Published: May 23rd 2009March 22nd 2009
I can't believe that today, we finish our "tour" and head for the beach. We got up at 6 to finish packing, drink our bed tea and start our walk. There are numbered/signed walks around each bungalow and this morning, we're doing C2 trail, which is about 6km long. What a stunning walk! We passed through the largely deserted village before 7 - it is Sunday - no work, no chanting! We saw a few people around, but not many. As we passed through the tea picker's cottages, I could smell the communal latrines. We passed churches, Hindu temples, creches and some shops that were just opening up for the day. After the village, we started to climb - in the van a few days ago this had seemed like a very sharp ascent, but on foot it felt fairly gentle, but still quite challenging. As we reached the top of the tea fields we followed a ridge along the top, looking down on endless miles of green tea fields and the reservoir behind them. Gorgeous. Trail C4, which we did the other day, is quite uphill/downhill/uphill, but C2 takes you high up and then straight down.
We were back
for breakfast at 8.15, - I had a Sri Lankan breakfast of milk rice (cooked with coconut milk), roti, fish curry, potato curry and dhal - it was excellent! Then it was time to shower, sort out our tips, settle our bill (found out too late that Grand Marnier isn't included in the "all inclusive" deal!) and collect the tea we'd purchased. Then we said our farewells and headed off on our last long drive with Seelan. He was on time, but we weren't, so we left at 9.45am, about 15 minutes later than planned. As we came through the village (pointing out "Seelan's Bend" to him en route, a tricky little hairpin that he handled really well in his saloon) the ice cream man was doing his rounds. The ice cream "van" comprised a hand held basket and a little squeezy horn to let people know he was there! Kids were out playing cricket on the "village green".
To our dismay, Seelan decided to take the Kithulgala road again! There had been talk of a scenic route through the forests. As we passed the Rafter's place, we crossed the Kelani river several times - one time seeing an
elephant being led down for his bath by his mahout. We came out of the valley at Avissawella, then it was a long slog through endless villages and towns until we joined the coast road at Kalatura. Fruit sellers lined the roadside, selling durian, mangosteen, bananas, king coconut - and all sorts of things I'd never seen before. Women and girls were all dressed in white for Sunday and some children wore school uniform for Sunday School.
The key advertising campaign in this area is for Rhino Roofing sheets. It's a bright, bold campaign (the main colour theme is ORANGE) and they've chosen to plaster their strapline "Sky is the limit for Rhino" all over people's fences, doors and walls. I imagine they've paid for this, but the irony is that some of the properties they've chosen to use as advertisement hoardings have the crappiest, falling in roofs you can imagine! Well, it amused me, anyway.
As we hit the coast, Seelan told us about the impact of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka, and showed us wrecked houses and various memorials. Very touching. He had had a lucky break that day as he was on the coast, but
his clients had woken earlier than planned and so they were about 10km inland by the time the first wave hit.
When we'd originally planned our drive to Galle, Seelan had said we'd stop somewhere en route. But it became clear, as we got further and further down the coast road, that he was a man in a hurry! He asked if we needed a break, and we said no - not unless he wanted to stop. He was happy to keep driving, which suited us as we were keen to get to our next hotel. It transpired that he was heading home to Kandy that night, but had to go to Colombo first to drop the car off. Made this a very long day for him - he had to travel from Colombo to Kandy by bus - a 3/4 hour journey. So after a gruelling 5 hours in the car, we arrived at the Fortress hotel - at Koggala, just outside of Galle.
They brought us iced tea, and we sat with Seelan going through various bits of paperwork so that he could report back to the office. We said our fond goodbyes. Seelan was an
excellent guide and we gave glowing reports back to Red Dot about him.
Now we could concentrate on getting to know this stunning hotel. It is very, very stylish - and rather high tech. We love it. We were upgraded to an ocean view room (I'd been stingy and only booked a standard room) and it is superb. We decided to eat something and ordered Sri Lankan wrap (avocado, lentil cutlet, lemon aioli and salad) and tuna melt sandwiches, along with two beers. Then we relaxed on sunbeds for a few hours watching the waves roll in. There are stilts for fishermen just off the beach, but as we later found out, the tides aren't right for fishing just now and so we didn't see any during our stay.
We watched "beach boys" - tuk tuk, tat and tour sellers - prowling the beach, but they played a clever game with us, merely shouting "goodnight sir, madam" as we left to go to our room. Aminda, one of the butlers, gave us a tour of the hotel and spa. The whole layout and design is exceptional. Did I say that we love it here?
Before dinner we
had cocktails (cosmo for me, Tom Collins for Roy) and canapes - coconut strips with seeds, tuna & soy, goat cheese and tomato. They tried to give us more, but we declined. Underoccupancy is a big problem in Sri Lanka, and the Fortress staff try to make up for it by being VERY attentive to the few guests that they have. For dinner we both ordered Reef fish, red rice and coconut gravy - this came with sauteed kankun, a type of spinach. It was excellent. We had a bottle of white, and then ordered dessert! Banana and Chocolate wrap with cinnamon ice cream, and Wattapulum (like a coconut creme caramel with kitul syrup). Then to bed. We have a tv here so we channel hopped trying to find news worth watching and then fell asleep.
There are more photos below