With the experience gained from our disastrous horse-track expedition, we planned our next hike from Maliboda in Deraniyagala cross country to Hangarapitiya in Laxapana through an established footpath, shown on the one inch map. We arranged for all the paraphernalia needed for camping out, medical kit in case of injury and mapped the route with care.
After reaching the last motorable point in Maliboda by vehicle, we proceeded on foot along a gravel road running along a stream, identified as Madagal Oya on the map. Above us was a high tension line, presumably coming from Laxapana. We continued according to the map and crossed the river via a suspension bridge.
Some workers in the area told us the footpath we were looking for though marked on the map as on the right bank had long since been taken to the left bank as illicit brewers had taken over the other. We crossed back and set off, losing our bearings in relation to the map.
We climbed steadily till we reached a rock cave where we were greeted by a multitude of starving leeches. Still we decided to stop at the cave and cook a frozen chicken, (a time consuming exercise) for lunch. It was well past three o’clock when we resumed our hike. We continued to climb and reached the summit of the hill and then descended to reach the same river we had crossed earlier. We set up camp for the night by the light of the Vesak moon and even put up Vesak lanterns on the trees.
After a river bath and a breakfast of boiled noodles, we set off the next morning. We crossed the river and found the footpath. Following it through the jungle though was tough and we were scratched by thorny bushes and tentacles of cane. Meanwhile the footpath was not visible and we had lost track of the number of tributaries of the river we had crossed in relation to the map.
Just then two ghostly figures emerged in the distance and as they came closer we were reassured – we were able to ask them for directions to Hangarapitiya,. They said they had just come from there and asked us to proceed straight and not turn right as that would lead us to Maha kelle. Follwing their advice we went on and came to a flat area where the river meets another tributary. The sight of shallow streams meeting and flowing across the roots of tall trees was mesmerizing.
We took a break and studied the map which showed the footpath after crossing the river heading in a northeasterly direction. Our problem was identifying which was the tributary and which was the main river as both looked the same. We crossed one and proceeded in between hoping we would come to the summit of the rock but only went up and down rocky terrain. Finally we realised we were going up and up and in just the same direction the people we had met earlier had warned us against taking.
The map showed we were headed for a cliff.
Panic now set in as we realized we didn’t know how long it would take to get to the end of the cliff. Since we did not have provisions to last another day we decided to call off the hike and head back. On the way back it rained, causing further panic as the rain was likely to swell the river making the crossing difficult.
As anticipated crossing the river was tough with slippery rocks underfoot. So our third hike ended on an unsuccessful note despite all our careful planning.