Expat Jeff tells us about going camping at Sri Lanka’s Knuckles Range:
The verdant Knuckles Range.
My partner and I love adding unique activities to our vacations to make them more special. We’ve tried homestays with hill tribes in Indonesia, hot air ballooning over Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and very recently, overnight camping and trekking at the splendid Knuckles Range, located in the UNESCO-designated Central Highlands of Sri Lanka.
Our charming little hotel in the Knuckles Range.
Our Mai Globe Travels agent, who regularly provides special expat weekend trips, arranged for an overnight camp in the mountains over a long weekend last February. The 5-hour drive from Colombo didn’t feel that long because we stopped by Kandy on the way for lunch and a short sightseeing tour. Afterwards, we were driven to our hotel in the Knuckles. We stayed the night here at a charming cottage that had a garden and a pool with a stunning view. Early the following morning, our chauffeur drove us to Meemure, a remote village deep in the Knuckles wilderness. The Sri Lankan Hill Country is stunning enough, but the enrapturing scenic beauty of Meemure caught us quite off guard. Surrounded by lush forest with a panoramic view of the mist-cloaked Knuckles Range in the distance, Meemure is an idyllic village suspended in time. Our trek started here with a guide called Ravi.
We took a refreshing dip at this lovely waterfall.
We began it light, walking past flourishing paddy fields. We met a few villagers on our trek who were very friendly and keen to talk to us. As we neared the edge of the village we were trekking uphill on a narrow, grass-covered trail flanked by tropical greenery. The air was cool and refreshing. Ravi told us stories about the Knuckles range. It was named thus by the British, who, when they first saw the mountain range, thought it looked like the knuckles of a clenched hand. The locals call it “dumbara kanduwetiya,” the mist-laden mountain range, which I thought was literally more appropriate. As we trekked, the forest got denser and the makeshift footpath we were using slowly disappeared. Ravi warned us about snakes and leeches. We had knee-high anti-leech socks on and Ravi also brought with him some leech spray. We made our way through a thicket of trees and bushes and came to a gently flowing stream. We followed the crystal-clear water to a cascading waterfall with a natural pool. The waterfall dropped onto rocks that were shaped cubically, it was quite hard to believe they were not carved. We had a picnic lunch of delicious sandwiches and Ravi prepared us some mint tea to go with it. Of course, after lunch we couldn’t help but ditch our clothes and take a dip in the revitalizing cool water.
Our overnight tents were already set up when we arrived.
We resumed our trek towards the campsite. We could see the verdant mountain ranges in the distance, beckoning us. Our trekking became hiking as we neared our destination. We climbed a steep vine-tangled rock face just with our bare hands. The forest cover above us became so thick we lost sight of the sky. In a sea of green, we arrived at our hilltop campsite around dusk. Our feet were so sore but the climb gave us such a thrill we momentarily forgot the pain. When we arrived, our tents were already set up by Ravi’s support staff, who also helped him to light up a bonfire—an arduous task in the cold wind. Afterwards, we tremendously appreciated the barbeque dinner that night. Even though it was quite cold at the top, we took some time to enjoy the night sky studded with stars. Later, we had a surprisingly blissful sleep in our outdoor tent with the wind blasting outside.
Sitting around the camp bonfire…
We woke up early the following morning in time for the golden sunrise. Ravi made us some invigorating tea to go with breakfast. Soon we were back on track trekking through lovely valleys filled with wildflowers. Ravi led us to a captivating cloud forest situated at the flat peak of a mountain, and to the top of a waterfall, for a stunning bird’s eye view of the area. Soon, we began our descent, marveling at toddy tappers working dangerously high up in coconut trees. We took many pictures of incredible animals around here, such as vivid butterflies and mischievous monkeys. Our climb down also included a walk through beautiful tea plantations. After our long climb down, we were met by our chauffeur who drove us to our hotel in Kandy for overnight before we headed back to Colombo. We were absolutely thrilled by our camping experience in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country.