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High times in Hill Country

Adventure lovers can canoe, cycle and trek in lush Sri Lanka

Published on Aug 24, 2014 12:59 PM

I wonder what lies ahead when my canoe journey on the Black River wending through Sri Lanka's gemstone zone is canned due to flooding a few days earlier.

Diverted instead to the butterfly-shaped Samanalawewa Reservoir in the highlands, I can't help thinking it may be like paddling in our own MacRitchie Reservoir - lovely yet quite possibly bland. And gone too is my chance of poking around for cerulean blue sapphires on the flood plains of the Black River.

I have embarked on six days of active travel in Sri Lanka and have planned to canoe, cycle and trek, mainly in the lush Hill Country of Sri Lanka.

But my multi-activity travel plans unspool here and there. At such times, when I travel and the scenes shift when I least expect it, serendipity shows up and I often look at places afresh.

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Background story

Getting there

I fly direct to Colombo on SriLankan Airlines, then transfer to Negombo - a beach city near Bandaranaike International Airport - where I have a short city tour and stay overnight.

The next morning, I travel on the Expo Rail train from Colombo to Ella in the Hill Country. In Ella, I trek on a rail corridor and up Little Adam's Peak.

The next few days are spent trekking from village to village in the hillside hamlet of Belihuloya and canoeing on the Samanalawewa Reservoir. Cycling is an option.

My six-day trip is customised by Adventure Quests ( for $1,285. The price covers ground costs - accommodation, a guide who doubles as a chauffeur, a car, transfers and most meals.

I travel solo; the cost will be lower with more travellers.

The activities are relatively light and suitable for older children.

I packed trekking shoes and gloves for canoeing. Unlike my more intensive trips - snowshoe walks in in Nagano and the Via Ferrata adventure on Mount Kinabalu - my strength and cardiovascular training for Sri Lanka is moderate.