We arrived in Haputale to do two things: Lipton's Seat, more on that here, and walk along the railway tracks from Idalgashinna back to Haputale. Having taken the beautiful train journey from Nuwara Eliya to Haputale, we thought there'd be nothing better than to get our hiking boots back on and see it all again at a slower pace.
Haputale turned out to be one of our favourite places in Sri Lanka, and it was great to be able to do some easy walking, without the need for a guide. The normal way of doing the Idalgashinna walk is to take the train there from Haputale and walk back. On the advice of our guesthouse we did it slightly differently and were happy with our choice.
Idalgashinna to Haputale Walk
Overview of the walk
The walk we chose to do starts 4km outside of Haputale at Adisham Monastery. You take in the forest known as the Tangumale Bird Sanctuary and then hit the tracks just one kilometre before Idalgashinna station. The whole walk is just under 10km, the traditional station to station version is 8km.
You can take a tuk-tuk to the Adisham Bungalow (Monastery) for 200 rupees (about $1.25 USD) and the start point of the walk.
The walk takes about 2.5 hours, a bit longer than most walks of a similar distance as you'll often have to skip along railway sleepers themselves which makes getting into a rhythm a bit harder. It is a fairly easy walk, however there are some sections which are pretty wild, meaning you'll have to climb over fallen trees. We got the impression that not many people walk the forest section and it had got pretty overgrown.
At least one train will likely pass you when you're walking along the tracks. We were passed by three. You can take a look at the train timetable before you go, but be aware that Sri Lankan trains are ALWAYS late! Add another hour on top of their arrival times.
There were only a few sections where we wouldn't have liked to meet the train as it got very narrow. For the most part including every point we met the train there was ample room to move far enough out of the way that you didn't feel at all unsafe. You can hear the trains coming from a fair way off (and they are pretty slow) so you have time to find yourself a good spot.
Starting point of the walk
We chose to start at Adisham Monastery: a beautiful european style building set in the Sri Lankan hillside. If you happen to be visiting on a Saturday, Sunday or Public Holiday you can actually go inside the building. Two rooms are open to the public including what is said to be an incredible library. Sadly we visited in midweek and had to make do with peeking at it through the bushes.
To begin the walk, follow the dirt track to the left of the monastery and up the hill. The track doesn't turn or leave this beaten path until you get to the railway track. it does get overgrown but the direction of the track is never in doubt.
The Tangamale Bird Sanctuary
The Tangumale Bird Sanctuary doesn't seem to have many birds, in fact we didn't see a single one, and to be honest it's just pretty thick jungle. It is pleasant enough, but overgrown in several stretches.
The track continues through the forest, sporadically opening up to hilltop views for the first half an hour. Due to it being so overgrown we didn't enjoy this section as much as we would have but it is worth it so plough on.
When we hiked this track, the section you can see in the first photo above was the worst section. We were tempted to turn back as some parts required us lifting up huge branches to squeeze through.
Mixed with a bit of mud and some slippery sections, it's safe to say you don't do this walk for the bird sanctuary. If it's recently been raining we would probably skip this section and go with the original station to station route as the slippery sections could be quite hairy.
After you leave the forest you enter a section of tall gum trees. After this the track heads right to the ridgeline for this superb view.
Despite the clouds, we could see for miles in all directions. The countryside here is beautiful and you could see the train route, cutting through the tea plantations. This ridgeline was so stunning it really made the overgrown sections in the forest so worth it. The view was breathtaking.
Onto the train track
The forest section of the track takes around an hour. We visited in low season which could be why the track was so overgrown, with a better path you could walk it much quicker.
From this point on, listen out for trains! They don't always blow a horn but the distant rumbling is a good warning sign. Be prepared to jump to the side at short notice!
From here the trail follows the train tracks all the way to Haputale. The views are amazing, you get a good look at the glorious tea plantations before the tracks meander to an old disused train station.
After the disused station, the track runs alongisde a few houses. You'll start to see locals joining you on the track, preferring this makeshift walking track to the winding road nearby.
Before you know it you'll be in Haputale! it was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon and well worth making the stop in Haputale for.
Things to know about the walk
- Research the train times. This is pretty important as you'll want have an idea of when they come. We saw three in an hour and a half as they were all over an hour late!! You can duck by the side of the tracks, but it is still reassuring to know roughly how many and when you might expect to see a train.
- Walking along the railway tracks can be pretty slow as you'll be hopping from sleeper to sleeper. Whilst the track is about 10km long, it will take around 2.5 hours to walk.
- There is an even longer version of the loop which leaves near Leisure Mount View Holiday Inn. This adds another 8km on, but it would also mean more walking in the forest where the path was obstructed in several places. We probably wouldn't opt for this one.
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Would you do a hike where half the track is along a train line? Have you done this hike yourself? Let us know in the comments below.
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