A Case in Pink
A trek through
South Asia’s largest Ironwood Forest
This is definitely not your neighbourhood Sherlock Holmes sort of case, but is something you would find particularly interesting!
This time, we head over to the ‘Jathika Namal Uyana’, a 250-acre Ironwood forest turned reserve nestled in the meek little town of Dambulla. Yes, I think you’ve heard it before, Dambulla is also home to a very popular attraction, the legendary Sigiriya rock fortress. So, along the thick foliage somewhere a bit further from the town, about 15 kilometres to be precise, lies tucked away in an ironwood forest a pink-quartz mountain hardly explored, yet promising a pleasant experience. Although I must say, the whole hike takes you about a mere 40 minutes which includes plenty of rest time, loads of selfies and idling!
You could easily hope on a bus from Pettah bus station in Colombo. The forest is a few kilometres from the Madatugama junction along the A9 route from Dambulla to Jaffna. The journey would take you a good 4-5 hours, and some of the scenes you encounter on the journey are just too good to miss.
What’s so Special?
The reserve is special for two reasons; one being that it is the largest Ironwood Forest and Rose-quartz mountain in South Asia, and second being that it has an illustrious history dating back to the times of valiant kings. The Ironwood tree is an endemic species of flora an d is incidentally the national tree of the country too. Rose-quartz on the other hand as you would know is a pretty little mineral rosy in colour and is commonly used for jewellery. Right here at this nature reserve, you will see a whole mountain of it, and will surely be able to take back with you very many snaps!
Legend also has it that Indian Emperor, Shah Jahan sourced minerals from this mountain to build the Taj Mahal!
If that hasn’t got you gripped on, here’s something even more exciting; archaeologists have found that the pink quartz mountain has a history of more than 550 million years. And if you’d care to do your calculations, Sri Lanka has got a few thousands of recorded history, so that leaves us with, where were we and what was of the earth in the past 500-odd million years?!
History has it that Namal Uyana was used as a sanctuary for a number of monks during one of the country’s most celebrated rulers, King Devanampiyatissa. This is back in the 3rd century BC, making it quite an ancient spot! Years later, during kind Dappula IV time it is said that the reserve was used as a human sanctuary and or as a prison camp. While doing some research, I stumbled upon a small detail about the prison which caught my attention, it was the fact that as punishment, kings would have prisoners’ plant ironwood trees instead of the usual punishments. Quite creative and far-fetched, isn’t it? A thing or two that many political figures in today’s century may learn. The present generation can never be thankful enough for all that our ancestors have preserved for us, and it surely does pop-up some very hot topics.
Adding to the delights are the ruins of ancient dagobas or temple like structures which were believed to have been used by monks for meditation; quite the comfortable place! These can be seen close-upon the mountain, a few steps from the path on to your right. Remember, be cautious when you photograph the site and always remain respectful when you visit the monument.
Team Antiquity SL finally made a tour to the reserve. It was about 11ish when we got there, all fresh and pumped with a good breakfast digesting in our tummies. There was not a ray of sun in our way, thanks to the beautiful ironwood trees that shaded us right throughout. The weather is also quite humid in Dambulla, so you might want to pack-in some comfy and light clothing along with plenty sunscreen to ascend the mountain. Don’t forget those sneakers, they’ll come in handy when ascending the moutain.
Now, as you would know, where there is a forest, there is an abundance of flora and fauna. This place too has some exciting varieties of flora, 102 species of tropical plants to be specific. Fauna too abundant with a recorded 18 species of birds and other large mammals frequenting the areas. Now don’t worry, you aren’t going to be approached by grizzly bears. If you are lucky enough, you would spot a deer going about the woods.
The walk is pretty safe and is made easier thanks to a 4-6-foot concrete walking path. Although I must tell you, the walking path has been built right across the forest blending seamlessly into the woods.
Some jolly friends you’ll meet are monkeys looking down at you from the trees. We saw plenty of them jumping from tree to tree with their long tails hanging down. You can go on and click away your cameras, but just be careful so as to not agitate them. It’s advised to refrain from getting too close to avoid any attacks.
Something to sooth your eyes would be a lovely little stream that runs through the forest. It’s not always full, but when it’s the rainy season, you would witness the water gush through the woods in one of the most calming tones you would ever hear.
As the walkway ends, you are presented to the dusty foot of the rose-quartz mountain. At first glance, you might just think that it’s just another rocky mountain, but don’t forget, you are about to ascend the largest of its kind in South Asia, and one intertwined in many legends.
At the foot of the mountain lies a shabby little hut with cool mandarin and freshly fried Vadḕ(s) (pronounced Vah-dḕh), a vegetarian delight made out of gram flour that makes the perfect fix for a sunny day.
I must say that the pink quartz is not the colour of the tint you would get on your hair, but is somewhat mild in shade. Once you get to the mountain I suggest you take a closer look at the stone, examine it and discover the marvel with your very own hands.
Here comes the View
Once you summit the mountain, which comes with a bit of effort, something even more intriguing awaits at the top. A view absolutely beautiful! The mountain is between 180-300 metres high, so the scenes from up there are guaranteed to take your breath away. Far across the distance, you will find a number of other mountains and a rocky- structure that looks very similar to the Sigiriya Lion Rock.
The sanctity that the forest offers, treading through many hundreds of ironwood trees, thinking you are actually home, is quite something that adds to the whole tour, and is something that’s quite personal.
Dambulla is no doubt a haven for the traveller. What’s better, you can top off your hike with a refreshing swim at its many tanks like the famous Kandalama Reservoir. Not forgetting, many star class hotels like Sigiriya Jungles and Jetwing Vil Uyana dot the area, giving you plenty of options that will perhaps make you extend your stay.
ANQITUITY SL will sort out everything from transport, accommodation and great company. So, you are fully covered!
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