Friday, March 2, 2018

What I got up to in Sri Lanka - the condensed version!

Well hello!  Remember me?  Here I am at last.

So here's a quick rundown on what I got up to in Sri Lanka.  More detailed posts to follow as there is just so much to tell!!!

After a brief Colombo city tour we headed to Negombo which is a "fishing village" (now tourist trap) near the airport.   We took a boat trip around the canals and into the lagoon...

Is that a middle finger?

The next day we headed to the Dambulla Caves where I failed miserably on the stairs.  Some kid grabbed me by the arm and wouldn't let go and "helped" me even though I didn't want the help. I kept telling him I didn't want any help.  Then I had to pay that did not put me in a good mood... I guess I got about 3/4 the way up and I think I could have made it but that kid was pissing me off.

Oh well, the dog was cute.

The rest of the day made up for it though.  And that was the highlight of the whole tour for me and I suspect for many of the others.  There was an elephant gathering in Kaudalla National Park - yes, kind of like a Vegas convention for elephants with an all you can eat buffet.  They come for the fresh vegetation from the rains and make babies and have babies. Fun Fact: {for us, not for the elephants) an elephant pregnancy lasts 22 months.  I know I will never see so many elephants in one place again.  It was amazing - in fact it has to go down as one of the top ten things I have ever witnessed in my life.  As long as I still have my marbles I will never forget it.

I will definitely be writing a blog post about this experience and sharing lots more photos - in fact one is in my draft folder.

The tour visited Sigiriya ("Lion") Rock but with 1200 steps I knew that was out for me.  I guess the place was packed and progress was slow as there was one line up and one line down...I spent the morning in the pool!  I was asked if it bothered me that I couldn't do all the things everyone else was doing.  Nope.  I haven't been able to climb for so long between bad knees and vertigo that I don't feel like I am missing out.

We visited the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, a Buddhist temple in Kandy which was interesting.  It is believed that the tooth of Buddha is housed within it.

The next day we all enjoyed a one hour Ayurvedic massage. It was bliss but involved lots of oil including on the scalp - we all looked a sight when we came out.

Up next was the Kandy botanical garden which was beautiful - especially the delicate orchids.  Of all of us my hair looked particularly fetching and I got strange looks because truthfully it looked like I hadn't washed my hair in a week or two.  (it took two washings before all the oil was totally gone - that said I would do it all again.  The scalp massage was utter bliss...) Between my oily hair and wearing my new elephant hippy pants there are no photos of me on that day!

Walking through the park we looked into the trees and there were more bats than I have ever seen in my life...somehow not the same thrill as seeing herds of elephants!

That evening we attended a cultural show which was fantastic.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to get many photos.  At the end we all went outside and watched fire walkers.  Crazy!!

Then it was on to tea country.  We toured a tea plantation and learned how tea is picked, sorted and processed.

The next morning the others went on the Horton Plains walk (I kept calling it the Tim Hortons walk...) while I wandered around the town...and had a nice cup of tea at the Grand Hotel.  Very posh.

Above is the Nuwara Eliya (known as "Little England") post office with the red post box in front - yes their postboxes are British.  Some things remain from their colonial past.  Sri Lanka was once a colony of Britain and known as Ceylon until 1948.  They just celebrated their 70th anniversary of independence.

Then it was on to Ella..on the train.  Unfortunately all the seats were taken when we got on (they keep selling tickets - doesn't matter if there are no seats left!) so we had to stand.  After about an hour a kind Irish girl offered me her seat.  So I was able to take a few photos and share them with the group. My window wasn't ideal for photographs and the woman in the row ahead of me kept putting her elbow out of the train.

Yeah I know...not anywhere near the photos I had planned on getting.  It was just impossible to get photos out of the dirty windows when you were standing in the aisles and the only window you could possibly get had a head hanging out the entire time.  Oh I did think some evil thoughts about that head that was in my way....This is one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world and one of the reasons I took this insert big pouty face....oh well as the Stone say "you can't always get what you want" (and why not is what I say)

After about twenty minutes of sitting down our guide told us to get off the train.  Well!  We had to climb a ladder down.  I nearly died because I went to get off and there is this huge drop.  What was strange was that after the second rung the ladder was only half the width which caught everyone off guard - but they were able to jump down.  I would never do that to poor Thelma. I always had someone to help me - I traveled with a great bunch.

The bus ride was 45 minutes of racing around curves top speed and being in the back seat for most of it I slid back and forth.  Fun times!  For half the journey I was sitting beside the open back door which is how they roll in this part of the world.

While the others went for a long hike the next morning four of us opted to go and see Nine Arches Bridge.  We got tuk tuks but they took us above the railway bridge and not beside it.  And the train was early.  We managed to get quick photos as it went over and then decided to walk down.  It was rocky and steep.  Thelma is strong and was fine but I have balance and confidence issues so it was a bit scary for me but with the help of the others I did it.  And as Berta put it "you didn't cry" - apparently the last person she helped down a steep hill cried.  I am not that bad although I did say a few naughty words once in a while...and the walk down was SO worth it!!

Yes, it looks like that famous one in Scotland doesn't it?  But this one is in the middle of the friggin jungle!

Next up was Yala National Park where we stayed in "luxury" tents.  But first we went on safari in a jeep where we saw one lone elephant (and one way in the distance), different birds, a very curious wild boar, mongoose, spotted deer but leopard.  One was spotted while we were out but despite racing over we didn't see it.

The jeep benches were quite high up and when I was coming down I did a stupid thing (I blame tiredness) and put Thelma down last from quite a high step and let's say she bent more than she's bent before. Good physio I guess.  I yelped and limped back to my tent to lick my wounds until dinner time.

They served a beautiful BBQ dinner that evening that unfortunately did not stay with me was a long horrible night.  Thank goodness I opted not to go out on the optional (as in pay extra money) game ride the next morning. (and I was secretly pleased that they didn't see a leopard...I know..what a bitch!)  At dinner I said I would go then told Sam, no I have decided not to go.  I don't know what made me do that but I am so grateful I did. There is no way I could have done it.  Luckily there were three nurses on the trip so I got advice - and drugs!  I still don't know what caused it as no one else was ill but me.

It was a long trip to Mirissa the next day but I was able to lay down on the back seat of the van for most of the trip.   While the group went to Galle the next day I stayed at the hotel and rested.  And the next day too.....and then the tour was over.

I had a pool side room and this was my view - not too shabby.  The pool was shallow as in for kids and then suddenly five feet deep.  Too deep to do my exercises so I decided to try what I call swimming (basically flailing around and not sinking) and yay...Thelma can now do the dog paddle and tread water. So I spent a long time in the pool both days and got some great exercise that way.

It was sad to say goodbye to really annoying people on the trip which is always a bonus!  Sam was a fantastic CEO - Chief Experience Officer!!

I moved on to the Peacock Villa which was about a ten minute drive away.   My balcony overlooked a stream and small garden at the back where I saw monkeys, peacocks, a monitor lizard or two, squirrels, all kinds of birds and a King fisher flew to the fence below me the morning I left as if to say goodbye!!

They had a resident doggie named Simba

I had tears in my eyes when I left that place.  The owners and staff were fabulous and it was just a wonderful place. I also was able to visit Galle by public bus (that was another "fun filled" ride but the price was right) and nearby Mirissa Beach.

That's an overview of my time in Sri Lanka - more details will be coming.  But don't hold your breath!!! 

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