Depending on what your perspective is, Saradiel is either a petty criminal/ outlaw, or the Helper of the Poor. For many Sri Lankans though (at least the anti-Colonialist Sri Lankans in the village of Utuwankanda back in the 1800s), Saradiel is a hero — the local version of Robin Hood.
Saradiel headed a band of bandits in Utuwankanda along with his childhood friend Mammale Marikkar, where they distributed the goods they stole from the British (which is why the villagers loved him and more often than not helped him escape the law whenever it came crashing down around him). The mountain basically served as a vantage point and had a secret cave which he frequently used as a hideout. It was this cave that we went looking for when we hit Mawanella up over the last weekend.
The Ascent and the Summit
Residents will tell you that it's a 20 minute climb, but it'll take you about half an hour to 45 minutes I reckon.
The hike isn't exhausting but there are a couple of places where you'll skin your palms or knees as you try to climb through rock and bush. Also keep in mind that some places are quite dusty and slippery, so be careful/ wear proper footwear.
The view from the top is — as in most cases in Sri Lanka — stunning! No disappointments, plus you also have monkeys swinging along and walking across the rock summit and swallows whizzing by.
Strangely there's a Buddhist flag hoisted atop one of the higher boulders of the peak. Why even?
Photo courtesy Amalini
We got to the top and lounged around, soaking up the morning sun, breeze, and views before deciding to search around for the cave. Determined not to give up, we climbed and crawled beyond all available boulders with one of our group even scaling the seemingly flat rock on which the flag was hoisted on, to no avail.
But we're gracious even in defeat so we finally accepted the fact that we either had terrible luck, or that the cave was as well hidden as Saradiel made it out to be and we were as terrible in scouting as our British Colonialists were. Either way, we made our descent.
We'd nearly reached the foot of the hill when one of our number noticed a flat rock surface angled at 90 degrees and 'surrounded by trees' — apparently one of the landmarks. He ventured forth to scout more, and my friend and I followed because why not. After much tummy-crawling and climbing, we found a two-foot-tall space under a rock which we were
stupid brave enough to venture into.
Aaaand… we found it! The photo up there is by Amalini too (thank goodness her phone's camera quality was decent enough to capture this in low light), and the height of the cave is pretty much the same height as the entrance (which is all of two ish feet). It's literally more of a narrow tunnel, and it forks off into two at one point. The air is moist and smells of water (if water has a smell… but there's that damp, earthy aura, you get what I mean) and it could be slightly claustrophobic if you think about it. So don't think about it.
If you've always been fascinated by our country's history and of stories of swashbuckling and sassy outlaws, read up a bit on Saradiel and head here. Try finding the cave too (that's half the point of this excursion!). We went without a guide as usual, and would recommend you trying it out on your own too.