Hopetale to Colombo

August 17

After breakfast, we climbed back in the van to begin the trek back to Columbo.

We stopped at an historic old house and enormous grounds that is now home to a Catholic seminary. I was able to see 3 of the rooms in the house that have been turned to museum. The rest of the place are rooms for the seminarians and the grounds were just gorgeous. My camera batteries were just about out of juice, so I got fewer photos than I’d have liked.

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These poinsettias lined a fence in a Catholic monistery on the grounds of an old English manor house. I was able to tour a small portion of the house, but the rest is for the students and classes.

Once we got to Columbo we headed for a museum, but since it was New Moon Festival (yes, they have this for every new moon!) it was closed and so were all the other places I wanted to see.

We did manage to find another Catholic church of historic significance open in Columbo and I wandered around there for a bit.

Lal then decided to drive along the coast to Negambo. Along the way there was an old fort we stopped at as well, but the police still use the area and it didn’t look too welcoming for a long walk.

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Old Fort entrance in Colombo

There are canals throughout this city and they were built by the Portuguese, which is where the Catholic influence comes from.

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Canals lined the street in Colombo.

Sri Lanka has been dominated by many different countries and cultures, but they do a magnificent job of modeling peaceful and neighborly coexistence with each other.

Since there was nothing else open to see, we went to Lal’s house. It is a tradition for him to take his guests for a final meal at his house to meet his family before heading to the airport. His family are lovely people and I particularly enjoyed talking to his son, who is part of the family tour business. He had some interesting historical insights. He feels that Sri Lanka is unique for such a small island that has been dominated by so many different cultures. It is the only place in the world that Sinhalese is spoken. He said that this bespeaks an advanced culture that is not given credit when visiting the historical sites. He gave very convincing examples, which I am not conversant enough with to include here. However, it is quite a feat in my mind even to have hung onto their unique language.

After wonderful conversation, I ate with Lal and then he took me to the airport. The line for my Emirates flight was snaking all over the airport and was finally broken into two, both of which were not moving. When it finally began to move I started to worry about making my flight, and I had arrived 4 hours prior to departure! I made it through security and onto the plane in time for a slightly delayed departure. Smooth flight to Dubai and a 6-hour layover. I finally arrived in Kuwait around 10 pm and was back home by 11:30 pm!

What a glorious country. I think it comes pretty close to paradise, and I didn’t even go to the beaches!

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…and back to school with the specialists team.

Kandy to Hopetale

August 16

My itinerary originally had me going from there to Galle on the southern coast, which has an old Dutch fort. However, Lal has a bungalow up in the tea plantation area and offered me the option of going there instead. I opted for that and enjoyed the many waterfalls along the way.

We visited Nawara Elia, the highest city in Sri Lanka and visited a tea factory called Blue Field. The equipment in this factory is 100 years old. I was stunned to learn that tea must be hand-picked because they only use the “new” leaves. Women are pickers, not men, and are expected to pick a minimum of 20 kg/day. The leaves are then dried using fans as they lay on a screen trough, and then fermented, and then dried again.

After my tour, I was able to enjoy a nice cup of tea there after the tour.

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A lovely cuppa tea!

The final push was up to the highest city in Sri Lanka and then to Hopetale where Lal has a place.

There was a spectacular view from out the door of my room and I enjoyed it with juice and a book.

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The view from my doorway in Hopetale

Then I spent a little time in the lobby and a couple from France wandered in for dinner. They are doing a world tour for a year and then will return to their jobs! They were very enjoyable to talk with. They pointed out that they had been oversimplifying their English to the point of being grammatically incorrect sometimes in an effort to be understood. Their English was very good. It feels however,  presumptuous of us to assume (as I mostly do as I travel) that everyone can speak English. It is true that most people do, unless you are in really rural areas but it feels arrogant to make the assumption. I find it amazing that so many people around the world and in all countries are able to communicate pretty well in English. I don’t think they meant to be disparaging but were thankful for an opportunity to speak with a native speaker and work on their own. Anyway, through our dinner conversation we discovered we had visited the same tea plantation and there are many! After dinner I went for a shower and my book and bed. It was a very noisy night as the street right outside my room seemed to have lots of traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, and dogs barking.

Siguriya to Kandy

August 15

Up and out after breakfast, but I wasn’t up to the climb to Dambulla Cave Temple, so we just stopped and took a couple photos. Then we headed toward Kandy. We stopped at a few Hindu temples as we approached Kandy.

On the way we also stopped at a wood carving factory and I saw the multitude of woods they have in Sri Lanka and use to carve anything from furniture to masks. They use the wood of what we call the rainbow tree to make the natural paints. It was fascinating to watch as he shaved some sawdust off of a piece and then added hot water to it (red), then rubbed lime/lemon on a strip of iron and stirred it in to make a blue/purple, then sprinkle in a little lime powder and stir to make a yellow/gold. Coconut milk is used for white and boiled to make black and green is made using leaves. They had people sitting at tables working on various carvings. Of course I bought a mask!

When we arrived in Kandy

we stopped at a Batik Factory where the process was demonstrated. It was also really interesting to see what a difference it made in how well the fabric (silk or cotton) took the color to run it through a bath of either vinegar or salt before putting it in the dye bath. The process is exactly the same as I use for the Ukrainian Easter eggs. Even the tool they use to apply small details looks like the one I use to apply the wax on the eggs.

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Batik factory in Kandy with samples of each step and an illustration of the process.

We also stopped at a spice and herbal garden. It was so interesting to see a rubber tree up close and personal and I had never seen what the pepper plant looks like so I enjoyed that too. So many different herbs and spices all grown in one garden area: cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla to name a few. They brew/mix and of course, sell all manner of salves and potions, scents and medicinal treatments.

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This lovely man was my guide through the spice garden. He is holding either a nutmeg seed or a rubber seed.

Finally, a stop at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. These gorgeous gardens were first planned out in the mid-1700s. They cover about 150 acres of trees, lawns and flowering shrubs, including 50 acres of arboretum with more than 10,000 trees. In 1821, under British rule, the park became a botanical garden. It is the largest of Sri Lanka’s three main gardens. There was an Orchid house, which has more than 300 varieties. Here the thing that stood out the most to me were the “bat trees.” I called them this because there were literally hundreds of fruit bats roosting in them. They were noisy as they jostled for spots or just hung from branches. There were many within the arboretum.

Then up a VERY narrow road to the hotel where I had a little time to relax before dinner on the roof top.

Anaradhapura to Sigiriya

August 14

I awoke the next morning and Lal was knocking at my door. He had my suitcase!! They delivered it five (5!!) hours away from the airport at 3 am! I was utterly impressed. What service! I dressed, had breakfast (including fresh mangoes from trees on the property). Then we headed out to visit some of the temple ruins in Anaradhapura. (Had I realized how often I would be taking my shoes off and on, I would have worn flip-flops and worked to toughen the soles of my feet before going.) Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country and this area especially had vast ruins of a large and bustling priest population. Here’s what his itinerary said about the ruins of Anuradhapura: the sprawling complex contains a rich collection of archaeological and architectural wonders: enormous dagobas, soaring brick towers, ancient pools and crumbling temples, built during Anuradhapura’s thousand years of rule over Sri Lanka.

By about 11 am we were heading toward Sigiriya. On the way I had an appointment for an Ayurvedic Medical Treatment (full body massage and steam bath). A broad variety of natural herbs form the main ingredients of Ayurvedic medicines, which make it absolutely free of side effects. This practice has been perfected over centuries and claims to have remedies even for those ailments that defy time and modern understanding. I was totally oily, including my hair upon leaving, so I was happy to go to the hotel and get a shower (cold to luke warm).

At 4:00 we headed for Sigiriya Lion Rock. This rock fortress is regarded as the eighth wonder of the ancient world. It is supposed to have been built by King Kassapa in the 5th century AD and was a royal citadel for more than a year. It is a complex of buildings, part-royal palace, part fortified town, and water gardens on par with the best in the ancient world. This is a magnificent and unique architectural feat on the part of the ancient Sinhalese. Fitbit said it was 63 flights of stairs and my feet said it was at least 100! I didn’t want to descend in the dark so I started down just before the sun reached the horizon. It was dusk when I got back to the parking lot and we headed back to the hotel and dinner.

I was really ready for an early night, but am glad I pushed myself to do it.

Colombo to Anaradhapura

August 13

I landed in Colombo at a little after 1:00 pm, but sadly, my luggage did not arrive with me. I filed a report, but didn’t have any local contact information. I finally headed out of the airport at about 3:30 pm and hoped that my tour guide would still be waiting for me. He was!! Lal had a beautiful lei for me and it smelled divine! I exchanged some money and then we went to the van. We called the airlines to give them his contact information regarding my suitcase. What I didn’t realize was that there was another five hours of driving to get to Anaradhapura. Finally we arrived after a stop to pick up some toothpaste and toothbrush and checked in to the hotel, and then I had dinner. I was served tons of food (rice and curry) looking out at the pool and a night sky through mango trees. I invited Lal to eat with me. He declined, but sat and kept me company (this was to be the standard practice until the last couple days).

The majority of roads in Sri Lanka are narrow and only two lanes (sometimes only one, and quite hair raising when you meet oncoming traffic). So, the speed limit is lower and it takes longer to get anyplace.