Hiking Sri Lanka
Lizzie Lowe has been playing in the outdoors her whole life. Some of her notable accomplishments so far are conquering Mt Kilimanjaro and hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania. In between studying for her Masters at the University of Sydney she works at Trek & Travel and dreams of walking the Larapinta Trail. Pleasant and easygoing, the only possible cause of tension between her and co-workers is her unfathomable affection for spiders and other creepy crawlies.
I recently took a quick hiking trip to Sri Lanka to escape from Australia for a while and I would like to share with you a few of the highlights of the trip, and the gear I chose to take with me which made it a sucess. I chose Sri Lanka because it's not too far away from home, it has large areas set asideas national parks which makes for some great hikes, and I had heard it had great food! Having already travelled through India I had high expectations and Sri Lanka surpassed all of them. Not only were the national parks full of great animals and native vegetation, they were also well managed and had conservation in mind.
The highlights of the trip aside from the food and the friendly people, were a jungle trek through the knuckles range region (and an amazing sun rise), the climbing of Adams peak, and the summit of Sri Lankas second highest peak, Kirigalpotta (2,389 metres).
Knuckles Range, Sri Lanka
Knuckles range is in the central province of Sri Lanka and has fantastic views through the surrounding ranges. It takes a long time to get there on some horrendously winding roads but its well worth it to get away from civilisation. It is an area of very high endemic biodiversity which makes the trekking a nature lovers dream. We spent the night in a little cottage in Corbets Gap, and rose with the sun to spend the day hiking through the jungle and up to view the famous Knuckles range (so named because the peak looks like a curled fist). The only downside were the abundant leeches which found the perfect environment underneath my gaiters. We tried everything from 40% DEET to Dettol but nothing seems to deter them for long.
Our next stop, Adam's Peak is a popular pilgrimage walked by tourists and locals alike during the high season of December to March. But when I visited in October it was very quiet with only a scattering of tourists. Unfortunately being out of season also means the view is often clouded over (as it was on this day) so it wasn’t really worth getting up at 2 a.m. to arrive at the top for sunrise, but it’s still an impressive climb. Getting to the summit was tiring but within reach of anyone with reasonable fitness, but you will definitely feel the effects of all those stairs the next day!
There will be many people around town offering to guide you. We decided to hire a guide, as we were walking in the dark, it’s good to get some local knowledge and it was their low tourist season so it is nice to contribute some cash to a community which obviously suffers a little at that time of year. But the trail is well marked and would be easy to find your way if you decided to go without a guide.
Kirigalpotta is one of the tallest mountains in Sri Lanka and is in the Horten plains national park. The trek up to the summit starts in heath country, which you could be forgiven for thinking, was in Tasmania or New Zealand but soon moves into thick jungle which persists to the peak. The walk is about 14km and takes a few hours, passing through sections of open grasslands and thick jungle. Again, the summit was in cloud but we were the only ones there, so to avoid the crowds it was worth it! The plains are home to the Sri Lankan Sambar Deer which we saw and apparently Sri Lankan Leopards and giant squirrels which you have to be a bit more lucky to see. Also in the Horton Plains national park is a 3 hour trek which takes you to “the world end” and “lesser worlds end” which are look outs with a sheer drop of 870m and an impressive view out over the valley. Although these lookouts are much more touristy its worth a visit, and there is an impressive waterfall called Bakers Falls included in the circuit walk.
In terms of gear, I was only going for 2 weeks so I wanted to pack as light as possible, whilst still being prepared for any eventuality! So I decided to take my One Planet travel pack, the 40L Ronald, which suited my needs perfectly. It was a great size, the harness tucks away nicely (they say it can even be used as carry on!) and my luggage came in at a respectable 8kg (on the way there...).
My Outdoor Research Reflexa jacket was great because it was so light and packs down nice and small, it was needed most days! Along with some light weight hiking pants I solely wore Icebreaker Tec Tops for the whole two weeks, and I can guarantee they really do live up to their non stink reputation. And of course I never go hiking without my Bridgedale socks, this time I used the Trail Lights, because it was hot and I was only wearing mid-cut boots.
Another piece of gear I took on my trip which was indispensable was my Camelback bladder. I hate to buy bottled water because of the environmental impact of all the plastic, so I took Microtab purification tablets. This worked really well with the bladder because I simply filled the bladder every night, popped in the tablets and by the morning it was all ready to go. I also took a 500ml Nalgene bottle which I used in conjunction with Shotz electrolyte tablets, which are very drinkable. It was the end of the wet season so still very humid which makes staying hydrated even more important, especially when hiking. Under the recommendation of my colleagues Ian and Wendy, I also took Buff head wear and I was really impressed. Even when the rest of my body was covered with sweat the buff stayed dry and kept me cool, I’ll never go hiking without one again!
All up Sri Lanka is a country which is very easy to travel in and offers a wide variety of easy to challenging hikes covering a range of environments, from coast to mountains, and jungles to grassy plains. On top of all that, food was just as amazing as expected and I will definitely be planning a return trip to cover some more of this amazing country.