Experience Sri Lankan agriculture, village life & food on this magical walking tour

Enter the Heart of Rural Sri Lanka

For the first couple of days of my trip to Sri Lanka, the countryside was just something I saw through a car window, and I was itching to get out and really explore and experience rural Sri Lankan life. Luckily, the Khiri team had arranged for me to try out one of our newer experiences: Trails of Matale. Situated around 90 minutes south of Dambulla on the road to Kandy, Matale itself is a pleasant little town with a very impressive and colourful Hindu temple, where the locals were preparing for a festival when we arrived for a quick look – it’s not an official part of the tour but our guides will happily take curious guests there.

Exploring Kawudupelella

But we weren’t really here to see temples – this is very much a rural experience and so we eventually left the main roads and headed deep into the countryside to the village of Kawudupelella, where our trek would begin, for a fortifying cup of coffee with a local resident and guide.

After a welcome jolt of caffeine – and liberal use of sun cream, as it was already extremely hot – we set off on our walk, beginning at the village spring. Yes, the village has its own spring, which makes it the perfect location for growing fruit and vegetables (the main economic activity here), and the locals have also used it to create a washing area. Many rural Sri Lankan houses don’t have baths or showers, so people often wash in the nearest lake – the villagers of Kawudupelella are lucky to have their own spring to wash in.

The walk then took us through small vegetable plantations (each villager has their own allotment which they’re free to farm as they please), marvelling at the rickety treehouses that one sees all over Sri Lanka. Farmers often sleep in them overnight to keep an eye on their crops and to watch out for either thieves or, more commonly, wild elephants, who are the biggest pests for farmers in this area. The treehouses look like they might fall apart at any moment but at the same time there is something appealing at the idea of spending the night sitting in one of them, with only a bottle of arack for company, gazing out across the beautiful countryside.

From there we wandered uphill past some small rural cottages, each of them with a traditional wooden gara yaka demon mask hanging on the front, to ward off the evil eye (I later bought one for myself in Galle), and occasionally being invited in by the villagers to see what they were doing – usually cooking but in one case, teaching English some local kids.

At the top of the hill we found a rubber plantation where the workers were just breaking for lunch. Our guide told us that they rarely see foreigners and when they do, they expect candy – I was instantly surrounded by elderly Tamils saying “Bonbon!” and holding their hands out, and they made pretty short work of my packet of mints.

Gara Yaka mask
Rubber plantation

By this point it was midday and very hot indeed, so I was delighted to see a tuk-tuk pull up to take us back to the village where we started. On the way down we stopped to take in a stunning view of a suspension bridge across the river (see main header image. I was invited to walk across but given the state of the boards, decided against it!

We returned to the village to the welcome sight of some cold bottles of Lion Beer and the even more welcome sight of a traditional Sri Lankan rice and curry lunch – rice, chicken curry, various vegetable curries and some roti bread, which we ate in a very pleasant spot overlooking the rice fields.

The perfect way to round off a truly unforgettable morning. If you have clients coming to Sri Lanka and want to get them WAY off the tourist trail and give them an immersive look at the Sri Lankan countryside, including some close encounters with the local people, then Trails of Matale is the perfect experience.

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