9th Apr, 2010

Ala Galla

A week or two ago, we decided we’d sat on our haunches being productive members of society long enough, and asked hiker-extraordinaire Kirigalpoththa if he knew any mountains we could scale.

After deciding on Allagalla, a classical mountain-shaped mound of earth topped by a large pile of rocks, we set off. Alla Galla, literally translates from Sinhalese to “Potato Rock”. On this hike, we discovered many things. Foremost among them that Sri Lanka is truly beautiful, and that Sri Lankans shouldn’t be allowed to name things.

Being Prepared

This particular hike is not too long, and can be easily completed in a day. As such, you’ll only require a bare minimum of supplies. It is always a good idea to carry food for lunch, and always required that each person carries their own bottle of water. Or else you’ll be stuck at the top of the mountain being pelted by rays of sunshine thick enough to walk on. Yes, like the song; except you’ll be deliriously dehydrated, not happy. Other than that, footwear with a good grip, raincoat, light change of clothes, snacks and good cargo pants is more or less all you need.

Getting There

The trail is fairly easy to get to. Your first waypoint is the Ihala Kotte railway station, which is about three stations after the Rambukkana station. It is not a major stop, so make sure you don’t get on an express train. Any slow train that plies the track heading uphill towards Kandy/Badulla will go past this area.

We decided to take the last train out on a Sunday, which was at 11pm from Fort. Its last stop is Rambukkana, so we got off at there at about 1am and decided to spend the night there. After going through the usual ritual of deciding on a place to sleep, then walking all over the place for an hour looking for other places to sleep, we went back to the original place. To sleep.

The original place, in this case, was the train we arrived on, which was stopped overnight in Rambukkana. The doors were open and the lights were on. Thanking the gods of wasted energy we settled in to try and get some sleep on the commuter-train type seats.

There was a train that left Rambukkana at 5am which would take us to Ihala Kotte. We took it.

When you get to Ihala Kotte, look to the left of the railway tracks. Then move your gaze upwards. That is what you are going to climb. It might look terribly daunting because it is a steep face of rock, nothing less, nothing more. Thats why you have to go around it.

Get off the train and head toward Kandy along the tracks for a few meters and you should come across a path heading upwards through the trees to your left (waypoint 2). Head into it.

The Trail

This is the start of the walk to the top. This footpath will lead to Poththepitiya (waypoint 3), a small town on the other side of the mountain. Once you reach it, ask around on how to reach the top. There are a few paths that branch off, and you sometimes have to head down less obvious paths. But you can be assured of there being people in this area, who will usually be plenty helpful with directions.

After getting past the village, you will find yourself heading through some tea plantations (waypoint 4). The road will soon be winding around the mountain. There will be many great views.

Once you get past the tea plantation, you’ll head into thick jungle (waypoint 5). This is the last place you’ll see signs of human residence. Note that this is also the last place you’re likely to find water, so fill up. If you have the luxury of purification tablets, use them. But the water from many springs at this point is drinkable.

Head up the trail and depending on the weather, you might go through a stretch full of leeches. Whether or not these leeches will get to you is directly tied to your hardcoreness-quotient, we’ve found.

As you head higher, the trail will become steeper. And also harder to get through, thanks to it being slowly taken over by thorny bushes on both sides. After about an hour of pushing through all this, you end up near the top. You can see the top, and all that surrounds you is savannah-like grass. Except of course, that is not really the top.

The Top

Allagalla is a peculiar thing. Once you get to the “top” of the hill, there is yet another rock to climb. There is a massive pile of boulders that just sits there and mocks you till you claw your way up the thing.

Thankfully the rock was nice, dry, and conducive to a good grip, and didn’t give us too much trouble climbing. The view from the top is, in one word: spectacularly amazingly awesomeness condensed into a single view from the top of a big rock.

It was that good.

Getting Back

Getting back down should take significantly less time than the climb up. A storm was beginning to brew while we were on the rock and we decided to hightail it down before we were forced to take a ride down the big mudslide the trail was likely to become if it rained. We did get a nice bath on the way down through the tea plantation though.

In total, it took us about five hours to climb, and around three to get all the way down. The elevation at the base is about 380m, and the mountaintop is a good 700-800m up from there. After a quick change of clothes we caught the 4:45 train passing through Ihala Kotte back to Colombo. The train, unfortunately, was packed and we had to stand through most of it.

Note: The last train from Ihala Kotte leaves the station at around 6.30.

This is possibly the best experience we’ve managed to have in a one day trip, and is highly recommended. It’s mad fun.

Responses

wowowowowowowowowowoowowowowowwowowowowosighsighsighsighsighsighsighsighwhinewhinewoowowowow.

Hey Dee’s breaking your site! lol :D

Awesome write up and awesome pictures mate! My father loves to talks about his epic trek up there with a bunch of cousins and make us all feel jealous! :D This sounds like _the_ daytrip! ;)

Also, did you have to put up that picture of a beggar at the train station? :P ;)

Chavie- Are the pictures of that up no flickr by any chance? We saw an album of old pictures of a bunch of people dressed like it was the 70′s…

As for the beggar, we didn’t have a choice. He was the only thing ruining a perfectly good shot :P

Super writeup! I think the top photo itself speaks about the awesomeness up there.
Yes, ’twas mad fun..
Let’s start a little bottled water kade up at Alagalla!! should be very profitable.. specially after this post, we may see quite a few ppl going up that way..;)

Jerry – Yeah I saw that album, but I don’t think that was them. Awesome album though, funny 80s fashion and all! lol :D

Wow, I love the picture of the train! It’s such a cool picture! The view is divine indeed! Amazing stuff. I wish I was there too! Great stuff! Looking forward for more :D
Cheers!

Nice report…Like to climb this mountain..Thanks…for writing it…

Best account of the trip! Glad you decided to write it up for us!
“Sri Lankans shouldn’t be allowed to name things” Ha Ha Yes I tried to read some of the names while riding a fast train and my tongue almost got twisted!

WOW, you guys had an amazing trip up there. Thanks also to you for the gorgeous photos and taking me to your lush and green nature!

Awesome trip report.
Truly appreciate your concept of “~…have decided to venture into providing useful information for budget travelers (both foreign and local) on where to find the cheapest ghetto to survive the night and the greatest places to visit for some exploration and discovery.”

Looking forward to more cool action !!

Test comment

This is cool web design? When are you going to launch this beta version?

maxa…..

looks like a great adventure! can you help me identify if it’s the same peak that can be seen here:

The boulder on top looks similar!
(I couldn’t find the waypoints you mention to compare with my own GPS track.)

Hi Felix,
There seems to be something missing in your comment…

Indeed, the link got censored :)
Hmm, since links don’t seem to be permitted, only way is to search for “flickr 4498486478″ on google.

It could be. It definitely looks like the side visible from the station

Felix,
It is Alagalla!

lovely please put this in u tube
thanks
Sumedha

we climbed this rock last month :)

Mh……………This is my village….Welcome back to Alagalla ,Friends…!

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