A Trek Through Knuckles Forest Reserve – Gerandi Ella
One of the things I love about Sri Lanka is the many possibilities for hikes and treks through some of the most pristine and untouched forest areas in the country.
The Knuckles Forest Reserve is located around the 5 knuckle peaks called knuckles because they look like the knuckles on your hand. It is located off Kandy in the Central Highlands. We were not going to attempt the peaks as you need a permit and camping equipment to stay over. Instead we chose to trek to the Gerandi Ella falls which has 7 levels to it and runs besides the peaks.
Our entrance was through the state owned Rangala Tea estate and we had a lovely guide – Mylvaganam – who was an estate worker and took visitors on guided tours during the weekend. We went on the 3rd of February 2019, and since it was independence weekend it was a good time to visit.
The entry path started off from the road onto a few boulders and then a path through the tea bushes and onto the entrance of the reserve which is demarcated by a board. The path was lovely and of course we were warned of those blissful wriggling shits – leeches.
We carried backpacks with water and a few snacks and started off into the reserve. The climbing bits were not bad, a little tiring at times but not impossible. We trekked on till we came into the forest areas which were silent, with gnarled trees covered in mist that was moving like a silent cloud and it was serene and stunning. The winds would move the mist along and you felt like water vapour was brushing past your face as it moved. The silence was lovely and peaceful.
We moved on, assaulted by leeches who seemed to take a liking for my blue shoes despite the liberal amounts of Siddhalepa I had swathed on them. So after a point I just got used to flinging them off with a leaf so that they wouldn’t latch onto my skin. I got two bites but forgot about those as we moved on.
We came to the top of the rock and the path diverged on to the peaks and the one down led to the Gerandi Ella waterfall. So we opted for the latter and walked down on the slanted rock where we noticed a camp site propped up – the people were probably still sleeping. We took some of the discarded bamboo sticks and used these to help us get down through the more steep bits. It was still very misty and almost gloomy though it was around 8.30 or 9am.
We journeyed on for a bit through some narrow passageways and were glad we had the bamboo sticks as some areas were slippery. Mylvaganam was telling us that a lot of foreigners come trekking to the peaks and that to get to the 3rd one is probably the toughest and so is the 5th one.
The first level we came to was the 5th level of the water fall and this had the best view. You could see the valley below and it stretched for miles. The area was rock and you could walk right upto where the water was falling but I was reluctant to go as I have a fear that I will slip on rocks.
From here we proceeded to the 6th level as we felt there was no need to go down to the lower levels as the best view was from the 5th. The 6th level had a lovely pool area that we could’ve bathed in had we dared. But our worry was the changing factor coz some guys were above, plus it would mean changing in bushes with leeches. So we opted to stay away and just walk around it.
From here to get to the top level was quite a challenge. There was a steep climb up via a narrow path and it was milky clay textured soil so we clung on to trees, bushes and roots and made our way to the top. The view from here was nothing phenomenal but it was a really nice area to sit and have a picnic. We ate the last bits of our food here, put our feet into the icy cold spring water and chilled for a while.
From here we trekked up along the rocky waterfall which had hardly any water but had moss and yours truly kept slipping, more out of paranoia than anything else.
From here we moved on and made our way through the forest and back to the path again where we started off at the top of the tea estate. However our exit was through the little village that Mylvaganam lived in and past some old tea plants that had grown wild. The area was beautiful, quiet and the walk up the road was serene with an almost savannah type growth of trees on the rocks to the left of the road.
We finished up in the midst of the pouring rain at about 2.30pm. Mylvaganam brought us umbrellas from his village and we used these to get to the vehicle once the rain had eased up a bit.
The 2pm rain is normal for this area. And then it clears up again. Mylvaganam was telling us about the issues they faced as plantation workers and how they had not been paid their EPF and ETF for years and so had a lot of challenges in trying to make ends meet.
When we reached the vehicle we de-leeched ourselves and got in and headed back to Kandy where we were staying. It was a very satisfying though tiring trek and we are glad we were able to enjoy it so much.
Hope we can head to the Knuckles mountain peaks sometime soon.