08-Apr-2012 -- This is the first out of two confluences that I visited during a 10-day trip to Sri Lanka.
Elionora and I flew to Colombo in order to travel through the island by public transportation. I had kept an eye on the confluence point 9N 80E, which is the last unvisited land-based confluence point on the island. Since freedom has been a reality since 2009, the northern part is now accessible. However, we first visited a friend on the southern coast and never made it so far north within our short time frame.
On confluence day, we took a long-distance bus from Matara (a city on the southern coast) to the village Ella (in the central highlands, 15 km south-east of the confluence point). At 2 p.m. I tried to find a bicycle for rental, but there was only a scooter available. I was already about to rent the scooter, when dark clouds appeared on the sky. So I spontaneously altered the means of transportation and hopped into the next public bus to the village Hali-ela (6 km beeline from CP). During that 20-minutes bus ride, the worst rain that I ever experienced myself came down the sky. When I reached Hali-ela, I had to walk 5 m distance in order to find a shelter – but these 5 seconds made me already quite wet. After waiting a while with other travelers, I decided to move on despite the heavy rain. I hired a tuk-tuk (three-wheel auto rickshaw) and set off for the tiny village Katawala (1.5 km from CP). After a 20-minute crazy ride through deep water puddles, we indeed reached this little outpost. From now on I guided my tuk-tuk chauffeur with a digital terrain map where the roads were visible. However, in the mountains it is not straight forward to find the right track, so I had to ask my driver to do some U-turns. Finally, we reached the nearest track and stopped at the minimal distance of 80 m.
Just in time, the rain had come to an end and I was determined to reach the exact zero coordinates. But in order to get there, we had to pass a house whose owners said that down there was nothing. My explanation of the trip’s purpose was obviously not giving any clue, but permission was granted (with some residual distrust) to move on. The slope was extremely steep and the friction coefficient between my shoes and the slippery soil near to zero. Nevertheless did my nice driver follow me – until we reached the water soaked terraced fields at the valley bottom. Wading knee-deep in the mud and losing my shoes once in the while, my driver was seriously anxious about my physical (and probably also about my mental) wellbeing. So in order to avoid stressing my driver’s and the property owner’s patience, I stopped at a distance of 30 m and documented the point right at the edge of the valley bottom.
After a short chat with the owner of the property, I returned the same way that I had come and reached our hotel in Ella at 6 p.m. Only after my arrival I noticed twelve seriously bleeding spots at my feet: leeches! Probably they had already gorged themselves and then left their victim. If I had only read the narrative of Ray (the previous visitor of this confluence) carefully, I should have been warned. Now I share two leech-confluences with him (the other being Hainan, China 19N 110E).
CP Visit Details:
- Distance to an asphalt road: 500 m
- Distance to a public road: 80 m
- Distance to a track: 80 m
- Distance of parking: 80 m
- Distance to houses: 70 m
- Time starting the hike: 4:25 p.m.
- Time at the CP: 4:35 p.m.
- Measured height: 784 m
- Minimal distance according to GPS: 31 m
- Position accuracy at the CP: 5 m
- Topography: at a steep slope
- Vegetation: agricultural fields, dense forest with a variety of species, bushes, shrubs
- Weather: overcast, 25° C (felt temperature)
- Description of the CP: In the highlands of central Sri Lanka. Area populated with scattered houses along a dense network of mountain roads. Exact location in a forest.
- Given Name: The Twelve Leeches Confluence
Story continues at 7N 89E.