part, we now reach the highlands.
21/12. While Claus catch up on some sleep, I start working on the Southern Slide-show. I take the computer into the bed, under the mosquito net. Unfortunately, I have to remove around 100 tiny ants from the computer, while working. I kind of wished they originated from the bed I slept in, but I am afraid they are coming out of the computer.
Claus kind of wake up, and head out for a run, and I finishing the slide-show. Most of that work is made up by deleting around a 1000 photos, leaving only 273 - which still is too many, I know. Down town to find some breakfast, and then into the mountains. The goal for the day is Haputale and its Horton; a high plateau. On the map, it looks like 40 km, but the GPS claims it is 163 km. Well, it is mountains, and it is the right direction.
It is a slightly cloudy day, and the clouds covers the peaks of the nearby mountains. We pass bye huge road trees most of the day, some covering entire hotels behind them. Small patches of rice in the flat areas, rubber plantations on the steep parts, and small farms can be spotted in the rather dense forest. Pine plantations are rare but big and quite old.
We stop at a few small waterfalls and do a short walk. It seems like every plant is flowering these days, and the insects are busy. Other short stops reveals magnificent panoramas to the mountain peaks, the valleys below and the giant trees.
Wellawaya is a bigger city, and we do a stroll through it. I find the perfect Christmas present for Claus: The replacement for toilet-paper, he had on the top of his wishing list. It just have to be hooked up to the cold water. Outside the town, the small shops and fruit stands continues.
We reach Diyaluma Falls, and I park 50 meters away, because of a roadwork. Claus (double ironman, 25 marathons, loads of caminos i.e.) ask me, if I don't think they have a parking-lot a bit closer! I think he have adopted to the car-thing a bit too good. It is a 171 meter straight fall, although it is not that wide. The bridge crossing the river is under construction, and we watch them placing the explosive and then the blast. Meanwhile, we have a cup of tea, at a tiny sheet. Here are quite some people enjoying the falls, even two other pale ones.
Claus insist on taking a photo of me, driving the car over the bridge - that way, he will be picked up, where he stands. Next stop is the larger city of Beragalla or is it Harldummula or Kalupahana? Our GPS and two maps disagrees. Claus get some lunch, and we do a short stroll on the rustic street. Monkeys sits on the roof of the shops, and every one is greeting us. We are defiantly among the few pale people coming here.
The road is in an excellent condition, but still real twisty. Some areas have large rice patches, way down below the road. At four, we figures we won't make it to Haputale, and start to look for a hotel. That is a bit tricky, because all bakeries who serve tea, call them selves "hotel", one even "Hotel & AC Rooms". Places where we can rent a bed, can be recognised by a sign with "Room" or "Rest". The only one we find is real expensive, and we re-plans.
It turns out we have passed our turn-off point by 40 km. The Haputale the GPS was heading for, is another than we wanted. After quite some studding on our maps, we realises we are in Balangoda. We should have turned off in Beragalla - which is unknown to our GPS. One problem might be, the names is originally spelled in Srilankaneese - another set of letters - and "translated" in several different ways in our Latin letters.
We head back, looking for a recently priced bed. One place look nice, but we are not desperate enough to pay 11.800 for a room! The next ones are either as expensive or fully occupied, but then we find a real nice one, and for 2500 LKR. They even serve dinner for a reasonable price. I go for pork with fried rice, and the pseudo-vegetarian-wanabe-ish, for a huge steak - to celebrate his one week as a "vegetarian". It is by fare the best meal we have had so far.
I start working while ants still appears from my computer - that can't be good! After finishing the work, I play some of my favourite music for Claus. He actually like some of it!
22/12. We have ordered continental breakfast at 7;30, and with the dinner in mind, we are looking forward to it. As with everything else, it is perfectly on time. Rice & Curry is good, but two or three times a day, is too much for Claus. A new plan, based on the fact that Haputale West is the eastern city of that name, should lead us to the little, cosy village of Ella/Ele.
We passes endless tea plantations, one is dominated by some Fabaceae trees, cut into strange forms. That combined with the mist make a great motive. We passes thought small villages and a single larger city; Bandarawela, where we do a stop to buy yet another cell-charger.
In Ella, we drive straight to Ella's Highest Inn, which offers warm water, Wi-Fi and a astonishing view - on a clear day. The drizzle make me spend some time uploading photos and diary, while Claus plans the walks. As we head down the long and extremely steep driveway, we find a huge snail, while numerous birds tweets above our heads.
We walk under Jack-fruit trees, and the massive fruits sit in clusters on the stems. Most are around 10-15 kilos, and the area is filled with the smell of decaying frit. Ella is probably the biggest tourist trap in Sri Lanka. The narrow and quite run-down main street is dominated by restaurants and cafés, selling everything from pizzas to massage. Some even have the most sorry excuse for Christmas trees, I have seen since Namibia.
We pass right through the village, and continues along a narrow road, leading out into the steep mountains. Tiny dirt tracks and patches leads into small farms, and we go for one, promising a large waterfall. This track is covered in rough stones, a massive work have gone into that. We pass a beautiful house with a large pouch, facing the giant valley. The owner comes to have a chat, and he end up guiding us to the other side of the valley. Here, a large waterfall and a magnificent view to the entire valley, along with a brilliant sight of Ella Rock reveals itself.
I leave the old, rusty Claus, and head for the top for an even better view at Adam's Peak. We leave the farmer at the railroad tracks, and follow them into back til Ella. Along the tracks, several houses and even restaurants are found. At one house, the termites are flying of, to great joy for ten species of birds. I spot the great magpie, a titmouse, some red-crested swallows, starlings, gray sunbirds, singers and - others.
One restaurant, having a pouch facing the entire valley, lures us in to tea. In a nearby Jackfruit tree, and giant squeal eats of a ripen fruit, together with some tiny chipmunks. We get the best cup of tea ever, and head on. Back in the village, we go for another cup of tea, and Claus talks me into a pancake with bananas and syrup. We watch the strange looking, odd pale people walk bye. It is amassing how smiling and cheering the locals are, considering the amount of tourists they are haunted bye.
Claus' new charger don't fit the wall-plugs, but I can attach the core to my computer. Here is internet, and I upload diaries and slide-show. At six, we head down town for dinner.
Claus make the call for dinner: A fancy international place, serving pizza and burgers. We try one of each, and they are actually quite good. I get a brilliant mousse for dessert, while Claus choose a dusty sand-cake. Back through a starlit night, filled with the serenade of cicadas and frogs. We are at 1100 metres height, and that can be felt, in the evening. One city we passes was in 1368 above the sea, and we might get even higher during the next days. Claus has been looking forward for the cooler mountains - that ends when he spend the entire night sleepless freezing.
23/12. Breakfast is served on our poach, overlooking most of Ella Gab. Sunbirds, herons, swallows, sparrows, starlings and all the other usual suspects are busy in the treetops below us. I have a hard time figuring how to get out to Horton Plains and World's End, and the right time should be in the early morning, due to mist. We are around 40 km from it, and we figure we can spend part of the day, finding Far Inn; the entrance point.
The GPS first say 35 km, then 8 and later 56. We end up in some huge tea plantations, way up in the mountains on real narrow tracks. The pavement is made up by either wet clay or head-large, round rocks. The poor car develops a few new and rather alarming sharp sounds, and we have a scenes of driving in circles. Most of the time, the GPS guesses we drive way of roads. The only road sign we see, is without any letters readable due to age.
We try to figure where we are by looking at the GPS, the Lonely Planet guide book's maps and Claus cell's map. We fails to get any common names on the maps, and have a hard time getting out to a paved road. Anyway, the views are absolutely astonishing: Deep valleys, high green mountains, endless tea plantations with workers and everywhere unspoiled nature.
We try to go safe, and drive to Hali Ela, then Badulla and down again towards Ohiya. It is kind of a massive de-tour, but it is a huge area without any tracks at all, except the railroad. A few cows and as something new, goats. Just as the cows and dogs, they lie sleeping in the middle of the roads, neglecting any vehicles.
As we reach the highlands, well dressed women carries firewood on the their heads. Pine- and eucalyptus forests dominates, both seems to be 50-100 years old. The more flat areas are still rice patches, but tea dominates totally. When we finally reach Ohiya, it have been six hours of real hard and challenging driving, and the next six kilometres is sealed, but real twisting. We end up at Horton Plains close to four, way too late to pay a fortune to get in.
Just before we reach the entrance, the landscape changes character. Small, round trees, "heather-like", almost alpine and large tree-ferns. We are probably just above 2000 meters, and I look forward to explore the orchids in this prime habitat.
Claus get a great idea; leave the car here, and take the train back to Ella for the night (we have booked the room for one more night, and our bags are in that room in Ella. I park next to Ohiya station, but a restaurant/hotel owner advises me to park in her yard. Better safe than sorry, and it can't be that expensive anyway.
The train arrivals after one hour, but the station from 1893 is some studding worth. The original telegraph, old tickets, even the station managers bright white uniform seems to have survived the last 120 years untouched. We chat with three Dutch adventures, get a cup of tea at the "parking-house", in its real rustic kitchen. We catch the train at little pass five, and get a "seat" in one of the open doors. A five year old kid find his way to a seat in the door, all by him self. When we drive through one of the many tunnels, all the kids scream loudly.
The tour is worth the waiting. Endless tea plantations, huge gorges, sunset and passengers sinning and drumming in rhyme with the trains wheels. Unfortunately, it have turned a bit too dark to photo from a mowing train, but we experiences a magnificent sunset. We reach Ella at seven, and head straight for some dinner. I'm rather worn out, when I start on the diary and photos at nine.
24/12. The rain start pouring down around three, and when we get up at six, it still rains. Never the less, we head for the nearby station. Some claims the train leaves at seven, other at 6;30. We take no chances, and start waiting 6;20. It arrivals at 6;40 and leave ten minutes later. It is pretty full, and we get separated seats.
We drive through the same amassing landscape - this time without seeing it, due to rain and mist. A pregnant girl with a small child stands next to me, and I pretty soon end up standing. Vendors are selling breakfast and roasted peanuts, while the passengers unfold their breakfast packets. I engulf a few, sweet bananas, and save the rest till I join up with Claus.
We reach the station, but I have to call out loud, to get Claus out of the train. We pick up the car, but due to the fog, we abort the World's End mission. A long walk to see a 800 meter drop, engulfed in fog isn't worth it. Instead, we head further up north, this time down through endless tea plantations.
It continues to be raining or at best; drizzling, and the fog refuse to let its grip of the mountains go. I spot a long line of well trimmed bushes, and Claus see the entrance to Hakgala Botanical Garden. The guidebook claims it is not worth the entrance fee of 1100 LKR, but we give it a go anyway.
It is absolutely astonishing. So big, well maintained, nametags on most all plants, massive trees from its foundation in 1861. A great selection of plants from all the British colonies and other areas. The mist is ever present, but that only add to the mystic atmosphere.
The Fernery is amassing with 10-15 meter tall tree-ferns, the bulb-garden real nice, but flooded, a glasshouse with a few orchids and succulents along with colourful garden plants, a tiny succulent house, rose gardens and much more. The large nursery seem unpopulated, and I leave it un-seen. The shop on the other hand offers some of the usual suspects and a few rather unknown plants.
We get a cup of tea and some additional breakfast at the Canteen, and just as the rain picks up, we head for the car. Outside the garden, a line of small sheets houses all kind of shops. Some with the usual "food" in plastic bags, some clothing and some rather nice flower shops.
Next stop is in the "British town" of Nuwara Eliya. I don't find it that colonial, except for the lake lake outside with nice lawns, paddle swans, Christmas stuff and the golf course. We park at the central courthouse, and go for a stroll. First stop is a restaurant, selling cake and tea as well.
It is a rather nice place, and it does look a bit strange to me, the well dressed guest are eating their Rice & Curry with their fingers. We get a couple of cream buns and pyramid cakes. The later is the usual sand-cake with a dash of sucker-margarine cream.
A marked sells Helly Hansen, Jack Woolfskin, Northface and alike. It looks original, and the nametags say: Made in Sri Lanka. If it wasn't for the price; 1/5 of the usual, I would have thought it was original - and it actually might be? They have to get it made somewhere anyway. I later learned it was second and third quality of the original, sown here.
Around a few corners, we find a real nice market. It is packed with local stuff, but at the same time real clean. We get some good photos of the dried and live fish, the vegetables, dried goods, the butcher and the customers. Behind the "bazaar" runs a river, loads of green plants, little trash. In general, Sri Lanka is a very clean country. The city council's Christmas tree is a rare sight, but reminds us of the day.
On the way out of the city, we first passes a lot of stands with real nice vegetables, then they continues along, on the sealing. I can't figure where they grow the plants; all the surrounding hill sides is covered in MacWoods endless tea plantation.
When we reach the factory and their visitor centre, we give it a go. We see the leaves being dries, rolled, fermented, sorted and packed. The final product is 52 Kg bags, ready to be shipped abroad. We check the gift shop and their canteen, but they have no coffee.
Next planned stop is Ramboda waterfalls, a series of falls, crossing the road. Just before we reach it, I spot some lovely terrestrial orchids along the road. Then we find a patch leading way up to the plateau. Awesome views, interesting plants and a young monk. We relaxes for some time, but decides to head for the large town of Kandy.
Despite is is only 38 km, and on the excellent A5 road, it is a two hour drive, and we only reach Kandy after dark. The GPS leads us to the wanted hotel, but is is fully booked. Claus manages to find one near by, with a private porch, facing the entire city, way down below. Hot water in abundance for a first time, and I can accept the 4000 LKR.
We head down town on the back-roads, passing a working construction site. The foundation is being filled, and at least four concrete trucks holds in line, while the large tower crane distribute the cement. That make quite some noise, and we passes several restaurants because of that.
Then we reach one of the city's great lakes - and no restaurants. Back up again, all the way to our hotel's restaurant. Pork is out, and I can't see my self eating fish on Danish Christmas eve! Down hill again to a cafe, offering pork with fries.
After dinner, we returns to our room, and I start working. At eleven, I have to give in, and Claus has been surprisingly quiet for some time.
25/12. Kandy seems to be a huge city, covering a way larger area. That way, large patches of unspoiled forest is mixed into the city. The large river cutting through the city looks like it could be way out in a national park. This morning, it is real quiet. I manages to sleep to 6;30, before I start working.
We make a new plan, giving Claus his favourite sight and getting him to the airport on time. Then we drive of to the Botanical Garden, despite it is a rather greyish day. This massive park covers 59 hectares, and every square meter is kept in a pristine condition!
We see the rather new orchid house, the cacti house, the large Cycas collection, the Fruit de Meer palms, the entire palm collection, the many beautiful ponds, the outside of the huge orchid production houses, the door to the tissue-lab, the shadow houses, and walk the endless and perfect lawns, the huge arboretum, the educational gardens, the flower gardens, the bamboo forest, see the canon-ball-tree, the tree Queen Victoria planted and much, much more.
Claus get a lunch break in the fancy restaurant. Huge buffet for 800 LKR. I do a few circles and return for tea. Some turtles in the pond and especially some green beetles in the Jatropha podagrica catch my attention, while the few monkeys catch others. The park is visited by 15.000 people today, while only a few of the 200 gardeners are present.
At three, we head on, through Kandy towards the north. We stop in the large village of Matale around five. Despite we drive on one of the major roads, we can't do more than 20 km/h in average. The roads are too narrow, too twisted and too used. We find a cheep room opposite the large Hindu temple, and start with a closer inspection of the temple.
Outside, it is extremely colourful, and packed with figures. Inside, more fine art is displayed. Some metal figurines, some paintings and strange things. Horns, drums and bells along with smoke make the ceremony. Then we walk through the trading centre of town. In one street, all the shops have been cut several meters back. Sidewalks and wider road takes it toe, but I recon it eventually will be good.
English Christmas dinner at a Rice & Curry house, where we get some real good fried noodles with chicken and a selection of their cookies with tea. With a Sprite, we have to pay 550 LKR. Back after dark, to work a bit. I get the Highland slide-show sorted out, but lack the internet to up-load it.
From here, we head go up a bit to the northern lowland, then out to the west coast.