With legs still in shock from the climb up and down Adam’s Peak, Susie and I jumped onto two more lurching, go-as-fast-as-you-possibly-can buses and headed to the town of Kandy. On arrival we got into a tuk-tuk but didn’t progress very far as the roads were closed to traffic with what looked like an up-coming military parade. So with backpacks on we started to limp to find a restaurant for some lunch. Said military parade turned out to be the funeral of the Chief Monk of Sri Lanka and it was just starting to wind its way up the road that we wanted to cross to our chosen restaurant so the road was now closed off to pedestrians! While it may be interesting to add a Chief Monk’s funeral attended by the president to your travel CV, food was higher on the agenda.
Kandy was pleasant enough to stroll around but no real wow factors. Susie and I had chosen to stay in so-called ‘homestays’ which literally offer rooms in a family house. We find them so much more fun than hotels – it’s a great chance to meet Sri Lankans and the home-cooked meals are always so much better. Jaliya and Ganga were our hosts in Kandy and just the most entertaining and kind people. The kids had fled the nest, they found things too quiet and so opened up a homestay. And now they enjoy meeting the many international people who cross their doorstep. Ganga piles the table high with scrumptious food while Jaliya entertains with his very British sense of humour. We wanted to stay longer.
The next town on our list was Dambulla, famous for a set of caves full of Buddhas and wall frescos and is also the hopping off point for a striking rock by the name of Sigiriya or Lion’s Rock. We were advised an early morning start was best as it’s cooler and you want to avoid it later in the daywhen the hordes of locals and school children transcend up its very narrow steps. Another early start and another climb. The advice paid off as we were in the first group going up. The climb, steep in places, was nonetheless over quite quickly. Surely we were done with climbs and early mornings? Daniel who owned the homestay we’d stopped in was a chef who had worked in hotels in the Maldives so after a request kindly walked us through how he and his wife make their assorted Sri Lankan curries. Having acquired the right spices, all we need after three demonstrations in various homestays is to make sense of our scribbled notes to give it a go!
More travelling and off we went to Anuradhapura. This was to be our last stop so we decided to treat ourselves to a hotel. After a little haggling the owner gave us a little ‘villa’ in the garden. The room was lovely but we wished we’d stuck to the homestays, it just wasn’t a patch on all the lovely hospitality we’d enjoyed. Anuradhapura is a town full of old temples and while the temples are interesting to see we simply enjoyed watching people coming to worship. Religion is a big part of life in Sri Lanka and people regularly go to temples, dressed in white as a sign of respect, making offerings which are then promptly enjoyed by the monkeys.
We opted for a visit to another National Park. Our jeep sped along and we weren’t quite sure how we were really going to spot anything. Things were getting pretty dull until low and behold there was a leopard walking on the road right in front of us. We followed it to a water edge where it sat down and we enjoyed watching it for 40 minutes. Even our driver confessed he’d never seen one that close.
Travelling done, we trained all the way back to Mirissa and Adina. The various assorted anti-bird ribbons we’d covered Adina in had helped somewhat but she had still been nicely decorated by crow offerings.
Getting Adina ready for her next passage was broken up by a visit to Colombo and a visit to the North Sails sail loft where many of the world’s finest sails are made. It was a great day going around the many lofts they have and we were blown away by it all. To see how our own sails were made was quite fascinating. Advanced technology sits side-by-side with good old fashioned skilled hand work using sewing machines and scissors. To see skilled people making these many, many sails calmly and in an orderly fashion was quite something. While many companies seek to outsource around the world, North Sails primary location is in Sri Lanka and they look to bring everything in-house so they can control the high quality they seek. Our thanks to Bill Fortenberry and Paul Davis for arranging our visit and showing us around.
Back in Mirissa we have enjoyed being driven around by our tuk-tuk man, Saranga, and he has become a friend. We were honoured to visit his house and enjoy dinner with his family. His mother cooked food using a wooden stove and Saranga insisted we try eat with our hands as the locals do – that combination made for one of the best meals we’ve had. Although Saranga did make us laugh when we asked why he insisted his mother cooks and responded “You eat my wife’s food, you will leave Sri Lanka.”
So we’re into final preparations to set off to the Maldives. We’ve left so many places so many times now and it is always hard. You make friends, you get to know a place, you get to know what makes it tick. The upside is there are always exciting adventures ahead, but we do so hate leaving, it’s always tinged with sadness. But Adina is loaded with good spices and we look forward to making some curries and to remind us of this great land of smiles and rice and curry.
For many more pictures click here