A Travellerspoint blog

The Hills are alive...

....with the sound of Monkeys !!

semi-overcast 24 °C

29th December 2010

A tired, drained and pale Jen woke and said something about not feeling like eating anything for breakfast. Well that proved to Stew beyond all doubt that she really was ill, as it was free food she was spurning! Still reeling from this news (and the smell in the bathroom) Stew decided he was partaking in the free breakfast on offer alone and munched away quite happily on eggs, toast, fruit juice and tea, while Jen feasted on a single piece of dry toast!
Deciding not to overdo things today (and to not wander too far from an available toilet, just in case!) we took a slow stroll down towards the bend in the road where we saw the lake views from the bus yesterday. On the way we encountered a large troupe of monkeys who were quite inquisitive and playful but kept their distance from us, just in case! A little further down we came across a beautiful waterfall which seemed to feed the lake via a fast flowing but small stream. We hung around here for a while snapping photos of the gorgeous vistas around us before slowly trudging back up the hill.

The waterfall in Dalhousie

The waterfall in Dalhousie

Stew really needed a shower....

Stew really needed a shower....

The waterfall in Dalhousie

The waterfall in Dalhousie

The beautiful lake between Hatton and Dalhousie

The beautiful lake between Hatton and Dalhousie

They really do pick PG Tips !!

They really do pick PG Tips !!

The gorgeous view into the hills between Hatton and Dalhousie

The gorgeous view into the hills between Hatton and Dalhousie

Either side of us were row upon row, acre upon acre of tea plantations and we could really smell the strong scent of tea in the air around us. A little further up the hill, we stopped to watch a small band of tea pickers at work, each carrying a large white sack on their back and picking the tips off the plants, some of them stopping to wave and call to us as we happily snapped away at them on our cameras.

Jen picking Stew's breakfast PG Tips!!

Jen picking Stew's breakfast PG Tips!!

The professionals show how it's done!

The professionals show how it's done!

Tea pickers do their stuff for Ceylon Tea

Tea pickers do their stuff for Ceylon Tea

Oi - you're nicked! You're in Police Custardy Cream!

Oi - you're nicked! You're in Police Custardy Cream!

Once back at base, Jen announced she was actually hungry for some proper food, so, bearing in mind her fragile state, we carefully chose and ordered a nutritional and balanced meal of 2 slices of bread and butter and a big plate of chips washed down with a Coke! With time pressing us as we were leaving in the morning, we realised we couldn’t stay so near Adam’s Peak without attempting the climb, so made the decision to give it a go at 1:30am giving ourselves a little more time to make the summit before sunrise. Back in our room, we packed a rucksack with all the essentials (including Immodium and Andrex!) and climbed into bed to try and get some sleep before starting the gruelling climb.

Posted by StewnJen 22:08 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (3)

The Slightly Chilled...

... and Severely Ill !!

sunny 25 °C

28th December 2010

Before drifting off to sleep last night we had decided that we did not want to stay at this hotel, and that we were going to ask for our room in the Slightly Chilled Guest House that we had originally booked. So we were up fairly early, showered in cold water and shared the single towel we had at our disposal!! After packing up our stuff, paying for our less-than-enjoyable meal and checking out, we headed next door, in no mood for any excuses about no room at the inn. We needn’t have worried. We were given the choice of two available rooms, and opted for the one not directly underneath the kitchen and with the best view of Adam’s Peak. As neither room had been cleaned at that time, the manager told us he’d give us breakfast on the house for the duration of our stay, took us upstairs to the restaurant and sorted some late breakfasts for us! We were quite happy with that and decided we’d risk the ‘Return to Cliffhanger’ by catching the bus back down to Hatton so that we could stock up on supplies in readiness for the hike up Adam’s Peak that we had planned to start at 2am the following morning. With some trepidation, we boarded the bus but, thankfully, our driver was more akin to Benny Hill than Damon Hill and drove at a far more leisurely pace, enabling us to savour the truly stunning and amazing views of the hills and tea plantations that abound this area. Our eyes widened as we turned a corner and a huge, glistening lake came into view. It was so achingly beautiful that you just did not know where to look first.

Adam's Peak towers over the hills

Adam's Peak towers over the hills

A corner of the Lake between Hatton and Dalhousie

A corner of the Lake between Hatton and Dalhousie

The gorgeous view into the hills between Hatton and Dalhousie

The gorgeous view into the hills between Hatton and Dalhousie

The journey took about an hour and a half and we arrived in the town of Hatton, welcomed by rain, smog and a good number of interested stares! We wandered the streets looking for a supermarket and an ATM and stocked up on cash, biscuits, energy giving snacks and drinks ready for the long climb later on. The difference in air quality here was very noticeable and we couldn’t wait to be, once again, up in the hills with pure, clean air in our lungs. So, with no hanging around, we jumped on the bus back to Dalhousie (pronounced Del-house) and our Slightly Chilled room!
We thought it would be a good idea to fill up our rumbling bellies with some food to give us some energy for the ascent up the Peak, so decided to give the guest house restaurant a go, and it turned out that they had laid on a buffet dinner, consisting of vegetable soup, some different rices, noodles with veg, a mild chicken curry, pumpkin curry and a mixed vegetable curry with some papadum pieces on the side. It was quite nice, but they don’t sell beer here! Stew had to make do with a Coke, while Jen guzzled a Fanta.
With stomachs full but not overdone, we knew we had to try and get a few hours kip in before 2am and our climb in the dark, cooler hours in order to reach the Peak before sunrise to see the fabled Shadow of the Peak phenomenon, where the shadow cast behind the mountain seems to land in mid air, and, of course, the spectacular sunrise itself. We knew it was going to be very tough going, but were looking forward to it and we started psyching ourselves up for the trip. Unfortunately, our plans were thrown out the window when Jen became very ill and hardly left the bathroom for the following 6 hours or so with terrible sickness and diarrhoea. She was so drained and tired that we had to abandon our climb which was a real shame as the weather was perfect. We weren’t at all sure whether or not we would be able to climb it at all, but decided we’d revisit that decision in the cold light of the following day!

Posted by StewnJen 22:20 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (2)

Breathe, breathe in the air...

Dalhousie - a smog free zone!

overcast 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.

Adam's Peak at night

Adam's Peak at night

Posted by StewnJen 21:28 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (1)

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ONE AND ALL!!!

Sri Lankan Season's Greetings!!

overcast 23 °C

25th December 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL!! We’ve decided that this is the strangest Christmas we have ever had, and it is also the very first Christmas we’ve spent together alone! No exchanging of gifts much to Jen’s intense disappointment (cue lots of pouting and lip quivering!!) so we spent a lot of the day walking the beach. The rest of the day was spent updating the blog to appease our adoring public (!) and we managed a Skype session, albeit a slow one, with Jen’s family. Christmas dinner was a very traditional Spag Bog for Jen and a Chicken and vegetable Curry for Stew!! A quite forgettable and yet unforgettable Christmas it must be said! We miss everyone very much indeed but wouldn't have missed this experience for the world!!

Sanda Claus ?!!

Sanda Claus ?!!

Posted by StewnJen 14:55 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (4)

Christmas is coming, the waves are getting high!

Chillin' on the beach

overcast 23 °C

24th December 2010

As the traffic was really bad in the town when we arrived yesterday and it took us an hour to get to the hotel from the station, we decided to grab a Tuk Tuk to take us back there at 6:30am as we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get our tickets and to get a seat. We managed 1 out of 2! It was still raining when we hailed a Tuk Tuk and we piled everything in. We started getting a little worried when our driver decided to first of all stop for fuel,and then to stop to pray and we began to think we’d never get there!
Colombo Fort Station is completely charming from the outside. From the inside, however, it is very busy, noisy, dirty and more like an aviary than a train station as there are so many birds flying around and foraging on the tracks for scraps.
After waiting until, almost literally, the cows came home, our train arrived and with some trepidation we jumped on board. We really weren’t at all sure this was the correct one, but it turned out it was. We both had to stand for the entire 2 hour journey to Bentota as there were no seats, and Stew kept calling out station names as the train pulled into each one, so that we could make sure we got off at the right one! Jen suggested we get off at Alutgama as it was the stop before Bentota, and we weren’t completely sure the train would stop there. So when it pulled into Alutgama we very hastily grabbed our things and jumped off just before the train pulled away again. It turned out we did the right thing. There was already a Tuk Tuk driver waiting on the station and we were like magnets to him, so we bartered a price and he took us to the hotel where we would be spending Christmas – the Oasey Beach Hotel, which wasn’t really in Bentota at all, but in Induruwa a little way up the road! As Bentota is a nice beach resort, we could understand why they say it’s in Bentota!
The hotel was quite nice, and we had a huge room just off reception which opened up onto a small patio, next to a small swimming pool amidst some gardens which backed directly onto the beach. The beach was glorious – bright orange sand that stretched for miles in both directions that was constantly bombarded by big, noisy waves more than good enough to surf on.

The orange sands of Bentota Beach, Sri Lanka

The orange sands of Bentota Beach, Sri Lanka

The beautiful orange beach in Bentota, Sri Lanka

The beautiful orange beach in Bentota, Sri Lanka

Our home for Christmas!

Our home for Christmas!

We were exhausted by the time we got there, and so had a little snooze before deciding to go for a walk to see what was around. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Absolutely diddly squat! All we found was a couple of small restaurants and so dived into one for a quick snack. Well quick isn’t a word that is used out here! Everything works in slow motion, so our meal took a long while to arrive before we decided to walk back along the beach. We hadn’t realised how far we had actually walked until we started back along the beach and it had started getting dark. We got to a hotel that juts out onto the rocks, and a security guard asked us what we wanted. “The beach” we said, and he pointed to a path which we duly took. We obviously took a wrong turn, though, and found ourselves on the rocks outside the hotel! Some of them were quite steep and wet and we were slipping all over the place! Anyway, we made it back in pitch black dark and decided to give the very expensive hotel Christmas dinner a miss and just chilled out for the rest of the evening. Whilst sitting in our room and listening to all the usual cheesy Christmas songs, we were treated to the funniest and best version of the 12 days of Christmas we’ve ever heard, and spent the next hour or so singing what we could remember of it and giggling our heads off like a couple of schoolgirls! It was sung with a strong Indian accent which made it even funnier, and it goes like this...

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Twelve cricket ball tamperers
Eleven syllable names
Ten-minute yoga
Nine telemarketers
Eight Bollywood films
Seven-11 workers
Six IT graduates
Five Indian games
Four Hari Krishnas
Three butter chickens
Two nosy in-laws
And a totally insufficient dowry!

Posted by StewnJen 14:09 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (2)

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