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Author Topic: 'Paada Yaathra' - Information, ideas that might help anyone planning in future  (Read 26242 times)
NG
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« on: August 07, 2010, 11:28:48 AM »

Note: This topic has been split from the thread - 'Paada Yaathra'


Hi all,

Since the interest in the Pada Yatra still seems to be very much alive and Priyanjan is fighting shy of typing up ....Wink here are some very mundane  bits of  information/ideas that might help anyone planning to do it next year.
For those wanting more information please await Priyanjan's post ....Smiley


Pilgrimage aspect:
The only time anyone is allowed to enter and proceed through the Natural Reserves of Yala East and Yala on foot is during the Pada Yatra. The only reason the Government allows this is due to the recognition of the holy Hindu ritual.  It is not opened so that nature enthusiasts and hikers can have a new experience. It is essential right along to remember this.  
We were not pilgrims, we were taking advantage of the opportunity provided for just few days a year. We were asked by many  if we had made a vow. If not, why were we walking?  Each of us may have had a different reason, but none of us had made a vow – as far as I knew!! Though it was not a  ‘barayak oppu kereema’ for me it was a ‘pindeema’  : gratefulness to all those who made it possible for us once again to travel / walk in all parts of our  country with a feeling of safety.

Each of us decided to comply with different aspects of the rituals of the pilgrimage to different degrees.  Some of us were vegetarian and took no alcohol in any case, others gave up for the period of the walk, others did not. Some of us worshipped at all the Devale’s we passed, others only at the main ones, others at none. Though what exactly we did I am not sure, as none of us were Hindu. I think most of us did what Buddhists do when we go to the Devale in a temple.  When we finally reached Kataragama, most of us bathed in the Manik ganaga, some of us changed into clean clothes ( had to buy new t-shirts from the kade as what we had on was too far gone Wink ), and some of us went for the pujawa, some did not. A nice thing we did was to carry panduru on behalf of those who wished they could do the Pada Yatra but could not for various reasons, we also offered Panduru on behalf of people who we knew would appreciate it. In short, each of us made our own choices regarding the pilgrimage aspects of the walk. The nice thing was that it was all done in perfect harmony.  

At times during the walk we did discuss the pilgrimage aspect of it. Clearly for everyone else  we met it was a very holy walk. Haro Hara.  For each of us it may have been different things – but all extremely, undoubtedly positive!  Haro Hara.

Wilderness and wildlife:
There is no doubt that more animals would have seen us than we saw them! On average we did not see a lot. What we did see was – a lot of birds (names) mostly in Kumana, a sambar by the kumana gate, lots of wild boar and deer – mostly in the Katagamuwa area, elephants – a baby, young tusker, and two others drinking very close to the track we were on, one crocodile very close, at Okanda and many huge ones at Katagamuwa, we watched a jackal (nariya) for a long while – it was in Yala East I think. Close to Katagamuwa we thought we heard bear close by and a leopard a bit further, but not certain of identification. We saw many tracks including a baby bear, but the animals that made us most uneasy were the wild buffaloes who were not at all pleased to see us. And we saw lots of fish and little crabs.  Wink

Terrain we walked over:
Think Priyanjan’s photos do a good job in showing the variation. http://www.panoramio.com/user/589743/tags/Paada%20Yaathra%20%202010
The route we took is shown here (sorry! Technically challenged, will get it uploaded in a minute) - done. see link below.


Practicalities - What to take:

Despite taking as little as possible, we shed quite a lot when we met up. What each person considered essential differs, the critical thing is to link it to the weight you can carry on your back. If there is a variation in carrying ability among the members of your group, the stronger members may have to carry some of the communal stuff – at least that is what happened in our group.

Based on our experience:
Water: Carrying water is difficult, but essential. Remember its HOT, very HOT. Despite there being ‘fresh water’ points these are very far apart and of very low quality. The only real water we found were the tanks set up by the Forces and filled by them with water brought from Kataragama.
Three things that help in making best use of water 1) Jeevani. Take plenty and mix accurately. Sip constantly rather than gulp when thirsty. 2) There is a thing called a ‘camel’ – basically a water carrying backpack. Not sure where you can get them, we had three with us. Very useful. You hardly feel the weight of the water. Disadvantage is that if you mix jeevani into it , the pack will be spoilt .3) take some water purification tablets – the water we got at the Lin Thuna had got fermented by the next day. The bottles that we had put the tablets in were fine. But then, few of us who gulped down non-treated water survived as well as the others! So it might be fine either way.

First aid kit: Vital.  Everyone should have some essentials and there should be a couple of packs among the group in case the person with the pack is not around when needed.  What we used up most ( for ourselves and for treating the pilgrims) was stuff for blisters and feet.  Salonpas spray and stickers are good, comes in handy for your shoulders as well which can give trouble due to heavy packs. Plaster, dressing, cream, etc. What we did not use was samahan, Vit C and strepcils, despite the heat we had no trouble with the dust and hardly any headaches – think the jeevani helped keep away cramps and dehydrated headaches. Sidhalepa of course for anything!

Cooking and food: Firewood is plenty as it’s the dry season in Yala. So a stove and fuel is not really needed. We had it with us and used it for quick tea/nestamalt, but it is not essential.  Maggi soup is light to carry and easy to cook. We found the pilgrims used habalapethi which is also easy to carry and more nutritious. Samaposha is heavier but good start for the day.  A very good snack we took was the new Nutro-plus bars put out by Munchee. Very light to carry, only Rs.10 each and enough to keep you going when the ‘podi badaginna’ strikes!

Foot wear: obviously critical. What ever you are used to. Some of us wore shoes others wore rubber slippers. One big learning was to think about old injuries that might come up on the long walk, even if they have not given trouble for a long time. Take footwear and other necessities ( knee, ankle guards, crepe bandage) that might be needed to prevent and deal with the aggravation  of such injuries.  

Clothes: Ultimately we were down to one set we wore everyday for walking and one set we changed into after bathing for the night. The day time heat will dry anything while you walk – either while you are wearing it or if you hang it on your back pack. So bring minimum. A soft multi purpose cloth is much more useful than a towel. This can be soaked and used as a head and body cover when crossing the endless open spaces. It catches even the soften breeze and become your personal AC!!!

Sleeping:  tents are good but hard to carry, and not really needed.  None are carried by the pilgrims. Flysheets that convert to rain capes are more than enough. Light sleeping bags are easy to carry and when not needed to sleep in can be used as a luxury pillow! We had no issues with mosquitoes nor other bugs. The repellent came back hardly used.

But, one of us got loads of maccas on him! Apparently if you rest in clearing made by animals you will pick up the fleas.  Very annoying creatures so don’t venture in too much even if it more shady in there! The best place to rest (not sleep!) is the sandy bank of dried streams that still have the coolness of the water and the sand makes a fantastic bed!

In the end, you discover how little you really need to live. Might as well accept that at the start!


* PaadaYaathtraRouteOkandaKatharagama_kmz.zip (62.16 KB - downloaded 249 times.)
« Last Edit: July 23, 2012, 11:48:01 PM by NG » Logged
Ashan253
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« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2010, 10:06:24 AM »

Hi NG
This is fantastic stuff! I know you must have wanted to write more Grin Grin Grin
Ashan
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NG
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« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2010, 08:37:14 PM »

 Grin Grin Lips sealed Lips sealed
නඞෙ ගුරාට අවනත විය යුතුයි නෙ!! Grin Wink
(Nade gura te avantha viya yuthui nea! )
« Last Edit: December 16, 2010, 10:15:40 PM by NG » Logged
Sheham
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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2010, 08:53:12 PM »

Hi NG

Nade gura te avantha viya yuthui nea!

Agree with your statement. Really very interesting. Hope to do this next year.

Kind Regards
Sheham
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fanro
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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2010, 11:04:06 PM »

Hi NG,
Quote
for me it was a ‘pindeema’  : gratefulness to all those who made it possible for us once again to travel / walk in all parts of our  country with a feeling of safety.

Yes. Very true. Appreciate your thoughts.
Rohan
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lakdasun
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« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2010, 06:56:30 PM »

A new topic - “camelbak” Hydration bladder/reservoir - have been split from this thread
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« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2010, 10:32:00 PM »

Hi NG

Wow this is super stuff!!
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this.
You write so beautifully you know - I am sure you could even write a book on this...  Smiley
Maybe each of you could do a chapter, starting with Nade Guru of course  Grin
Your elegant styles of writing, plus some of those lovely pictures taken by you all will surely make a great book - A Lakdasun Publication perhaps ?  Cheesy

Best regards,
Manu
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NG
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« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2010, 04:38:01 AM »

Quote
will surely make a great book - A Lakdasun Publication perhaps ?  Cheesy

Manu!!
Please don't suggest such things..!!
you know what happens on Lakdasun: it is split into a separate thread, a looooog discussion follows and then.. the virtual invades the real world!!

anyway - The Nade Gura has much more to say, but I think he is waiting for an auspicious time, Wink and maybe he has to complete some rituals before it is posted..!

N
« Last Edit: November 06, 2010, 04:47:18 AM by NG » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2010, 06:42:43 AM »

Manu!!
Please don't suggest such things..!!
[you know what happens on Lakdasun: it is split into a separate thread, a looooog discussion follows and then.. the virtual invades the real world!!

He he, all the better!  The book has to be published in the real world ne   (after all the "rituals" of course)  Wink


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« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2010, 10:10:16 PM »

Hi Priyanjan,

Excellently presented write up. Will be very useful for anyone who wishes to do this in the future. Smiley Specially, the "performance" tips are quite handy. Grin

BR,
Jayathu
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« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2010, 12:56:02 AM »

Thanks Priyanjan & NG for posting such descriptive valuable information.

This will surely beneficial to future travelers.

 Best Regards,
Sanketha
« Last Edit: November 12, 2010, 03:16:06 AM by sanketha » Logged
NG
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« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2011, 02:05:30 AM »


The Sunday Times article on the leopard attack on a pilgrim brings up some issues that need thinking about.


http://sundaytimes.lk/110717/Plus/plus_11.html


Leave the animals their territory

The recent fatal leopard attack on a pilgrim of the annual Pada Yatra, raises questions about the ‘goings on’ inside the Yala National Park.
Kumudini Hettiarachchi reports

The anguished shriek of "Appah" rent the early morning stillness, sending the bleary-eyed Pada Yatra devotees running to the bank of the Menik Ganga in the Yala National Park.

It was dawn on Sunday, July 10, and the scene that met the devotees who rushed to the scrub jungle on the river-bank sent chilling fear up their spine. Right before their eyes, a leopard with its jaws clamped over the bloodied neck of 31-year-old Krishnapulle Chandrakumari was dragging her into the jungle. It was only a frenzy of shouting that made the leopard ease its vice-like grip, the Sunday Times understands, but even while they were carrying her to the place where they had laid down their weary heads the previous night on the dried up riverbed the predator had been slinking about in the vicinity, growling in anger, having to be warded off with firebrands.
On the move: Pada Yatra pilgrims (file pic)

Chandrakumari, a mother of a six-month-old baby and six-year-old boy, was dead. A Samurdhi Officer from Thirukkovil in the east, she had joined the Pada Yatra with a heavy heart - to fulfil a vow taken on her husband's behalf. For, he was paralysed below the waist after being involved in an accident.

She and the members of the 'nade' had come the previous night (July 9) to the Menik Ganga, lit a fire, had a scrap dinner and slept on the sandy river-bed. The Menik Ganga has dried up and there is only a sliver of a stream flowing sadly.

In the early morn having boilt and eaten a meagre meal of bada iringu, Chandrakumari had gone about 25 metres from the river-bed to the river bank on the side of Block 1 for her morning ablutions when she met with an agonizing death far away from home, many sources said, quoting witnesses. Behind this unfortunate leopard attack lies a horde of issues, stressed conservationists, howling in protest at the "goings on" inside the Yala National Park.

Reconstructing the tragic scene in detail, Sajeewa Chamikara of the Nature Forum underlines the fact that the attack took place about 500 metres from Negeniyangastota, one of four camping sites allowed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) in Block 1. There seems to be a connection with the campsite as there are serious concerns that a particular group that camps here, enticing foreigners and their big bucks with assurances of "sure sightings of leopards" lure the big cats here by feeding them beef regularly, said Mr. Sajeewa (See box).
Previous attacks by leopards and other animals

What can you expect of leopards when humans dangle beef before them as bait, he asked, critical of those who would do anything for money, not caring a tuppence for the consequences. Poor Chandrakumari may have paid with her life because of the greed of others, he said, a view echoed by many conservationists.

Check out their Facebook promotions, Mr. Sanjeewa said, adding that it shows clearly a photograph of a leopard near the campsite, with a large bonfire burning merrily. Usually leopards would move away from such areas, but what is the attraction, he argued, answering, isn't it obvious it is food.

Feeding of wild animals to get them for viewing at close quarters was one of the dangers that conservationists pointed out when expressing grave concern over proposed moves to build hotels in the buffer zones of Protected Areas as reported in the Sunday Times of July 3.

However, a spokesman for the campsite operator vehemently denied the allegations which he claimed were baseless and asked whether anyone had seen them feeding the leopards. He pointed out that DWC officials were with them and would prohibit them from such actions.

This is not the only allegation against this particular campsite operator, according to Mr. Sajeewa. When the waters of the Menik Ganga inundate the campsite during the rainy season, the operator allegedly clears the forest and moves the site further inland, he said, pointing out that this was against all the laws governing the Yala National Park which is a Protected Area.

After Sunday's attack, there had also been alleged military comments that the leopard will be shot, said Mr. Sajeewa, questioning how anyone could shoot any animal in a National Park let alone one of a handful of the top predators, a leopard. The National Park is the designated home of these animals and how can humans who intrude on their territory come up with such threats which are a clear breach of the law. The other question is: How will anyone distinguish the problem leopard from the others, or will they take the liberty of killing all leopards on sight.

Another conservationist pointed out that though the Pada Yatra has traditionally gone through the Yala National Park, in the last two years the number of devotees has swelled. This year, a crowd of about 28,000 has passed through while last year it was close to 26,000. Some of these groups don't behave like devotees, they sing, they make a huge noise, they set up wadi all along the river and they litter the park with polythene and the remnants of ganja, turning the National Park into one big camping ground.
This affects the life of the animals, he said, especially their home range, corridors and access to water. This is the dry season and when humans are roaming along the river, they cannot get to water.

ouldn't aggression come about naturally?

The other major concern was expressed with regard to the army putting up four boutiques along the Pada Yatra route - Warahana, Kosgasmankada, Katupila- ara and Pallepoththana -- within the Yala National Park in clear violation of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance. A conservationist pointed out that not only were they supplying kadala along the route but they were also selling fizzy drinks, packets of biscuits and water bottles. Not just a few hundred but thousands of bottles, he alleged, asking where these devotees dumped used bottles and polythene packets, except in the park itself.
The tragic attack on Chandra-kumari should be a forewarning. Limit Pada Yatra crowds through the National Park, with DWC officials around them to advise and provide guidance, according to conservationists.

Or why not have the Pada Yatra re-routed along existing roads around the Park, asked another.
The warning is timely. Leave the animals their territory, for each and every one of these animals, from the smallest worm to the largest elephant, is needed in the eco-system, for the very survival of humans.
Many attempts to contact the Director General of the DWC failed as he was said to be abroad.


    2006 - A Pada Yatra devotee had been mauled and killed by a bear in Block 2 while a woman had been killed by a tusker at Katagamuwa in Block 1
    2005 - Another woman on the Pada Yatra had been killed once again at Katagamuwa by a tusker.
    About 25 years ago a leopard had attacked and injured a tracker at the Heenwewa bungalow staff quarters. The same leopard had attacked about three others, but no one was killed.
    1924 - The man-eater of Punani killed many people.
    1910 - A Pada Yatra devotee had been killed close to the Poththana wells and the same leopard is believed to have killed around six more people.


Attack an anomaly: Leopard Researcher

Last Sunday's attack at Yala is "very strange" for Sri Lankan leopards, points out conservationist and leopard researcher Rukshan Jayewardene. "It is an anomaly."

Explaining the "normal behaviour" of Sri Lankan leopards, he says whenever human beings move in and out of forests for various reasons such as collecting firewood they never get menaced or attacked by these big cats. Leopards will cautiously and warily watch from a distance or evade and slink into deeper forest.

This is because the leopards have plentiful prey, "their kind of food", such as deer, buffalo and wild boar and they don't see humans as what they eat naturally, he stresses. In the case of cubs who have seen humans from the time they were born, even when they grow up they would ignore humans. That's how you have "close encounters" with them at Yala and see them crossing between vehicles.

Humans are not the food of Sri Lankan leopards, he explains, adding that in India, leopard behaviour is different because their usual food sources are not abundant. Sometimes in marginal areas in Sri Lanka, if their food sources are scarce they would attack dogs and goats and in the process get snared, poisoned or shot.

Delving into the leopards' psyche why they keep a good distance from humans, Mr. Jayewardene says their perception is that we are bigger than what we really are because they are not at our eye level. If they can look into our eyes, they feel we are a smaller animal that they can attack and subdue. That's why most leopard attacks are on people squatting or kneeling, which gives the creature the impression that we are like a medium-sized animal. They make a correct assessment of our size only when they see us at that level, otherwise their perception of us is that we are larger and heavier creatures than what we actually are. So they leave us alone.

Of course, according to Mr. Jayewardene, the exception to the rule of the natural inhibition leopards have against attacking humans is the seasoned man-eater. Something has happened to make the man-eater cross that inhibitive barrier between animal and human. It could be that it accidentally attacked a human and at th same time being hungry got the taste of flesh and blood, tempting it to turn to this easy food source. With such a first attack the leopard also realizes that humans are easy to kill and not very heavy to drag.

Taking the attack on Chandrakumari, he says, "it's ominous", with the danger of the same leopard attacking again. There are all indications that it was not an accidental attack, on being suddenly surprised in the undergrowth, because then it would have pounced, killed and left her. The aggression, focused attention and predation factor, as opposed to an accidental killing, could be established by reports that it attempted to drag her into the jungle and even when thwarted and her body was carried to the river-bed with lots of people moving around, it lingered menacingly. The question which arises is whether he has preyed on humans before, maybe a poacher or gem miner, the killing of which would have gone unreported because they would have been in the National Park illegally.

When asked about reports that a leopard had been seen close to an army-run shop at Yala, he warns that the danger seems imminent and the DWC needs to shut down the campsites in the vicinity of the attack temporarily to avoid another attack and take urgent action to check out the cause.

"One quick way to make a harmless leopard or any wild animal a problem is to make it associate humans with food," warns Mr. Jayewardene categorically, when the Sunday Times queried about the allegations made that one particular group running a campsite at Yala (incidentally close to where Sunday's attack took place) was feeding leopards with beef to get them to be around the area, so that they could boast of "assured sightings" to foreigners and make a quick buck, without thinking of the consequences.

When the leopards are denied such throw-downs of food, they may very well resort to aggression, he said.
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« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2011, 07:51:21 AM »

What is best earliest time to start this hike? I mean earliest possible time?
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Shash
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« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2012, 09:07:40 PM »

Weather update on the 2012 Pada Yatra.

The weather was Hot and Dry (as expected) during most of the time However on the 14.07.2012 @ 4pm while we were in Navaladi/Pahala Potana & on the next day on at about the same time while we were in Warahana we experienced showers that lasted about an hour.

So if you are planning to walk with the pilgrims better keep this information in mind.
 
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« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2012, 02:40:36 AM »

Hi Priyanjan,.

Yes it was a very rewarding experience. I wouldn’t mind doing it again but next time I like to spend around 6 or 7 days with the pilgrims to get the maximum experience.

Best Regards,
Shashika 
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