In the last week we tried our best to keep up our hit rate of new rivers and headed to the river which runs parallel with the Kelani (the rafting river). During the drive up the stunning valley we manged to get the odd look at the river and despite a few hydos it looked like it could be a fun one. While the rapids at the put on went smoothly.....
....... the siphons and bolder chokes soon appeared and the portages came thick and fast.
After a couple of kilometers of regular portaging we reached a bridge where half the group decided to call it a day and call Mahesh. The rest (inspired by a super keen Nick!) forged on, determined that around the corner was some class whitewater...however what actually met us around the corner was a large dam removing all the water from the river. So 5 minutes later after finding a nice wide track with which to make their retreat, the team was reunitied. Half were smug and rested, the other half a little out of breath! But all keen to make the most of the remaining days.
Dams are a real problem with this country. When it's not dammed and you get the gradient right the rivers are simply amazing. A little too steep however makes for a lot of portaging through what is often some pretty dense jungle.
We decided to give the expedition a nice bit of symmetry with another run down the classic Sitawaka river, this time encompassing a the seldom run (ever run?) 'minus rapids' and a bridge jump, both of which put bit smiles on our faces.
Our only real dissapointment is that the Upper Plantation Falls did not come into condition following our initial early evening scouting mission. Now the locals have had some coaching then perhaps this is a first descent for them to tick off!
Inspecting the Upper Plantation
Treating the staff at Borderlands to a traditional British bangers and mash.
We presented our brilliant driver Mahesh with a Palm Extreme Buoyancy aid to show our thanks for the excellent job he did. We couldn't have hoped for a better driver and we hope the buoyancy aid will keep him safe in Nepal where he is spending a few weeks at the Borderlands Nepal site, rafting guiding the Bhote Kosi on his first trip outside of Sri Lanka!
Good Luck Mahesh!
On our return to Colombo we hastily put together, with the help of Wade, a video of the trip and got together a slide show. An interesting variety of friends we had met along the way, Sri Lankan government officials, businessmen, tourists and ex-pats attended the wrap-up and it was a great success.
As well as our video and presentation, some videos were shown of the Borderlands Mahaweli river safari, with an amazing encounter with elephants, and some incredible footage of a Borderlands whale watching trip involving swimming with (well... near) a blue whale.
Sean describes the risk reward relationship. And why paddling into fecking big stoppers carries a high risk of swimming!
Overall a cracking trip with several world class first descents and other amazing runs. There is easily enough boating for a 2 week grade 4/5 creeking trip and that's just the stuff we ran. We only covered one relatively small section of the highlands, if you can work out the crazy Sri Lankan weather systems there is still a lot more to do. With incredibly friendly people, good food, amazing wildlife and warm rivers we can definitely recommend Sri Lanka as a destination.