13th February 2000

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Cool, green hideaway

By Udena R.Attygalle

Mahakande: serene comfort in the hillsIf it's a quiet holiday in the cool climes with access to many interesting views and places that you have in mind, Mahakande Bungalow is where you should be heading. 

Nestled just below the Mahakande mountain in the Poonagala valley, the bungalow is the ideal hideaway.

Step out into the garden and green hills and pine forests interspersed with huge boulders greet the eye. 

Twenty-five kilometres on the winding Poonagala road above the Bandarawela railway station, past the Craig, Leangawella, Ampitiakande, Mahakande and Poonagala estates, a right turn at the Poonagala nameboard leads you to the Mahakande circuit bungalow, some two kilometres along the by-road.

Fully furnished with three bedrooms and toilets, the bungalow is equipped with a refrigerator, linen, cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils. And you can treat yourself to the delicacies prepared by a typical planter's cook. 

Incredible as it may seem, elephants can be spotted on the sloping hills of the Mahakande, Macaldeniya range, 4000 feet above sea level! The best time to spot them is early in the morning or in the evenings when they come out to graze. The rest of the time they remain hidden under cover of the forests. 

The swimming pool at the Poonagala estate, the locals say is a good place to go elephant watching. Situated a few kilometres away from the bungalow, it is also an ideal place to picnic or if you are more adventurous, for camping. Running water is easily found and toilets provided. 

You can also take a dip in the natural pools at upper Diyaluma. And if you have children, there's a kids pool as well. 

Or you can visit Pilkinton Point of the Poonagala estate for a breathtaking view of the Hambantota, Wellawaya and Monaragala districts.

A few hours' drive will take you to more interesting places.

For instance, it's only an hour's journey to the Pelawatte sugar factory and the Handapangoda tank where wild elephants roam. In a few hours you can also visit the Yala and Udawalawe National Parks as well as the holy shrine at Kataragama. 

If you do plan to make these trips towards the south you may be surprised how quickly the weather changes. A few kilometres on the road is the difference between a cool, dry climate and a definitely warmer one. The rapidity with which the trees and the terrain change is also surprising.

Diyaluma, the awesome 628-foot waterfall is nearby. You can motor down to the bottom of the fall or even make your way to the top of the falls! But you have to be prepared to trek through around two kilometres of forest if you are to enjoy the awesome view from the top.

The Naketiya landslide, supposed to be the largest in South Asia is also nearby and if you are in the area you must make the short trip to see it. 

If it's local folklore that fascinates you, a small shrine to honour a king cobra along the way to the bungalow may be worth a visit. Flowers are faithfully laid by schoolchildren in honour of the dead serpent each morning. Local folklore has it that after killing many a villager, the snake was finally captured and killed. Yet a few days later the villager who killed the serpent too was found dead. Ever since the place has been sacred to the villagers. 

For those who don't enjoy travelling, you can always just laze around and enjoy the early morning sun in the bungalow garden! The slow sunrise from above the peak is beautiful. 

The "Mahakande Bungalow" is managed by Maskeliya Plantations Limited . Rates = Rs 2000/- a day. 

For reservations = contact Dushantha Delwita on 01- 305367 or Edward Williams on 339225, 304695 or 304696

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