Alexandra's CAS Journey

Highlands Week Without Walls

Day 1

After meeting at school bright and early, we split into two vans and drove to Yapahuwa, stopping for a Sri Lankan breakfast on the way. We hiked up the steep steps of the rock fortress to the beautiful view on the top of the rock.

Rukshi on the top of the Yapahuwa Rock Fortress

On the way down, we stopped at the stairway and gate carved in the 13th century to practice the composition of photos.

Group photo at Yapahuwa Rock Fortress. (Taken by Mr. Lockwood)

At the bottom of the rock fortress, we got a refreshing Narang juice before piling back into the vans and continuing our journey to Pidurangala. After a late lunch, we hiked to the top of Piduangala rock to watch the sunset. On the top of the massive rock, we practiced our photography in the setting sun’s light and enjoyed the view.

Sudo Philautus Stuarti

We scrambled down the rocks using only the light of our flashlights. We finished the day with dinner of kottu and a night walk in search of the slender loris.

Day 2

After a delicious breakfast of hoppers, string hoppers, roti, dhal, and pol sambol, we explored the forest around Back of Beyond looking for lizards, flowers, and birds to photograph. Then we all loaded into the vans and started the long van ride to the Knuckles mountain range. Along the way, we stopped at a river where I learned how to experiment with the shutter speed of my camera in order to take photos of moving water.

Photo of moving water taken with a slow shutter speed.

We also stopped about 15min away from Sir John’s Bungalow for a short hike up to the top of a cliff. On the way, we searched for the Nannophyrus Marmorata. The Nannophyrus Marmorata is a frog that is point endemic to this area of the knuckles mountain range in Sri Lanka and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. At the end of the hike, we reached a 300m drop off straight down, I stayed a safe distance from the edge of the cliff, which I cannot say for all of my classmates.

Ritisha on the edge of the cliff (Taken by Mr. Lockwood)

At Sir John’s Bungalow after some downtime, lunch, and journal time, we spoke to two naturalists who have studied in the Knuckles mountain range. We learned about the types of forests found in the Knuckles, why it was called the Knuckles, and more information about the endemic species found here. Then we put on our leech socks and went on a night frog walk before dinner.

Sudo philautus stuarti

Day 3

After waking up at 6:30am, we reluctantly got out of our comfy beds to tea, roti, and string hoppers. The naturalist at the bungalow found a bent toe lizard and I practiced focusing my camera because I was struggling with the during the frog walk the night before. We then climbed in the vans with our rain gear and leech socks for our next hike. As soon as we started the hike it started raining…then it started pouring. And with the rain came hoards of leeches. Once we finally reached a lookout point we realized that Mr. Lockwood and Ms. Desline were missing, they had taken a wrong turn. We first stood in the rain at the lookout point while some people checked one possible route for them, then we moved into slightly more cover from the rain while Jack and I waited at a crossroads to make sure they didn’t miss another turn. By the time we were reunited we were soaked, covered in leech bites and we decided to cut the hike short. That night, we went back to the area we saw the Nannophyrus Marmorata the day before.

Nannophyrus marmorata

We then walked down the road in search of snakes to photograph.

Boiga ceylonensis (Celyon Cat Snake)

The snake’s paparazzi

Day 4

After the long drive to Nuwara Eliya we went to Victoria Park where we walked around in search of the Pied Thrush and the Kashmir Flycatcher. After visiting Victoria Park, we went on a long frog walk in the forest and wetlands behind our hotel with a naturalist.

Taruga eques (Montane Hourglass Tree Frog)

Taruga eques (Montane Hourglass Tree Frog)

Day 5

Before breakfast, we visited the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka called Pidurutalagala. Currently, the mountain is being used as a military radar station, therefore as we were waiting for permission to visit the peak we practiced taking portraits. We then drove through cloud forest to the highest point in Sri Lanka.

View from Pidurutalagala

Throughout this trip, I developed my photography and learned how to use different features on my camera. For instance, I learned about aperture, shutter speed, and composition. One skill that I hope to improve is altering the ISO on my camera and how that can be used to improve my photography.

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