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Published: January 22nd 2008
Hello everyone! So, here I am in Sri Lanka, dodging bombs and searching for sunshine!! he he! only joking, well actually, half half! Yep, there have been a few bombs since i got here, but in the main they've been in Colombo and I have to say that I don't feel unsafe at all. Apparently the cease fire has officially ended though and there are military and police everywhere you go here. On the sunshine front, it honestly did rain continuously for the first week of being here. We then got a sunny few days and now its chucking it down again, so in that respect, I am searching desperately for some sun!
So what have I done so far here? Well, I'll start right from leaving Goa.
Our taxi turned up earlier than the 5.30am we'd booked it for and hence, was woken up by a banging on the hut door. Jumped up, convinced i'd overslept and was late for the taxi, but it turned out only to be 5am and so had plenty of time. We got to the airport and first off had to put the bags through an xray before we could check in. Stupidly, I forgot to put my pack in the travel sack before it went through the scanner and hence had to queue up twice for the xray! Looks like it might have been lucky to arrive early after all! Eventually had the bag scanned and the security sticker in place and joined the check in queue. When we got to the front though, the lady told us that the plane had been overbooked and they were letting the transit passengers on first. Would we mind standing aside and they would find us another indirect flight if they didn't manage to get us on this one! Well, having spent a whole day looking for a flight, spending nearly 14k ruppees for a direct flight from Goa and having got up at 5am that morning to get this flight I wasn't having any of it. Oli was of the same opinion, so we basically told the woman we weren't moving anywhere until she checked us onto the flight - the transit passengers were not our direct problem and if she couldnt check us in, she better get her manager to come and talk to us as we were not moving away from the check in desk. She huffed a bit and tried to serve the next people in line around us before another woman arrived behind the desk. Obviously the manager, but she didn't talk to us, she just told the lady to check us in! She wasn't happy though and slammed the passports down with the boarding cards! At least we were on the flight though! Even though I did think maybe our bags would be sent to timbuktu or somewhere!
Anyhow, we got on the plane and a few hours later were in Sri lanka. It was hot when we arrived and noticeably more humid than India.....and noticably more cloudy too!
Outside the airport we managed to get a bus into Colombo (the airport is a way outside the city) where I could try and find the indian embassy to apply for another visa. The guys on the bus tried to stingus for double the fare by charging us more for our bags than for us, so I decided to go and confront them. After 5 minutes of reasoning, I came back with half the difference in my hand, which i was happy with bearing in mind that the bags did actually take up a whole seat and the bus did get really crowded.
When we got to Colombo, we realised it was Saturday and the embassy, if we found it, would probably be closed. So instead we joined a huge queue at the train station to get a ticket to Kandy. Oli went off on the hunt for beer and cigarettes and we took it in turns to queue while the other one 'looked after' the beer! Little did we realise at this point that its actually illegal to smoke on the streets and probably to drink beer on the street too! No-one stopped us though and even the rickshaw driver who was talking to us didn't see fit to mention this small point! That's the first realisation that being a visitor basically mean you get away with anything.
We missed the first train, but we managed to get on a later one. This one turned out to be an hour or so slower, so it took about 4 hours to get to Kandy. Before we got on the train, we went to the cafe in the station for something to eat. It had a loadof different buns and cakes to choose from, so we picked a couple each. This was our first experience of how much Sri Lankan's eat! There were a couple of ladies in there who had a huge tray in front of them piled with different buns and cakes! I couldn't believe one person could eat all that, but they worked their way through it! What we chose - rotis, turned out to have more chillis in than anything else! It was also our first experience of how spicy the food was!
We left the cafe 10 mins before the train was due to leave......another lesson! In Sri Lanka, you don't get a seat allocated on the ticket! Hence we ended up sitting on the packs in the doorway of the train! It wasnt so bad though and I have to say, when a seat came free a few hours later, it was more uncomfortable than I had been on the pack in the doorway! Until it got dark, we enjoyed the passing countryside, which was so lovely after India. The place is so green and lush and unlike india, is not strewn with rubbish.
Anyway, eventually got to Kandy and eventually, after walking miles, we found the Glen guesthouse. It was so clean, it was unbelievable and the matresses were at least 4 inches thick - luxury!
We stayed in Kandy for a few days, checking out the tooth temple, applying for my visa for india (yep, there was another indian embassy in Kandy which was fantastic as it meant I didn't have to go back to Colombo to apply for it) and drinking with a couple from Oz we met in the pub on the first day! I wouldn't normally spend my firstday somewhere in the pub, but it was chucking it down with rain and it seemed like a good place to take shelter!
After a few days, we decided to head up north to the ancient cities. We stayed in Sigaria for a couple of nights at a really nice guest house called the flower inn. The landlady, priti, was a fab cook. The rooms were huge as well and because we were the only ones staying there, we had the living room, fridge and tv all to ourselves as well! All in all, we were pretty happy.
The first day, we went back to Dambulla where there are some Budhist caves with amazing statues and paintings. Then on day 2, we climbed Sigaria rock, where one of ancient kings had built a city on the top. It was a hell of a climb up to the top, and a bit hairy in places as the scaffolding was only about 6 inches wide clinging to the edge of this rock, miles up in the air! How much do you trust Sri Lanken scaffolding?! Anyhow, when we got to the top, it was well worth it. The views were amazing and we managed to get down again before it started chucking it down again.
Unfortunately, the rooms we stayed in turned out to be really damp...not through fault of the guest house - I think every property in this area was damp as it rained constantly! I've never seen rain like it either. Eventually, someone told us it was their monsoon season! That explained a bit! Sri Lanka has a really complicated monsoon thing going on. Firstly, the country is split diagonally from North West to South East, so the two halfs have different monsoons. This meant we werein the monsoon now, but the beaches,when we got there, should be sunny. However, the good season also has two smaller interim monsoons, one of which was in Jan and was on right now. Complicated isn't it! Anyhow, the long and the short of it was that it was wet, very very wet!
Having realised that everything in our packs was feeling pretty damp we decided to move up to Polonowura and stay there overnight instead of doing it in a day trip and coming back to Sigaria. The bus journey was really funny. The guy driving was a complete nutter and drove at 100mph...or so it felt! There was this mad fast sri lankan music playing in the background as well, which kind of complimented the style of driving in a funny kind of way! hilarious! i really enjoyed it and figured it was all part of the experience. Unfortunately, I don't think Oliv agreed and got off the bus a bit worse for wear! So I decided to leave him with the pcks while I went off searching for a guest house. Eventually found the Devi guest house, or it found me! Godfrey, our landlord pulled up on his motorbike as I was walking down the road, slowly giving up the will to live as the guest houses were either really grim or full. He gave me a lift to see the rooms at his place, which were fine and reasonably priced. Godfrey turned out to be really funny too and helpful. He told us we could see the ruins for 3500 ruppees including a tuk tuk ride round them all. This seemed great as its normally 20 dollars each ticket (around 2400 ruppees) and then you'd need to hire a bike or tuk tuk on top. So we agreed and he called the guy who did what I thought was a group tour. It turned out it wasn't a group tour, but a secret undercover tour because they didn't actually buy you a ticket, but drove you round all te back entrances, down jungle paths, sneaking you in and out of the ruin sites, paying off the guards as and when they needed to! I have to say, it made for a hilarious day! We were driven down these paths through the bush, over terrain I never knew a tuk tuk could handle!! At one point, as we were being thrown about in the back of the tuk tuk, twigs and bushes everywhere, our driver turned round and laughed 'its a tuk tuk safari'! It made us laugh a lot! We did actually get to see all the ruins as well, and I have to say, i'd rather give my money to the people than to the government anyway. It was hilarious as well - we'd be walking round ruins and all of a sudden our driver would pop up from behind a ruin signalling to us where he'd parked the tuk tuk! he he! all in all, it was a fab day out!
After that, we bumped into Dave and Aleesa, the couple from Oz we'd met in Kandy. We had a couple of beers before heading back to our guesthouse. Over dinner we met another girl, Karen, who was travelling on her own. She was heading off the next day too to finish the ancient cities before going back to India.
The next day, we got on a bus back to Kandy. When we got there, we did look for a different guest house, but ended up back at the Glen. In a way it was good as we'd left somestuff there and I felt awkward just goingback to pick up the bagand saying we were staying somewhere else. That night, Oli and I decided to go our separate ways. Its hard for a holidaymaker and a traveller to travel together as you have different budgets and different expectations of the trip which puts a bit of a strain on things.
The next day, I went to collect my visa from the embassy. 6 mth multiple entry-- yeay!! I celebrated with Stuart from England, who also got his visa granted. We'd got chatting during the hours waiting the previous wk when we applied. It turned out he used to live in Brigton, or 'Hove actually'! so he knew the area round Chichester really well. It was so nice to talk to someone about home, especially then, as I felt a wee bit homesick, and kindof alone after Oli and I had split up. Not that I mind travelling alone at all, but the first day always feels quiet after having company for a while. He also leant me his sri lanka guide book as he was off to India in a couple of days which was handy as Oli and I only had the one between us. I said I'd meet up with him in India to return it, or if not, I'll post it back to his England address.
Before leaving kandy, I had to see the elephant orphanage, so the next day, I set off on the bus to Pinnewala. The elephants were amazing. There are about 70 or so I'd say, including one which was only 12 days old when I went. The other elephants were so protective of it, they literally crowded round it the whole time, so you were lucky to get a glimpse, let alone a photo! Anyhow, when I got there, they were bathing so I went down there to watch. I bought some bananas to feed them, which they love. You can get up close to them, butevery time you do, the Mahouts have their hand out. Hence, when you get fed up of handing over money, you just stand back and watch! I did get to feed one of the young ones and had myphoto taken with a few of them though and it was fantastic to be so close to them. Eventually, the bigger ones let the new born one out into the public eye too so we managed to get photos of him too! After bathing, they go back to the orphanage where you can go and watch the bottle feeding before heading back to the river for more bathing in the afternoon. All in all a fab day.
The next morning I woke up feeling absolutely awful. Fever and aches like you wouldnt believe. I went to the hospital fearing it might be Dengue as Aleesa had said she'd had it in Sri Lanka. Luckily it wasnt. It was just a virus, but I spent the next 3 days in bed. Mr Deen, the landlord at the Glen was really wierd though. On day 2 he said I'dhave to leave as someone else wanted the room. I felt so rough I didn't argue and said I'd go the next day. The next morning when I said I'd find another guest house, he changed his mind and said I'd have to stay as the other guest houses wouldnt want me there if I was ill. All very wierd. Anyway, I was relieved not to have to move as just the thought of packing my bag at that point was too much, I felt so rough.
A couple of days later, I felt well enough to go, so I made a dash for Nuwara Elya. there was nothing there though so after one night I decided I felt well enough now to climb Adams Peak. Its a massive mountain and hundreds of people climb in through Dec - April as a pilgrimage. All 5200 steps of it! You climb it through the night to be rewarded with a beautiful sunrise and amazing views in the morning.
It is an amazing thing to do. I met a couple of girls from Holland at the guesthouse I stayed at, Anna and Hildaand we set off together at 2.30am. Halfway up we met another Australian couple who had stayed at the Glen when I was ill, so we all did the rest of the climb together. At the top, there's a temple. It was so crowded when we got there you hve to fight for a spot to watch the sunrise. Then a lot of people go straight down again, so it gets less crowded. You get to ring the bell when you get to the temple - once for every time you have completed the climb. I rang it one time but there were people ringing it 15 or 16 or more times! Awesome. I'm not sureI'll be doing the climb again though. It's a hell of a long way up, and its even longer on the way down when you're shattered! You can't believe how many steps youwalked up when you're coming down them again! Your legs have also gone to jelly by that time so coming down is really as hard as going up! You get a great sense of acheivement through it though.
When we eventually gotdown we were rewarded with an amazing breakfast at the guesthouse - toasted sandwiches, toast jam, bananas and pancakes and syrup. Wow! Just what the doctor ordered. Hilda and Anna had a car and driver and offered to give me a lift to the train station at Nanu Oya near Nuwara Elya from where I wanted to get the train to Hapitale. Unfortunately I just missed one train - it was literally there as we pulled up in teh car, but it pulled out before I could get a ticket. The next train was a couple of hours late, so I ended upwaiting 4 hours for the train during which numerous people, including thestation master tried to get me to pay them to drive me there instead! Eventually I got on the train and an hour and half later I arrived here in Hapitale. This is home to Lipton tea factory which I want to see and a view point called Liptons seat which is supposed to be worth seeing first thing in the morning. I wanted to see world's end, which is supposed to be amazing, (where hortons plains come to an end and a shear drop almost straight down for880m) but 99% of the time, it's covered in cloud and mist and you cant see a thing. Everyone I spoke to said its a completewaste of time and money trying. Hence I'm goingto give it a miss. Especially looking at the weater ..... yes its raining again!
I'm really looking forward to the beach now as well. Hence, I'm going to go to the Lipton tea factory this afternoon and then try and see Liptons seat first thing tomorrow. Then I'm out of here heading for the beach. I got an email from Oli today who's already there. It'd be nice to catch up with him for a beer before he heads home too.
So next time I chat to you guys, I hope to have a tan once more..... It's sadly faded from all these days in the rain! :O)
Hope you're all well. Loadsa love to you all xx
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