Lost In The Views of Bambaragala Pathana
Did you say camping with amazing views, without having to hike for too long or tire yourself? Bambaragala Pathana is the spot for you.
Bambaragala Pathana is just a few kilometers away from Namunukula Town in the Badulla district (almost 20km from Ella town). You could reach the campsite on motorbike or in the comfort of a 4x4 making it one of the easiest places to access, and there's no compromise on the beauty it has to offer.
We had a WhatsApp group called 'Whiskey Ritual', and without getting into details about what these rituals were, the purpose of this group was to communicate the specifics of whenever the members decided to hang out together. It was silent for a while, just the random sharing of memes, until a message read "hike ekak yamuda?" After much discussion, everyone decided on Bambaragala Pathana, and looking back, it was probably one of the most eventful hikes they've been on.
Less than a week later, the group got on a bus to Bandarawala from Colombo Fort at around 12am Saturday morning. They reached Bandarawala at around 5:45am while the entire town was still asleep. Jackets and jerseys were quickly pulled out of backpacks as it was cold as balls and they had to sit at the main bus terminal for about another 45 minutes since none of the food shops were open. A cigarette was passed around at regular intervals to keep everyone warm, until the owners of the shops at the terminal started showing up for their days work. Everyone quickly stocked up on snacks and other essentials for the night ahead.
By 6.30am everyone was hungry and eager to get moving. They walked down the main road looking for a decent place to have breakfast and found one just over a kilometer away. They had the best roast paan and chicken, dhal curry and pol sambol and started thinking "shit, did we eat too much?" But, as any of you know, you can never get enough of some good roast paan and gravy.
After letting the breakfast digest for a while, they moved on to buying a shopping list of items that they needed for the night such as noodles, eggs, tea leaves, nestomalt, sugar, butter, more snacks, more cigarettes, etc. They needed a bit of kerosene oil too, just enough to get the campfire started, but the timing of this hike was so perfect that it coincided with an island-wide kerosene shortage. They spent a good hour walking around the town looking for just 100ml of kerosene, but quickly got the hell out of their as soon as they found some.
They hopped on a bus that goes from Bandarawala to Namunukula, and it took them almost an hour to reach. Everyone used this bus ride to get some sleep, uncomfortable because of the winding roads, but valuable sleep nonetheless. At Namukula town, they used the 5 minute window they had to buy alcohol before having to get on the next bus (Namunukula - Passara) that goes past their last stop: Club Junction.
Bambaragala Pathana is only a 3km walk from Club junction, and most of it is along a cement road. Directions aren't hard to find either so you should find yourself at summit in about 30 minutes.
Since the top is really easy to access, you won't be alone up there, at least until night falls. People come, admire the view, and then buggar-off. We settled down, pitched our tents and had a good 4 to 5 hours to relax before it started getting dark. The view is so amazing that you could get lost in thought or conversation by just staring into the vast expanse before you. After some picture taking and chat, some of the group decided to get a power nap in while the others played cards, walked around etc.
By 5pm everyone was back together again and started collecting firewood for the campfire later. It gets quite windy towards night time, so take extra rope to secure your tents (something we weren't prepared for). Soon, it was dark, the campfire was prepped and booze was being shared. But before too long, the wind got so strong that we had to get inside the tents to prevent them from getting blown away. We used this time to make noodles for dinner and about an hour after, the wind had settled so we were able to get the campfire going, spend some time under the stars and have fun. That was relatively short-lived too though, the wind came back, this time with rain too, so heavy that the smaller tent couldn't take the beating it was getting. Everyone, all 7 of us plus our bags, huddled up into one 4-person tent, fun. We adjusted, and basically fell asleep on top of each other.
What felt like several hours later, everyone in sync, woke up. The reason? Parts of them were getting wet, and they soon realised that the tent was leaking water from all directions, and when they checked the time, it was still 2am, long night ahead. Three of them were lazy enough to stay inside that wet tent and fall back to sleep, while the others took that smaller tent that was rolled up and walked about 200m down from the summit. This area was surrounded by trees so the wind had less of an impact. But it was too cold for them to fall asleep, they were the most affected by the leaking of the other tent and their clothes were soaked too, so to keep warm they passed the occasional blunt around and made several cups of Maggi soup too.
Fast-forward to around 5am, they walked back up to the summit impatient for the sunrise so that they could get some warmth. The sun only broke through the clouds and mist at around 7am though, and by this time everyone was awake and getting breakfast ready. Noodles, eggs, sausages and tea, with an amazing view that was gradually appearing as the mist cleared... perfect!
They spent about another 2 hours at the top, letting their clothes dry under the sun, and to walk around taking more pictures, and then cleaned and packed up and made their way back to Club junction. From there they took a bus the same bus that goes towards Passara (Namunukula - Passara), but got off at the 10th mile post, and from there they got onto a bus that goes to Badulla.
At Badulla, they stopped for lunch, refreshed themselves and then hopped on a bus that brought them all the way back to Colombo.
Details to note if you ever decide to visit Bambaragala Pathana
Not much really, just the bus routes if that's how you're travelling. Take the Bandarawala - Namunukula bus, get off at the last stop and take the next bus (Namunukula - Passara) up to Club junction. From there it's about a 30 minute walk to the summit. When coming back, take the same bus towards Passara (Namunukula - Passara) and get off at the 10th mile post. From there take any bus that goes to Badulla, and you can find your way back from there.
If you ever decide to visit, do so only if you love nature, and consider it important to leave the place cleaner than you found it. Despite all the fun the group had, they made it a point to clean up after themselves, not a single cigarette bud was thrown into the forest, no traces of paper / plastic was left behind either.