landscape with Knuckles range in the background

In which we are defeated by a numerically superior enemy

(Lire ce billet en français)

landscape with Knuckles range in the background
From the window of the car I watched for the mountains in the distance.

We had not planned to go to the Knuckles. It is a remote mountainous area, and the description in the guidebook suggested that the hikes were strenuous and a guide absolutely necessary. But several travellers we met in Kandy, including my aunt Mariannick who knows the country very well, praised the beautiful scenery and peaceful atmosphere. So off we went to the Knuckles! Fortunately, our driver understood that our kid has motion sickness and he drove much more smoothly and slowly than the other taxis and tuk tuks we had taken so far.

Once we left the main road, the twists and turns led us through tea plantations. Some fields looked empty but they were in fact young tea plants. This reminded me of the rubber plantations in Cambodia and their management over a period of several decades to ensure the renewal of the crops. As we climbed, the vegetation changed and coniferous forests appeared.

The view from the terrace of the hotel was amazing; I could have spent hours watching the endless variation as the clouds rolled over the valley from nearby Corbet’s Gap.

collage of mountain views with clouds
Ever-changing skies

In addition to the chalet with its beautiful bay windows, terrace and swing, we enjoyed the excellent cuisine, much better than at any of our previous hotels! And they prepared us dishes without any chili for Little Sabbatical, which we appreciated.

Best food so far aside from our cooking class

We tried to hike up the mountain behind the hotel but it had rained recently and after about 500m we were beset by land leeches trying to climb on our shoes. We were well prepared but there were just too many of them, appearing by the dozen every time we stopped walking for a few seconds. So we turned back and settled for a walk to Corbet’s Gap on the tarmac road. The next day, we rested in the hotel’s pleasant lounge, with a little trip to the waterfall and pool on the property to get some fresh air.

On the last day, we went on a day trip to Meemure, a village in the heart of the massif. It was almost cut off from the world until 2004 but with the road and the connection to the electricity grid it has developed, and the inhabitants seem to have similar living conditions as elsewhere in the country. It is a beautiful setting with terraced rice paddies at the foot of Lakegala mountain.

lakegala mountain
Beautiful Meemure

Our guide took us to two nearby bathing points where we admired waterfalls and rapids and took a dip with other tourists, some from Kandy or Colombo, some from Germany.

collage of photos of us near rivers
Splashing about in rivers

On the way we saw many beautiful cliffs ̶ there would be some spectacular climbing routes to do here, if only there weren’t so many leeches…

meemure shop
Snack time

We saw some eagles in the valley but the main wildlife spotting we did was of the invertebrate variety, from Barry the Beetle….

Observing a large beetle
Lots of interesting (and harmless) bugs to be seen, among them Barry the Beetle

… to a rather large spider on the way back from the river banks

Little Sabbatical looking up at a spider against the sky
I was glad this spiderweb was above head height!

I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t do as much hiking as planned, but I am still delighted to have made the detour to the Knuckles and to have been able to enjoy the majestic landscapes and the serenity of the place.

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