Juliette Coombe in The Daily News, 14 October 2016, where the title is “Fatal Attraction to World’s End”
I got stuck into walking the boggy and grassy marshes and wild moors of Horton Plains, which is like the depressing misty on some days topography of Yorkshire in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. the depressing misty on some days topography of Yorkshire in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Horton Plains is a reverie in gloomy downcast smog bitten sky, small tufts of valleys and equally small craggy cliffs, dark rocky ledges and stormy quarries, the slight drizzle with the water droplets like pincers and icicles pelting one’s skin, the rugged landscape also smudged by water puddles and at the end of the world one gets the feeling of Caspar David Friedrich’s painting capturing the German Romanticism, one of turbulent melancholia.
Weekend getaway: Nevertheless, for walkers the Horton Plains is a great place to go to for the weekend and an excellent place to stay is at Jetwing Saint Andrews, Nuwara Eliya, which is only 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Horton Plains. The incredibly knowledgeable hotel naturalist can organise a trip to the park and will happily tell you about the 87 different species of birds that can be seen in the area and many of the frogs, even give you a night tour of these croaking beauties. All six highland endemic birds are found on the Plains of Horton, including Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka White-eye, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon and Sri Lanka Bush-warbler and Yellow-eared Bulbul.
Be warned this is still a very out there place to walk and there have been a number of tragedies with people walking off the edge of World’s End due to heavy mists, which can be avoided by leaving early and being in the main viewing spot before 10 a.m. After that its curtains down as the place vanishes like Brigadoon, only to reappear like magic the following morning.
Entering Horton Plains National Park, a sign reminds you of your role in protecting this irreplaceable environment: kill only time, take only pictures, remove only rubbish, leave only footprints and the footprint one leaves will either protect or destroy this natural wonder. Walking out of the park with handfuls of rubbish collected from the path will not only leave local guides flabbergasted, but also earn you their admiration for helping conserve this area and their livelihoods. Make sure though that rubbish is the only thing you take or you will receive a very different welcome; people caught collecting small beetles and insects were put in prison. The 9km circular route around the park takes in Mini World’s End, World’s End, Baker Falls and Chimney Pool and can be done in either direction.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Mist, fog or rain, it’s worth the two to four hour walk as it’s the best chance you will get to eye ball a leopard on foot, and you might if you are unbelievably lucky to even glimpse the mischievous and increasingly rare Red Slender Loris, one of the top five most threatened species in the world. Sighted a mere four times since 1937 and widely believed to be extinct, it was photographed for the first time in 2010. Don’t count on seeing one, not only is it nocturnal but it took a thousand night time surveys and 200 hours of work to capture this one photo.
The Plains gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2010 due to the rich bio-diversity and spectacular cloud forest. There are also fascinating archaeological excavations that reveal stone tools dating back to Balangoda culture.
Part of the charm of this historical park is walking through the plains grassy vegetation and enjoying the dwarf bamboo interspersed with mundane forest and herds of Sri Lankan Sambar Deer. Every walk is different and with more than 750 different species of plants and numerous pretty and in some cases vast waterfalls such as Baker’s Fall which is 66 feet high. The falls themselves according to my guide and bird spotter feed three important rivers, the Mahaweli, Kelani, and Walawe. On a clear day you can also get excellent views of Adam’s Peak.
Excellent National Park: Whether you are lucky enough to see a leopard creeping through the grass, it is being at World’s End before 10am as the sun rises on a clear day that you will never forget. The precipice at the southern boundary of the park is a sheer 870m drop, that’s about 2,854 feet. The Lesser World’s End of 270 m (886 feet) is located not far from World’s End and is also worth seeing. Don’t expect wild elephants that old guide books wax lyrical about as the last one was shot in the area in 1940 when game hunting was the fashion under the British. This is an excellent national park for bird watchers and I managed to see the Dull-Blue Flycatcher, the Sri Lanka White-eye, the Sri Lanka Wood-pigeon, the Sri Lanka Bush-warbler, the Yellow-Eared Bulbul and Black-Throated Munia.
For animal lovers it is the Toque Macaques, Purple-faced Languor’s and herds of over inquisitive Sambar deer with their antlers that everyone takes pictures of. The giant squirrels are what you will remember if you are lucky enough to see them, whom look more like cartoon characters than the real thing, but each trip across Horton Plains is a trek into the unknown and will leave you wondering if this really is where the world ends and over the years for some unlucky souls it has been. It is said in hushed whispers that on a misty winter’s day lost souls can be found looking for a pathway back from the beyond and this is why for some this is a spooky spot.