One of the outdoor activities that can be done in Sri Lanka is white water rafting and the place for it will be Kitulgala. And so the plan was to go rafting in Kitulgala after Ella then spending the night in Dalhousie for the night climb to Adam’s Peak.
When Sara and I started planning the trip we considered the option of renting a car with a driver throughout the whole week to spare ourselves the hassle of public transport. And since doing so is a very common thing in Sri Lanka, we thought we might be able to get a good deal but unfortunately we didn’t! The guy I contacted based on a friend’s recommendation asked for an amount that summed up to the overall expenses of the trip! I tried to bargain with him but couldn’t reach a satisfactory deal so after a week or so of negotiations and changing itineraries, we didn’t use his services and decided to take the whole transportation segment day in day out.
Now, Kitulgala is an easy 4+ hours’ drive from Ella due to the nature of the winding roads in the Hill Country of central Sri Lanka. And unfortunately, that area is not easily connected via buses so it takes longer to go from one place to another using public transport. Hence, to save us the weariness of taking maybe 3 buses to go to Kitulagla from Ella, not mentioning the need to wake up like really early, we rented a taxi which, without a doubt, was 10 times what we would have paid for the bus.
We took off after having breakfast in town and our driver was silent, he didn’t say a word. We tried to open a conversation with him but he looked like he didn’t speak English or maybe he wasn’t interested! We asked if we can turn the radio on, to break the silence, but it was broken so more silence followed. He even made a big fuss when I asked him to turn around so we can stop at this waterfall that passed us by without him asking us if we wanted to stop. And this is how it went, a silent drive all the way to Kitulgala. No tips for you buddy!! And yeah, taxi drivers expect you to tip them after paying the fare! Tips and fares are not mutually exclusive to them 😀
When we reached Kitulgala, I tried to find a rafting place that Expat Panda recommended to me but couldn’t so we simply picked one randomly. The whole length of the street is full of rafting huts so if you are not booked in advance, no problem at all! Just pop up at one of the agencies and you will be going rafting on the spot.
That was my first time ever to go rafting; I was both excited and worried as I always felt every time I did something for the first time. We booked ourselves a 5 km rafting adventure with 3 fast rapids and it was super cool! Oh God it was so much fun, I LOVED it that I wished we had gone for the 8 km one but we didn’t have the time for it unfortunately. It was only Sara and I with the two instructors. They gave us all the needed instructions before we started, we even had room to practice 😀 and as we kicked it off, we got stuck between rocks due to the low flow of water in the river! Getting the raft to disengage was kind of amusing and bracing ourselves before a fast rapid catches us was even more entertaining. The views around the river as we went through were breathtaking, trees and hills surrounded us and it couldn’t have been any more beautiful. At the end of the rafting and just before we reached the river bank, we came to a flat part of the river where it was safe to swim and that quick swim was highly appreciated as I haven’t had a dip in months.
After rafting, we hit the road again to head to Dalhousie but this time we referred to public transport. The guy from the rafting hut was kind enough to offer us help and wait with us till the right bus came. Sri Lankans are usually curious about female travelers as I noticed specially those traveling solo. And though I wasn’t going solo on that one but nevertheless, the combination of Sara and I grabbed their attention. I’m veiled and she blonde so you can imagine the curiosity. We were always asked if we are married or not, a very popular question by the way, and they literally got shocked when they were told we are not! Traveling single females, hmm! They didn’t seem to digest that thought so well but that didn’t cause us any inconvenience though. On the contrary, everyone was always so kind and helpful.
TIP: if you are a solo female traveler who would worry about being asked whether you are married or not then you might consider wearing a fake wedding ring to save yourself some hassle.
The trip from Kitulgala to Dalhousie included connections. The first leg was from Kitulgala to Hatton, where we got off at the bus stand and were told to ask for the bus to Maskeliya. That part of the hill country was far from being touristy. The streets in Hatton were so chaotic, crowded, unclean, and one can sense the poor living standards in that area. It was part of the Sri Lanka you wouldn’t see in a travel brochure but you would only experience if you have the willingness to do so.
While on the bus, another man got curious about us and as usual that curiosity turned into a conversation, something that already appealed to me by the time. We told him we were off to Dalhousie for Adam’s Peak and that got him even more curious especially regarding me since I’m a Muslim. Adam’s Peak is very popular to Buddhists so he found it a little unusual that a Muslim would want to climb it.
He happened to be taking the bus to Maskeliya as well and that entitled him to feel responsible for us till he got off the bus. He even went through the trouble of calling the hotel to ask for directions so he could instruct the bus driver about where we should get off next. I didn’t manage to catch his name but I will never forget him, his determination to help us was so sincere that it left me feeling overwhelmed. Thank you for your kindness and the turned-out-to-be-very-useful advice about the climb.
One advantage of the bus trip to Maskeliya was driving by the Maussakelle Reservoir, it was scenic that I was mesmerized despite the tiredness that was piling up. We alighted in Maskeliya and had to rush to catch the bus to Dalhousie and that bus dropped us off in front of our accommodation. Just perfect!
Hiking Adam’s Peak was quite an experience, an experience I’m glad I was able to go through. It was tough but yet enjoyable so consequently, I would be delivering my thoughts about it in a separate post 🙂
Curious to know what came next after Adam’s Peak? Wait for it in my 5th and last part of my trip to Sri Lanka 🙂