Monday, September 2, 2013

Travel Monday: Trekking in the Sri Lankan wilderness

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves” ~  Edmund Hillary

The past few Travel Monday posts have been focused on places and events which are mostly known, specific and relatively easy to navigate to. I thought I'd take a walk on the wild side with week's travel post, and take you "off the beaten track".

If you haven't figured it out by now, I have an adventurous heart and I love exploring new and unknown places. Don't get me wrong, I do bite off more than I can chew sometimes, and on the odd occasion I have been known to get a little scared and find myself in silly situations. However, that said, I enjoy stretching the boundaries of comfort and pushing myself to try new things. And, I have the cuts, bruises, bites and rashes to prove it!

One thing I have done a fair bit of, over the past five years in Sri Lanka, is trekking in the wilderness. I have some pretty fit and adventurous friends who have encouraged me to explore with them, and I have not looked back since.

I've already included some smaller treks or climbs within a few of my road trip blog posts, such as:

There are plenty of places to trek around Sri Lanka. The geography of the teardrop island makes it special - you have lakes, mountains, ancient ruins, archaeological sites, caves, waterfalls, jungle, beaches, rainforest, national parks, wildlife, and so much more.

Not surprisingly, the best views and unexpected find are normally uncovered after trekking through the wilderness, climbing rocks and ascending to higher vantage points. However, as with all things that require some effort and patience, it is definitely well worth it in the end.

* A word of caution for tourists - go with a guide or local if you're planning on trekking in Sri Lanka. And if you're a newbie to trekking in the wilderness be sure to go with someone who is familiar with trekking and/or exploring remote Sri Lanka.

I'm taking you on an adventure towards the east coast of Sri Lanka and into the wilderness. I won't be telling you exactly where I'm taking you as this place isn't well-known, though there are some archaeological works and restorations being undertaken around the area. Sometimes you visit a place and you want it to stay relatively untouched and it's secrets kept safe. This is one of those places our little group came across this year.

As you will see from some of the images, the terrain for trekking is sometimes rocky, paved with ancient stones or steps and paths are carved out of rock. It sometimes turns trekking into climbing!

But, the first glimpse of a view can be a reward for the strenuous activity to reach even this point...

And then there's more trekking with a few stops to rest, explore and hydrate. 

You often trek through jungle so it's also important to watch for snakes, insects and other wild life. I've come across wild elephants in the most unexpected places, particularly near watering holes; monkeys, assorted birds, snakes, wild boar and more! Consider yourself warned.

On this trek there were 360 degree views of the surrounding landscape once we reached a particular vantage point. The incline was steady, though I found myself climbing over rocks and boulders. I believe this particular spot used to be occupied in ancient times and you can see from my images remnants of steps carved into the rocks, stones used to pave pathways and clearings in the jungle.

I took a little shot of the rocky ground. It was very hot as the sun had heated it right up.

When you explore a place you never know which way you'll want to trek. Sometimes it naturally leads you upwards... This was a particularly steep part of the climb.

But you find the views just keep getting better and better the higher you climb. 

It was a particularly humid day and we had lunched under a scattering of trees (but still on the rocks). Later, we decided to spend a little time near a watering hole to cool ourselves off. It's always lovely to be able to dip your feet into the water.

Then, it's time to keep on, keeping on... all refreshed, it's time to go explore some more...

We spent a whole day exploring this part of the island. It turned out to be a very peaceful place, almost no-one around, just a gentle wind and the heat of the sun.

We had another little rest near this water outlet. The water seemed to come directly off the mountain, so we filled our water bottles here. I remember this spot being shady and cool. 

We then decided to keep trekking and climbing higher from our rest point to see if we could find some of the caves we had spotted from the other side of the rock face. And we certainly found some... no longer inhabited, but clearly evidence of previous dwelling.

As some of the images show, there is immense beauty in nature.

After trekking back down from the caves, we explored further and found more ruins, and even an ancient stone-carved statue of the Buddha that had fallen.

It makes you wonder how long ago this place was inhabited and the history behind the caves and ruins. Most likely, it would have been an ancient monastery or hermitage.

“When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself” ~ 
 Jacques Cousteau

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