Don’t Wear a Sweater to Bible Rock!
Preamble: I wrote this article in 2016 for a now defunct travel blog called isrilanka.lk. It had a lot of great pictures that my friends contributed but unfortunately I couldn\'t find them, so I dug up whatever I could from Facebook and an archived version of the website and popped them in here. Also, I\'d like to apologize in advance for my overly-sarcastic tone of voice at the time.
Seriously it's only like 800 meters above sea level. A sweater is the last thing you need.
On the 16th of January 2016 a couple of friends and I who were on holiday in Kandy began our journey to the summit of Bible Rock or 'Bathelagala' as it's known locally. Eh, 'summit' may be overdramatizing it a bit since it isn't a difficult climb. On a scale of Kirigalpoththa to Alagalla, I'd rank it's difficulty a little below Sigiriya (please don't take my rankings seriously, I haven't climbed Kirigalpoththa nor Alagalla, but I promise to revise this once I do).
If you've ever been unlucky enough to have your phone battery die on any journey from Colombo to Kandy (or vice versa), and had to sadly resort to staring out the window to admire the scenery (something absolutely alien to you goldfish-minded people), you'd have probably seen Bible Rock. It's impossible to miss. It's a completely flat rock quite similar to, and often mistaken for Sigiriya. Well maybe 'completely-flat' is pushing it a little. Think of it as an opposite-Kim-Kardashian - almost flat with a few bumps here and there (this is a very complex joke; I don't expect you to get it).
Anyway, we stocked up on plenty of water, snacks, first aid, a change of clothes, and desperate pleas (to our respective supreme beings) for greater endurance, before heading out to the Kandy public bus depot. We took a bus heading to Mawanella and from the Mawanella bus depot another bus heading to Aranayake before getting off at the main junction in Gewilipitiya (which is somewhat at the halfway point between Mawanella and Aranayake).
We quickly gobbled down some hot breakfast (mmm...Gewilipitiya parata), emptied our bladders in the bathrooms of some kind Mudalali's reception hall, and then grabbed a tuk to the starting point of the climb.
Now here's the thing - there are two starting points for the climb. One is where the road to the beginning of the trail begins (which should cost you about 100 rupees to get there from the Gewilipitiya junction), and the other is 1.5 to 2 kilometers up this road to the start of the natural trail (which would cost you about 400 to 600 rupees from the junction since the tuk drivers will argue that they have to climb a steep hill to get there).
Of course where you decide to start depends on how much time you have (as 2 kilometers up a hill on a road with many bends will take some time) and on whether you'd like to proudly proclaim that you began from the 'true starting point' and not the starting point of the weak and feeble. Also please note that since the tuks aren't metered, how much you end up paying them is entirely dependent on your negotiation skills, the colour of your skin, and the clothes you're wearing (seriously dude, it's a hike, not a mountain catwalk. Lay off the fancy stuff!).
Steps, Steps, Stone Steps
The trail up the mountain is an ascent from the very beginning and gets steeper and steeper as you continue onward. It's very shrub-y at first, then becomes jungle-y and then becomes extremely rocky. The shrub-y and jungle-y parts are a bit of a breeze especially if you're lucky enough to climb on a fairly hot day and not have to endure your friends screaming every five minutes at leeches so tiny you'd mistake them for Donald Trump's junk (but seriously those bastards are like slack-jawed desperados at Hikka beach parties impatiently waiting to pounce on the first unescorted girl they see).
Anyway, the jungle-y bit does have stone steps but you've always got to watch your step cause some of those steps can be pretty darn steep steps (this is rhyming on a Pitbull level). The initial steep bits do have a metal, thick, wire-like railing to cling on to but we discovered that in the most steepest of areas - where there's more rock than step - the damn railing had loosened or was just broken and unhelpful.
Regardless the inconvenience was thrilling because a slight form of danger is always going to make up the best types of adventures (and honestly if you're looking for convenience on your adventures just stick to the damn escalator at Majestic City). Even if you do fall, you won't tumble to your death, you'd more likely just violently crash and stop against a tree, and we all know trees are soft and welcome things (I'm just joking, it's not that dangerous...or am I? I guess you'll have to see for yourself).
Once we reached the rocky bit of the ascent we had to slow down and be a lot more careful. There were waist-high rocks we had to climb up, loose stones that were clearly naturally placed there for a big fat laugh, and at one point a very narrow rock edge that had to be crossed like you're walking on training-tightrope (it's a not-so-steep drop on one side but it's definitely an 'ouchie' drop). Once you've gotten past that there's another bit of shrub-iness and you can pat yourself on the back, raise your arms high, and pretend you\'re Rocky in that scene he celebrates after running up the stairs (don't forget the music!).
We did, however, discover another way of getting to the top after the jungle-y bit. If you're feeling adventurous enough (and if you've got great medical coverage), you can use the thick metal wire hanging off a relatively steep slope to pull yourself up to the top of the mountain (my my check out the upper body strength on you, you cheeky gym rat). Do beware though that while literally anyone can come up the way we did, the tug-of-war-with-a-mountain method is best reserved for those brimming with fitness, confidence and as usual, a slight amount of 'nothing is going to go wrong machang!'
A Suicidal View
When do you get to the top you'll see a little clearing (where someone had clearly camped the previous night) and two paths on either side leading through very tall grass. We took the first path leading to the right and came to a stop at a very old and thoroughly scribbled on (V loves D amiright?) shelter. I looked down the side of a small cliff nearby and I saw...well...I'll be honest with you, I saw a pair of whitey-tighties and a pink pair of panties that had clearly been hurriedly tossed aside in the deranged fury of love-making. Not wanting to disturb anyone (who knows? Maybe it was a budget honeymoon or a married couple desperately trying to rekindle the romantic flame) we quickly gobbled down a few biscuits and headed back to the clearing and through the other path (to get to the other side of the mountain make sure to continue beyond the end of the path by climbing over the rocks).
With the skies only slightly cloudy and the warm sun lighting up the land, the view from the edge of the mountain was absolutely heavenly. We were on the side overlooking dense forests spread over mountain ranges and large clumps of trees that extended endlessly towards the horizon. With only a few tiny towns scattered through the landscape, and the clouds leaving large shadows on the land, the view nothing but natural magnificence. It was downright every bit worth the enduring 45-minute climb.
In fact all I wanted to do was drop everything in my life, build with my bare hands a house on one of the mountain tops (if Ryan Gosling can do it in The Notebook so can I), and live the rest of my days as a starved scavenger eating up the view around him as daily nutrition. I stood by the edge and for a brief moment I considered jumping off because who the hell wants to die with a concrete jungle or a hospital room being the last scene they ever see (this is a dark joke, if you know me don't worry about me, I'm not suicidal).
My serene thoughts were then rudely disturbed by how absolutely hot it was getting! Why the hell did I keep wearing my sweater!? Curse the friend who told me it would be slightly cold up there!
A Descending Tea Party
After a few photoshoots we began our sad descent down. We decided to walk down the road we previously tuk-ed, back to the main road (despite how tired some of us were because all of us actively live the thug life). We stopped for a short break by a little wooden shop whose old shopkeeper sold us tasty plain tea and tiny bananas (the shopkeeper's friend who was equally old was totally smoking some dank ganja by the way).
Acting upon the old man's advice we took a detour down a more natural path (which was 'supposedly' a shortcut) and ended up right as the bus stand near the Hathgampala Maha Vidyalaya. We then collectively chugged down tons of water and ignored the many quizzical stares at our sweaters (seriously why the hell were we still wearing them!?) on our bus ride back to the Kandy.
What an adventure!
You can stop reading now and get back to your miserable life behind your desk.
PS: If you're going to climb Bible Rock, don't be an asshole and pollute the environment like the assholes that climbed before us. If you bring the trash up the mountain, please be kind enough to take the trash down the mountain. No one's going to do it for you (if you think the municipal council is going to clean this, you must be off your damn mind, it sometimes takes weeks for my garbage to be collected and I don't live on a remote rock).