I first heard about Laxapana Falls while back in school, twinned with the Laxapana hydro-powerplant (which initially was the brainchild of engineer D.J Wimalasundra, who's known as the "Father of Hydropower" in Sri Lanka).
The name's derived from the words "Laksha-pahana", with "Laksha" denoting 100,000 and "Pahana" meaning lamps. Ergo, 100,000 lamps; which was apparently a reference to how the water diverted from here could be used to generate electricity to light up that many lamps.
Moving away from history lessons and trivia, let's get back to the trip. We were waterfall-hopping one fine weekend, and Laxapana was one of the four or so we wanted to check out. Mostly because of its size, mostly because it's supposed to be hella photogenic, and mostly because well, it's a waterfall in the middle of the cooler climes in Sri Lanka.
Making your way towards Laxapana requires a private vehicle. There's quite a lot of driving involved but with Google Maps and residents around the area once you reach Norton Bridge, it's not too hard to find. However, it's only a four hour ride from Colombo and getting back from there is easy-peasy.
The easiest route from Colombo is if you go via Malabe, Avissawella, Ruwanwella, Kitulgala, Ginigathhena and then get to Norton Bridge. There are a couple of little kadeys just past the bridge in the picturesque little town where the bridge is at, where you can stop by for some solid Sri Lankan food, tea, and coffee.
From Norton Bridge, make your way to the 4th Mile Post and then straight on to Laxapana. Make sure you ask around a bit though, because there's a route which leads you to the powerstation which you may take by mistake instead. The Falls are about 15-20 minutes passing the lane to the power station.
The path to the waterfall adjoins a couple more kadeys, where you can park and then make your way down. What no one tells you is that there are like a 1000 steps to climb down through thick foliage and flowers. Really easy, until you need to climb all that up again. Okay, possibly 700 odd steps, we lost count soon after we started panting, but it's quite a climb (both up and down).
You hear the thunderous sound of the cascading water way before you see it — first slightly, like a train in the distance, then more and more louder as you make your way closer.
There's a crazy amount of spray enveloping the whole area, so it's difficult to photograph without your lenses getting misted over. There's also some incredibly coloured dragonflies whizzing all around, most of them black with wings of flourescent blues and greens, deep reds, and rich, jet blacks patterning them — as opposed to the ones with transparent, gauzy wings you see in Colombo and its suburbs.
At 413 feet tall, this is the 8th highest waterfall in the island; and you're minuscule as you stand at the base and contemplate life. It can be a deep moment, guys. Literally as well, don't try getting into the base pool as it appears to be a bottomless emerald pit akin to the portals in the Woods Between the Worlds in Narnia.
Careful of slipping on the rocks as well, it can be quite painful to crack your bones on them. Excercise constant vigilance, the slippery slopes are treacherous.
Well. That's it. If you're a mountain baby and a water baby, you'd appreciate the view and that infinite feeling where you remember you're just a speck in the universe and all of that. You won't appreciate the climb back up though, so pack some glucose to keep your energy levels up.