Get yourself vanished in the prettiness of the hairpin bend trail… – The Devils Staircase
By Bhagya Alwis
One of the most popular four wheel and hiking tracks in the hill country of Sri Lanka is the Devils Staircase in Ohiya. It is a norm among Srilankan hikers that every hiker should walk in this path, at least once in your lifetime if you are so passionate about hiking. Difficulty levels and the marvelous view of the green mountains and tea states of Sri Lanka has made this route a trekkers paradise, but if you want to see this beauty there is only one requirement, that is, you should be fit enough to walk 20 km either to climb up or all the way down or your 4×4 Jeep is fit enough to take you there.
Our team consists of five members, Oshini, Melani, Chulan, Yasith and me. This time we have decided to walk from the Ohiya railway station to Kalupahana Junction, but it’s about 20 km and there are several waypoints. 1. From Ohiya situation to the Devils Stair case truing point – 4 km. 2. From turning point to Bambarakanda waterfall – 9km and 3. From waterfall to Kalupahana junction is 7 km. This is my first time walking on this route, and same as others, but we had a great faith on our feet that we can finish this amazing trail and we were waiting to finish this. Normally hikers start this trial form Bambarakanda to Ohiya but we decide to go other way.
We came by the Colombo – Badulla night mail train and raced to the Ohiya Station by 5.00 am, it was cold as an ice age when we just got outside of the train coach. After having some rest we started our great journey at 6.00 am in the beautiful morning. As I mentioned earlier, this is our first time and we didn’t have any guide to show the trail, but I did my homework on this trail, and with the help of GPS unit we walk. Sometimes we asked direction from random people we met on the trail, those innocent and kind villagers offered their help to us and they even walked with us for some distance to show the trail. With all of that we were able to reach to our endpoint.
From Ohiya Station to Devils staircase turning point road which is the one leads to Horton Plains, this road was well maintained tar road with an elevation. It was an amazing feeling that you will get by walking on this road, both sides of the road were covered with large pine and turpentine trees, and with the richness of pure oxygen to breathe. With the rising sun from the east gives us the warmth we were looking for with her shiny yellowish rays, with the glory of the environment and our little chit chats facilitated us to climb up along the road but it took around two hours to reach to the first waypoint.
We took a left turn from that waypoint, and this downhill road leads all the way to kalupahana Junction, filled with the magnificence of the countryside, edge cliffs, narrow road contains 32 nos of hairpin bends suited only to 4×4 Jeep adventure. But this time we had to walk all the way down to see the beauty of the green mountains and it was an amazing experience for all of us. For the first time if you see this path, I have no doubt you’ll lose your breath for a while, that view is so astonished and you may want to stay for a while and see the elegance of the mother nature’s beauty.
You may think that climbing down easy on a downhill road or from the mountain, believe me it’s not, sometimes it’s harder than climbing up. Most of the time we have to put the brakes on to our legs and the road is not level, sometimes you will find rocky road, and sometimes it’s covered with the grass and even from the soil and granite. First few kilometres we were going through the normal road through the hair clip bends, but then we decided to go through the tea state not going round and round. This is the path most villagers take, they don’t walk in the road they go through the tea plants, and we knew it’s risky, but couldn’t help because we have to complete our journey before the Rail fall.
It took almost 3 hours to reach to the Udeweriya village from the turning point and five of us was walking alone and we only met a couple of people who are working in the tea estate. Around 12 PM mist came down and block our path, and it was white as snow. The puckers in the village were so generously even they offered us the pure hot plain tea. I’ve never tasted that much of a freshness and the taste in my whole life. I have learned one big thing from them that is their lifestyle was very simple and they only had fewer numbers of needs and wants go their day to day life, we are the ones who have put the complexity into our life’s and suffers day by the day. If you want to be happy there is only one thing that you have to do, that is “Be Simple”.
After thanking them on their warm hospitality we walk again to our final destination, the most awaited Bambara Kanda Falls by the time of 2.30 PM we were lucky enough to reach to our final destination. We have walked through the legendary V cut on this trail and from this point onwards the road was constructed properly, even a car can come up to this point.
Bambarakanda is the highest waterfall in Sri Lanka with a sheer drop of a 263 meters. In the world ranking its the 299th tallest waterfall in the world. This is not a wide waterfall, but drops as a thin line from a rocky outcrop. The fall is formed by the Uduweriya Haputale Mountain and Kuda Oya, a tributary of Walawe River.
When we came to Kalupahana Junction and took a bus to Haputale Town and it was coming back to the human civilization, by the night mail trail we came to our homes dreaming about our next adventure. As everything has a beginning and has an end, we have archived our goal of walking on this Devils Staircase, but our journeys won’t stop, we still got quenched for the hiking it gives us amazing experience and building relationships with the nature. I have only one request from you all that is pleasing preserve the beauty of this amazing route for the future generations.
Photography by: Bhagya Alwis, Oshini Welagedara, Yasith Silva