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AND INTO THE HILLS HENRY CLIMBS

WE LEAVE THE ANCIENT CITIES BEHIND AS WE FIGHT FOR ROAD SPACE IN THE HILL COUNTRY

Monday 18th November 13 (day 79)

We set an alarm this morning as we had agreed to have breakfast at 9am. For just Rs350 ($3) we were served fruit, toast, butter & jam and 2 boiled eggs with tea and coffee. also had our vegemite yippee!! Bargain.

After breakfast we paid the bill, and left our bags to be collected later as we did not want to leave them sitting in the tuk tuk while we visited Sigiriya.

Sigiriya means Lion Rock and is a spectacular rock fortress and because it is world heritage listed the entry fee is a whopping USD $30. I think the entry prices here in Sri Lanka are a little over the top expensive - must be one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit these sites. But of course only for tourists as locals do not pay any entry fee at all - they are free to all world heritage sites. Anyway, my gripe aside, this was the only site I was interested in visiting so we paid the fee and entered.

Description on the ticket reads: Sigiriya is a unique landscape city, created in the 5th century by King Kashyyapa embracing a 200 meter rock out crop and its surrounding with nature driven architecture composed of buildings, pathways, terraces, ponds, paintings and sculpture. There are more than 1000 hand written poems on the mirror wall written by visitors to sigiriya from 7th - 14th century. The UNESCO declared this a world heritage site in 1982.

Of course it is all in ruins now and no actual buildings are still standing, but we did see some of the frescos painted on the side of the rock and some of the old graffiti. And the climb up to the top was pretty awesome, even if it did take 1200 steps to get to the top. There were signs of the old steps and pathway to the top of the rock and I am glad I was not here 10 years ago as I don't think I would have braved the climb up the rock face. It was a pretty hot workout climbing up all the steps and it was midday before we returned to the bottom again.

Quick lunch stop back in the village, collect our bags and again we were on our way in the tuk tuk. Accompanied by lots of waves, smiles and comments we headed south towards the centre of Sri Lanka, towards the hill country. Our destination for tonight was the town of Kandy.

I had read in the lonely bastard last night that the area we had already driven through was the dried area on the island, and today we would go through the wetter, more lush area. This was evident as the flat plans turned to smaller than bigger hills and mountains and the landscape turned to thick green jungle. Still rice paddies could be seen in small clearings on the slopes and the ever present road side stalls still dotted our pathway. As did the dogs.

At about 3pm we stopped for a drink and a stale cup cake at a cafe on the side of the road, purchased some more bananas from a stall on the other side of the road and continued up the mountain. Very soon afterwards the rain started and it bucketed down very heavy rain for about 30 minutes. We closed the canvas sides off the tuk tuk to keep out the rain, but had to keep the tops open to make it possible to see out. Of course the already crazy drivers turned to complete idiots as most crazy drivers to when it rains and the drive became even more of an adventure as Lyn managed to avoid collision with cars, impatient buses and other tuk tuk's.

Just as sudden as we had driven into it we drove out of it and the road was dry again. But now it was time to tackle the busy traffic of a big city as we entered Kandy. It went well as Lyn is starting to adapt to the when in Rome theory and drive like a local.

It was later afternoon so first up was to find a hotel for the night. Managed to navigate to the hotel part of town and viewed a few. We have not yet sussed this out yet and cannot seem to find a comfortable middle hotel that we want, we seem to find too cheap and a little nasty or too nice and out of our pocket range. And of course there are always touts who promise everything you want at the price you want to pay but when you get there they don't deliver. This is what we ended up with tonight, but it was getting dark and the price was ok so we just settled for where we were. Not the best but ok and for Rs4000 ($33) for clean sheets and hot shower in a big city it was ok.

Our tout had recommended a place to eat which was walking distance and since the tuk tuk was garaged for the night we did not want to take it out and try and drive and find a park. The place was a genuine Sri Lankan food place and although there were a few westerns there also, this was definitely a place where families came to eat. Evident by the families eating there. We ordered a chicken curry (way to hot for me - don't like curry anyway), dahl curry (quite nice) and vegetable roti (most edible) plus a bottle of water came to a grand total of Rs330 ($3). Very cheap but they still have this problem of not being able to serve food hot - oh it hot as in spicy hot, but not as in heat hot and this is the part that worries me. Cooked food that has been sitting is the worst thing to eat - but I guess time will tell. I will let you know how it went tomorrow!!

It was spitting rain again as we walked back to our room. I'm a little peeved as we were told we'd have internet but of course we don't and I needed to investigate our plan for tomorrow. So we may just have to wing it and drive aimlessly!! lol

Just to add a few random things: about the dogs everywhere, most of them seem to be in pretty good health, although we have seen some of them that are so close to death it's sad. I wonder if they ever do a round up of the dogs when the numbers get out of control? None of the dogs we have encountered have been aggressive or fierce or threatening in any way, which is a good thing. Lyn has taken to collecting our food scraps from our meals and taking them to give to the dogs, however one of tonights vegetable rotis was given to a scabby street man.

Monkeys are everywhere!! I remember saying to Lyn the first day of our driving I wonder if we will see any monkeys? lol yes we have seen lots. Even one on the balcony of our room here in the middle of Kandy.

NOBODY SMOKES! I should say none of the locals smoke! or if they do they do it behind closed doors. Without a word or a lie since we have been here I have seen a grand total of two Sri Lankans smoking. One a young guy at the top of the rock and the other was the ticket guard half way up the rock and he was smoking a joint. I didn't actually see the joint as he hid in under the counter when we approached but the aroma of the smoke coming out of his mouth was unmistakeable. Really unbelievable not seeing anyone smoking!!

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Tuesday 19th November 13 (day 80)

We had a early start this morning as we had to vacate the room by 10am. The sun was out and although the sky was looking a little grey there were also patches of blue so we asked if we could store luggage and leave Henry (we have now named our tuk tuk) in the garage while we walked the short distance to the centre to find breakfast.

The 20 minute walk along the side of the lake (man made in 1807 by Sri Wickrama Rajasinham, the last ruler of the kingdom of Kandy) was quiet pleasant except for the manic traffic screaming past and blasting their horns - some at us, some at other traffic and some just for the hell of it as is Lankan style. There were lots of fish in the lake even though the water had a yucky greenish brown tinge to it. The aquatic life was obviously thriving if the variety, number and sizes were anything to go by. Also a lot of bird life and heaps of turtles were in and on the water too. As we walked along I thought I saw a crocodile swimming in the water towards us but it turned out to be a giant water monitor lizard. We ended up seeing a lot of them along the way too, so the water must be ok for so much wild life to be living in it.

We found the main drag and went to the bakery that had been suggested to us. It did not look so appealing and did not have any seating anyway so we moved on to another cafe/bakery. Still the pre cooked foods and bakery items did not look at all appetising to us and we regretted not bringing along the vegemite as there seemed to be fresh white bread that looked like it would have been ok. Instead we opted just to have a drink and see what we could find later. I had a mixed fruit juice and it was the best juice I have had in this country so far - mainly because it was chilled I think. Lyn ordered a pot of tea and after the first sip just about grew hairs on her chest it was so strong. She still managed to down a few cups with the help of milk and our bottled water to thin it out a bit.

A quick walk back up the Main Street and retracing our steps back along the lake to the hotel to collect our bags and Henry and it was time to attack the Kandy traffic and try and find our way out of town. It was relatively easy, just head in the opposite direction to the one we drove in and after only one false turn, which just required a u-turn, Lyn had mastered the city traffic and we were on our way out, south.

Today we were heading into the hill country and before long we started climbing, which lasted for the rest of our journey, with the last hour or 20 km becoming the steepest.

We drove through a few smallish towns but were soon in tea growing country. Steep slopes both sides of the road were filled with bright green bushes in hundreds and hundreds of rows, criss crossing the country side. Some of the plantations were dotted with tea pickers, who if close enough to the road would look up, smile and wave back to us. The views up here are awesome!

Yesterday I read a quote written in the Lonely Bastard which after today I tend to agree with: "most people think of and associate beaches when they think of Sri Lanka, but the people who have visited Sri Lanka think of and remember the hill country."

We stopped at a great little road side / cliff side cafe to have a drink and a snack. It was run by a young guy who pointed out his home to us which was situated directly under the cafe, down the slope of the hill that was covered in tea plants. He served us a great cup of tea and we tried a couple of local snacks. We ate bonda (deep-fried potato & lentil ball in lentil flour batter) and this other savoury donutty/egg thing (not sure of the name of it). Of course both had been prepared earlier and were served cold but they were not too bad, I quite liked the bonda and would be willing to eat again. And of course both were quite spicy! But we had no reaction (touch wood) from the food we ate yesterday so I am getting a little braver with food intake. I also tried jaggery which is a hard brown sweet made from kitul. Kitul is sap from the kitul palm drawn off from the tree, in liquid form its know as treacle and when boiled down as jaggery. Yep it was a sweet as sweet can be, could feel my teeth rotting as I ate it. lol
We asked the young guy if the tea we were drinking was from his plants and he said he does not produce tea. He just grows, picks and sells it to the larger plantations as he does not have the machinery to dry, cut and produce the tea ready for consumption.

We continued on and still seemed to be climbing. The weather was not looking to good now and looking back down the mountain all we could see was mist. The views were gone.

There are still fruit and veggie stands along the road here, but the bananas have all but disappeared and most of the stalls contents are now an array of assorted vegetables, they look great. And of course still the stray dogs, but not in as big a numbers as we have seen in previous days.

Not long after that it started to rain and slowly it got heavier and heavier until it was pouring down enough that we had to close the sides on Henry. Unfortunately this cuts down my visibility to not much more than the back of Lyn's head. Every now and then I would lift the side flap and have a peek outside but the rain was not easing.

It became a little lighter as we approached the town of Nuwara Eliya where we had planned to spend the night. We passed a couple of hotels on the way in to the centre and decided to return to them once we saw that the centre was a concrete jungle. We had a feeling that the accommodation was not going to be cheap here but we did not wish to drive on any further in the rain, so decided just to such it up and find a place and just have to pay the going rate.

As luck would have it the hotel we picked was much more reasonable than we expected, so I asked about the more expensive cabana rooms. They had a bit of a terrace area where we could sit outside, the room he had shown me was at the back of the hotel. Cabana room was Rs5000 ($41) but I talked him down to Rs4500 ($37) with breakfast included. Never hurts to ask for a better price, they always give some kind of discount. Happy with this price we parked Henry (the tuk tuk in case you have forgotten we have named it), took out our bags and ordered a beer, which was delivered to our terrace. Not a fantastic view and not much in the way of passing traffic due to the rain but it was still nice.

It's a lot colder up here due to the altitude and I guess the rain as well. The rain continued to fall at a steady pace. The shower was hot so that warmed us up just before we went and had dinner in the restaurant. Looks like we are the only guests staying here tonight. A brief ease in the rainfall and we walked over to the dining room. As our food was served (chicken soup followed by chicken noodles for me and chicken chop suey for Lyn) it really started to pour rain again. It was pretty heavy and as we were under a tin roof it sounded even worse.

We ordered hot tea and sat in the dining room using internet until 10pm when they asked us to leave. Oopps sorry bedtime. The rain sounds like it has slowed right down and I hope the morning brings sunshine again, but tonight we are sleeping fully clothed as only one blanket each has been allocated to us and it's bloody cold here.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 06:33 Archived in Sri Lanka

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Comments

Love your new form of transport, Henry is a great name!!

by Mandy Young

Gosh girls you have done so much since we saw you at Meilham , all we have done is drive to Spain for the warmer weather ,,,,well done to you both
We are really enjoying your blog ,, the weather much warmer here of coarse than in freezing wet France , I head home to Aussie on Friday ,DG will then return to the boat moored at Castets ,,I'm surprised you didn't get sick after eating the ,,,sausages in Morocco,,,, how bloody brave ,
stay safe and best wishes to you both ,
Carol & DG .

by Carol & David Gardner Hamilton Island

thanks Mandy!

by Cindy Bruin

Hey Carol & DG,
nice to hear from you.
brave?? nah mate we are tough, take more than a Moroccan sausage to knock us down!!
not so sure about Sri Lankan curry though!!
cheers!

by Cindy Bruin

Loving the blog!I was lucky in Sri Lankan as I travelled with a friend who has family there. Stayed in Nggumbo in an old colonial style house and when we went to Kandy stayed with her sister out in the wilds! I too couldn't cope with the cold food! Every day the evening meal was prepared early morning...due to heat they said...and was served cold and always with beetroot! That said I loved it there! Remember walking along the promenade at Galle in the evening...reminded me of home! My mum spent her childhood school holidays in the hills there...when it was Ceylon! The scenery high up is just stunning and I love the pics!x

by Dolly Torkilsden

Wow! You girls!! Un-bloody-believable!!! A self-drive tuk tuk, eh! Way to go!! Most young backpackers wouldn't even think of that means of transport, let alone do it. Not bad, not bad at all - for a pair of old boilers. Still enjoying the blogs, enjoy the last few days of your hols. Great pics, by the way.
The old fart.

by Raymond O'Shanassy

Hey Old Fart,
Old boilers???? Hey we resemble those remarks!!
We are having a great time in tuk tuk. Well at least I am as Lyn is driving, but holiday is far from over. From here to Bangkok we go to organize visa for our 2 month stint in Philippines, unfortunately there we cannot hire self drive tuk tuk but who knows! Stay tuned!!

by Cindy Bruin

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