Tharaka's Blog

Trip to Punnagala Tea Estate with IIT guys Oct 2009

Posted in Trips by Tharaka de Alwis on November 2, 2009

After 4 years of a long break, our IIT gang decided to go on a 2 day trip to Punnagala of Badualla District. As always Chathura was the main organizer of the trip. With much deliberate discussions we set the date for the trip as 31st of October. Our plan was to get accommodation at a Tea estate bungalow in Punnagala. The total distance from Colombo to Punnagala was around 220km. Here is the map sent by Chathura.Map to Poonagala A friend of Chatura named Lucky was to join us at this place and make necessary arrangements. With our previous experiences with Sinsano and Thoppiya, We were all very curious on what could happen this time around.

On the 31st of October 2009 early morning we headed our way to Punnagala. At 6am in the morning I picked up Chathura and DV (who stayed with Chathu overnight) from Moratuwa and picked Bassa (Eshan) from Kottawa. We took the Panadura – Horana road, Rathnapura, Belihuloya, Koslanda, Haputhale Road to Punnagala. It took us about 5.30 hours to reach our destination. Up till Koslanda, roads were all tar carpet. But towards estate, road condition deteriorated quite badly. But somehow we reached Punnagala estate and met manager of the estate: Arosha Stembo; who was one of the Superintends of the estate managing over 1500 workers. House was over 120 years old and the rooms had the 70s look.

Arosha was a close friend of Lucky and he too was waiting Lucky to join us. Lucky seems to have got a van (Serena) radiator trouble at Nuwara Eliya. Unfortunately with mist creeping by Lucky was not able to join us that night. But Arosha was good enough to cancel a Homecoming event and spend the evening with us. There were plenty of good topics/stories passed by the host and I’ll share some stories to keep the memories alive.

1) Rhodesian Ridgeback tradegy

Arosha has a female Rhodesian Ridgeback and he has crossed her in a dog farm sometime back. According to him, the crossing has taken place by force. But eventually dog has got pregnant and he was expecting at least 7-8 pups within the due time period. At the due date for Arosha’s surprise, the dog has given birth to only one pup and he was curious on what happened to the others. So he has called a Vet to come and have a look. During this time the mother dog has milked the pup and everything looked normal. But all of a sudden the mother dog’s mouth has got filled with blood. It seems the dog has eaten the pup and the Vet confirmed the same could have happened to the other pups as well. It was very shocking and unfortunate incident. Advice from Arosha was that; don’t allow your dogs to be crossed by force. Then it becomes a rape which will lead to other psychological problems to the dogs. I think the same coincidence could take place on humans as well.

2) Elephants in Punnagala

South towards Punnagala is where the Udawalawe Sanctuary is located. Elephants seem to pass by Punnagala causing devastation to the villages. The estate is located in a path where Elephants cross over. When humans interfere, this makes Elephants angry. A lonely tusker named Kabaraya (called by the villager) have has been gunned down Arosha making him a hero among Punnagala villagers. Later in the morning he showed the Rifle that did the trick. Even while having the drink, he got a call from a worker that 3 elephants are near a vegetable path near the estate. He gave them orders to throw crackers and scare them off. I too got a small fear whether the car would be stamped by elephants over night. I guess full option with natural disaster should cover this. Hmm..well need to double check this with the car insurer. Anyway we didn’t have any elephant incidents during our stay.

3) Bambalapitiya Police saga

Two Police constables joined us during the late evening bringing us Crab from Ampara. The crust was hard but the crab meat was really delicious. Along with the Red Label scotch this was ideal. The police guys were making statements that the Bamaplapitiya retarded person drowned incident that leads to attack by 3 PCs was unfortunate and that was fair from public’s angle. Reason was that the retarded man could have hit a stone at an innocent child and could have killed her; and the current sympathy towards him could have been different. I strongly disagreed to this nonsense. I think our Sri Lankans Society is becoming blunt and heartless. Rather than capturing criminals and putting them courts to have a fair trial the higher authorities of the country-Police are making their own decisions punish against crimes. This will make the public loose faith with the police. I really hope the Police would change their strategies and give fair call to anybody without being one sided based on race, creed or disabilities of individuals. Shooting or jabbing weapons on humans should be taken as last options. According these guys, the suspected Bambalapitya police officers might get released within the coming months with compensation. I’m curiously waiting to see what will happen here. Well after an eventful discussion we went to sleep in the Bungalow. Bassa and Chathura didn’t have the opportunity to taste the Red Label Scotch because they fell asleep way before the night. Too bad guys, the police guys enjoyed your share of it 🙂

DV’s incident

There was small incident with DV and Arosha took place where we got upset. DV was damn hungry but he didn’t eat much since Arosha was not eating. Arosha pleaded for him to eat, but DV smiled and said no. After some time Arosha went into the house to give instructions to some of his workers. At this time DV had a second session with Chatura & Bassa. Later when Arosha came back, when he saw DV he got pissed and passed message, don’t be shy eat as much of you can. But the way he passed the message was rude which made everybody think what the hell this guy is talking. Chathura heart also sank and he was not able sing from their onwards. He and Bass silently went to sleep. I stayed with DV till the end. I knew DV was upset, but later next day I explained to him/everybody what happened. All these estates are made with British ruling in place where they ruthlessly treated us as slaves. Even now if you look at Arosha, he acts as British and make sure all his assistants/workers don’t make eye to eye with him. In that estate he is like the king with hundreds of slaves. I never gave a damn about his status. The food was bought over by us and we will eat it whenever we want it. True that it was prepared by one of his servants. But I felt he shouldn’t have shouted in that manner. But anyway DV had the guts stick his nerve and stay till the end without making a Big Ha Hoo. On the next day we calmed ourselves and decided to enjoy the rest of the trip. Rather than going home immediately. Chathu this goes to you man. This was a good decision.

Trek towards the top of Diyaluma falls
We had Rotti for breakfast and went to have a bath in a so called natural pool. The drive to this was absolutely horrible. I was worried, whether at any given minute whether there would be a Tire patch. But managed reach the place slowly. Arosha joined to show us the way. He asked a field worker to take us the Diyaluma falls on trekking mission. He said this was the starting point of the Diyaluma Falls and very few people have seen this. So our mini expedition began. Our guide was Muthaiya who was over 50 years old who went like a rocket along with Bassa. DV, Chathu and I went on with our slow pace. We reached Diyalamu Fall starting point within an hour. Some of the slopes were slippery so you need high concentration and flexibility on your feet (also on your arms) to get balance. We reached a rocky area where a water was dropping to a small pool and then towards fall. With eastern monsoons, rain seems to have gone down. So water’s weren’t strong as they were. When we over looked over the cliff we could see people over looking at Diyaluma Falls. Some of them were waiving at us. I guess this would have been the climax of the whole trip. The view here was unforgettable.
View from the top of DiyalumaWater is collected on this pond before the fall15737_336004995696_734545696_9421264_6666370_n15737_336013180696_734545696_9421340_1660771_n15737_336021570696_734545696_9421527_4976676_n
If you think about it, this place is extremely dangerous and risky. If you slip by or if a strong wind blows by, we could have done a cliff jump without Parachutes. Muthaiya said two months back, a young bloke died from this place attempting to break a Guineas world record. He witnessed this on his own eyes the whole incident. The belt used during the jump has broken and caused the end of this life. On the way back, Chathura was given a Treking stick making his return journey a thousand times easier.

Then we went to the natural pool to have a bath. We saw a wild elephant to distance resting near a rock.Elephant at a distance from Udawalawe We were tired of the walk and the water we drank was from natural fountain made us quench our thirst. At the time we were changing clothes DV asked me what was on my left foot. First it looked like a bug. Then I released that it was a leach (kudalla) almost become bubble drinking a quite an amount of blood. When siddalepa was put on the leach, it fell upon the wooden floor. It took me while to stop the bleeding. So I didn’t jump to natural pool. Well this was pool made during the English days with water coming from the natural water fountain (Ulpath). Bassa and Chathura had fun jumping in but didn’t like cold and cleanliness. DV and I had shower waters cool our selves from two hour hike.

We returned back to the Bungalow and had lunch there it self. At the time we were about to leave only Chathu’s friend Lucky reached the destination. He was with another 3 friends and they stressed out the trouble they encountered. Lucky promised a trip to Kuranagala bungalow in the coming months. We gave our farewells to the Arosha and new arrivals and headed back to Colombo in the same route. Bassa took us to his house and gave us biscuits and tea. This was the first official visit for us to his house when he is around. I think this too is memorable. By 8 pm we reached Chatu’s house safe and sound. We have travelled exactly 460km for the full trip. A special thanks should go to Chathura for planning and organizing the trip and Arosha for providing us accomodation. Trip to Punnagala was good one where we ended doing tracking and socializing rather than ending drunk completely. In the end it was a good memorable trip 🙂


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