Beneath the Knuckle Mountains
Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is home to some of the richest biodiversity in Asia. Unsurprisingly, this island nation hosts some of the best Eco destinations and biological varieties in the world. We therefore arranged to spend several days at an ECO outpost in the highlands overlooking the capital city – Kandy.
During our stay at the Polwaththa Eco Lodges we arranged several treks through the surrounding thickly-jungled mountain areas. Whenever we emerged into a clearing, we could see the Knuckle Mountains bathed in mist in the far distance.
It’s clear to see how these mountains got their name. Local residents simply refer to them as Dumbara Kanduvetiya meaning ‘mist-laden mountain range’.
See them mountains? Yep? One day, I’m a-gonna climb me them there mountains
In the Knuckle Mountains – There be Spiders
On one of our longer walks, we took with us a local guide. Our plan was to work our way through the jungle, and then down to a local river to cool off. We took with us a packed lunch, and set off straight after breakfast (breakfast was roti with dhal and vegetables – delicious!).
We came across all varieties of creepy-crawlies, but on this occasion at least, nothing took a bite out of us. The going got a bit steep and thick in places, so we equipped ourselves with a couple of sturdy lengths of wood, and made improvised walking sticks.
Plants have feelings, too
Apart from all the fruit and spices – growing everywhere like weeds – we discovered some amusing sensitive plants called Mimosa Pudica. These plants react instantaneously to touch by folding inwards to protect themselves. After a few minutes, they re-open again.
Who says plants don’t have feelings? New research on plant intelligence may forever change how we think about them.
Occasionally, our path would widen out into a small clearing, and we’d realize we’d stumbled into somebody’s front garden. Some of these local dwellings are beautifully picturesque. Surrounded by tropical plants and flowers, they are simple, peaceful and isolated.
Out here you’re a long way from civilization. If you need anything from the shops, you have to plan a mini-expedition.
The Grizzled Giant Squirrel is the national animal of Sri Lanka, and we were lucky enough to spot one. These chirpy fellas grow to 3 feet long and spend most of their time high up in the trees.
Because of their coloration, they can be difficult to spot. This is especially so if they’re frightened, when they flatten themselves against a branch, remaining motionless.
Down by the Riverside
It was lunchtime by the time we’d climbed down to the river. Some of the locals were already there, bathing a little further off. The river was wide and deep, and provided a cool and relaxing place to rest after our ‘stumble through the jungle’.
We opened our packed lunches and started munching bananas and other strange jungle fruit. After that, it was into the river for a refreshing (if bracing) dip.
In the afternoon, we took a tuk-tuk from the river to one of the many tea plantations in this area of the mountains. Here, we were given a tour of the factory, observing the successive stages of tea production from plant to tea leaves.
There are a lot of processes involved and a dedicated machine for each process.
Before leaving, we purchased a couple of packs of Ceylonese tea to take with us.
Finally we headed back to base at the Polwaththa Eco Lodges for another tasty Sri Lankan curry – actually 4 curries with rice, river fish and poppadams. After that we spent another surreal night in our cabana.
The next day we would be leaving the mountains and heading back down to Kandy to visit the celebrated Temple of the Tooth.
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