With the fuel crisis and the overall transport issues, travelling these days is a real task that takes much preparation and planning. Even so, the plans could easily get spoiled if the bus or train doesn’t run or the bowser doesn’t arrive at the shed on the designated date for you to pump. All these inconveniences brought by the current crises are an annoyance for all of us, especially to those who have been bitten by the travel bug, but if you plan smart, you can work your way around these setbacks and enjoy a pleasant experience of travelling in the outdoors, just like how you used to do before pre-crisis times.
First and foremost, you have to understand that some compromises have to be made in order to make a travel happen. Let’s face it; given the current situation, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to go on a three-nights-four-days hiking tour on a bike to Devil’s Staircase, Dunsinane Estate, and Upper Diyaluma, pumping gas as you go. The most practical trip to plan is trip to somewhere you can go, enjoy, and come back on the same day. If this destination is easily accessible via multiple public transportation means, it is even better. While going in your own vehicle is always better, given the gas prices and the limited availability as well as fuel restrictions per vehicle, you might want to think again about taking a bus or a train to your destination. Who knows, when you are among the right company, it could be a very pleasant experience.
Another point to consider while getting lost in the wilderness and wandering off the trail these days is the shortage of medicine. You might want to select a destination that possesses a little to no risk at all and a destination which while being natural and wild, at the same time, not so far away from a main town and a hospital. Social media is full of heart-breaking tragedies courtesy fuel and medicine shortage so the last thing you want is to attract such fate towards you.
Peaks of Yogamuwa Kanda
With that in mind, let me introduce you to Yogamuwa Kanda. The name alone might not ring any bells for many of you but I’m pretty sure many of you must have seen Yogamuwa Kanda while travelling towards Kurunegala passing Polgahawela.
Yogamuwa is the small linear hill that runs perpendicular to the Kurunegala-Colombo main road from Polgahawela town. One end of it is the Polgahawela town while the other end descends somewhere towards Narammala. As a hiking destination, Yogamuwa ticks all the boxes of being a smart destination. Although being located in the Kurunegala District, it is much closer to the Kegalle District border, making it not so far away from Colombo. It also is accessible by both train and bus. Since almost every train on the Lines; Main, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Talaimannar, and KKS stop at Polgahawela, and so many different long-distance buses go past the small town, it is so easily accessed.
Since Yogamuwa Kanda is much closer to Polgahawela town itself, there actually is a small drivable road that runs off the main road towards the top of the mountain. The linear mountain has several rocky tops which serve as nice viewpoints and on the top most one a transmission tower is built. Almost all these viewpoints can be accessed by the road mentioned before but doing so is too easy.
Since the viewpoints are only a couple of hundred metres above the mean sea level, hiking to the top, even through thick vegetation, isn’t an impossible task to a novice hiker. So, that is exactly what I did! Teamed up with two other like-minded individuals and accompanied by a few doggos, we decided to climb to a one particular viewpoint of Yogamuwa Kanda one bright sunny day. Our starting point was somewhere before Polgahawela and a bit off the main road. If you turn left from Morugama junction, a three-or-so- kilometres before Polgahawela and walk another kilometre or so, you’d eventually arrive – after crossing some privately-owned forest lands with permission of course – at the base of the mountain.
Since halfway through towards the top of the mountain is privately-owned lands there is a road but it is more suited for a land vehicle than a car or even for walking. However, after walking for a goof 20 – 30 minutes the road ends and from then on, you are left to navigate your way through fairly thick vegetation with no real footpath before you. The beauty of this is that you can find solace in being a trailblazer but it can create problems when descending. So my advice is to make mental notes of every landmark boulder, tree, and vine. If remembering is harder for you, it is much easier to mark your trail so that you won’t get lost on your way back.
Near 360-degree view
The mountain have a lot of rocky slopes some of which are really broad and act as proper viewpoints, despite not being the very top of the mountain. Some of the rocky parts of the climb were so steep that we found ourselves on all fours, crawling at a snail pace, much to the bewilderment of our four-legged friends.
The viewpoint we finally reached at was not the very top of the mountain where the transmission tower is but a little bit below that and we decided to call it a day and enjoy the mesmerising view and the refreshing cool winds. We saw chopper flying by, almost at our eye level and some trains far off on the ground, moving slowly like long caterpillars. Since we were not at the very top our view wasn’t a 360-degree one but it was close to it. All the paddy fields on the ground were being cultivated so the greenery of the whole area was striking. Coupled with the hues of blue and white of the sky the panoramic view from the top truly was a sight for the sore eyes as well as limbs.
Our descend was a quick one and altogether the hike must have taken only three to four hours tops. Our feet weren’t killing us the day after and we are determined to go again to climb to the very top which will take perhaps another 30 minutes more.
(Pix courtesy Yasasvie Kahagalla)
By Sanuj Hathurusinghe