Pada Yatra – Introduction
This guide gives you full details to prepare for Pada Yatra.
What is Pada Yatra?
Every year Yala restricted area is opened for public due to Pada Yatra ( foot pilgrimage). Pada Yatra is afoot pilgrimaging from Jaffna to Kataragama. The road to the Kataragama after the Okada is through Kumana, and Yala Block A and B. Usually the block B is restricted for any visitors.
The nature lovers, hikers, as well as worshippers from Hindu & Buddhist, takes the road from Kumana onwards to experience the beauty, culture and worship the Gods.
I wanted to write a Pada Yatra guide because I didn’t find a lot of information online. There were few forum discussions & trip reports at Lakdasun.
- Days Required: 4 to 5
- Weather: Dry Season
- Cost: 3000 to 5000 LKR
- Permission: No Special Permission Required to Join the pilgrimage
- Time Period: July-August, The actual date can be found by calling to Kataragama Devalaya or Kumana Wild Life Office:0633635867
Link to the FB photo album from here.
By Bus and Private Vehicle: Colombo > Panama > Okada
There is a Bus from Colombo to Panama. Both Private and Public buses can be booked. The private bus can be booked to by busbooking.lk while Public buses can be only booked on the Day before 6 hours at Pettah Bus Station. The bus takes around 8 hours to get to the Panama.
If you took the bus you need to arrange some vehicle from Panama to Okada.
Hiking: Kumana Entrance > Kuda Kabiliththa > Kabiliththa > Lin Thuna(3 Wells) > Parana Thotupala(Old Harbour) or Warahana > Katagamuwa > Katharagama
Download the GPS Trek from here. (Thanks to Lakdasun)
Total Distance: 101 Km
- Day 1: (By a Vehicle) from Panama to Okanda(Kumana Entrance): 19KM
Total Walking Distance
- Option 1: 70Km
- Option 2: 82Km
- Day 1: Kumana Entrance to Kuda Kabliththa : 21 Km
- Day 2: Kuda Kabiliththa to Lin Thuna : 16Km
- Day 3: Lin Thuna to Warahana : 25Km
- Day 4
- Option 1: Warahana to Katagamuwa Entrance: 8Km
- Option 2: Warahana to Kataragama: 20Km
Pada Yatra can be extremely challenging, both mentally and physically due to two main reasons.
- High Temperature & Dehydration
- Terrain with long valleys(No shade from the sun), water crossings and sand.
Therefore it is important to prepare yourself for these conditions. The importance of constant hydration and taking enough salts to keep the cramps away are key factors to make your journey enjoyable.
Special note the hikers with less experience: Join with a crew or someone who has done the treck. Their experience will help you to navigate through the rough terrain.
3L of Water bottles are recommended as follows,
- 2L Water Bottle for Water.
- 1L Water Bottle for salts(Jeewani)
There are water points along the track to fill your bottles. But there were times that I ran out of the water and forced to drink water from the lake. If you are a tourist it is advisable to use water purification tablets or a life straw.
When you are drinking Jeewani, just take one gulp of it and drink some water afterwards to keep your mouth fresh. It is important to not to drink too much water at once but keep drinking a small portion of water regularly. This will keep your mouth and lips wet.
Clothing & Wearables
- 3 Sets of clothing,
- Night Wear
- Hiking Wear
- Before and After Wear
- Multi-Purpose Cloth: Can be used as a head cover in long valleys.
- A Hiking Hat.
Special Note: Do not wear denim as hiking clothing. Denim is uncomfortable for long journeys and it can cause small injuries or cuts.
I recommend track bottom from experience. It is light, comfortable and it can be washed easily.
For the Top Wear: I wore a long sleeve cotton T-shirt. It gives the protection from the sun as well as absorb the sweat quickly.
I was managed to survive with 3 sets of clothing as mentioned above. Each day you will be able to wash your hiking clothes and dry it before the next day. Since you have to carry a backpack between 10Kg to 15kg across 4 days in Hot Sun, minimizing the load will make your journey enjoyable.
- Pair of Canvas Shoes or Hiking Shoes and Socks
- A pair of Slippers or Sandals.
Special Note: Do not wear new shoes. It will cut your legs and make the rest of the journey hard. Also, avoid wearing hard shoes that made for mountain climbing. The most important factors when choosing a pair of shoes are ventilation and comfortability. You might require to take off your shoes when crossing water paths and muddy areas. Some hikers tend to wear slippers throughout the journey since it is easy to take them off.
First Aid Kit
- 1 x Crape bandage
- 8 x Jeewani Packets
- Water Purification Tablets
- Salon Pass Spray
- Sopremisecne Cream
- Sun Cream
- Mosquito Repellent
- Lip Balm
- Pandol, Piriton, Strepcils, Vitamin C
The only things that I used from above pack were Spray and Jeewani. The spray was so useful. Since it’s a long walk and heavy backpack. The shoulders tend to get sore.
Water Blisters can come up on your feet. This happens due to improper shoes. Make sure that shoes are not new and used to your feet.
- 15 Noodles Packets
- Chocolate Bars: It can provide a quick energy boost.
At the end of the day, I only ate Chocolate Bars from my pack. A lot of Pada Yatra devotees offered us food(Breakfast Lunch, Tea and Dinner). Pack your bag with food that gives you quick energy. If you are travelling group of 3 or less, Most likely people around you will give you food. But if you are in a group of 5 or more it is advisable to arrange your own food.
Sleeping Matt and Blanket or Sleeping Bag.
It is not necessary to carry a Tent since it is the dry season and it is most unlikely to rain. But please check the weather reports ahead and plan accordingly. ( The tent will add extra weight to your backpack.) There were not many bugs or mosquitoes. In a personal note, I just slept looking at stars.
- Cooking Pot
- Small Plate
- Torch(head torches are preferable)
- Camera Equipment
- GPS(if you have one)
Download Pada Yatra Check List from Here.
What to Expect at Pada Yatra
Yala is full of wildlife and beautiful landscapes. I found myself walking in the thick jungle. I saw elephants, buffalos and lot of animals that can cause me harm if provoked. Yet there is a small theory/belief that I have.
“if you do not harm the nature in any way, It won’t Harm you back”.
This is a principle that I live by. I didn’t meet any harm during the course of Pada Yathra. Yet there are few things you should follow.
- Travel with a Group or join a “Nade(Group of Pilgrims)”. Please make sure that you get permission from the leader of “Nade”. They will welcome you.
- This is a Hindu pilgrimage. Therefore respect their traditions to avoid conflict. This includes zero alcohol and smoking.
- Sun is going to be blazing hot. So Be prepared. Use of a sun cream will help. Make sure that you hydrate yourself regularly. (Drink water if your lips are getting dry).
- There are no toilets after you started the trail. So be okay with going to the jungle.
- There are regular waterpoints set up by the Sri Lankan Army. Make sure that you refill because sometimes some water points are 10 KMs Apart.
- Please spend the nights at a camp as mentioned in above route or at a checkpoint. Checkpoints have army guards and water. Camp Sites have a first aid unit, water, protection by Army and plenty of pilgrims and hikers.
- 3rd Stretch is can be hard to follow. So if you are a first timer, Please make sure that you go with a group or use GPS route to avoid getting lost.
- Be Mindful of your surrounding. Keep your eyes and ears open.
- Avoid or minimize polythene usage. Also do not leave any polythene wrap behind. Collect your own garbage.
- Help fellow pilgrims. I gave a lot of medicine away.
In case of An Emergency
Please contact army forces at the nearest checkpoint. If you are unable to walk ask someone to deliver the message to forces.
Always remember, As an adventure lover, a nature lover you are granted an opportunity walk across Yala. This is due to the pilgrimage. Therefore, Respect their culture, customs and rules. They are strict about the use of alcohol and smoking. This will help you to avoid conflicts.
Always Remember that.
Special thanks to my hiking partners during the trek Sachith(Right, check out his rock climbing place: ClimbLanka) and Priyanjith(middle). Kushan and Deepika Fernando who helped me with initial information.
Update (20.6.2018): Gates will be open for Yala on
July 6th July 4th, 2018. Please recheck this information. If this is wrong, comment or informs me know via messenger.