Westminster Abbey The Pride Of Siyambalanduwa (Govinda Hela 558m)
Trip Report by Ashan
Westminister Abbey is an awkward name seen on each and every map of Sri Lanka. So I did a Google search when I was schooling a few years (15 years) back to find out that this was an ancient place called Govinda Hela. So I had done my reading and planned to go there someday but never thought I would do this on that particular day.
It was a Saturday, I had to go to Monaragala for a personal matter. After finishing my business at Monaragala at around 12 pm, I was wondering whether to get back to Colombo but since it was a Saturday I didn’t want to waste my journey. I gave a call to Priyanjan to ask about some places which I can visit. After this, I walked towards the bus stand and noticed a bus with a board saying Siyambalanduwa. Suddenly remembering about Govinda Hela, I got into a bus and inquired a bit more from the conductor and he gave me precise directions which were the only guidance I got on that particular day.
I got off the bus at a temple near the 9th mile post and it was 2.30 pm at that time. I was bit worried about the time factor but after seeing the majestic hill I was drawn towards it. After reaching the Bo-tree I noticed a foot path towards the forest and I continued along the path. The initial path was a cool and calm journey through the forest with not much of undergrowth. Many water streams were found, probably because it had rained a few days back. There were monkeys jumping around to disturb the calmness of this forest patch. One will feel like thanking the local community almost all the way to the top simply because of the well-paved path with occasional cemented, as well as rock steps. You will also come across two bridges at the initial part of the journey. Suddenly you will feel the steepness increasing and you will come across more steps. At the latter stage things get worse but thanks to the well-paved path you will not feel like stopping. But pit stops are a must and please beware of slithery reptiles because the ground is covered with leaves. When you reach the base of the rock you will feel like thanking the locals again ha….ha…..yes there are about 4 ladders until the summit is reached. If these weren’t there it would be simply impossible to get to the summit without ropes and the help of others. Just before the last ladder you will come across a ‘Hulang Kapolla’ don’t forget to spend some time here because this is one of the viewpoints. After climbing the last ladder I reached the summit after a 1 hour and 45 minute rapid hike. I sat near the Buddha statue and had a sip of water. The view from this point is simply fantastic and one can appreciate Siyambalanduwa rock, Muthukandiya Lake and Gal Oya easily from here. There are a few ancient ruins (dating back to king Buwanekabahu the 6th’s era, I think) in the vicinity which were rearranged by someone and two ponds with water (the depth cannot be appreciated). I didn’t forget to refresh myself from the pond though there were a few tadpoles.
I continued along the forest patch which is on the summit to reach the second and third viewpoints. On the way I noticed how ruins have been destroyed by artifact thieves on a massive scale. This is the best viewpoint out of all because Jayanthi Wewa, Iginiyagala Mountain, Gal Oya reservoir and mountains can be seen clearly and the scenery was simply fantastic.
There is another view point (4th) towards Ampara and Potuvil side just behind the Buddha statue, on a clear day one can even appreciate the Eastern coastal line. There is a cave somewhere close to the summit to be explored but I didn’t have much time to do so. After enjoying the spectacular view and unforgettable scenery I started my rapid descent before it started raining and the descent seemed like it will never end though it took 45 minutes. After reaching the temple I refreshed myself and left to Monaragala from where I took a bus towards Colombo to end my 630 Kilometer journey which took 24 hours! The only drawback was that I forgot to speak to the Head Priest of the temple and get permission and information.