ARRIVAL AT UDAWALAWE NATIONAL PARK, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.13
Day 9 (3 of 4).
After the morning walk to the Little Adam’s Peak and Nine Arches Bridge, we returned to Zion View Ella Green Retreat for a quick breakfast. The car came to Zion View Ella Green Retreat to pick us up right at 10:30. We bid farewell to the two German shepherds and hopped on the car. We left Ella behind and slowly descended from the hills. Our next destination was Udawalawe, a small town between the hill country and the southern beaches. The two hour drive from Ella to Udawalawe brought us from tea plantations and green hills to grasslands, marshes and forests, the home of diverse wildlife. After world heritage historical sites and hills of tea plantations, our focus shifted once again to the natural treasure of Udawalawe National Park.
Established in 1972 as a sanctuary for wildlife displaced by the construction of Udawalawe Reservoir, the 30,821 hectares national park has become the third most visited park in the nation. With an annual rainfall of 1,500mm, the park lies at the boundary between Sri Lanka’s wet and dry zones. Within the park, there are marshes, grasslands and forests. Udawalawe is famous for its 250 or so Sri Lanka elephants. Other mammal species found in the park include Sri Lankan leopard, rusty-spotted cat, sloth bear, Sri Lanka sambar deer, Sri Lankan axis deer, wild boar, water buffalo, jackal, civet, monkey, mongoose, etc. The park is also a good venue for bird watching, and so as reptiles including lizards, crocodiles, and snakes.
Passing the Rawana Ella Falls on the Wellawaya Ella Kumbalwela Highway signified our departure from Ella.
The more we get closer to Udawalawe, the higher the chance we might see wildlife along the highway.
Domestic water buffalo are kept for their milk (curd and ghee) and rice cultivation.
Sri Lankan elephant is undoubtedly the superstar in Udawalawe, and can often be seen along the road.
Elephants are highly intelligent animals. According to our driver, some of the curious males have learnt to approach the highway fence regularly to greet tourists in exchange for easy treats like bananas.
Roadside stores near Udawalawe offer visitors a convenient stop for fruits, and perhaps have indirectly encouraged the unnatural habit of the highway approaching elephants.
Despite the popularity of the national park, the town of Udawalawe is relatively tourist-free. There is hardly any tourist souvenir shops along the main road.
Bakery tuk tuk is quite common across the country. As soon as we heard the music of Beethoven’s Fur Elise, we knew one of these mobile bread vendors must be nearby.
Our guesthouse Green View Safari Resort was at a side street across the road from R/Emb/Udawalawa Primary School.
Hidden from the dusty main road, our guesthouse for the night Green View Safari Resort was a simple little retreat.
Facility was clean and simple. The guesthouse owners arranged both the afternoon and morning safari for us.
Dinner and breakfast were included in our one-night stay at Green View Safari Resort.
To reach the national park from Udawalawe, our jeep would pass by Udawalawe Reservoir, a place of potential wildlife sighting before reaching the park entrance.
Locals came to the dam to catch the sunset.
The Udawalawe Dam separates the lush green forest on one side and the peaceful reservoir on the other.
The Udawalawe Dam provides a high ground to watch the distant scenery.
The lush green forest revealed what the area might have look like before the construction of the reservoir.
Local wildlife has adapted to the man-made environment of Udawalawe Reservoir. The water has even attracted wildlife including birds and elephants.
Beyond the reservoir, we finally arrived at the ticket office of Udawalawe National Park.
We chose Udawalawe National Park over Yala National Park was an attempt to avoid overcrowding. During our first safari visit, the entry route into the park was loaded with tourist 4×4 vehicles. Luckily, as we ventured deeper into the park, we would have the park pretty much by ourselves.
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
Just a short walk from the incredible Five Flower Lake came the next highlight of Jiuzhaigou, the Pearl Shoals Waterfall (珍珠灘瀑布). We approached the falls from its upper level, where shallow water flowed on a vast area of rocky shoals. We followed the path to a 40m cliff where the Pearl Shoals Waterfall finally revealed its side to us. A large group of spectators concentrated on the stair adjacent to the fall. We slowly walked down to the bottom of the fall to admire its 160m length. The water flow wasn’t thundering, but the sheer scale of the waterfall was impressive and could be enjoy from a number of viewpoints. Matched perfectly with the surrounding landscape, Pearl Shoals Waterfall looked surprisingly peaceful despite its scale.
We followed the stream water of Pearl Shoals Waterfall eastwards to another tranquil water body, Mirror Lake (鏡海). The turquoise water and autumn foliage at Mirror Lake provided a peaceful break from the excitement of Pearl Shoals Waterfall. A brief sun break gave us a moment of warmth as we leisurely stroll along the lake. The distant snow-capped mountain finally revealed itself behind the clouds. Under the sun, the colours of the autumn foliage appeared more vividly, casting colourful reflections on the lake surface. We walked the full length of Mirror Lake from west to east, crossed the road where shuttle buses ran, and walked down a stair to another prominent waterfall, the Nuorilang Waterfall (諾日朗瀑布). Roughly 32m in length, “Nuorilang” in Tibetan means “grand and magnificent”. It was already 1:30pm when we reached Nuorilanf Waterfall. We didn’t stay for long at Nuorilang and decided to embark on the journey up the other section of the Park, Zechawa Valley at the left branch of the “Y”.
Shallow water ran over the rocky shoals, like a plain of flowing water.
Shrubs and rocks dotted over Pearl Shoals.
The water gradually ran down the shoal to the cliff edge and eventually became the Pearl Shoals Waterfall.
Pearl Shoals Waterfall as seen from the stair adjacent to the falls.
The sky was clearing up and we could see the snow mountains beyond the waterfall.
At the base of Pearl Shoal Waterfall, water streamed down the rocky landscape into a series of small waterfalls.
Watching hundreds of small streams running down the cliff of Pearl Shoals was a pleasant experience despite the crowds around us.
Looking back to the Pearl Shoals Waterfall as we slowly walked across the shore.
All streams of the waterfall running down the cliff converged into a small river flowing away.
As we walked away from the main Pearl Shoals Waterfall, series of small waterfalls continued to run down the cliff.
Silence returned as we left Pearl Shoals Waterfall behind and reached the Mirror Lake.
The sun finally came out and we could enjoy some moments of warmth.
Despite the autumn foliage hadn’t reach its peak, we still enjoyed taking photos of the occasional red and yellow leaves.
Jiuzhaigou National Park is actually surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Brief moments of sun breaks allowed us to have a few glimpses of the magnificent peaks.
It was a delightful walk along Mirror Lake under the sun.
It wasn’t long until we reached the end of the boardwalk along Mirror Lake.
Not far from Mirror Lake, we arrived at another feature waterfall in Jiuzhaigou, Nuorilang Waterfall.
The myriad small streams down the cliff of Nuorilang formed a perfect setting for a atmospheric landscape painting.
Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:
DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China
Day 8 – KUMANO NACHI TAISHA, Kumano Kodo (熊野古道) 1 of 2, Japan
After we dropped off our bags at the train station of Kii Katsuura, we took a local bus up to Nachisan, where we would visit the famous Kumano Nachi Taisha, Seiganto-ji Temple and Nachi Waterfall. We arrived at Daimon-zaka, part of the old cobblestone pilgrim steps that leads up to the sacred Kumano Nachi Taisha, just before noontime. Flanked by old Japanese cedar trees and bamboo groves, the atmospheric Daimon-zaka was the last stretch of the old Kumano Kodo we hiked. We walked on the Daimon-zaka for about half an hour before reaching the main uphill path that leads up to the temple site.
After some more steps and uphill paths, we found ourselves reaching the red torii gate of Kumano Nachi Taisha. The temple ground was packed with tourists, both local and foreign, all were drawn to here by the orange coloured shrine structures, and the iconic three-storey pagoda. The pagoda is part of Seiganto-ji Temple, a Buddhist temple that shares the same site of Kumano Nachi Taisha for centuries. On the way walking to the pagoda, we passed by the most popular vista of Nachi Taisha: the orange pagoda in front of Nachi Waterfall (Nachi no Taki), the tallest waterfall in Japan at 133m. From the pagoda, it was another short hike to the base of the waterfall, where a small shrine and a viewing platform stood.
We then took a bus back to Kii Katsuura.
Centuries old Japanese cedar lined up along the path of Daimon-zaka.
Along Daimon-zaka, small shrines and bamboo groves added a layer of mystical atmosphere.
The stones of Daimon-zaka had witnessed centuries of pilgrims in and out of Nachisan.
The orange torii of Nachi Taisha.
The shrine structure in the complex of Nachi Taisha.
A main structure in the taisha complex.
Little device for worshipers to make their wishes.
Small wooden plagues for worshipers to write down their wishes.
Seiganto-ji Temple, the Buddhist temple adjacent to the Kumano Nachi Taisha.
Statue of a monk in front of Seiganto-ji Temple.
The iconic pagoda behind Seiganto-ji, with Nachi Waterfall in the background.
At 133m Nachi no Taki is the tallest waterfall in Japan.
Wild flowers and bamboo groves along the way to the base of the waterfall.
A small shrine at the base of Nachi no Taki.
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Read other posts on 2015 Kansai…
Day 1.0 – Kansai Japan 2015
Day 1.1 – Hanami, Mount Yoshino
Day 1.2 – Feast under the Shades of Sakura, Mount Yoshiko
Day 2 – A Day in Kobe
Day 3 – A Day in Central Osaka
Day 4 – Tanabe – Prelude of the Kumano Kodo
Day 5.1 – Takijiri to Takahara, Kumano Kodo
Day 5.2 – Takahara to Tsugizakura , Kumano Kodo
Day 5.3 – Minshuku Tsugizakura, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.1 – Tsugizakura to Mikoshi-Toge Pass, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.2 – Mikoshi-Toge Pass to Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha to Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.1 – Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.2 – Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.4 – Wataze Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.1 – Kumano Nachi Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.2 – Kii Katsuura, Kumano Kodo
Day 9 – Church of Light, Osaka