23-Feb-2007 -- 7N – 81E Badulla, Sri Lanka
Line Hunting Date: February 23, 2007
The Holiday Hunt at the Hill Country of Sri Lanka
Chinese Spring Festival offered the chance for Get-away
We all got a week off for the Chinese Spring festival. Escape from the windy Beijing to some place warm and sunny was the popular thing to do. The kicker was that, by the time we got around to look for air tickets, every place in Asia and Australia were fully booked up, except Sri Lanka. Best of all, the price was right, even at the last minute
Why Sri Lanka was the only place with air tickets?
After we arrived in Sri Lanka we found that most tourist spots and hotels were rather empty which made our holiday even more enjoyable. We did learn many tourists nowadays are staying away because of the increasing terrorist activities in the past year. In a way, we were glad that we were unaware of the escalating problems related to Tamil Tigers before we came. Overall, we had a wonderful visit, and we were not inconvenienced by the multiple military check points at every highway.
Ingredients of good holiday – Beach, Mountain, Gem and Line Hunting
After 3 days of sun and beach in the South near Galle, we started our 4 day journey into the hill country. We spend most of the first day visiting Ratnapura, the gem production center where Sierra and Florence were hunting for sapphires. Day 2 was also scheduled for hunting – the only confluence point in the central hill country.
The day started in Belihul Oja, about 35 km GPS distance away. The drive to Hali Ela (6 km away from CP) took almost two hours on winding mountain road plus a stop to visit a Buddhist temple with a large Buddha carved on a cliff. From Hali Ela we headed north and reached a village named Ketawela which put us only 1.4 km away from our objective.
At Ketawela, there was a road heading east – the direction of the confluence point. A brief inquiry with a Tuck-Tuck (a three wheel motorcycle taxi) driver told us that the road was good for at least 2 km. Shortly after we started on this road, it forked, and following the GPS we took the right fork passing an abandoned tea factory. Soon we found ourselves making a circle around the confluence point with an average distance about 350 meters. We stopped at the entrance of a large tea plantation and started our hike.
A pleasant walk through the tea plantation and a less-than-pleasant walk through the woods with flying leeches
The first part of the hike down a slope through the tea plantation was easy and pleasant. Half way down the slope, we entered a dense forest but there we managed to find a trail heading in the right direction. Shortly after we started on the trail, Sierra claimed that she saw a leech on the grass, but the rest of the party did not take it seriously and thought it was a dubious claim. A few meters later, the screaming started – a leech was discovered on Sierra’s ankle. A few steps later, a bigger scream and commotion, Florence became the second victim of two flying (heat-sensing) leeches on her right foot and left thigh. Fortunately, we soon reached the valley floor with rice paddies and left the leech territory.
Strangers meeting the owners of the Confluence Point
After crossing the valley floor we climbed up the opposite slope through rows of tea plants. With 50 meters left to the confluence point, we reached a little farm house on the slope . Initially, the family of 7 (Grandparents, parents, and 4 little kids) who live there had this puzzled and concerned look when we popped up into their yard and were busy pulling leeches off our legs. A few minutes and photos later the family became relaxed and we had a good visit even though nobody at this household spoke any English. Later, they were puzzled again when the visit completed, instead of heading toward the road further up the hill, we started toward the opposite direction going for the confluence point.
We found the all-zeros point located on the slope where this family already cleared the soil for planting. We returned to the house for another brief visit before heading toward the road they had suggested. Less than 100 meters from the house, we found a dirt road which we could have used to reach this point. As usual, the best route to approach a confluence point can be found after reaching the confluence point. The walk back to our parked car took 20 minutes by following a good part of the road we had already driven. It was exactly noon time when we reached the waiting car.
A fine day in the Hill Country
After the hunt we went to Bedulla, the regional capital about 30 minutes away, for lunch. In the afternoon, we visited the Dunhinda waterfall slightly north of the town for another nice little hike but free from leech attack. We finished the day in Ella’s Gap – a location with great view toward the coast.
In spite of the leech attack, this turned out to be a great hunt. It gave us a chance to visit a rural family who happens to be the owner of this confluence point. Moreover, we had a chance to appreciate the famous tea plantations by walking through one.
Final leech count
By the time we reached the confluence point, Sierra had been attached by 3 leeches and Florence 2. Even though Ray violated a major rule of line hunting – wearing shorts and sandals – he escaped the leech attack. Previously, in Hainan, China (19N 110E), both Sierra and Ray had been attacked by the same kind of heat sensing leeches. In fact, we name that confluence point – the Flying Leech Point!
Original Yip-Bannicq Group minus Oreo
This hunting party made up the original members of the Group since the start in October 2003. Sadly, one of the original member – Oreo – the Line-hunting dog, is no longer with us. Oreo passed away the week before the Spring festival. She has lived almost 14 years in three different countries – US, Indonesia, and China, and reached a total of 12 confluence points. Her last hunt was in July 2006 in Inner Mongolia - Photo 8
- 40N 109E
Rating of this hunt :
Degree of Challenge:
3 – A sweaty hike in the hills with flying leeches required (1= very easy - drive to the point; to 5= a death march – glad it is over)
3 – Pleasant hill tea growing area with good view (Scale: 1= not interesting at all; 5= take your breath away)
4– Rural hill country area of Sri Lanka (Scale: 1=dull; 5= most stimulating)