Meemure is an ancient, remote village in the Knuckles Mountains of central Sri Lanka
Pack-bulls used to be the only mode of transport to Meemure up to 2004. Today, an off-road vehicle is needed to negotiate the narrow, twisting mountain track to the tiny village 324 m up in the Knuckles Range in the shadow of the magical Lakegala mountain. Heen River flows through the village. The four hundred odd hardy souls that live up there in small houses made of clay and spear grass and cultivate rice and pepper have no transport service, cable or mobile telephones and postal services.
The drive in a locally hired beat-up minibus from Corbe’ts Rest where we was staying, took nearly an hour even though the distance is only 11 miles.
There wasn’t very much to see. A shop called Lionel’s at the end of the track sold most of the stuff similar shops in any Sri Lankan village would. Hand written signs advertised accommodation for visitors. Some were called ‘resorts’ and others were campsites. A walk through the village to a little clearing offered a view of the one landmark I wanted to see most in Meemure – Lakegala Mountain.
Seen from Meemure, the 1310 m high Lakegala rock is pyramidal. The rock is steeped in mystery. It is believed that the kingdom of Ravana, the legendary king of Sri Lanka who abducted Sita, the wife of the Indian demigod Rama, was located at the base of the Lakegala rock which was ‘used to launch his ‘flying machine.’
The best access point to Lakegala is from Meemure village. The climb is said to be ‘difficult and daring.’
We walked past the ‘elders meeting place’ and then through the rice fields, along a brook and stopped briefly at little kiosks manned by village women serving roti with fiery sambal and tea brewed with medicinal Belli flowers (Aegle marmelos).
The mid-morning heat was intense. We rested for a while in a forest clearing and refreshed with biscuits and spring water, hiked to a series of rock pools made famous by a Sri Lankan movie called “Sooriya Arana.”
We squeezed in to a mini van for the four kilometer return trip to Meemure village and ate the traditional snack of the village – roti and sambal washed down with black ginger tea. Cardamum and black peppers are cultivated extensively by the villagers and are sold to visitors. A kilo of dried black pepper costs Rs.650 (about £3).
On the bone-rattling way back to Corbet’s Rest where a hot spicy lunch and cold beer awaited, we stopped for a dip in the cool waters of the Heen River, just outside Meemure.
The trip to Meemure was arranged by Padmini Hussein of Flamingo Tours.