A Travellerspoint blog

Hill Country

Haputale and Ella

We left Kandy by train for the scenic 5 hour journey to Haputale - not quite so scenic when you are standing up in a crush or sitting on your backpack in the canteen car for all of the journey!

En route to Haputale

En route to Haputale

Haputale is tea plantation country - just a few guesthouses but not at all touristy. We met up with Susan, who we'd met in Kandy, and ended up doing a couple of day walks with her. The first of these was up on a ridge through a bird sanctuary with lovely views of the surrounding countryside- didn't see many birds but did see a skink and there were a few monkeys around. We walked back along the train tracks, which seemed really alien to us Westerners - Sue was convinced that her foot would somehow become trapped as soon as a train appeared and Susan was recalling silent movies where the heroine was tied to the tracks by the villain. Fortunately we only met one train and had plenty of time to move out of the way.

Skink?

Skink?

Walking the tracks

Walking the tracks

Dodging the train

Dodging the train

The next day we chickened out of the 7km uphill walk and took a tuk-tuk up to Lipton's Seat - from where the famous grocer Thomas Lipton apparently used to survey his tea plantations. It was a lovely walk down through the tea bushes passing pickers on the way. Unfortunately the tea factory wasn't operating that day so we couldn't have a tour.

Lipton's Seat

Lipton's Seat

View from Lipton's Seat

View from Lipton's Seat

Tea Pickers

Tea Pickers

Tea bags

Tea bags

Back on the train to Ella - just an hour away and this time we had seats. The scenery at Ella is stunning with hills all around and on a clear day views all the way to the coast. The guesthouses all vie with each other to produce the best home-cooked Sri Lankan curries, including beetroot, garlic, bitter gourd, baby jackfruit and the most delicious aubergine dish - definitely not losing any weight here!

More walks to the tops of the two highest peaks - Little Adam's Peak and Ella Rock. The route to Ella Rock is a bit confusing and locals appear to be being helpful showing the way - then demanding payment as guides. We avoided all this but did acquire a dogged guide who helped us find the way up. He even barked when the next group arrived at the top. Not much wildlife but we did see a 5ft long snake slithering away into the undergrowth.

Terraces

Terraces

Ella Rock

Ella Rock

Little Adam's Peak

Little Adam's Peak

Ella Rock in the dawn light

Ella Rock in the dawn light

Our bored guide

Our bored guide


The top at last

The top at last

Flowers

Flowers

Ella river

Ella river

We decided to try another Ayurvedic massage. Not quite as oily as last time in Kerala but our program also included a steam bath (in a coffin-like contraption) and the special Shiro Dhara (something akin to water torture but with hot oil being poured on your forehead for 10 minutes). Think we might stick to Swedish massage with lots of fluffy towels and whale song music in the background in future.

Posted by armrig 01:54 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (1)

Cultural Triangle

Cultural Triangle - about time for some culture we thought.

We started in Dambulla with its Rock Caves - not really comparable to India but with some good statues and paintings..

Cave Temple

Cave Temple

Warrior king, Cave Temple

Warrior king, Cave Temple

Ceiling painting

Ceiling painting

Dambulla also has an incredibly tacky Golden Temple built in 2000. The row of Buddhas looked like a conveyor belt at a shooting gallery.

Shooting range Buddhas

Shooting range Buddhas

We spent a few days visiting the ancient cities of Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.

We arrived at the Flower Inn in Sigiriya with another couple (Jo and Simon) whose first question was "Is the Rock open now?" Apparently it had been closed due to hornet attacks! 22 people had been taken to hospital, 3 were critically ill and many more stung. At this stage, Sue was all for leaving. Anyway, the guesthouse owner advised us to wait until the next day - Monday when it would be quieter (fewer noisy Sri Lankans she said) and to go early in the morning. We were also told about the requirement to wear "wasp suits" - sort of bee-keepers' outfits - less and less tempting.

The Flower Inn had a beautiful garden and not surprisingly was full of flowers, birds and butterflies plus the odd troupe of monkeys passing through. Our room was strangely full of plastic flowers, soft toys and wildlife including ants, geckos and a large frog. We were warned not to be out after dusk - wild elephants had killed someone recently and during the evening we heard loud bangs/explosions apparently to frighten them away. A dangerous place!

Valentine flower at Flower Inn

Valentine flower at Flower Inn

Early on Monday we set off to climb the rock which is really impressive rising out of the plain. It's been inhabited since prehistoric times - either as a monastery or palaces depending on which theory is current.

Sigiriya Rock

Sigiriya Rock

The frescoes on the way up are amazingly bright.

Ancient frescoes of buxom wenches

Ancient frescoes of buxom wenches

Alarming sign:
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The suits are only necessary for the very last climb from the paws of the lion to the flat top up a very steep staircase. At the top, everyone is meltingly hot and most people go for half suits - we saw a few hornets but nothing too frightening.

Lion's Paw

Lion's Paw

Lion's paws

Lion's paws


Colin in the hornet suit

Colin in the hornet suit


Throne

Throne

View from the top

View from the top

Next stop Polonnaruwa where we hired bikes to tour the site. We didn't expect heavy rain but managed to shelter during the worst of it unlike Jo and Simon who got drenched 4 times. The rain was quite good really as it meant that it was reasonably cool. Polonnaruwa was the best site for us - especially the Gal Vihara, four huge Buddhas carved from a single wall of granite.

Lion

Lion

Moonstone

Moonstone

Lotus flower

Lotus flower

Buddha

Buddha

Buddhas

Buddhas

Anuradhapura was the last site - very spread out, very, very hot to cycle around and we forgot the camera - we have got some photos on the phone - who knows if we'll manage to upload them.

Feel that we've done culture now - nature and the hills beckon.

Posted by armrig 20:10 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

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