Namunukula - backyard mountain of Badulla
Namunukula is the backyard mountain of Badulla, the capital of Uva Province in the southeast of Sri Lanka's highlands. With a height of 2,035 m above sea level, it's one of Sri Lanka's 12 highest mountains and by far the tallest peak in the east of Sri Lanka's southern mountain range, which stretches from Siri Pada (Adam's Peak) in the west 100 km to Namunukula in the east. Namunukula dominates Spring Valley, which is the tea plantation area closest to Badulla. On the other side of the mountain is Passara, another tea area of Uva. Uva tea is grown in the entire area between Horton Plains to Namunukula, which is of about 40 km length west-east. As the crow flies. Namunukula is the most prominent peak of this Uva tea region. There are pathes leading to the plateau of Namunukula mountain. The easiest one branches near the pass between Spring Valley and Passara. The pass is easy to find, as there is only one road running through Spring valley. Just follow the B97 running through Spring Valley to Demodara and turn left at the supermarket in the centre of Spring Valley and follow this side road almost to the top. About 300 m before reaching the pass, you can see the hiking path branching off at the left side. The ascent does not require any climbing skills, but it's undoubtedly a strenuous steep hike uphill.
The forested area is home to Macaque monkeys, Sambhar deer and wild boars. Leopards also occur in Sri Lanka's forested highlands. But a hiker will hardly ever spot them.
Small shrines for Buddha, Vishnu and Ganesha can be seen on the plateau on the very top, which measures about 150 m in diameter. In Sri Lanka, Vishnu is venerated by Sinhalese Buddhists in the first place, whereas Ganesha worship is predominently Tamil.
Similar to Adam's Peak, the more pointed and higher summit in the southwest corner of the mountainous region, there is also a mountain god protecting the region. His name is Indaka. In Badulla it is believed that this mountain god of the Namunukula invited the Buddha to visit the region, quite similar to the story of Saman, the mountain god of Adam's Peak.Unlike Adam's Peak, Namunukula has no giant footprint left by the Buddha. However, nearby Muthiyangana Vihara in Badulla town is listed as one of the 16 places visited by the Buddha.
Confusingly, Namunukula is not only the name of the highest peak but also of this entire part of the mountain range, stretching from the highest summit to Badulla ans Pelgahatenna Pass in the north and Balleketuwa Pass in 8 km distance to the south, as the crow flies. Altogether, the north-south diameter of Namunukula Range is 13 km. The Sinhalese name "Namunukula" means "Nine Peaks" and refers to the entire range. Seen from the central highlands, the most prominent peak nevertheless appears conical and dominating the entire Badulla region.
Even more confusing, the village at the end of the side road mentioned above is also called Namunukula. It's situated at the southern slope of the mountain range at the Ella-Passara road (B 113), 15 km to the east of Ella and 5 km northeast of Balleketuwa. This means: You can reach Numunukula Peak from Ella, by first driving to Namunukula village and there turning left. Be aware, this side road is not passable for normal cars. But tuktuks can manage it. It's a perfect day trip with a threewheeler or a motorbike. The Ella-Passara road is scenic, but the side road between Namunukula village and Spring Valley is even more spectacular. After climbing Numunukula in the morning, you can take the more comfortable roads and visit Spring Valley, Badulla, Dunhinda Falls and Uva Halpewatta Tea Factory in the afternoon. Morning hours are more recommendable for hiking tours to peaks in this area of Sri Lanka, as the weather is usually more misty and cloudy in the noon and afternoon.
Be aware: There is no stairway to the top, and you will rarely meet other people on the way. This climb will turn out to be as exhausting as that to Adam's Peak, but more of an adventure, not a pilgrimage.
Like Adam's Peak, Namunukula is protected by a local deity, which once converted to Buddhism and from then on served as a guardian deity of the Sinhalese religion.