Where to start? Living since a few weeks on the top of a mountain just east from Kandy, which was with a tuktuk a little over an hour drive. The reason I went to Sri Lanka at this time, was purely to find two locations where I could host a retreat and a yoga-training in the near future.
And life happens as it happens; arriving at Welikande Villas, a very warm welcome by the owners Michael and Tush, falling totally in love with the place. The house is perched high on a mountain overlooking the valley from Victoria Lake, and when the weather is clear you can even see the dam. In the morning the sun rises, little after you can hear the chanting from the temples in the valleys surrounding us. The sun set is just a magical, there is a little hike behind the house, where you have a 360° view.... Nature is very present the whole day, so many different bird species, the little chipmunks climbing trees and sometimes the chairs and tables on the terraces.
From Welikande they organise different treks, the local guides are wonderful. They all have done a special training, are so knowledgeable and very good company to be with. Together with some of the guests that were staying here for a yoga retreat/holiday, I tagged along, mainly to shoot some content photos for Welikande, which they can use on their website and social media.
The most popular hike is the Heeloya Trek, which is about 13 km (can be 16 km if the pickup point is later, and the few extra kilometres were very beautiful to walk). In the beginning you walk mostly in between rice fields and from there slowly you start to arrive in a more forest area until you get above the tree-line. Our guide for the day, Namal, was telling all about how the rice is grown and harvested, the different birds we could here and see, all the local spices that are growing all around. Pepper, cinnamon, the leaves from the tree where from which they make jaggery (can be used as a sugar substitute), nutmeg, cloves and much more. Luckily most of the trek was half shade/ half sun, because the temperature at this time of the year is 32°C and sometimes a little higher, with the occasional chance of some rain showers.
Before leaving the villa in the morning, we received a freshly prepared lunch pack, extra water and they make sure you have a hat, sunscreen, bathing suit (and leech socks if needed). For lunch there is a nice stop at a waterfall, where you meet a well other guides with their groups. What I liked mostly, is that there are no big groups, mostly two or three people. A refreshing dip in the river and under the waterfall was very well received, chatting to others, listening to their stories...After lunch again a change of scenery: a good climb uphill made us arriving in a very small village with a small tea plantation. Namal explained us a little bit on how these village are sustainable and how they survive. It is definitely a big difference in comparison with the southern region of the country, where more and more people are involved in tourism industry.
A couple of days after this trek, I was invited to come along to camp out at Sorabora Lake, an hour driving east from Welikande. Arriving there, don’t expect any luxury, back to basics, but how wonderful!! Being picked up by a simple boat, rowing to the other side of the lake. Bandara, our host and his family owns the property of the lake and the land from the campsite, took us out for a sunset swim and afterwards we had dinner with freshly grilled fish, rice and dahl. The tents are build on stilts, sleeping the night with the sounds of the jungle… Early rising in the morning to watch the sun rising over the horizon and hearing all the birds waking up and starting their day. Bandara’s knowledge and good eyes for the birds, left us in awe. Pygmy Goose, the beautiful bright coloured Kingfisher, Grey Heron, Eagles… A morning swim in the lake and then breakfast back at the campsite...time to drive back to Welikande Villas, with more memories to take with us.
In Sri Lanka you find many buddhist temples, some smaller, some larger. But all these temples have such a serene energy around them. The one in Mahiyangana, the little town next to the Sorabora lake, is situated on a very busy roundabout in the centre. If you turn to face the statue, you notice all of the buzzing of tuktuk’s and busses and at the same time the serenity of the temple. It is like being in between two worlds, without being able to define a distinctive line...