Devil’s Staircase, Ohiya

The city can be pretty boring on the weekends, it seems that the millions of workers that usually roam the streets visit their hometowns. But luckily, weekends away are so accessible and pretty reasonably priced if you live in Colombo.

Sri Lanka has more than just beaches, the hiking trails are scenic and quite challenging. This weekend I caught the train to Ohiya so I could hike the Devil’s Staircase to Kalupahana. Ohiya itself seems to be sparsely populated and isn’t really a tourist destination, although that meant accommodation and food were much cheaper. The hike itself is marked as 15km through the, however, there is about a 2km walk from the town to the start of the trail, we decided to walk on to Bambarakanda Falls which took the total hike to 22km. It’s a moderately challenging climb so I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who considers themselves unfit. If you can’t speak Sinhala I would also arrange for pick-up transport prior to starting because there is limited (if any) phone reception. Download maps of the area to your local as no one on the estates speaks English!

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The hike covers a whole tea estate, so the scenery was breathtaking. The tea plants cover the sides of the mountains, with old, ramshackle workers huts dispersed along the way. There was ladies picking tea leaves and people carrying timber to repair their houses. The area is so high above sea level that at some times you’re level with the clouds which is just amazing. The tops of mountains disappear into the haze, and there are a number of waterfalls and streams to refresh you (all the water comes straight from the top and is perfectly drinkable).

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If you’re willing (and able) to make the extra few kilometres, ending your day at Bambarakanda Falls is perfect. We were almost at the point of giving up before we found it though, so definitely consider if you want to walk it or catch some method of transport instead.

There aren’t a lot of options for accommodation in Kalupahana so we took a terrifying bus ride to Haputale, just for a rest overnight before making the 9 hour train ride back. Our one night wandering the streets for food showed it’s a beautiful relaxed old town, with only a few eateries, a couple rest inns and very little in the way of entertainment. We stayed at Awinco Rest Inn which is adequate, within a backpacker’s budget, and has a helpful host. I recommend taking some warm clothes as there is no heating (never thought you’d need it in Sri Lanka)! Be sure to take advantage of the balcony during sunset because it is a view to behold.

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