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SRI LANKA  DIARY 15

10/12 2013 - 10/2 2014

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 From the semi heights of Sri Lanka, I head on to - well, some other semi heights.

2/2. It is Sunday, and Kandy city is surprisingly closed. I'm not bothered; my plan is to see the huge, artificial lake of Victoria, along with its surroundings. I have a flat tire - as usual, but the spare is good. I have found some way-points, and once again, my GPS works like a slightly wet handkerchief on Chernobyl. Despite that, I manages to find the weirdly formed lake. A dam have been build in one end, and several canyons have been filled, giving the lake a shape as an octopus.

 Most of the way up there is lined with settlements and tiny villages. A few larger villages are still too small to look interesting in the greyish morning. When I meet the first "arm" of the lake, I meet another obstacle. As the narrow "fjords" implied, it is annoyingly steep sides. I can't get up or down from the road; it is a 10-20 meter vertical rock-wall.

 I manages to get through a few times, but without finding any interesting things at all. A few times, I get a good view down a river while I crosses it, or at the lake, through a narrow clearing. The brinks have signs of many heights of water, and it seems rather low by now.

 Hulu River is a beautiful; a quiet stretch of water on bedrock, lined with dense forest. A few women are washing cloth in it. Galmal Oya River have cut it self deep down in some gravel, but not in a such pictureous way. At the backside of the lake, I find a road leading to the dam. It is 8,5 km through forest, but besides from a single, very high-growing orchid, I find nothing of interest - or new.

 Just before the dam is a military check-point, and I have to show ID, and the number is noted. A bit further out, some sort of rather posh visitor centre have been build, and I have to sign in. Cameras are not aloud, but I kind of misses that. A rather high and modern concrete dam lock a narrow canyon, and the view up the lake is pretty nice.

 I try to get a cup of tea, but they only sell cold drinks. If that is the way they want it, I'll leave without anything - but photos. At Google Maps, it looked like I could drive around the lake, but apparently, the dam was part of the road, and it is off limit. I have to do a significantly larger loop, and quite frankly; I do not find the nature interesting enough for a 100 km detour.

 I returns, and try to make it on an alternative route. That means some minor roads, and I get myself into a maze of narrow, real bumpy tracks, going through some scatted settlements. It is a relief to finally return to the main road, giving the "metal-picker" a break. Back in Kandy at three, and with the tomorrow's hopefully visit at a tissue laboratory at the botanical garden, I give my cloth a well deserved wash.

 The flat tire was filled first in the day, and it seems like it was the valve, once again. I swap them once more - not really knowing why. The ordinarily tires are as worn-down as the spare by now,  but I have driven 5300 km or so, and I doubt it is prime quality tires!

 My internet seems to have come to an end, already after one day, and I walk downtown to get a reload. As I had expected, the shop is closed, but a minor operator offers to reload for me. I get 1,5 GB, 100 SMSs and 50 minutes of talking for 299 LKR - which means absolutely nothing to me. I know, I so fare have made a total Sri Lanka site of 600 MB, but a lot have been uploaded several times, and I have downloaded quite some as well.

 I check the fancy mall, with all the posh brands. A rather thick bundle of banknotes lies on the ground, and I pick it up, and walk back. I catch up with the guy I just passed on the corner, and he stand fumbling around in his pockets, and I hand him the bundle. He do appear a bit stunned, but I'm sure it was his money.

 While I'm in town, I find some dinner, but returns up-hill to the hotel-area for tea. One of the fat Water Monitors are on its way home to bed, and I get some good close-ups - if it wasn't for the lack of light. The cafe higher up the road have a large pot of excellent tea and free internet. I sit working, while it get dark and slightly frisky. I guess the temperature is down to around 20C, and a slight breeze add to the cold feeling.

 Back home, I try to figure how to find my way around the "Three Temple Walk" and the company I'm going to visit on Monday. As usual, my GPS is effective as an icecube in a volcano, and I end up drawing maps from Google. I also try to figure, what to do with the last days, and I suddenly realises my 100 km a day, is near an end. The 150 km tour to the cosy place at Hikkaduwa might be too fare away after all. I can buy extra kilometres, but at a rather steep rate. A Frenchman asked me, if my hotel was good. Stupid enough, I said "yes", and now, I have him and his Japanese girlfriend as neighbours behind the curtain, and they seems to be newly in love... Further more, their common languis is kind of English, and he treat her with French arrogance while she treat his as a small spoiled child.

3/2. Rather early up, and out to the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden. The guards are very little alike to let me in without paying, they actually refuses to even listen to me. I just want to know where their office is: I can buy a ticket first. I finally find a female ticket saleswoman, who explain my business for them. Then I have to wait at an office for half a hour or so. Then get my driving license from the car, get signed up and followed to the director of the entire garden.

 She is a rather young women, and claim she have no saying over the lab, I have to talk with the tissue-laboratory's manager. An even younger, and very sympatric woman, who gladly show me all their facilities and discus their work. The lab dates back to the '70'ties, making it one of the oldest, I think. They use glass jaws and bottles, meaning a real time consuming work, but here; cheep. I'm amassed about their system to acclimatize their orchids back to soil. After a couple of hours, I have leaned a lot, and got some good photos. Slideshow of that.

 I need a cup of tea, and stop at a humble place, in a little village. I don't get all on their poster, but two messages stands clear: "Automatic Loan" and "Lifetime". Only "Debt" is missing from the equalisation.

 Next challenge of the day is to find the first, of the "Three Temple Walk" temples. I have some maps, and a general idea. I actually find the first - although that was the one I would end at. Never the less, I see Embekka Temple while I'm here. A lovely old fart charge me 300 LKR, and start enthusiastically to show me every side of each of the many columns of the drum-hall. Each have its own motive, some wrestlers, a half duck-half elephant and other obvious motives. It is made around 13-1400.

 Then we enter the most holy, behind a Hindu curtain. This, and the two other temples are part Hindi, part Buddhist temples. The wood-work in the drum-hall are fantastic, but I don't see to be able to photo much at a time. Next to it stands an ancient paddy barn for the temples rice.

 I head on bye the narrow road, leading through rice patches, small farms, forests, minute shops and nice gardens. After around five kilometres, I reach another type of temple; Lankathilake. It is designed by a Indian architect, and finished in 1344. It sits on the top of a giant boulder, and is a big structure. It have several artefacts deep inside, one is the original ivory casket, which hold the holy tooth in, at the Gampola period.

 I don't see much inside, but the view to the surrounding fields and hills are great. The entrance is a traditional dragon arch, massive granite work, formed like a dragon. Within are fantastic paintings on the walls, statues, the central a Buddha in thick bronze. I make a loop around the different buildings, and find a street behind. To judge from the shops, this is the main entrance for the tourists.

 It take me some time to locate some hot tea, but I do. Right through the temple again, and a decision to make: Continue another five kilometres on foot, and then back, or just back to get the car? Well, it is accordantly to the locals one of their significantly hot days, and I have another site later today: Car.

 After a bit of asking around, I find the last temple; Gadaladeniya Maha Vidyalaya on another hill. It have NOT been restored within the last couple of hundred years, but a scaffolding-roof have been added. I think it is build by huge, well carved blocks of granite, which might have been painted. Within, a large Buddha statue have had its share of water through time.

 In the back, a little pond with lilies and frogs, a degoba and a tree with orchids, and the usual great view from the top. I do a loop around the monastery, which seems to have same age, and a general rustic design. I feel fine about NOT having to walk ten kilometres back to the car!

 The drive back to Kandy take some time. First through pretty but narrow and rather worn-down tracks, then the intense traffic of the large Kandy city. I park at the hotel, and head straight on towards Helga's Folly. My guidebook describes as:" If Gaudi and Dali set to work on  building a horror-house hotel, this would be it". It have 35 rooms and lots of common areas like bars, dining rooms and alike. All massively decorated with ancient art and artefacts, modern paintings, temporally art, enormous candelabras, polished hardwood, black tiles - see the separate slideshow, I can't describe it.

 My original plan was to have a look around, maybe enjoy a drink, but I immediately decides to stay for dinner, although it is 20 times more expensive, than my usual ones. I'm pretty much alone with the short staff. At six, the mosquitoes arrivals as usual. But, where the better places have a waiter with a smoke-coil on a bottle, I here get a visit from a little bat ever second minute or so. Way more effective and environmental friendly.

 I get settled on second floor, with the lake view and a massive candelabra on the table. I can't sit still and wait for the serving, but have to check out this floor too. I am absolutely crazy with what Helga da Silva have been able to do with the place, along with her good friends.

 I am brought back to my childhood, where I had rooms looking a bit like this, and later, when I decorated my homes this way from time to time. I fail to see the horror in this house, I find it so cosy! I have a great dining all by myself, and for a first, I am not bored while waiting for next curse at all. I even see one of the hotel rooms, which all have a full decoration.

 When I get the bill at 3600 LKR, I get a form, asking me to review the visit. I give the highest possible ranking, and feel great to be able to thank for the visit, which I found awesome. A Norwegian couple turns up, and we start talking in Danish/Norwegian. There is a few terms I have to translate from English by now.

 Then the waiter ask, if I would like to talk with Helga. That is a bit surrealistic, but of cause I will. She seems to be a lovely person, and end up inviting me to coffee tomorrow. I am looking forward to meet her, and see even more of her huge and absolutely fantastic house, I hope. I chat some more with the Norwegians, and get way too late home to start working, and at half pass one, I have to give in.

4/2. It is the national independence day, and that explains all the training of bands I saw yesterday, on every available lawn in town. I work on some pages for my site, pack down my temporally home and meet Helga at her hotel at 10:30. She is, not surprisingly, a truly remarkable woman, and I do so well understand her thoughts and affection. She have inherited the rather large hotel from her parents (who is a story by them self), and added the more artistic dimension to it, while the history have been build up through ages.

 So many celebrities have been here, Gandhi just one of them. The many photos are of her family and friends, the art done by her self and friends visiting her. For me, it all come to a nice whole, which is so cosy and interesting. I enjoy chatting with her, and listen to a few of all the tales connected to the house and her family.

 The latest addition is made by the famous American artist; Jane Lillian Vance. A little room is filled with some huge works of her, and when Helga explains about the background, I get shiver. As with the rest of the house, there are an deeper layer to the art, than what meets the eye at first. But it can easily be enjoyed, for just the art.

 The house itself does fare from look large from the outside. It is hidden in the jungle and the mountain side. As I walk round corner after corner, floor after floor and room after room, I keep finding real artistic rooms with massive soul. Here are even a rather large and nice swimming pool in the back-jungle. Here, I meet an interesting Englishman, who have retired to Sri Lanka. We exchange some real interesting thoughts, and then, it is time for me to leave Kandy.

 My plan is to drive down A1 towards Colombo, and turn of in Mirigama. Here, I have an appointment to see the Jiffy factory tomorrow, and I would like to find it today, and a hotel nearby. The roads are filled with holyday suicidal drivers. I have to stay sharp the whole time, despite it is fare from a large or packed road.

 Most of the time, the road is flanked by houses and farms, but a few times, vertical mountain sides and swamps changes that. I have the time to stop and do some walks, but I find it hard to spot anything, I haven't already seen. It feels like the perfect summer day, although the temperature do risen, as I descent. I reach Mirigama late in the afternoon, and have to ask a single time, before I find the large industrial area, Jiffy is found in.

 Back to ask at the two hotels I found nearby. The first ask for 9900 LKR for one night, and it does not even look posh to me. The next is closed, but then I manages to find one in the back of town. Real cosy, quiet family-run place, and I get two nights for 2500 LKR - with cold water though. They offers to cock dinner, and I'm thankful. One night might have done it, but I'm not in a hurry.

 I start working right away, despite I haven't really experienced much, or taken many photos. Feels a bit odd, to be finish before dinner! Or eight hours before yesterday! Ad some pictures to Helga's slideshow from today, make one from the tissuelab and rather fruitless; try to find a brilliant way to design the photo page.

5/2.  I have not made a fixed time for my visit at the Jiffy plant, but I will try to get there rather early. My morning tea is served at my room, and I meet up at the giant gates at the Export Zone area half pass eight. What I should have paid more attention was the "Export Zone": I am asked to show my passport at the very strict gate control, and that is back at my hotel. After some time, I manages to get through with my driving license, and I drive straight to Jiffy's production unit.

 I'm shown into the production managers office, and while we have a cup of tea, he go through all the numbers and explanations on his huge monitor. Only 3% of the world's coconuts are produced in Sri Lanka, but Jiffy manages to get their hands in 60% of the outer part of these. They are treated in different ways, chopped into small pieces and filled on a huge number of different types of "bags". These bags are made from different materials, depending on the rate they they are desired to brake down in. The filling product is a mix of the outer shell and the fibres along with other components from time to time.

 Then the manager give me an extensive tour around the factory, but I'm not aloud to make any photos. Some of the work are done by hand, some by rather technical machines. The fermenting and drying are done on waste concrete areas, turned over by tractors and mopeds!

 I get to know a few products I didn't, and which can be very useful for different of our projects. We finishes the tour at his office once again, and get a few unclear points taken care of. Then I still have quite some day to spend in the area, and I decides to make a tour round some of the neighbouring cities. If I'm lucky, I find the market of the day.

 I am lucky: The first larger city I drive into; Giriulla, have a huge vegetable marked, and one for clothing next to it. I get some pretty good pictures of the vendors and their products, and a good laugh with quite a lot of them. At the back of the market, the swamp begin with huge elephant-ear plants. In front of the city, a huge river flows, in the back, a vertical mountain raises.

 I am also looking for a rather large but cheep bag, for some of my luggage. With the additionally winter cloth I have bought, I can't have it in my original bag. Then I might as well send the better part, including wellingtons as suitcase. I think I have gotten way too use at their prices; I find a rather solid bag at 450 LKR expensive! It is still 1/20 of what they would ask in Denmark.

 From here, I go by the not-too-small roads in huge loops, from city to city. It is mainly the countryside I'm interested in. It is different from what I have seen so fare: Here, it is in the beginning of the dry season, and the rice is being harvested. Many of the large trees is shearing their leaves, but a single species of Fabaceae is in full flower.

 I passes a lot of farms, some with bananas, a lot with coconuts and some with pineapples. A few large rivers are still flowing, and some lakes are still partly filled. I find a rather large meadow with rough, yellow grass, which is not fenced in. A few smaller hills and boulders create an interesting landscape, and I both go for a long walk, and have a sit-down to enjoy.

 Next interesting nature is along a river - or elongated lake by now. Unfortunately, a local farmer kind of help me to find back to my car. To polite to kick me out, not keen enough to let me walk along. I drive on to a large lake, partly full with lotus', a few in flower. Then I meet some true lowland, with harvested rice patches, and some which are being harvested.

 In Alawwa, I crosses another large river, and go for a walk in the city. It is cut in two by the railroad, and the buildings and gear apparently originates from the opening around 1890. It seems quite wrong, when a diesel locomotive passes through - it was supposed to be steam!

 Somewhere after three, I let the GPS find its way back to the hotel. It finds a real challenging cross-country route by a narrow and real bumpy but sealed track. More rice fields and tiny villages, and after an hour, I have driven the 9,5 km. My room is so appealing in the late afternoon sun, with a mild breeze through, and I kind of drop back on the bed for half an hour.

 Then I take a chair out in the shadow under some trees, and sit and read till it is time for dinner. The owners kids passes bye with some exceptional good drawings done 5-7 years old boys. After a different set of rice&curry, the young owner show me around in his "museum".

 Here are everything from ancient stone rice-mills over 1920 photos, old uniforms, coins, his grandmothers matchbox-front collection in a book made for it, china, weaved baskets, carvings in tree and ivory, awesome furniture, iron tools, books and much, much more. I feel I'm brought back to my grand parents farm.

 Then, it is time to start working, and plan the tour down south tomorrow. If I'm not careful, I will be leaded right through Colombo city, but I rather take a detour through smaller villages. On the other hand, I must conserve kilometres; I have 100 km a day for free, then they turn expensive, and I close to the limit.

The diary is once again too long, and I continue with another visit to the south here. Photos from this part is found in this slideshow.

 

Diary   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15   16