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Sri Lanka

What a great way to end one year, begin another and escape cold, wet London for a while.

Sri Lanka is a really beautiful place.
The first part of our trip started with a hair raising drive from the airport to Kosgoda Beach on the South West coast. The driving in Sri Lanka is, (not to put too fine a point on it), completely mad !!. Once you accept this however and give yourself over to your preferred god or goddess, you get used to it. A strategy I employed successfully was to just close my eyes each time it seemed we were bound for a head on collision (and there were many times this seemed inevitable).

After a few days at the beach chillin', shaking off the stress of London, visiting the local sea turtle sanctuary, and dodging the local beach touts, we were off for 7 day tour up the centre of the island.

First stop the hill country and tea plantations in and around Nuwara Eliya. Stunning views, tea bushes as far as the eye could see, waterfalls and long windy roads snaking round the hills. Spent New Year's Eve and Day at the Tea Factory hotel which, as the name suggests is a converted tea factory. New Year's day walked in Horton Plain National Park. Lots of swirling mists obscured the view of Worlds End (a sheer drop down the hill side) but it was nevertheless a very beautiful if knackering walk.

Next stop Kandy via Ramboda falls and the Glenloch tea factory where we had a very good guided tour and explanation of tea production - a lot goes into making that daily cuppa.
Sadly, as is often true, the tea pickers and many other tea production workers don't earn very much for back breaking work in the heat. Apparently the going rate is 20 Rupees (about 2 pence) per kilo - about 20 to 30 kilos picked per person per day, and it takes about 4 kilos of fresh leaves to make a kilo of finished tea.

Kandy itself has a beautiful lake. Next to the lake is the Temple of the tooth which holds Sri Lanka's most sacred Bhuddist relic (Buddha's tooth).
Kandy is also home to the largest botanical garden in Sri Lanka but our time was limited so didn't get a chance to have a look around.
The town is a good place to hone your tout-dodging skills as there are lots of them around. It was nice shopping in the town, particularly the colourful market, and later seeing a bit of traditional dancing including some spectacular fire-walking. Otherwise Kandy town is not a place I'd spend too much more time.
Our time spent at the Citadel Hotel just outside Kandy went just a little too quickly. The hotel and its views were absolutely stunning and it would have been nice to spend a bit of time exploring the area a bit more.

The following day it was off to Habarana via the Lords 3 Herb and Spice Garden in Matale where we received another excellent tour and explanation of Ayurvedic herbs and medicines with a wonderful Ayurvedic massage thrown in.
Then it was on to the cave temples of Dambulla, and Sigiriya Rock fortress. The steep climb up the steps of Sigiriya rock was exhausting but worth getting to the top for breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

We spent 3 nights in Habarana which is a good base for taking day trips out to the ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. Lots of interesting looking relics in both places, especially Polonnaruwa. If you're really into temples / Bhuddism, archaeology / history (which I'm not) you could spend ages looking around these places. In Anuradhapura particularly, the relics and monuments are quite spread out so you really need a car or bicycle to get around.

Next day en route to the south west coast we stopped off at the elephant sanctuary in Pinnewala near Kegalla.

Our tour ended back at Kosgoda for a few more wonderful hot days chillin', beautiful sunsets and moonlit walks along the beach before returning to damp, dreary London...

For more information about traveling in Sri Lanka visit www.lonelyplanet.com




Click on a picture to enlarge it and get a short description of the place

Kosgoda Beach
Kosgoda Beach / Turtle Sanctuary


Tea plantations
Hill country / Tea factory


River, Kandy


spice garden
Spice Garden


Sigiriya Rock
Sigiriya Rock


Ancient cities


Pinnewala Elephant Village


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