Adventure on the hills

Text and pix by M Naushad Amit
Though camping is an activity closely related with the military, scouts and adventure-seekers, this has now become the latest trend among holiday makers too.
Many investors stake their monies in creating campsites with the latest facilities.
But an experience of real-life adventure in camping will be an everlasting memory.
Pedro Camp, Nuwara Eliya, which stands above 6,215 feet from sea level is the ideal place for adventure camping.
The campsite, however, is under the authority of Sri Lanka Scouts Association and is well-known as Pedro Scout Camp.

The camp can be found six kilometres away from Nuwara Eliya town on the Welimada road through Hawa Eliya within the Bomburu Ella Forest Reserve.
It also can be accessed from the byroad where the Sri Lanka Army Camp is based turning off from the Nuwara Eliya Economic Centre, which is also an approximate 6km drive.
Though the main objective of Pedro Scout Camp is to train its cub and boy scouts and to facilitate training programmes for scout leaders, there are many other activities being carried out which are mainly youth training and development based.
The facilities of the cabins of this camp are mostly the basics which may be the minimal in life but everything is placed accordingly.

“But nowadays the camp is mostly being visited by non-scouts. Many who come here are top executives or top people from the society. It is really encouraging to see many who did not do scouting during their school days come here and wish they did. Many parents who come and stay here are keen to have their children follow the lessons in scouting,” said Ajith Jayasekera, the assistant district commissioner, Sri Lanka Scout Association, Kandy District Branch and Warden, Pedro Scout Centre, Nuwara Eliya
The camp consists of many adventure features and skill games which are essential part in scouting.
It’s surrounded by thick and unpolluted nature where adventure seekers can enjoy the real thrill of hiking on a track that can span onto kilometers. Inside the camp premises can be found four log cabins, the legendary ‘Christopher Cabin’, recently built auditorium and dining hall for the scouts.
There is a lodge outside above the camp entrance which gives a picturesque view of the entire camp where most of the non-scouts prefer to accommodate.
Eighteen people can comfortably sleep in this six-roomed lodge which also includes a common kitchen.
Utensils are provided but food and drinks should be brought along.

“To complete the hike it will take at least two days. There are points where you can break the hiking into stages but there are thick places in this natural rain forest still to be explored. The thick jungle around the camp extends out to as far as Welimada, and if someone misses the direction he could reappear from the Haggala Gardens or from a remote village close to Welimada called Perawela. It’s a very good experience and if you are a scout this kind of adventure is nothing new,” Jayasekera, who is a veteran of 16-climbs to the Mount Everest, explained.
According to Jayasekera, the camp found its place during the mid 1940s when British Chief Scout Commissioner Brooke Elliot visited the Pedro Estate in Nuwara Eliya to have a calm retreat in the then Ceylon. It is still a well known destination for the scouts around the world.
“Mr Elliot was surprised by the surroundings of Pedro Camp which he had said resembled of Gilwell Park, London, the ‘ancestral home’ of the World Scouts Movement. He then took the initiative to create Pedro Camp as a camping site for the scouts. Today it plays an important role in every scout’s life and has become very popular among visitors too,” he added.

How can visitors make use of the facility, will be a question many might have in their minds.
“This camp cannot be accessed if you come without the correct consent. All those who are interested in accessing the camp must get the approval from the Sri Lanka Scouts Association in Colombo and follow its procedures. Once you come here, you can cook your own food, maybe have a nice barbeque with a campfire and enjoy the adventure and its surroundings which are preserved under the Sri Lanka Wildlife Authority. You must be a total nature lover to really enjoy all these, or once you come here can convert yourself into one,” Jayasekera said jokingly.