Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Coming Home: Day 6/5

Although Google Map route planning says the route we covered in Sri Lanka of over 900 kms could be

Sri Lanka Route

driven in 20 hours of non-stop driving, we very much doubt it. Sri Lanka has few major roads and hence drivers patiently proceed at a slow pace and it is better to arrive than try to arrive speedily. The only vehicles we saw driving very fast were the public buses and we were frequently overtaken by them in the most unlikely of sensible places.

The journey home from Colombo was easy, tiring, boring and long. We first flew from Colombo to Mumbai on a plane which would have made RyanAir seem spacious. Mumbai airport was very nice and a good place to change planes.

Coming Home Selfie

We forgot to take our usual very bad selfie on the way out so here is one taken on the way back at Mumbai when we were waiting for our plane to London.

Flight Home

We flew very slowly back (I base this statement on the fact that the BA flight leaves 15 minutes before but arrives 1 hour before us) but without incident.

And so, too long after we left our hotel in Sri Lanka, we were home again ready to resume our normal lives and prepare for our next trip.

Our summary view of Sri Lanka is that it is a very beautiful place with a lot to see. We would like to go back there sometime but take a bit more time over it.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Seetha Amman Temple, Ella, Udawalawe National Park: Day 5/5

Today is our last full traveller day in Sri Lanka because we start to fly home tomorrow evening from Colombo. On our way to the National Park at Udawalawe where we are going on a “end of day” safari, we pass Seetha Amman Temple which we stop at despite our feeling of being a bit over-templed.

Temple 7

This temple is believed to be the site where Sita was held captive by (Vikram) King Ravana, and where she prayed daily for Rama to come and rescue her in the Hindu epic, Ramayana.

Temple 4

On the rock face across the stream are circular depressions (marked in yellow) which are said to be the footprints of Rawana’s elephant.

Temple 1

Temple 2 Temple 3

Temple 5

Temple 6

The temple was built around 1998 and there is an account of why this spot was chosen together with an assertion that there has been something religious on the site for over 100 years here.

One our way south to the game reserve, we stopped for refreshments at a tea house in Ella.

Tea House

The view from the garden was superb

1041 metres

Ella is also where you get the train to Kandy, a trip which is said to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, certainly one of the best in Sri Lanka. 

Train from Ella to Kandy

We heard the train making a great deal of noise as it departed and some while later we could see it on the far side of the valley - it is the red line in the middle of the picture above. There is a nice blog account of the train trip here. If ever we come back to Sri Lanka, this has to be on the ‘to-do” list.

Udawalawe National Park and Game Reserve

Location of Reserve

We drove south for quite a long time, average speed on Sri Lankan roads seems to max at about 40 kph. Eventually we got to the Game Reserve but drove past it in order to get to our hotel 

First Elephant

and in doing so, we saw our first elephant of the day within the reserve. An electric fence runs around the reserve and the inmates soon learn to keep away from it.

First Elephant Swimming

Later on we were to see the same elephant swimming in the lake.

Safari Jeep

We went on our safari in very comfortable 6-seater jeeps, more comfortable in fact than our coach.

Reserve Map

The game park is quite large and we were only to go to a small area in the middle of the bottom of this map, to the right of the lake.

First Elephant in reserve

Having seen these two elephants just inside the gate, we felt that at least the trip was not a waste of time because we had seen elephants.

Scratching that itch

Over the space of the next two hours we saw many more elephants all of which were completely used to the jeeps and so took no notice of us and we came within feet of them on many occasions.

Mother and Calf

Here a calf is imitating its mother who was about 10 feet away from us. 

Family out walking

This family were going to the lake for a drink. 


There are enough birds to keep any ornithologist happy. These are Bee Eaters


and we saw lots of peacocks here (and elsewhere in Sri Lanka).

As an aside, on the way back to Colombo I saw one of the most unusual motorway signs I have ever seen

Danger Peacocks

saying “Danger Peacocks ahead”. Peacock accidents were even worthy of a story in one of the local newspapers.


There were also crocodiles which were not as exciting to us as they were to others since we had seen more than enough of them in Australia, 

Water Buffalo

and herds of Water Buffalo,


and at dusk, trees full of Macaques. 

Sunset over the lake

Sunset was very beautiful over the lake

Sunset with birds

and also over the reserve plains.

We thought that the safari was a very enjoyable last event of our time in Sri Lanka.  

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Botanic Gardens Kandy, Glenloch Tea Plantations, Nuwara Eliya: Day 4/5

Architecture (some) In Sri Lanka

I usually record something about local architecture and that in Sri Lanka showed the usual regional variations you get in most countries. Given that our starting point was what we had seen in India, Sri Lanka in general seemed to start higher up the scale. 

Old SL

In Kandy we saw a lot of relatively basic buildings

Old 1

with a large amount of corrugated roofing still in use.

Old Buildings

Invented around 1840, corrugated iron spread throughout the colonies and therefore it was no surprise to see it here. 

Art Deco Regal

Tucked away here and there were some buildings with architectural merit such as this cinema which quite clearly has some Art-Deco tones about it.

Film Advert

It was showing the latest Sri Lankan blockbuster, Aloko Udapadi which would have been fun to see had we had the time. 

Pizza Hut

There is of course a growing amount of western concrete design appearing here as in all other countries.

Modern SL

I include Pizza Hut and KFC simply to show that they are here and just as ugly and brutal in their impact as they are anywhere in the world.

The Botanic Gardens

Our day began at the Botanic Gardens which started life as a Royal Garden in 1780 and became a Royal Botanic Garden under the British in 1821 and is said to have over 4000 species within. Although the fee to get in is expensive at around £8, it is about 1/2 that of Kew Gardens and here as in most places in Sri Lanka, locals get in for a very reduced price.

RBG Entrance

The gates look appropriately regal although entry is through a ticket booth to one side.

RBG Sign


It is laid out as one might expect with lots of specimen plants as well as plants specially planted in memory of an occasion.


This pond is in front of the Orchid House 

Helicona Rostrataand this plant was also growing outside of the Orchid House - Heliconia Rostrata or the Lobster Claw - a name which is obvious from its shape.








The orchid house was packed with prize specimens but also someone keeping a watchful eye to ensure that nothing disappeared.

Orchid 1

Orchid 2

Orchid 3

Orchid 4

Although good, we thought that the display we had seen at Changi Airport last year was better.

Orchid Welcome

As an aside, above is an orchid garland we were presented with at one of the hotels we checked into. 

There was a Jack Fruit Tree growing nearby

Jack Fruit Tree Jack Fruit

with large examples of the fruit hanging on it almost ready for picking and eating.

There are also trees planted by famous people who have visited the garden including

Queen Elizabeth s Tree

QEs sign

which was planted by Queen Elizabeth in 1981. 

Giant Javan Fig Tree

I could go on posting pictures of trees and plants for much longer but I will finish with the Giant Javan Fig Tree which was planted over 100 years ago - its foliage covers a ground area of over half an acre (or over 2400 square metres for the metric amongst us).

Glenloch Tea Plantation

The other thing (apart from Cricket) which I have always associated with Ceylon (and I use the original name here because that is what it was called when I was a child) is Tea. I am not a tea drinker but that did not stop me making a visit to the Glenloch Tea Plantation factory on our way to Nuwara Eliya.

The road from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya rose almost continuously and was very winding. As we drove along, there was a steady increase in the number of small shacks by the roadside selling anything to anybody and it was obvious that those living here had a lower standard of living that those in the cities.

Roadside Stalls

These are typical of the huts we saw selling anything they could.

Soon the hillsides were covered with tea bushes 

Tea on Hills

Tea Bushes

although we were not to see anyone picking tea - what we really wanted to see was the image on this box of tea

Dilmah Tea a

SriLanka TeaHarvest

or this - namely rows of tea pickers with sacks on their backs………….

Having been picked, the tea is taken to a Factory

Glenloch Tea Building

for processing. Our tea guide knew everything about tea and told us 

Tea Explainer

at a fast rate how the picked leaf was turned into the tea we buy.

Tea from plantation

The leaves are spread out

Withering Tray

on large trays through which warm air is blown

Withering air blowers

in order to

Tea to be withered

wither it and thus reduce its moisture content. 

Tea Roller

The withered tea is crushed

Rolled Tea

and sifted into various grades of tea

Rolled Tea different sizes

then fermented to create a taste

Fermenting Tea


Drying Tea

and becomes the final product.

 Finished Tea

This tea factory takes in 1200kg of leaf tea each day and produces 450kg of tea from it - the bulk of the weight reduction being due to the drying process.

A brief guide to making tea is here and a more in depth guide is here.

Golden Flush

Unsurprisingly, Royal Tea was said to be the best (and the most expensive on sale) but we came away with some. The price of tea has been rising over the past few months and the web says that in February 2017, in bulk the average price was around £3.40 per kg - doing the maths shows that it is a very low wage industry.

Nuwara Eliya 

The road on to Newara Eliya goes within viewing distance of one of Sri Lanka’s waterfalls - the Ramboda Falls which are the 11th highest in the country

Ramboda Falls

Ramboda Falls 001

and it was doing what waterfalls do.

Travellers near falls

We met two travellers there 

Ramboda Valley

who were looking over the valley below the falls. 

It is an interesting town that is unlike any other we have seen in Sri Lanka. It is at 6200 ft and originally was a hill country station because it is much cooler at that height. It seems to have a desire to still emulate the original colonial era and perhaps also how the motherland is seen now.

House for sale

This was an advert for large totally un-Sri Lankan type houses in a local gated community. The website on the poster even talks about log fires. 

Post Office

This is the post office in the town and it would not look out of place in Surrey.

Hill Side House

This hillside house would look perfectly at home an English hillside.


This however would look a bit odd in England - a topiary elephant picture snatched quickly out of the window of our coach as we drove by.