We stopped at a small signboard chalked “Batadomba lena” hanging from a rafter on a way- side tea boutique. We could have easily missed it. We looked around: where was the road leading to the Batadomba lena?
Such began the mystery that was to surrounded us. It was 8 am and a dull morning. We followed our guide and friend Anesley Fernando onto what seemed to me a never ending mountain side. There was no road, path or recognizable track
From the beginning the climb showed us little mercy. The kabook gave way to boulders big and small. The leeches were no better. The only sound was of rushing water which accompanied us from the time we started. At last we came to view its source a stream of water flowing in a maddening rush. The trees had now become thick with wild creepers and exotic ferns
Anesley led us unhesitatingly. At one time our trail ran on to a cliff overlooking the waterway. On another occasion our trail ran alongside its rocky bank, crossing it from side to side, on moss covered boulders.
The play of water on the boulders were fascinating. At one point a huge cube shaped boulder stood directly in its way and the water bounded off it in utter recklessness to rejoin its flow.
Now the leeches were in real earnest.
Another time we were making our way along the side of a high moss and fern covered rock wall -- which could have easily been mistaken for a man made one.
Then we seemed to have left the waterway but we never seemed to lose its music.We seemed to be standing in a valley. Ahead, in between the trees, began the forming of a picture -- but not green this time.
And then, quite unexpectedly, a steep vertical sheet of rock rose directly in front of us. Its dark features showed intriguing markings, colour combinations, texture and design. There was a ledge half way up, on which could be seen the caves.
From the very top of the rock a thin sheet of water fell into an abyss directly in front of the ledge. It was like a flimsy silver curtain shielding the entrance to the cave and blowing softly in the wind.
The surrounding tree scape seemed strangely to complement each other. Wild creepers clung and completely covered tall trees making the most weird shapes, which could easily be mistaken for some pre historic monster.
A perfect page from The Lost World! A thrilling prospect. !
Out of the tangle of the wilderness rose this sight of absolute rugged beauty, typical of a lost world. A unique creation of nature ! A picture framed by the dull sky which added to it an even poignant atmosphere. And enveloping it all was the silence of mystery.
It was a photographer’s challenge. The pictures reproduced here are by Anesley, who seemed to appear and disappear trying to take that perfect shot. We trekked onto the side of the rock to climb up to the ledge and crept through a natural arch made of wild creepers. The three caves werespread out along the rocky face. They were large and airy. The Archaeological Department excavations were apparent in one cave.
We sat and removed the bloody leeches that clung on to our legs listening to the absolute silence broken only by and the drip of water. We stood on the ledge and looked directly ahead into a valley which rose again upto another jungle clad mountain peak.
A variety of trees seemed to grow in absolute abandonment. In the most unruly of creepers grew the most delicate flowers -- of unearthly beauty. We saw a blushing pink flower -- so frail amongst all the maddening wildness. And another lilac coloured one hiding in a confusion attracted my attention.
It was time to make our trek back, this time thankfully downhill all the way. As usual it was even more attractive the second time around.
We stopped shortly to admire a tree which had a screw like appearance. Then again to try and identify a bird. And all the while the dramatic approach picture of the Batadomba lena kept flashing in my mind. - even as I write, with every muscle in my body being challenged to experience it. And my imagination running riot.
The abode of the Balangoda Apeman.
Batadomba lena, or cave, is associated with the Balangoda Apeman or the Balangoda Manawaya.
Anatomically modern, prehistoric human remains found in Sri Lanka are commonly referred to as Balangoda Man. The term seems to have derived from his being responsible for the Mesolithic 'Balangoda Culture' which was first defined in sites near Balangoda.
According to scientists he stood at an estimated height of 174 cm for males and 166 cm for females. The bones are robust, with thick skull-bones, prominent brow-ridges, depressed noses, heavy jaws and short necks. The teeth are conspicuously large.
Scholars have also found that the tool kit of Balangoda Man is distinguished by the occurrence of geometric microliths, comprising small (less than 4 cm long) flakes of quartz and (rarely) chert, fashioned into stylised lunate, triangular and trapezoidal forms
S. U. Deraniyagala, Former Director-General of Archaeology, Sri Lanka says that such geometric microliths have traditionally been considered the hallmark of the Mesolithic period as first defined in Europe. The earliest dates for the geometric microlithic tradition in Europe being around 12,000 BP. Hence it came as a surprise when such tools were found as early as 31,000 BP at Batadomba lena and even at other sites, like the two coastal sites in Bundala and at Beli-lena.
The occurrence of marine shells in inland sites such as Batadomba lena is also interesting and, according to scholars, points to an extensive network of contacts between the coast and the hinterland.
In Sri Lanka, Fa – Hien lena has yielded the earliest evidence at 37,000 BP of anatomically modern man in South Asia, followed by Batadomba lena at 31,000 followed, in turn, by Beli lena. The dating of these caves has been done by radiocarbon assays, using charcoal.
The human remains from Batadomba lena were studied at the Cornell University, USA.
Batadomba lena can be reached by travelling 2kms along the Eratna road which is linked tothe Colombo Ratnapura road at Eratna junction and proceeding a further distance of apptoximately 4.5 kms along Guruluwana road. The trek leading to the cave we were told was about 1km in distance and has to be traversed on foot.
by Kishanie S. Fernando
A Trek into the Lost World : Daily Mirror, February 7,, 2005
March 25, 2007