First comes the sound. Half conscious, I can hear it. The orchestra of hundreds of birds penetrates my dreams and gently tickles me awake from the deepest of sleeps. Carefully, I stretch myself out and rise. I take a step outside and feel the soft wooden boards under my feet. The smell: the fresh morning air filled with misty drops chasing each other in the infinite greenness. I feel it flowing in and filling my lungs with wilderness.
The misty air filters the soft rays of light rising behind the mountains. I close my eyes. I sit down on the balcony and let the morning sun caress my face. I breathe deeply, again and again, wrapped in a moment so timeless and endless.
I am at the Ahaspokuna Bush Walks Camp, where you are secluded in nature, with an abundance of walking trails for days and days.
Breakfast was served and I sat at the table in the cozy guest area surrounded by the morning brightness. Fruits, coconut water, omelet, Sri Lankan flat bread with all sorts of delicious fillings, porridge, and coffee with milk, as I like it – a tasty and filling prelude for a day in the mountains and forests.
Finishing breakfast, I ventured into the jungle with my naturalist cum trekking guide Saranga and the tracker Nava. I already did a half-a-day trekking trail on the previous day and we decided to do a full-day trekking trail to experience the great diversity that the area could offer.
First, we trekked down to a nearby village from where we continued through the bean fields, neatly arranged in straight rows with thin wooden poles. After the very last farm, the steep climbing starts. First up, a rocky slope, a short break on the smooth stones, and then across a little valley to the steep mountain path. It was almost midday and the sun did its best in melting my strength in the open hillside. Step by step, my feet became heavier and I felt the heartbeat in my ears. Finally, it reached me, that refreshing breeze from the other side of the mountain and I thought I could fly!
All the pain had vanished. In front of the breathtaking view over the mountains, to the plains of Udawalawe and far beyond, it was all gone. That infinite distance, it froze everything and my eyes relaxed in the horizon.
Along the way, my trekking guide Saranga showed me a few dozen very beautiful birds, many indigenous trees, and colorful butterflies etc. Though my passion is for walking, his interpretations made me very curious and interested in all these too. Maybe it’s time to invest in some guide books and a pair of binoculars for me to do more walks in Sri Lanka.
We walked a few hundred meters forward to the cliffs so high and steep I could not see what was underneath. Standing near the edge and holding my arm around a tree, I felt the shakiness coming back to my muscles – my legs were tired, but thrilled!
We stopped at this point for lunch, comprising fruits, local sweets meat called “helapa”, and sandwiches made out of local flat bread“roti”. My local companions were happy to have the rice and curry.
After the most “scenic” lunch I have ever had, the trail led us through scrub forest, back to the open hillside. The trekking path zigzagged steeply down and I watched my steps carefully. All of a sudden, when raising my eyes from the rocky ground, there they were just in front of me – only 50 meters away – two elephants, calmly strolling between the trees and continuing their way towards the lush green valley. I was so excited to see them. It’s very different to seeing an elephant, even many, in a safari jeep. You are on foot and they are on foot. I felt really adventurous, making a real connection with nature.
Nava, who has been roaming in these jungles from his childhood, was very confident and all ready with the “Elephant Crackers” that would make a huge sound when lit, to be used in case the elephants decided to walk our way.
Our trekking trail led us down to the forest along a crystal clear river, back to the village and the bean farms. Finishing the very last climb, 6 hours after the start, we arrived at the Ahaspokuna campsite, bathing in the afternoon sunlight.
Upon arrival at the camp, I had my tea and hot water in the bathtub. There is nothing better a weary hiker could wish for.
The sun set and wrapped the campsite in pink. On my balcony, little lamps and candles had been lit and the burning incense filled the air with its light aroma. After a hot bath in my bush bath tub, open to the forest, I got ready for dinner. At 7.30 p.m., Saranga was at my tent to fetch me for dinner. Though it’s a short walk of about 250m, the camp staff always comes to take you to the dining area, especially in the nights. I felt extra safe.
Next to the dinning tent, the flames of a campfire reach the stars in the dark sky. A beautifully designed Sri Lankan meal, with the finest ingredients and local delicacies, and a glass of wine are a perfect crown for a perfect day.
Text and pictures by Ida Lindholm, a Finn fallen in love with Sri Lanka