After the central
lowland, I'm now back in the highland.
14/1. Fingers crossed for the car repair, I head for Matale, early in the morning. Although I have driven here before, I have to take advantages of the excellent weather. I do several stops, when the nature have an appealing appearance. It is still in tusk-infested territory, and I have to abort a few times.
I find a swamp, offering great views and wet feet. Juncus and some white water lilies make a great motive, and Impatience some interesting findings. I only reluctantly leave the area, when one of the gray bullies appears on the other side of the lake.
I get closer to the mountains, and huge boulders start to poke through the horizon. Each have its temple, some which I have visited before. A huge cloths marked draws me in. Underwear, shirts, T-shirts, dresses, cloth, and every thing else in-between. Most piles have a price tag of 150 LKR, but jeans can reach 350, and it is all new! I don't find anything interesting, but it was fun to see.
I do another stop at an even bigger boulder, or is it a mountain? In front of it some old buildings are still in use, despite the scars time have given them. The next boulder have a school and a quite little house with laundry in the bushes. Then I reach a huge river, offering yet some more motives.
A bit before noon, I reach the rather large Matale once again. The traffic is intense, both due to the holyday, but also because the city is still expanding its main streets - one each way. I ask for the road to the handicraft centre, and I have passes it 100 meters ago. It is a winding, steep and bad road leading to the centre - and the closed gate. I was aware of the holyday, but I have thought that meant noting. I know tomorrow will be the same, and I figure I might be back once.
The next project is money and gasoline. I stop at several ATMs before I find one which accept my card. I did pass a filling station on the way in, but I misses it on the way out. Well, there must be one in the next city. That should be Rattota, half way out in Knuckles' Range. The road twist it way through small houses and tiny hills. Banana trees, palms and all kind of green vegetation make a wall along the road.
When I reach Rattota after ten kilometres, I desperately look for a gas station, and behold; they have one. I get the car parked, and take a stroll through town. A pretty temple, numerous nice little shops, and due to the day; coloured rice-art on the sidewalks.
I take quite some photos, and the banana pusher insist on me taking a photo of him, after I made one of the fishmonger next to him. It is hard to tell what the different is, but this is really a little, cosy town. Clean, smiling people, interesting, and relaxed. Some workers ask me for fun, if I'll help them carry cement into a shop. I'll tell them I do half the work for 1000 LKR. They agree, and I ask the truck driver to move the truck to the other side of the road. I don't get paid...
On the other side of the town, the road toughen, and as usual, when the tough get going, the GPS give up. It is as much useful as a pocket on the back of a shirt. Well, accordantly to my map, there are only one junction on the next 60 km - how hard can that be? I drive through green rice patches and steep hills. After some time, I reach the height for tea plantations. The road heads upwards, and the views get better.
While the road still is good, I meet two colleges with their entire families on picnic. As so many other times, I'm expected to photo the small kids. Babies have black spots in their faces, and tend to be a bit careful about pale people. Photos are all right, but quite often, I'm offered to bring them along home to Denmark.
The road worsen, and waterfalls show up in every ravine. Eucalyptus and pine forest starts. Strangely enough, it seems like the treat pine trees the same way as rubber trees. I take a walk the wrong place, and get penetrated with needles from several species. Even the tomatoes are armed here!
Ferns start to show up, then the epiphytic Rhipsalis, the only cactus found outside Americas and finally some orchids. The road turns into gravel - and then more stones, but the nature is perfect, and I head on. Well, large areas is used for tea, but the steeper hillsides are left alone. They have old trees, and that mean orchids. Within the next few kilometres, I see at least eight different species.
Here are also more Rhipsalis and a Huperzia; a Rock Tassel Fern - not a true fern, but allied. There are several other ferns, some on the rocks, some in the trees. One particular tree have at least four different types of orchids on the rough bark, and I find a way up in it. Not wise, but interesting. One of them have buds, but no fruits here. Another place had a huge cluster of orchids, filled with fruits.
I don't see many animals, but I can catch up with a single snail. The forest is now true cloud forest - with clouds and all. Here are even Bulbophyllum growing on bare rocks. The clouds are swallowing the peaks, and as I cross over, it starts to rain. It is the usual dry side, with low bushes, but now it is drowned. The road is still only moist, bit the little stream, running under a primitive stone-bridge is lively.
It seems like the road head right into a gray wall, but the mist opens, as I get closer. Then the rain takes over, and I investigate under an umbrella. Here are some interesting Selaginella, looking like Christmas trees, and some huge, white Impatiens flowers, in a moor-like area.
The remains of a little sign proclaims; I have reach Knuckler's Conservation Forest. Great - if I could see it. I walk the track, but it is real flooded, and the view is gone in mist. It have not really been my day, but what can I do now? I head on, hoping just one of the many hotels and resorts I saw in the beginning of this tour, are found a bit further on.
Just as I have given up, realising I haven't a clue about where I am, a large house on a hill have a sign; Restaurant. It is the first house I have seen for several kilometres, and just the thought of a cup of tea seems great. I find out they even have rooms, although 2000 LKR with cold water seems a bit steep. I tell the young man, I would like warm water, and he tells me: The pond down the road is warmer. And he doesn't even smile, great!!
I walk a bit further down the road, but besides from the pond, here is only a river. It is five o'clock, and pretty dark; I'll better settle in here, or I might get a night in the car. It turns out, I'm still 11 km from the next village; Pallegama. Apparently, I have passed the same size village; Pubbaraweta - without noticing it! They are kind of small around here.
I get a deserved power-nap, and start to work. At seven, I order a fried rice with chicken, and dine along with the toads; they are having termite queens on the floor. When my food is served, I kind of regret I didn't ask for the prise - it look real expensive. When I taste it, I don't care: It is the best food I have got so far. The taste is so intense, it is like real good bouillon. And the chicken is on one, large piece - which unfortunately is only a few minutes from raw. I returns it, and get two smaller but well done back.
The rain keep pounding down, and then a thunder mixes into the symphony of drops, frogs, toads and cicadas. I know I fare out: No cell phone connection at all! I figure I can wash my cloth without freezing during the night: The fan can be shifted to the bathroom. Then, if the power failures keep being short, it ought to work. Else, I will have a cold morning.
At first, I can't be bothered with the constantly but short power failures, but then I realises; I got the only source of light (the cpmputer), and I'm surrounded by 1000 insects! Bugger! At ten, I'm kind of tired of being the centre of focus for 1000 insects, and call it a day. Bath in cold water with a forehead-lamp, was not in the original plan.
15/1. The rain have continued throughout the entire night, and I decides; it is time to leave the mountains for now. The eleven kilometre road to the next village; Pallegama is not easy, and after an hour, I'm glad I stayed put last night. I feel I'm driving in a tunnel, completely covered in trees. The little light above does not penetrate much, only the rain does.
I keep an eye out for possible orchids, but this is "the dry side" of the mountain - except from to day, that is. I hardly think it is worse going back to, from what little I can see now.
After a while, I've had it with the tinted windows. A bad idea anyway. During the day, I have the windows open anyway, during the night and rain, I would like to see as much as possible. The windows still steam up, but by using the air conditioner from time to time, I can keep a dissent view.
The rivers are grown to well over their usual size. Trees along the shores are flooded, some even torn along by the stream. A few times, I get a view over the area. The mountains are covered in mist and rain, and I can only see 50 meters or so. The GPS is, as usually, useful as a Muslim Liquor store.
The rain is hard on the road too. The fine mud is being washed out from in-between the rocks, and the surface turn into real rugged. When I finally reach Pallegama, I am so ready for tea and breakfast. It is a tiny village, and I don't even see a place which might offer rooms for rent. I do however find tea, even twice. The first place only had noodles, and I went for something more bread-like. They have something fried the next joint, and that will do. I get some homemade sugar to bite off, along with the tea.
Most of the inhabitants I see are cows, but it is kind of early, a holyday and raining. I drive back over the large river, and follows the massive stream of trucks. I never find out what they are working on, but it must be big. I have turned into a bigger road. It used to be sealed, but the rain and the many trucks have changed that. There is only one safe way to drive; keep the same speed as the trucks. Else, they will overtake, room or not. Strange how so sweet people turn in to psychopaths, behind a wheel!
As I decent from the mountains, more and more rice patches emerges. At the same time, the rivers raises, and the road turn worse. Somewhere around Elahera, the trucks turns of, and I can relax a bit. The road is on the top of a giant dike, just along a huge river; Amban Ganga. The dike is seven to fifteen meters high, and I drive along it for 30 kilometres. How long it is, I can't tell. However, it have been a massive work to build, and it might have been done by hand, in Ancient time! A few ruins give me that idea.
I reach a control station for the water, and figure I might have been driving along Griitale Tank and National Park. The elephant fence did give me that idea earlier. They are opening the gates for the water, and it seems to be in last minute. I leave the dike, heading into some sort of park. The grass is real low, the bushes dense clusters. Common is the flooding.
I reach Polonnaruwa early in the afternoon, but due to the rain, I just find my usual hotel. The owner recommends me Dimbulagala Viharaya, which should be some awesome ruins. That will be on the way to the coast, tomorrow. Right now, it is about getting rite of that smelly dog, shadowing me all the time: Landry time.
Sitting around watching the cloth dry is too boring - especially considered it probably won't dry, before I ware it. So far, I have not had any proper meals in this town. I will spend the afternoon, finding a good restaurant. I break the seal on my "party T-shirt", and the shorts, which make me look - if possible - more tourist'ed.
A full tour through town make me try one more place, and despite it is not good, it is the best. Besides from that, all I accomplish is to get the last of my cloths soaked. After five hours, the newly washes it as just as wet. If I lived here, a tumbler would come before a washing machine. No wonder so much smell suspicious mouldy around here.
Despite this became a short mountain tour, I make an additionally slideshow from the heights.
After the second tour within the highlands, I head out to the southern part of the east coast.