Hiking on the Horton Plains

(Lire ce billet en français)

When I was woken up at 3:28am by Little Sabbatical talking in her sleep, I thought about my alarm clock set for 4:30am and had serious doubts about our plans for the day. Once in the car, with the little one curled up against me, I settled into a meditative torpor, watching the twists and turns of the road; the temples and shrines; the passers-by, still few and far between at that hour; the lights of the towns passed through; and the other vehicles. Our companions for the day, a young Swiss couple, slept the whole way on the back seat. Gradually the sky brightened up and we started driving on forest roads – lots of eucalyptus trees, which surprised me (we would find out later that it was for the timber industry). At 6.30am, we arrived at the car park – already occupied by several vehicles, we were not the first to arrive- at the Farr Inn, a former hunting post set up by the British.

After enjoying the nice coconut pancakes our hotel gave us for breakfast, and leaving behind our plastic bags and Little Sabbatical’s chocolate milk straw (not without a lot of negotiation with her, which made the guards laugh), we were ready for the hike to World’s End.

horton plains landscape
All grasslands and montane forest

Gloomy skies, drizzle and a temperature below 20 degrees: you could think you were in Yorkshire or Wales. There was even bracken and gorse: an information panel soon confirmed that these are invasive species. The dominant species on the grassy areas are tall grasses, rhododendrons and, to my delight after seeing giant bamboo in Peradinyia, dwarf bamboo. The trees in the park’s montane forests are adorned with many epiphytes.

dwarf bamboo
The very fluffy-looking dwarf bamboo

The paths are well-maintained and mostly easy to walk on, except for a section on the approach to Little World’s End which is marked as very difficult, and is made up of beautiful red rocks.

rocky path
Just a little bit rocky!

The views from World’s End and Little World’s End are very impressive. Steep slopes form the southern edge of the plateau and look out over the foothills and misty plains.

World's end marker
We made it!

We continued on our way to Baker’s Falls. Following some negotiation, the details of which escape me, John agreed to let Little Sabbatical watch a cartoon, which he had to install on the back of his head so she could watch it from the backpack carrier.

watching tv while hiking
Onboard entertainment!

We heard a lot of monkeys and frogs on the walk, but didn’t see them well enough to take pictures. However, another visitor pointed out a rhino-horned lizard which we admired for a while.

rhino-horned lizard
Rhino-horned lizard

Towards the end of the walk in the late morning, the weather had warmed up—we are indeed in Sri Lanka! We visited the Farr’s Inn lodge, where we were impressed by a stuffed leopard and elephant leg bones that were taller than Little Sabbatical! She enjoyed frolicking on the lawn near the lodge while we had a snack. It’s true she had just spent three and a half hours in the baby carrier because I forgot to pack her shoes! Then, one last wildlife sighting: a sambar deer was hanging out by the parking lot.

selfie with sambar deer
This deer was popular

Two hours of driving later, we were back in Ella where we enjoyed a well deserved rest admiring the view of Ella’s Gap from the balcony of our guest-house. Surrounded by swallows by day and bats by night, it’s a very pleasant setting.

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