Challenge Accepted! [Kurullangala Hike]

We made it! Kurullangala hike Sri Lanka

Little did I know what I was getting myself into when I asked my friend Shiyana if I could tag along on her trip to Wellawaya. She mentioned she was joining her dad and a few of his friends on a hike up a mountain called Kurullangala to see ancient cave paintings. Obviously, with an introduction like that, I was intrigued…! She then sent me a trip report that was written by a group who had done the same hike before. I skimmed through it and one line stood out; ‘not for the faint hearted’. This line, aimed at discouraging inexperienced hikers like myself, only made me think of one phrase; ‘challenge accepted’!!

We left Colombo early morning and reached Wellawaya in time to catch up with Mervyn and Doris before we had an early lunch. Mervyn and Doris are the delightful couple who run the Don Diogu Villa in Wellawaya. The property, full of interesting knick knacks, is Mervyn’s ancestral home which was known as “Dimbulamure Walauwa” and was constructed over a hundred years ago by Don Diogu Samarakoon Wijesinghe, the Korale [government agent] of Wellawaya. Mervyn has an unparalleled knowledge of the history in that area as well as of the time when Ceylon [what Sri Lanka was called back then] was a colony of the Portuguese.

Don Diogu Villa in Wellawaya
Don Diogu Villa in Wellawaya
Knick Knacks at Don Diogu Villa Wellawaya
Knick Knacks at Don Diogu Villa Wellawaya

That evening, we went to an ancient Temple which was located at the foot of the mountain we were going to hike up. The Rakkithakanda Temple in Karadagolla, also known as ‘Kande-Vihare’ [Mountain temple] has cave paintings as well, but they are nothing like what we were going to see on top of Kurullangala the next day. These were a mix of Buddhist and Hindu paintings, some of which bared the crucifix as well. It was a curious collection of drawings that seemed to have merged religions. The monk at the temple with a charming smile told us a lot about the drawings and their interpretations.

A sign that reads 'Kande Vihare' [Mountain temple]
A sign that reads ‘Kande Vihare’ [Mountain temple]
Rakkithakanda Temple in Karadagolla Sri Lanka
Rakkithakanda Temple in Karadagolla Sri Lanka

 

The Monk at the temple telling us about the paintings
The Monk at the temple telling us about the paintings

 

The cave paintings at the Rakkithakanda Temple in Karadagolla Sri Lanka
The cave paintings at the Rakkithakanda Temple in Karadagolla Sri Lanka

 

A cave painting of the Hindu God Ganesh [Ganadevi] with three eyes at the Rakkithakanda Temple in Karadagolla Sri Lanka
A cave painting of the Hindu God Ganesh [Ganadevi] with three eyes
We started on our hike early the next morning. The group included my friend Shiyana, her father Ananda, his friends Stefan and Sri, our guide Meththananda and I. We carried water, some sandwiches and our cameras as well as two rock climbing harnesses and two strong ropes which came in handy towards the last bit of our climb. The start of the climb was easy; it was just the thick jungle that we had to worry about. As we went along however, the climb started to get steeper and more challenging, but was still enough for me to handle as we took a few breaks along the way. We then came to a point where everything changed. The rock was an 80 degree angle and any slip ups meant that we would roll down a steep hill. It was from here that the hike got to be very difficult, we had to tread carefully and make our way up without loosening any rocks or loosing grip.

The view of Kurullangala and the point where the cave paintings are
The view of Kurullangala and the point where the cave paintings are
About to start the Kurullangala Hike
A selfie before we start the Hike!
The start of our hike up Kurullangala
The start of the hike
Ananda Welikala making his way up Kurullangala
Uncle Ananda making his way up
Getting a little steeper Kurullangala Sri Lanka
Getting a little steeper
Quick stop to enjoy the scenery in Kurullangala Sri Lanka
A quick stop to enjoy the scenery
Time for a snack Kurullangala hike
Time for a snack!
Stefan D'Silva Photographer and lover of Sri Lanka
Uncle Stefan taking a quick break before the hardest part
The point where it gets difficult Kurullangala
The point where it gets difficult – The only way is up!

Then we came to a point where we needed to use the harnesses. Meththananda our guide and the person who discovered the paintings on the rock, went up effortlessly and secured the ropes on to a tree. We then had to plan our steps and use all our concentration on climbing up. I was wrong to think that that was the only difficult part that we would face! Because it was a series of difficult and complicated parts that followed. I was able to scramble my way up even though it was rather ungraceful…! There was even one part, close to the top where we had to inch along a root of a tree sideways against a rock… To this day, I can’t believe that I actually did that!

Things just got a little harder! Kurullangala Hike Sri Lanka
And up we go!
Steep climb up Kurullangala Sri Lanka
Like pros!
Wading through the thick shrubs in Kurullangala Sri Lanka
Wading through the thick shrubs
One of the riskiest parts of the Kurullangala hike
One of the riskiest parts of the hike
Gayani Botejue being adventurous! Kurullangala hike
Me being extremely adventurous or incredibly stupid!!

Once we made it to the spot where the cave paintings were, I realized that the difficult climb was all worth it. It was a humbling experience, to be a part of something so historic and magnificent. The cave paintings were not like the ones you see in Dambulla or Sigiriya they were not Buddhist stories or frescoes. They were much older than that; from a different time all together, over 5000 years ago.

Presenting the Kurullangala cave paintings
Presenting the Kurullangala cave paintings!
Meththananda with the ancient drawings he discovered in Kurullangala
Meththananda with the ancient drawings he discovered

Another fascinating feature of these cave paintings is that they are the only ones of their kind. Most other cave paintings around Sri Lanka from this era are of stick figures. These are the only drawings of birds from this time that have been found. They were also somewhat similar to aboriginal art in Australia.

The ancient cave paintings of birds at Kurullangala Sri Lanka
A close up
The ancient cave painting of a bird at Kurullangala Sri Lanka
A drawing of a bird
The ancient cave paintings of birds at Kurullangala Sri Lanka
An Eagle perhaps?

The ancient cave paintings of birds at Kurullangala Sri Lanka

The ancient cave painting of a bird at Kurullangala Sri Lanka
A peacock?
The ancient cave paintings and hand prints Kurullangala Sri Lanka
Hand prints of the artists! – Slightly bigger than the average hand print today!

The ancient cave paintings of birds at Kurullangala Sri Lanka

The ancient cave paintings of birds at Kurullangala Sri Lanka
The precious drawings faded over time due to the elements…
We made it! Kurullangala hike Sri Lanka
We made it!
The view from the cave paintings in Kurullangala
The view…!
The team that made it up
The tired but happy crew!

After spending some time marveling at these drawings and taking pictures, we started to head back, a task that was just as hard as going up, if not harder! We were all tired, sweaty, scratched, bruised and bleeding by the end of it. There were times where my heart skipped a beat and I thought that I was going to fall. But I kept thinking of the quote from Game of Thrones; ‘What do we say to the God of Death?” “Not today”. My palms still get sweaty when I think about it or look at the pictures and the videos! But it was an adventure and I’m glad I did it because it was worth it in the end.

That said, I don’t recommend that you take on this hike unless you are an experienced trekker. It’s a little about stamina and strength and more about guts, staying calm and keeping your balance! Most definitely not for the faint-hearted!

 

5 thoughts on “Challenge Accepted! [Kurullangala Hike]

  1. Hi Gee
    A great narration of that grandeur journey…
    However no amount of words or expressions won’t be able to show the difficulties we had to face…
    It was a great journey with great company…
    Cheers
    Sri

    1. Hi Sri,

      We are also a team planning a trek every six months to enjoy the nature. Could I have the contact details of Meththananda? Since we’re also very much interested on what you have experienced.

      BR

  2. ඇත්තවශයෙන්ම ඔබ ගමන් කල දුශ්කර බව එම ගුහා චිත්‍ර දුටුවිට සංසිදුනු බව අප දනිමු. ඔබ ගවේශණය කල එම ගුහාව වසර මිලියනකටත් වඩා අතීත ඩයිනොසර යුගය දක්වා විහිදේ…ස්තුතියි.

  3. 02-10-2016 apith giya kurullangala,awasanawakata apata paara waraduna,dushkara gamanakin apasu nawathha yame balaporoththuwen apasu paminiya,kande wihaare swamin wahansege ashirwadayen kisiwakutath anathurak novee nawatha paminiya.. sthuthi.

  4. This is far more than amazing and your guys are truly great too. The picture of the bird, somewhat looking like a duck is very similar to the picture of the alien bird at the Nakaza valley. – I’m crazy to go up Kurullangala. Generally me and my husband do climb every holiday month. The most daunting adventure we had was the Wavulpane walk through, and a very risky climb up from the World’s End Lodge, Haldumulla all the way to Udaveriya, followed by a 9km trek to Ohiya, beginning less and steeping to 70 degrees at the higher levels with even less than a foot at the edge of the mountain to keep our feet. We did another one from Babmarakanda falls on a very rugged estate road (I can’t remember the name of the estate) which was 15 km upwards via the “double cut” and passing the “Devil’s Staircase”. Manigala, Riverston, and Ali 7, Deraniyagala were yet other wonderful climbs too. You can see some of my photos on my Face Book, though many photos are yet to be posted. I’m Ishanka Gunasekera from Dehiwela. I’m 60 now, and it’s my vision to do Kurullangala somehow this year or in January next. I’m praying that I’ll see through my mission to Kurullangala. Best Regards – Ishanka.

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