Arefa Tehsin ventures into Sinharaja in Sri Lanka where there are no lions, but you don’t go to a rainforest just for its wildlife!
“Birdsong brings relief to my longing,” Rumi had mused. “I am just as ecstatic as they are, but with nothing to say.” There are countless sounds of longing and ecstasy on the hills where the lowland tea plantations abruptly end into the beginnings of the evergreen forests. Considered one of the most easily accessible rainforests in the world, Sinharaja, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is snuggled up in the island of Sri Lanka.
Most people approach this tropical evergreen forest from its western flank, which is thriving, throbbing, hot and humid, with all other essentials of a rainforest. The surprise awaits you when you approach this patch of sprightly biodiversity from the eastern flank, through the hills of Deniyaya. The winding roads take you through a jade landscape, sprawling tea estates, brooks and rivulets. You see the near and distant peaks around you, many shrouded in clouds like houris. The clouds descend on you and the mist blurs your visibility. The intermittent showers continue as you drive up the wet road, passing small hamlets. After a point, the settlements decrease like the growth of the stunted tea bushes that take over. The tea estates end abruptly and you witness the imposing trees of the rainforest. The daunting, precipitous inaccessibility of this biosphere reserve saved it from commercial felling. The canopies tumble on each other in an attempt to gather the maximum sunlight. And you wish you could gather some in your heart and take it back with you.
The unforgettable trait of the eastern Sinharaja is its wind. It howls, sings, murmurs and curses. Sometimes in whispers, sometimes at the top of its voice. And in spite of being cold, it is soulful. The weather is quite temperamental too, like a newborn. It throws fits of wind and rain, and then smiles sunshine as quickly. Within half an hour, you can experience a heavy downpour, flitting clouds, clear skies, powerful winds, and chilling cold.