January 2018


Noori: Fiery Green Mountains and Shining Waters
January 2018




The Noori Road twists up through very pretty scenery to its eventual terminus

Noori, the unusual sounding village in the Kegalle District, along the route to Adam's Peak through Deraniyagala, is aptly named. In Arabic and Aramaic, two of the world's oldest languages, it means 'my light' and 'my fire', respectively. And the mountains around Noori seem to shine in the morning light.


Words and Photographs: David Blacker


The little hamlet at the end of the Noori Road is called Dodawatte, and that is the area's real name. But when, in 1928, Francis Ademalai built a tea factory nearby, he named it Noori, after his oldest daughter. As Noori's tea became famous, people began to refer to the place itself as Noori.


Today, the name Noori generally refers to the area north of the Sitawaka River as far as Pallebage, 10km northeast. This river forms Noori's southern border, and can be reached in a couple of hours driving from Colombo. The Sitawaka courses through a steep-sided valley that can seem like a gorge at times, alternately overhung with thick jungle in places, and opening out into broad rocky expanses in others.


The Noori Road parallels Sitawaka southeast from Deraniyagala, and this road has been a route since time immemorial for pilgrims journeying to Adam's Peak where they will climb to its summit to revere what is said to be the footprint of the Buddha. Today, many of those pilgrims setting off from the Sri Sumana Saman Devalaya in Deraniyagala will travel by motor vehicle, but still others will choose to make the journey on foot, a gruelling walk of almost a 100km, over several days. Whatever their mode of pilgrimage, most of these devotees will cross the Sitawaka at Nakkawita, south of Noori.


While vehicular traffic can cross the river on a causeway, the spectacular Sangili or Suspension Bridge 400m downstream can be negotiated by those on foot, in single file. Approximately 100m across, the bridge takes pedestrians high over the rocky riverbed. The swaying suspension bridge offers breathtaking views of Sitawaka in both directions. The east-west running valley is stunning at sunrise and sunset.


The river is a popular place for a mid-journey dip for pilgrims and travellers and Sitawaka offers deep pools and shallow rocky creeks at Nakkawita. The hydraulic engineering projects upstream of the causeway have diverted the water into a small reservoir and further downstream, free water runs in meandering streams across wide rocky riverbed that is testament to the size of the river before humans bent it to their will.


The Noori Road parts ways with the main body of Sitawaka at Nakkawita, following a couple of its smaller tributaries into the mountains to the north. While the climb to Dodawatte is only a few hundred metres in altitude, the Noori road narrows dramatically, clinging to the sides of steep hills, the jungle crowding in close at first and cutting off the view of the valley below. Eventually the foliage thins out into highland forest and vast rubber plantations sprawled across the slopes.


In the mornings the hills and valleys around Noori are often shrouded in dense mist, but as the sun slowly burns through it, the hilltops begin to shine bright with the light or fire that its name implies. The deep green of the carpets of tea draped across the hills have an emerald glow through the hues and shades of the jungle canopy. As one breaks through the mist into the sunshine, it provides the feeling of having reached the top of the world, even though Noori is just less than 400m above sea level. During the months of December and January, the northern hemisphere winter, the temperature regularly drops below 20˚C at night, and can stay in the low twenties until raised by the climbing sun.


Between Basnagala and Dodawatte, the Noori's two main settlements, the terrain is taken over by tea on both sides of the road, but the surrounding mountains are still clothed in jungle. Both Basnagala and Dodawatte are hardly villages, but just tiny collections of small buildings at a fork in the road. A temple or two, a kovil, and a tiny eatery provide sustenance to the body and soul.


Most visitors to Sri Lanka are unlikely to make their way to Noori, given its remoteness from the usual tourist destinations, but if one is travelling to Adam's Peak from Colombo or the western coast, it might be quite interesting to follow the route of the pilgrims from Deraniyagala, as they skirt Noori to cross Sitawaka. For those planning to making such a journey, Noori and her shining green hills are just a short detour from the pilgrim's progress. An hour or two of walking and a cup of fresh tea might make for an excellent break.

 

  • image01
    image01

    Sangili bridge over Sitawaka river often used by pilgrims travelling to Adam’s Peak

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    The Sitawaka River in the morning light

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Morning mist veils the faces of the mountains around Noori

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    A rubber plantation where the latex is covered for protection from dew and rain

    Prev Next