Dalhousie - a smog free zone!
27.12.2010 - 28.12.2010 22 °C
27th December 2010
It was moving day again today, and we checked out of our hotel, hailed a Tuk-Tuk to take us to Alutgama railway station and boarded our 8:30am train to Colombo. Once again our 2nd class ticket did not come with a seat, so we stood for the entire 2 hour journey hanging out the open door as the world sped by, watching in amazement as the track kissed the beach and almost the surf itself in places! As the carriages bucked and rocked, we hung on to each other and our luggage while we viewed the scenes outside and saw lines of men heaving huge nets from the sea while another, smaller group of men, women and children wandered into the waves carrying their own long fishing net. Houses big and small, new and old, bright and glum, grand and ramshackle raced past us. It really was a wonderful trip, despite our aching limbs! But knowing we had an eight hour journey once we’d reached Colombo made our hearts sink!
After 2 hours or so, we finally reached Colombo and had to fight our way off the train, put our packs on and trudge over the bridge to get to the ticket office outside. Once again, there was no First Class service on our next train, so we grabbed a couple of 2nd Class tickets and resolved to push our way into a seat if we could. A 2 hour wait ensued and the platform got busier and busier and we knew we would struggle to find one vacant seat let alone 2. We were right. Once the train came to a thundering halt, it was as though the earth itself was being evacuated! People getting on didn’t even wait for passengers to get off before diving through the doors, some people even opting to throw their bags through the open windows and onto a seat before they’d even got on! Jen somehow managed to bag the very last seat in the carriage so at least one of us sat down. A very nice man across the aisle said to me that he would give me his seat when he got off the train around 30Kms from where we were. He did exactly that, and the guy sitting next to him swapped with Jen so that we could sit together. We were, however, soon joined by a young boy who sat in the non-existent seat between us, and then he gave his seat up for his Mum!! It was quite cosy and Stew spent most of the trip hanging out the window to gaze at the spectacular panoramas speeding past. Thankfully, when we arrived at Kandy, after a 6 hour trip, the vast majority of passengers disappeared, leaving a much less crowded carriage and we finally got our 2 seats to ourselves !! Unfortunately for us, though, we still had more than 2 hours left of our trip before reaching Hatton.
The train creaked to a standstill in Hatton station at around 20:00 and we gathered our stuff and ran the gauntlet of the Tuk Tuk drivers and spotted a bus. Stew asked some passengers on the already packed bus where it was going, and luckily it was going our way!! We fought our way on, knocking passengers aside with our backpacks like in some comedy movie, and were politely asked to take them off before doing someone some permanent damage!! We stored them on a seat next to the driver, resumed our standing position (no seats!!) and then clung on for our lives for the next eternity as Nigel Mansell’s long lost Sri Lankan cousin took us on a rollercoaster drive from hell for the next hour and a half!! It wouldn’t have been quite so frightening if there had been some walls on the side of the road to protect us from the sheer drop the other side! In some places the road was not wide enough for a bus, let alone 2 vehicles! Thankfully, though, it was quite dark outside so we were spared most of the scary scenes outside! We got chatting to a couple of girls who got on not long after us and they were staying in a hotel next to ours so they told us to get off at the same stop as them. As it turned out, we ended up staying in the same hotel as them! When we finally got off the Helter Skelter bus and checked in to our guest house, the funkily named Slightly Chilled Guest House, we were politely informed that they had no room for us as some people hadn’t returned from their climb up Adam’s Peak and would be staying an extra night! We were not best pleased after such a long, arduous and frankly terrifying journey !! However, we remained calm and courteous and told the proprietor that we would revisit in the morning and he sent us down to their sister hotel next door, about 50 meters away! The hotel is brand new and still being built! We were shown immediately to our room, and we ordered some food and coffee (all cold again!). Getting back to our room, we couldn't resist a peek at the Peak from our balcony and it was a beautifully clear night, the stars were bright, the crickets and frogs were in full voice, the waterfall roared in the darkness below us somewhere, and the line of lights showing the way to the golden coloured pearls of light at the top of the peak shined brightly like a string of fireflies chasing a golden prize. It was gorgeous. We snapped away before tiredness overtook us, and we collapsed in our beds.