Bomburu Ella Camping – Right out of a fairytale

Part 1

Photo credits to Nisal Lakmal, Asher de Silva and Mohamed Nazeer Saleem

There are a few instances in life where having good, solid friends is a must. When sick, when met with an accident, when heartbroken. Not in a million years would I have thought that “camping” should be added to this last, until last weekend.

We set off – around 18 people – to have an adventure over the long weekend. Our plan was to camp at the beautiful Bomburu Falls on the first night, proceed to climb Thotupola, the third highest peak in Sri Lanka on day 2, and finish off the weekend by summiting the second highest peak of Kirigalpoththa. Day 01 began, and for once we were at the foot of the trail to Bomburu Falls quite early.

 

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A bit of the trail to the waterfall. The little stream is man-made. It supplies water to the Chena cultivations of the village below.

 

There are two paths you can take to the waterfall. Path A is shorter but has a very steep climb at the very beginning where you have to walk on all fours – almost. This, of course, is the route we took. Path B is longer but is a simple walk along a relatively flat land. To get to path B, though, you have to walk up the road from the car park. We walked, we climbed, we walked some more. Although there are steps randomly scattered through certain sections of the trail, mostly it is natural. The shade of trees and the glimpses of the river flowing by peacefully all add a sense of tranquillity to the trail. The entire walk (path A) is 2300m – yeah, we measured – and can be done in half an hour. So after a simple walk, we arrive here:

 

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Setting up camp by the waterfall. There is space here for over ten tents.

 

 

Bomburu Falls is considered the widest waterfall in Sri Lanka. Fed by a lake located in the central parts of the island, the water flows through a power plant before cascading down a massive rock face, breaking into several waterfalls that collectively becomes Bomburu Falls or Perawella Falls. The green green grass of the camping site appeared as if trimmed to perfection. Soft, and warmed by the morning Sun, the weather was far from chilly, and we were anticipating massive sunburn. There are no trees – obviously – in the camping grounds so you are open to elements. The scattered boulders that can easily hide 4 to 5 people provide some shade but are no match for the afternoon sun.

The waterfall itself was beautiful, but we felt should have been more robust. The water trickled down the rock face in an attempt to enchant the onlooker, but it invoked a feeling of sympathy as opposed to awe in us. We were fools to think so.

 

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It is gigantic. Check the figure at the bottom right of the photograph for scale.

 

As there were around 20 of us, we set up six tents. After much fighting over who gets the tent with the best view, we set out to bathe. There are several bathing places at the waterfall. A favourite appeared to be just below our camping site, where a pool had formed from a second tier of the waterfall. We saw (idiotic) men cliff diving into water, and doing somersaults while doing so.

 

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Second tier of the waterfall, which seemed a favourite among day trippers for a dip

 

However, bathing there is not the best thing to do, for that pool is infamous for quite a number of deaths. The rocks are slippery and we heard stories of strong undercurrent that could simply smash you against the rocks. Where we bathed was at the literal base of the waterfall. The water was cold enough to send shooting pains up our calves, and my feet were actually hurting from the cold. The brave – or those with layers of fat for insulation – can stand under the falling stream of water and have a shower. Be warned, though – the speed of the water is extremely high, and I was told it feels like being whipped.

 

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The base of the waterfall. The most painful showers EVER, I hear

 

So we have a shower, a bath and we get the message that the power plant is about to open their sluice gates. Once this is done, the size of the waterfall is to increase, and we were told to get out of the water. Being people with common sense, we got out immediately – the first rule in adventuring is not to take needless risks. Settling down refreshed and excited for a night of fun under the glowing Moon, we watched as the Bomburu Falls initiated its transformation.

 

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If only we knew that all hell would break lose in a matter of hours, we would not be this content

 

As we were to soon find out, calamity seeks you out even when you heed warnings.

Await Part 2; the longest night of our lives.

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