Dalhousie, Sri Lanka to Induruwa, Sri Lanka
07.08.2010 - 13.08.2010
Dalhousie, Sri Lanka
Svenja and I are about to have dinner in our hotel restaurant here in Dalhousie village, debating whether to wake up in the middle of the night to climb Sri Pada, or Adam's Peak, to see the sunrise. Unfortunately, this is the rainy season so there's no guarantee if we'd see the sun at all tomorrow. As it is already cold & rainy weather now, it doesn't seem like a safe bet. This morning back in Nuwara Eliyia, after breakfast we checked out of the hotel. Looking over our bill, I asked why they were adding 10% service fee to the room charge, in addition to the food charge. While we were being told of the "service" the hotel provided with the room, like "towels and sheets", Svenja and I were watching the other hotel worker laying out our used, wet towels on the front lawn to dry (unwashed), and then the next door room's bed sheets being shook out and re-made onto the bed (unwashed). I remarked to the manager that the "service" they claimed to provide, dirty towels and sheets, shouldn't be charged, but he was conveniently ignoring my observation and ultimately just adjusted the bill to 5% service fee. Not wanting to dwell on the issue any longer, we left and visited Victoria Park to walk around a bit - even though the park charges an entry fee (ridiculous), it was still nice.
Grabbing our bags from the shady hotel, headed to the bus station and tried to board the next minibus to Hatton, but after looking at our packs, the conductor told us it was "too full", even though there were clearly seats open down the center row. It is definitely an adjustment after traveling in Africa 7 months, for a bus ever to be considered "full". We got on the later minibus to Hatton, which of course was empty so no problem with the luggage. But, as that bus was about to depart the driver said something in Sinhalese (Sri Lanka language) and everyone got off - some problem with the bus. By the time we collected our bags and followed the crowd, the THIRD bus to Hatton was already full! Finally, the fourth bus we got on, and successfully departed, arriving later in Hatton. Changed busses for Dalhousie, and called a guest house on the way to make a reservation. Upon arriving in Dalhousie, instantly a flustered tourist boards the bus and begins talking German to Svenja, followed by some local tout on the bus trying to get us to stay in his hotel, right outside where the bus was parked. A long time listening to the German man, joined by his wife and daughter, but eventually we walked toward the guesthouse I called earlier. Passing the police station, after some guy asked which hotel we're going to and I responded, he points back to the other hotel where the bus stopped (even though I knew it wasn't). Well, when we got to the guesthouse, I could tell right away it wasn't very nice. The woman owner tried to increase the price I was quoted on the phone, then went back down. They were obviously pretty desperate for business, but I didn't have a great feeling. So despite feeling a bit bad, we decided to head back after all to the hotel by the bus stop.
Cold, windy, rainy - not the best elements to climb some 4,000 steps & 7 km up the side of a mountain, but thats what we just finished up doing. Woke up early this morning and saw the rain, so decided since there wasn't any opportunity for a a sunrise view, slept-in and had breakfast. The rain continued pretty much all day, but I figured if we didn't climb it, then there wasn't anything else to see or do in this village. So, we set out sometime around 13:00, despite the rain still falling.
Passed by mini-temples and dagobas,
and one giant reclining Buddha on the way up,
with views of pretty waterfalls all around.
We decided to pass the time (4.5 hours up) by playing "The shoe game"; counting abandoned shoes/sandles scattered up the mountain (Svenja won 8-2, but some of the rules were ridiculous!). Along the way we met the German family descending, father ranting on for several minutes (Svenja later translated: complaining about the tough conditions, bad weather and disappointment at the summit). We continued on, and being low season, saw no other tourists and only a few locals hauling stuff. Pausing for a snack, soon Svenja's freaking out as she discovered a mini leech on her leg, then I see one on myself also - damn! Brushing them off, we continued up. More than once we considered quitting - not really a difficult climb, but very unkind conditions.
But eventually reaching the narrow, steep staircase to the top.
We were greeted by the lone gatekeeper/guard man staying in the hut at the top, he unlocked the gate to the temple at the summit, saying something along the lines for us to not lose the key or we'd have to go to Colombo for the spare. We stayed at the temple for oh, 5 minutes or so, as the cold wind and rain weren't exactly fun.
The guard invited us into his hut for tea, and as we removed our shoes, thats when I noticed it - one of the leeches found its way into my sock and had itself a meal with my ankle - huge spot of blood. Now I was freaking out! Well, at least we could warm up a bit with the gatekeeper's electric hot plate.
Over tea we tried to have a conversation with his limited English - all I understood was the types of tourists he meets, and gifts he receives (torch, t-shirt, money, etc.). Although, when I told him which hotel we were staying in, he had a positive reaction, and proceeded to condemn the guesthouse where our original reservation was made (what, does everyone in the town has some kind of vendetta with this place?!?). We thanked him (100 rupees) then started making our way back down. Took about 1.5 hours and just started getting dark when we arrived back at the hotel. Getting undressed for the shower, I then noticed on the other foot the second leech bite of the day.
Panicking, I did a full body search... thankfully, there weren't more on other areas!
Ratnapura, Sri Lanka
This morning in Dalhousie, after seeing evidence of chewed curtains and droppings on the floor over the past 2 days, we finally found the "mouse" in our hotel room - in fact, the small squirrels/chipmunks climbing on the roofs outside, and into our room at night through the cracks in the windows. We checked out of the hotel and made our way to Ratnapura, which is only 15 km from Adam's Peak, But since no busses pass directly between the two, we had to take the annoyingly long roundabout bus rides to Maskeliya, Norton Bridge, Avissawella, Kiriella and finally Ratnapura, about 150 km. Well, the good thing is we really like our guesthouse here - friendly staff and geckos having dinner.
This morning Svenja and I signed up for a 1/2 day "gem tour" here in Ratanpura. After breakfast, our tuk-tuk driver picked us up from the guesthouse and first stop was the gem museum - not so much of a museum with information, but more like a place with outdated displays of gems. Next our driver took us to an active gem mine - not on the side of some mountain like what we really expected, but dug underground in some pretty flat area. We first saw the washing/filtering pit, where our driver explained, "They work very hard here". Well, all we saw were workers standing around looking at tourists - I had to ask the guy to do his job so I could have the photo op!
Then we headed to the active mine. The driver encouraged us to strip to our underwear (so as not to get our clothes muddy), and climb down the rope into the pit. While I removed my shirt, not surprisingly, Svenni kept her clothes on. I climbed down first - slippery, muddy boards to step on while lowering yourself on the rope, probably a good 5 meters.
Waited for Svenni ,then we crouched our way through the mine, becoming pretty muddy.
The narrow passage about 1 m wide x 1 m tall, isn't an ideal place for anyone suffering from claustrophobia.
We met the guy who spends the whole day digging for gems (not ideal work conditions),
and then having enough, backed out and climbed back up,
rinsed off the mud at a water spout then our driver took us to the gem "market", which was just a bunch of guys standing in a parking lot pulling gems out of their pockets and trying to sell them. Not the most exciting thing, so our driver took us over to where merchants were shaping and polishing gems delicately by hand - cool enough to see, but not cool enough to purchase any.
Our driver then offered to take us to a waterfall outside of town for an extra Rs 500, and having most of the day still with no plans, headed over. Upon arriving, and then navigating over some slippery boulders in the river heading upstream, came to a really nice waterfall and swimming area.
After stripping down to our underwear (Svenni keeping her shirt on), washed our clothes and climbed in the swimming area - felt cool & really nice; then felt some fish nibbling on our legs & feet - luckily, not piranhas!
We swam for a while, had some snacks then navigated our way back on the rocks to the parked tuk-tuk, then back to the guesthouse. It was still fairly early so we headed down the hill back into town to visit the National Museum - overall, a so-so collection, but aided by a really nice guide who genuinely seemed to want to help explain displays, despite struggling a bit with English. We brought a pineapple with us, so after the museum tour Svenni and I sat in the back lawn of the museum and had a small picnic. Headed back to the guesthouse and balcony outside of our room, for nice views of the valley and sunset to finish the day.
Galle, Sri Lanka
Here in Galle, Sri Lanka's main city in the south. This morning Svenni and I checked out of the guesthouse in Ratnpura, walked down the hill to the bus station - but no busses left for Matara (to connect to Galle) for a few hours, so we took a detour route and instead went to Panadura on the west coast, then changed busses south here to Galle. Walking around a bit this evening, can tell already this city has a different feel than others in Sri Lanka - cows resting on the sidewalks,
kids playing cricket inside the old dutch fort walls -
very nice atmosphere. Had dinner at the guesthouse next door to ours with some older English man Eric looking to buy an investment property here in Galle - certainly can't blame him!
This morning Svenja and I had a great breakfast at the cafe a couple doors down (french toast with bananas - yum), then took a tuk-tuk to Unawatuna.
Along the beach, there were certainly signs this was a more tourist-oriented place... very laid back beach filled with foreign women dressed in bikinis and actually not being stared at (usually in this country Svenni gets stared at just for having bare shoulders), touts constantly approaching trying to sell spots on glass-bottom boat rides or jet skiing. Several homeless dogs hung around our blanket while we ate snacks, and sure enough, one walks by and marks my daypack... I was so p*ssed! I washed it off in the ocean, and shooed away other dogs, that then began to bark at me -- I was about to whack one with my sandal but decided just to leave - needless to say, I wasn't a dog lover while in Unawatuna. We headed back to Galle, visiting the unimpressive national museum, then across the road to the Dutch reformed church (1640 AD), with its floor paved with gravestones.
we headed to the historical mansion "museum", which was actually just a bunch of antiques some guy collected over the years (decades); some of which was for sale.. as we were led through, predictably wound up in the gem shop. Finished off the day with a sunset stroll around the fort walls.
Induruwa, Sri Lanka
Today Svenja and I had another great breakfast at the cafe in Galle, checked out of our guesthouse and grabbed a minibus to Induruwa (actually, a bit too far, as the conductor didn't stop the bus at the correct place), and headed into the Sea Turtle Project Conservation, organization which serves as a refuge and hatchery for turtle eggs laid on the beach,
helping to ensure the baby turtles have a fighting chance before being released into the ocean. We got to see a couple turtles during feeding time, then the highlight: seeing,
and then a chance to hold,
the baby green turtles, only a few days old.
There were a few disabled/blind turtles that had been caught in nets and bitten by sharks, and we got to see a rare albino turtle.
We went to the guesthouse to check in, then joined a British girl and French couple on their way to visit a different conservation site - well, just about the same deal as the first, although a bit better guide. Also, able to hold the adult turtles (careful not to drop them!).