Footsteps in…Horton Plains

Is it Friday already? Man, this holiday is trotting along too fast for my liking. Awoken from my slumber at the crack of dawn this morning, by chanting and a drum ceremony from the village in the plantations of the tea factory, i wonder whether the folk are praying or scaring away wild buffalo, as the little guidebook in our room says?

Oh well, we have an early start anyway today. We are heading to World’s End in the Horton Plains and Ravi is coming to pick us up at 5:30 am. So best be up and embrace this day, which from the look of it, is a clear one. Yay! No more rain….i just have to wait and see.

Breakfast packets all picked up, Ravi arrives at 5:30am on the dot and we are off. The morning sun is rising like a golden ball over the tea plantations. People wait for their morning bus to get to work, it is barely light. The world is still at peace….there is a calm and serene vibe around. Everywhere except my monkey brain, that is!! What were we, scratch that, what was I thinking, trekking on a holiday! 9 km too! Holidays are for lounging by a pool with sunglasses on and a pina colada in hand! I quit the gym after the first week of December (work was manic) and I am convinced that I am in no shape for a 9 km trek. Slap on wrist. Oh well, we are in it now, let’s just take it one step at a time…

We park at the Grand Hotel, and Ravi has arranged for a van to take us up the bumpy road to the Horton Plains National Park, about 30 km from Nuwara Eliya town. We cross over the small towns of Ambevale and Pallikotu, with their windmills rotating on the windy plains, and cross over a railway line and drive up a very steep hill to get to the entrance of the park at 7 am, to begin our trek. There are hoardes of people gearing up for the trek so I am a little reassured….this isn’t going to be so bad after all…

Windmills in the scenic town of Ambevale

Windmills in the scenic town of Ambevale

Entrance fee of US $ 25 per person paid up, we start the trek and I am thinking, this better be worth the waking up early and chatter in my mind!!! The first few metres from the gate, we trek up a steep incline and huffing, puffing, panting along get to a signpost giving us the “bend in the road choice” – either trek down to Bakers Falls, head to greater World’s End and finish off with Mini worlds end, or head first to Mini Worlds end, trek then to Greater Worlds End and finish off at Bakers Falls.

Pattipola Entrance at the Horton Plains National Park

Pattipola Entrance at the Horton Plains National Park

Having read about the infamous mist over Worlds End that seems to like to descend at 10:30 am, and having been blessed with an uber clear day (voodoo queen on a break?) we decide to head towards Mini Worlds End before the beautiful spell is broken. In hindsight, that was the perfect route, but be warned – it starts off smooth and then becomes incredibly rocky (and I’m talking those big boulder type rocks you have to dodge and walk round), very slippery and incredibly muddy…there is no clear path and you need a solid pair of shoes (thank you Bata for inventing Safari Boots), some level of fitness, a sense of adventure and a sense of humour to complete the trek. The mud is clay and is incredibly slippery and at some points, before Mini Worlds End you are clambering down rocks.

About 2.5 km of trekking over rocks, jumping over little pools of water and trudging along in the cool shade of the forest we come to Mini Worlds End. The view is spectacular….it is a cliff that literally just ends and you feel like if you take one more step you will fall off the edge of the world….and we are lucky, it is 8 am and no sign of mist yet. We take a 10 minute break, soaking in the view and then head onwards to Greater Worlds End, which is said to be 3 times higher than Mini Worlds End. Again, rocky terrain, slightly worse than before but we trudge on and 1.75 km later, mission accomplished! The tough terrain notwithstanding, this has been a case of mind over matter…and I am incredibly glad that M and I did this.

Mini World's End!

Mini World’s End!

The trek so far has been worth every step. The view at Greater Worlds End is beyond spectacular….you are definitely higher up than Mini Worlds End, and you can see the hills and lakes in what seems like beyond the end of the world….it is almost like being in some part of what I would imagine Switzerland to be, with mountains and lakes but without the snow…but we are in Sri Lanka! How amazing.

Thanks to Ravi we are going to have a tonne of pictures….click, click, click goes the camera, while I decide that I need to take a food break and chomp away on a banana.

Greater World's End....we made it!!!!

Greater World’s End….we made it!!!!

The crowds begin to gather at Greater World’s End, people trekking along our route as well as those coming in from the Bakers Falls route – it is time to start the trek to our final stop, Bakers Falls. The adrenaline has kicked in from getting to two of today’s goals, and the terrain to Bakers Falls from Greater Worlds End is a gentle path, no rocks, but incredibly muddy and very scenic…I almost feel like I have been transported back to the Naro Moru Route climbing Mt. Kenya. I can live with that and I am so glad to be feeling great…maybe all those months at the gym have paid off after all, and I am not as unfit as I seem to think I am?

But no. Sri Lanka and her Horton Plains have one more test of strength for me. The final ascent to Bakers Falls is, to put it mildly, a killer. Laced with ginormous slippery rocks, the route is a steep incline, and my euphoria from earlier has now worn off….thank goodness for Ravi, for lending a hand and helping me clamber over the rocks. I could see M skipping over the rocks up ahead, and I couldn’t help but feel envious but I was glad to find out later that he was in a tonne of pain too, but had he stopped we would have had trouble and so he kept on going! Mean wife, I know, I know. Anyway, 1.8 km of trudging over these rocks we hear the tell-tale sign of water but I hate being close to waterfalls (no desire on this bucket list to do that boat in the Niagara Falls malarkey) and so we see them from afar and continue the trek to the main gate.

Geez this is hard work. 3.5 km later, more rocks, more steps and more mud later we are at the fork whence we started…and boy am I glad we went the route we did. I don’t envy people starting this trek now…it is 10:30 am and all I can think of is getting to our van and tearing open the breakfast pack that is calling my name…really loud. Cake, chicken sandwiches and fruit have never tasted so good….champagne and caviar couldn’t come close at this moment in time. We have achieved a lot this morning. This trek is no easy feat, and I would recommend a couple of sessions on the stairmaster at the gym if you are planning on trying this….those boulders….enough said.

I am looking forward to spending the rest of the afternoon at the Heritance Tea Factory – for some lunch and a spot of tea picking after!

M, Ravi and I at Greater World's End, the trek up to Bakers Falls and....ending where we began! Phew!

M, Ravi and I at Greater World’s End, the trek up to Bakers Falls and….ending where we began! Phew!

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