in Sinhalese means supernatural powers. Another legend is about an entrance to a secret 30-km corridor hidden near the falls. The treasure of Prince Kumarasinghe of Uva is hidden somewhere in the falls.
How the pad is:
The trail to the falls is across the road from the parking lot. It is quite rough and steep here and there, so be careful and wear appropriate shoes. The valley at this point is also quite narrow, so it can get very hot. The humidity is also very high near the falls, which is noticeable coming down from the highlands. At the beginning of the hike and along the route, there are numerous stalls selling cold drinks, herbs, etc. Because the falls are very popular with Sri Lankans, foreign travelers are not bothered too much.
Shortly after the beginning of the trail you can see the lower falls . A long way down into the valley below. They are only about 15 m high and much wider than the main waterfalls. A ledge about 10 m from the top provides a spectacular “Spurt” as the river flows high. At the main waterfall, the river plunges in two steps of about 60 m through a ‘V’ in the rock that creates a beautiful haze (Dunhida) from which the waterfall gets its name. There are granite cliffs on either side and a large pool at the bottom. It is quite spectacular and well worth seeing. There is also a large, kidney-shaped viewing platform here where concrete tables and benches have been built to create a pleasant picnic area. Picnicking alone is something you never do alone, and I also advise against it, unfortunately it is ruined by visitors because they feed the Toque macaque, this monkey species is so annoying that they will do anything to open bags to steal what is edible.
The falls are fed by Badulla Oya, a tributary of the Mahaweli River. Although the falls are not the highest on the island, but in fact the seventh, they are known for their sheer volume. They spew out an impressive amount of water that creates great clouds of mist as it plunges into the pool below and also sprays us on the viewing platform. Dunhida in Sinhalese means mist.
Along the path there are several opportunities, depending on the season, to photograph different plants and flowers as well as butterflies and birds, such as the yellow-eared bulbul and others. Of course, also the Toque macaque is found many times in the trees near the path. In the surrounding hills, small streams of water form which seep into the rocks, giving them a beautiful color, pattern and shape. All in all, it is worth protecting and visiting this part of nature. A little but strong advice, is for all places in Sri Lanka, and also the rest of the world, leave only your footprints and take the junk home and put it in the garbage bucket there.
Lenses: MZuiko 12-40mm and 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro
Filters: Kase Magnetic Circular Polarizer and ND filters
Tripod: Leofoto LS-324C Ranger Tripod + LH-40 Ballhead
Software: Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop