After the third
visit to the highlands I'm now back in the central lowlands.
30/1. I get a good night's sleep, possible due to the 27C, and that leads to an early start. The Germans are having breakfast, I did my own in the room, but share some tea with them. As they drive of with the bus for Colombo, my "good friend" from yesterday; the tuck-tuck driver, pops bye. I tell him I plan a walk thought the rainforest, and he draws me a map to find the entrance and back, and drives me to the road to the entrance.
A canoe brings me to the other side of the river, along with the officer at the Kitulgala Park office. The boatman can't break my 500 LKR note, and I owe him, till I have paid the park fee. The officer had gone ahead, but I catch up with him. Unfortunately, he do not speak English - why should he?
The park-fee is 644 LKR, and he can't break my 1000 LKR. He end up owning me 100, which he promises to pay the ferryman. There is a map at the entrance, and I make a photo. It seems like I want to follow the red dotted line, passing several water falls.
The first part is an ancient foot-highway, build hundreds of years ago - and destroyed ever since. The rainforest is not real dense, but still rather dark at the button, mainly because of the clouds. I try to photo the millipedes and termites, but they move too fast, the light considered.
The plants work better, but here are real few interesting plants. A few different Selaginellas, some small climbing plants and huge lianas. I try to capture the trees in general, but it is, as always, hard to make photos of the forest. I passes two big creeks with the remains of ancient bridges.
I spend a long time, trying to capture a crab-spider. In general, they are awesome looking, but this one have taken it a step further. I finally reach some wooden signs, showing the distance to the various waterfalls. It turns out I have missed one along the road, but now, I am at Etha Wetunu Wala.
Well, waterfall might be a good description in the rainy season, now it is more a creek, seeping down some boulders. I follows it downwards, to the "fall" I missed; Lanethiri Ella. The entire scenery is great despite the obvious lack of water, but still hard to capture. A three meter long snake-skin does draw my attention, but I fails to find its origin.
The signs show on towards three other falls, but somehow, I get away from the hardly visible track. Now I understand; the dotted line actually mend the track was on and off. And I have a feeling of the local guides see an advantage in the signs being missing? I kind of head for higher grounds, hoping I will cross a trail at some point.
I see a weird insect and a lot of trees the next half hour, while I climb many hundreds meters up. It is the "dry side" of the mountain, and rather easy to negotiate. When I reach the top, a wage hint of a trail follows the narrow ridge. I follows it to the left, hoping I eventually will cross the original track.
It leads to one of the most astonishing views I ever have experienced. The entire valley - and that is big - and several mountains behind it. At least, I know where I want to go, but either end of this wage trail fades out in dense bushes. Well, then it must be cross-country. If I just head downwards, and I can't miss the river.
At first, it is just hellish hard. Then it worsen considerably. Here are lianas with nasty thorns, the palms have long spikes and some vines forming a grit in one metres height, make it impossible just to walk straight forward. From time to time, a 20 meter vertical drop make another kind of obstacle, and I have to go sideways for quite some distance.
I was expecting to cross some sort of trail, but the dense under-growth are not crossed by any trails at all. After well over an hour, I reach a tiny farmhouse, still on the steep hill. It seems like the guard dog is all alone home, and very happy to get company. It follows me almost all the way to the river, with a big smile on its face.
I get out real close to the suspension bridge, I can see from the hotel. I'm real dirty, but only with few wounds on torso and hands. Straight in the shower and then laundry. I order a cup of tea, and spot three books in the hotel's library. One is a Danish crime-story; Sandra Brown; Mord i Luften, which I haven't read. I take that as a omen, and postpones the cages for tomorrow. My new friend pops bye, give me a map of how the find the caves and invites me to his home in the village.
At three, I partly recovered, and do the three kilometre walk down to the village. The river runs right through, and a large Water Monitor hunts, swimming along the bank. There is a fantastic view from the old bridge, right through the valley. The village is real small, and I do both roads within ten minutes.
My friend finds me, and I see his new shop for rafting, then a lot of photos on his computer, at his interesting home. It is made up by strange roots and stems, old pillars and have a 360 degree rainforest view. At four, I head home, looking for the road leading to the cave - fruitless.
I do a bit of reading before I start working. I have announced my interest in dinner, and the host ask me at seven, if I eat chicken. Then they will cook some. At eight, I am a bit peckish! Then dinner is served, and I get some delicious pasta with a few chicken bone-pieces and even less meat. Back to work for some hours.
31/1. I check out of the hotel, and try to find the road for the cave. It turns out to be easy, but the road is bad - real bad in the first part. It winds its way high up through first rubber plantations, then tea. Here are orchids on the older stems, and some interesting ravines. After 7,5 km, I reach a school and a tiny village.
The views to the surrounding mountains are fantastic, and in my eager, I chooses the wrong way. I was advised by my friend to park at the school, and then walk for a kilometre. While I walk up of what is now a smooth and sealed road, I wonder why? Then I figures; I'm on the wrong path. I ask a farmer, and he points me down a real crappy and almost destroyed road.
Three young boys catch up, and guides me. One of them are quite good in English, his age considered, and we go on laughing. The fields are general tea, but some are used for vegetables. We reach an ancient staircase and then the first cave: Beli-Lena.
It have been excavated around 1980, and evidence for early human settlement dates back to 30,000 years ago. The oldest human remains should be 16,000/28,500 years old - depending on the source. The cave is only an around fifteen metres deep shelf, and have been used for Buddhist temples as well. The founds have been done in the deep layer of debris, on the floor.
The boys leads me on to another cave, and point out the "bats". I a bit puzzled over the lack of smell, sounds and the white in the excrements. I take a few pictures of the dark sealing, and discover the feathered inhabitancies. It is apparently some sort of swallows.
On the way down, we meet one of the kids' farther, who is the museum's man on the spot. I talk a bit with him, and give him some money for the experience. I get back to the school and my car, another way, which is even worse. It passes a garden with flowering orchids, and I have a short chat with the owner. Would have been longer, if I spoke Sinhalese...
As I drive back on the long and rough road, I start passing rubber workers, carrying buckets of sap on their heads. I set the GPS for Kandy, but the first one it suggests is around 100 km too fare away. The next attempt seems to work, although I can't figure which way it have planed.
I try to photo some of the insane overtakings, I experiences all the time. One is on a S-curve, over a hill-top, around a mountain. Another is within a city, in a cross, where a huge truck overtake a bus with centimetres to parked vehicles. I can't understand the few dents and killings this leads to!
I drive up the mountains again. Kandy is just 528 metres above the sea, but I have to pass the central mountains. Several huge rivers, deep down in the valley, endless roves of hill-tops and small villages. I feel I have driven quite some distance when I reach Ginigathena, although it is short on the map.
I lack drinking water, and do a stop. I also find a 16mmm spanner for the car, although it don't help on the metal-wood-picker, which really have had an busy morning. Ginigathena is actually a nice, large village, and I do most of it. Right behind the line of small shops, the green jungle starts. The old sheets have to stories, and the upper are active workshops. It look so cosy, but also rather crammed.
When I returns to my car, two police officers have taken quite some interest in it: No parking zone, it turns out. I get away with a warning, promising NEVER to do it again. Chance for, I find this town again is slim! I passes a gas station which had air - and that is rare. I might also gas the car, and I drive back to station. Filled with water, air and petrol, I head on.
I turn left as I thought I should, but then I get confused. Accordantly to one map, the next way-points should be Nawalapitiya, then Gampola and finally Kandy. My other map have Gampola on Nawalapitiya's place and no Nawalapitiya at all. My GPS recognises neither of these. It have a completely other agenda: It want to lead me down several miserable tea-plantation-trails, which can kill a tractor.
I decline, and gamble on the narrow but sealed road I'm on. It passes a single low valley with rice fields, being harvested. Then up through bigger and bigger hills and them mountains. The road clings to one steep mountainside, and offers some remarkable views to the valley and the other side of it.
When I stop at a high bridge to see, if it offers a good view, the most remarkable is my flat left back-wheel. Just like last time I re-filled the wheels, a valve have got dirt in, and slowly deflated the tire. Despite it is real flat, I don't seems to have damaged the tire, and I just swat to the spare-wheel, and head on.
I pull in at the next gas station with air. An old geezer insists on filling my tires, but get a bit confused, when I want 25 in one rare wheel, 33 in the other, like the front. I plan to re-swap the wheels, and the spare tire should have the highest pressure.
I stop at one of the many small shops, offering shampoo, bred and tea. It is real tidy, and the owner and his dog looks just alike. A bit to the heavy side, gray-bearded and short snouted. He want 10 LKR for the tea, I insists on 20. Right around the corner, I find some huge Rhipsalis cacti on the branches of a old tree, and an awesome view.
I try to capture the vast landscapes many times, but the light mist make it hard. When I reach Gampola, I do another stop. My cool-sleeves have turned quite grouse, and I figure; I better get the other pair re-fitted at a tailor. It turned out my over-arms was slightly smaller than expected... He ask for 20 LKR, I pay 50.
It is another cosy little tow, and after I have parked legally, I do an extensive walk around. Plenty of tiny shops, selling whatever you can desire - if you live in Sri Lanka and are small. I don't find any essentials, but it is still interesting to walk the narrow streets of some of these more cosy towns.
I reach the huge city of Kandy late in the afternoon-rush-hour for sure on a Friday. I get the GPS to lead me straight to the hotel I wanted. It turns out to be right in centre, and they only ask for 1000 LKR! With cold water, that is. This is fare from a warm town, and I sure would prefer warm water the next tree days or so. I try the nearest two, who only ask for 175 and 135 - unfortunately US$. That is ten times what I use to pay. That is not going to happen!
As usual, the tuck-tuck drivers ask what I'm looking for, or where I'm going. I tell one, I'm looking for a cheep hotel. He walk with me to one, who ask for 2000, but with shared toilet. The next one wants 2500. Both places prices are after hard negotiating. I figured I might survive cold water after all. Then, when I returns, they are out of rooms!
Well, I have visited this town before, and although we slept in a rather expensive hotel, I have a feeling about there might be cheaper around in that area. It is right on the other side of the lake, on a steep hillside. I find the right road, and the first place I try, have a nice room with working table, Wi-Fi (I'm out) and even hot water. I get the price down to 1500 a night.
Check my e-mails and chat with a Welsh guy, before I head up to a nearby restaurant. Last time, we ditched it due to the nearby construction site, but now it have quiet down, and the menu seems fine. Unfortunately, I order rice, and while I see others gests get their noodles, I keep waiting. The waiter excuses, they was out of rice, but soon, I should get some. Well, after twelve hours without food, I am a bit peckish.
I get my tea a bit further up the hill, where we got the first of many Christmas dinners. The waiter only have me as a customer, and we chat, while I finishes a huge pot of tea. Then it is home to work. The Wi-Fi is a joke, and I better try to buy some more time, for my own tomorrow. While I work, I figures why I got the room so cheap; The worker's room is next to it, and he snores! Only a curtain for a glassless window divides out rooms. Long live custom earplugs!
1/2. My car have a flat tire once more, and I replace it, although I'm not planning to use the car today. The plan is just to relax, and have a walk around the nice part of Kandy. There is a few items I like to buy, and a few places I like to see. I have breakfast in my room, and then I walk down town, along the lake.
I see several Water Monitors along the brinks, the older ones are real fat. The lake is teaming with rather large fish, of which most seems to be quite foreign. The lake is after all only around 150 years old, ordered by the last king of the free Sri Lanka. Well, the English though it was not, sacked the king and kind of took over. Then they let the minority; Tamils get in charge.
There is a great view across the lake to the royal palace, and the large Buddha statue on another hill. Kandy is the most tree-filled city I have seen, I think. It is like here are only tiny islands of buildings, in a huge forest. I'm heading for the three main shopping streets, starting with the smaller ones.
I am looking for a Dialog office to have my SIM-modem "recharged", but my guess it that will be in the main street. Yesterday, I saw exactly the souvenir I was looking for: A tiny elephant, carved in buffalo bone. It was in one of the posh jeweller shops, but they was not made just good enough. The price of 3000 LKR did not scare me though.
A find a shop, stuffed with countless small figures in mainly metal. I ask for small elephants, and she returns with some in ivory, some in plaster, some in brown wood and a few in bone. When I give the one in bone a closer inspection, she find around 100 of them from around. They are so individual. Some made by a real clever craftsmen, some not. Some detailed, some almost cartoon-like. Some fat, some low and some just right.
I find the one I like the most, and don't bother negotiating the price of 850 LKR. The whole shop is so interesting, and so many wonderful tiny art effects are stored on the endless shelf, but I only take a picture of the rest. Next item on my list is a pair of reading glasses. To my big surprise they are five times more expensive, than those I can find in Denmark!
I work my way towards the more posh and touristed shops, but there are many on the way. Besides from the three main streets and their connections, some narrow pathways zigzags in-between them, giving room to endless tiny shops. Here are quite some tourists, but it is mainly locals.
I find the tele-shop, and here, I'm told
to offer at least 50 LKR more on talk-time to regain some data.
Well, if that is all; I can be talked into it.
Thinking about it; there seems to be quite a lot of Buddha's teeth hidden away in temples, especially considered he was burned around 2500 years ago. Of cause, teeth tend to survive a cold fire, but... Anyway, I enters along with a lot of religious locals and some tourists. The buildings are filled with great craftsmanship in tree- to stone works, along with paintings and metal casks. The toot should be hidden within seven gold degobas in the centre room, although legend have it; it is only a replica. The one who possesses it, possesses Sri Lanka, it is said.
A small museum have some ancient and very well made tree-and stone works, origination from ancient buildings, along with some small metal figurines. I do several rounds in the area, and end up finding what I believe to be wild orchids on the old trees. Even a species I haven't seen before, but only with buds.
I do another round in the old quarter to find some tea, then back to the royal gardens to sit in the shadow and read a bit. On the way back home, I passes a strange building along the lake. Nice building, but I lack a floor. It turns out to be the queens bathing house, that's why the "floor" is a pool.
I do the long walk back, around the nice artificial lake. The huge road-trees provide some good shadow - and more orchids. Back to write a few business mails and check my abilities to access the internet. It works! At five, I head down-town again, but meet the interesting Welshman on the way. After a good chat with him for an hour, I am so ready for dinner.
I kind of have had my share of rice&curry for the time, and I try some real exotic: PizzaHut. Chicken Hawaiian style, and for two. Well, considered how large plates, stuffed with fried rice I usually get for a quarter of the price, I am so disappointed. I actually have to re-fill with a cake afterwards. Then, it is back to write and work with photos and plan for tomorrows adventures.
Some of my future plans involves meeting people at work, and tomorrow is Sunday, Tuesday is some sort of holyday, but I have a huge lake and a long trail to explore nearby. That is; if only I can find them. I do have a GPS - useless as erase-ink on a direct TV-show.
I make a hand-drawn map from Google's maps, hoping just some of the villages will be recognised by the GPS or there are signs leading to them. A first, I know, but despite I have asked a lot of people, I do not really rely on that for a safe journey.