A Travellerspoint blog

JAN 20 EXPLORING ELLA

Little Adams Peak

sunny 28 °C

LITTLE ADAMS PEAK
The view from our room is exquisite as the dawn breaks. Interesting how at home we wait till it begins to heat up to go out, and here we are up at dawn to enjoy the early morning before it heats up. Today our goal is Little Adams Peak - a kilometre jaunt from our place to the city centre and then a 3 kilometer hike uphill to the peak. We pass the market vendors spread along the side of the road. We pass through tea plantations and finally reach the summit. The views are worth the walk even though it is pretty scorching in the mid day sun. It's Rob's birthday so he decides to attempt to fly off the peak. As we descend Mani gains a new friend. We enjoy lunch in Ella. Then we catch a ride to visit the Uva tea factory about 6 kilometres away up some rolling hills. Rob refines his tea knowledge and finds out it costs 25 million rupees ($250,000 Canadian) for the laser machine that separates the black tea leaves from the stem and brown leaves. That's a lot of bags of tea tp produce to pay for it. The laser is so refined it can tell the colour of each leaf flowing through at rapid speed and send an extra blast of air at each stem or brown leaf so they are directed into a separate roller and bin for use as compost.

We return for another delicious curry and rice dinner that our host Nuli has prepared. Seven flavourful traditional dishes such as dal, banana flowers, coconut sambal, spiced pumpkin and beans, each dish spiced differently with flavourful aromatic spices. Absolutely exquisite and a wonderful way to celebrate Robs birthday.

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EARLY MORNINGJ

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STREET VENDORS

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ADAMS PEAK

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MEDITATING ON THE VIEW

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ROB CELEBRATES HIS BIRTHDAY IN STYLE

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TEA GARDENS

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MANI'S NEW FRIEND

Posted by RDILL 07:52 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged ella Comments (0)

JAN 19 KATARAGAMA TO ELLA

Bike Adventures and Hill Climbs

LAKE BIKE
Gem River has bikes we can use so Mani, Don and Rob rise early and take the bikes on a 2 hour trip to a nearby lake that supplies irrigation to the neighbouring rice fields. We have a little map but the scale is questionable and we need to rely on locals to help find our way. This is as far removed from the tourist circuit as you could find, A delightful bike along a dirt path with peacocks doing their mating dance and lovely views of local fishermen. We return for breakfast, and after have a wonderful tour of the kitchen. Everything is cooked on earthenware pots in traditional Sri Lankan fashion. We have a morning swim in the river, look through bird books to try and identify what we've seen, and pack up to continue our adventures.

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A LITTLE LAKE NEAR KATARAGAMA

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PEACOCK FAN

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A ZEN EXPERIENCE

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OUR COOK WITH CARLA OUR PORTUGESE HOST

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THE TRADITIONAL SRI LANKAN KITCHEN

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A NIFTY COCONUT GRATER

HILL CLIMB TO ELLA
There are two direct buses to Ella a small town in the hills. We get dropped off at the bus stop, buy some goodies from the local street vendors and climb on board for our 3 hour ride to Ella. The bus driver is delighted to have us, shakes our hands and places our luggage on top of the bus motor housing. B The bus has seen better days as it rattles and bounces along the road with a noticeable shuddering. At least it is not crowded in fact we are the first on. The last third of the journey it chugs up the steep hills as we ascend 1000 plus meters to the small hill town of Ella. We catch tuc tucs to our new home stay. We are greeted with a warm smile and tea, and look out over an amazing view. Our one other house guest is Russian. A short afternoon explore to the end of the road (trail) and we are served the most amazing Sri Lankan dinner of 6 dishes of curry and rice. A few days here to veg out and relax. 270_C494B21BFB1D4086BE61E7F8256E9FDB.jpegC49B1924DB576BC88A6CE1321B2E25D3.jpeg
OUR EXPRESS SERVICE

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CHAMODYA HOME STAY - OUR NEW DIGS

Posted by RDILL 11:37 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged ella Comments (0)

JAN 18 SAFARI ADVENTURES YALA NATIONAL PARK

The Search For The Elusive Sri Lankan Leopard

sunny 32 °C

SAFARI TO YALA
We rise at 5:00 am, have early morning tea and meet our safari driver Suranda. Today we will spend from 6 am to 6 pm exploring YALA NP the most famous park in Sri Lanka with the highest concentration of leopards in the world. We have chosen Gem River as we can access the park from a secondary entrance removed from the frenetic bustle of the main gate where each safari driver - up to 100 we are told some days in high season, race with each other to make the first sitings. We pick up a National Park interpreter at the gates. There are two other vehicles at our entrance gate waiting for the 6 am opening. Our driver and interpreter are amazing and we spend a delightful morning spotting wild boar, elephants, mongoose, Sambar and spotted deer, crocodiles, water buffalo and a plethora of intriguing and colourful bird life. We are basically by ourselves. The driver is relaxed and we proceed slowly taking plenty of time to observe the wildlife. The roads are sand trails through the savannahs, a four wheel adventure through deep ruts and deep mud holes. We rescue one jeep that gets mired in a mud hole.
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MONGOOSE

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NOTICE THE RADIO COLLAR

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WILD BOAR AND HER BROOD

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LAND MONITOR

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CROCODILE ON THE MOVE

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SPOTTED DEER STAG

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WATER BUFFALO

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STUCK IN THE MUD

Lunch break is a pleasant sojourn on a beach with a couple of hour rest during the main heat of the day. It is a congregating point for all safari jeeps but most people only do half day trips so there are only 10 or 12 parties still out, mostly Sri Lankan tourists.
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By 3 we begin our afternoon exploration first in the more heavily visited area and then back up to where we started. Around 4 a leopard comes out of the bush and crosses the road right in front of us and then proceeds to walk up the road while we follow at a respectful distance. For 5 minutes we have the beast to ourselves, but the driver and interpreter each phone one other party (and each of them do the same so the maximum number of guests can get a viewing) and before long a couple of other jeeps arrive, we drop back and let the others get a viewing, then a van with a Government big wig arrives and gets in front and doesn't let anyone else get to the head of the line. Everyone is jockeying for position on a little one lane trail, the leopard sauntering along in front. Eventually a jeep arrives from the other direction, the leopard decides enough is enough and turns back into the bush. Our interpreter is delighted. He indicates it is the biggest leopard in the Park and we are extremely fortunate to have had the time alone with it. We proceed away from the growing hoards of safari jeeps arriving (our interpreter says there will soon be 30 or so all hoping to get a glimpse) and concentrate on the late afternoon bird life and the developing sunset. We all have a contented smile on our faces. It has been an incredible day even without the bonus of our leopard siting.

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OUR NEW FRIEND BIG PAPA

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THE STAMPEDE BEGINS

BIRD LIFE
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PAINTED STORK

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LITTLE GREEN AND BLUE TAILED BEE-CATCHER

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CRESTED HAWK EAGLE

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GREY HERON

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BLACK HEADED IBIS

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ROSE WINGED PARAKEET

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HOMINY STARLING

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PEACOCK ROOSTING

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EVENING SUNSET

TEMPLE
Our host Carla has suggested we visit a temple located on a hill for a stunning sunset view of YALA NP. We arrive after sunset and watch dusk beginning to fall over the land. We return home by darkness to a delightful Sri Lankan meal of various curries and rice.

Posted by RDILL 10:36 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged park national yala Comments (0)

JAN 17 KATARAGAMA

A Visit to the Holy City

sunny 32 °C

BUSING IT
We have a leisurely breakfast at Nadee's and pack up ready to leave. Conversation around the breakfast table is rather interesting as we interact with fellow travellers from around the world - a French surfer, a young woman from Macedonia travelling with her young son, a Finnish couple with a young daughter. Lots of European travellers here. Lots of travellers from Russia and China and Japan. We haven't met anyone from Canada or the USA. Nadee and the French surfer drive Mani into GALLE with all our luggage. Don, Kathy and Rob take the local bus. When we get to the station it takes us over half and hour of walking around, getting useful and contradictory hints from everyone as to where to catch our bus, and finally decide to catch the first bus that goes in our direction. It is an express bus which means there is a sound system aboard which plays loud Sri Lankan pop music but otherwise is no different than the rest of the buses and still stops everywhere to pick up anyone along the way. Three bus changes and 4 hours later we arrive in Kataragama about a 120 kilometer journey. We catch a tuc tuc to our destination.

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ROB WITH NADEE

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SRI LANKAN BUSES

GEM RIVER ECO LODGE
The Gem River Eco Lodge is a beautifully laid out family run 4 room retreat situated on the edge of the sacred Gem River. Carla our host is Portugese, married to Muna a Sri Lankan gentleman who has an interest in design and has laid out a beautiful zen like sanctuary for us to enjoy.
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KATARAGAMA
Kataragama is the most holy site in Sri Lanka, a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists, Hindus, Moors ( Muslim) and Vedas from Sri Lanka, India and around the world. It was a sacred site visited by the Gods thousands of years ago. The town is a couple of blocks of shops selling foods flowers and packaged gifts to offer to the sacred temple. The temple area is a vast conglomeration of stupas, shrines, and processional streets flanked by little pooja shrines and vendor stalls. Rob and Don do a quick dip in the Gem River and then we catch two tuc tics that take us to the temple site to participate in the 6:30 evening pooja. Hundreds of locals do the same having arrived from all over Sri Lanka. We take off our shoes at the entrance, circle the main stupa, walk the processional streets, and watch the ceremonies and pagentry. Every so often a group of musicians and frenetic dancers move along the processional street and circle the main pooja shrines. By 8:00 pm the energy dissipates and we return to Gem River for a wonderful Sri Lankan dinner.

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Posted by RDILL 17:56 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged kataragama Comments (0)

JAN 16 EXPLORING KOGGALA LAKE

Getting Your Toes Nibbled

sunny 32 °C

KOGGALA LAKE
We catch a morning bus that takes us 20 minutes along the road. The driver lets us off 1 stop before our destination so we get directions from a young guy on the road who leads us first to his house and family then down the railway tracks for a couple of kilometres or untill we get to the river entrance to Koggala Lake. The. Lake has a number of Islands of interest which our host has suggested we might enjoy. We get in an old fibreglass boat and begin our exploration.

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BUDDHIST TEMPLE
First stop a small Buddist Temple. We land and ascend a small hill to the site of the temple with a village of monks situated behind.
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CINNAMON ISLAND
Next we visit a small island where a couple show us the process of making cinnamon. The gentleman scrapes the outer bark off the tree then separates the inner bark off the stalk of the cinnamon branch and lets it dry for 24 hours. The female pounds the dried cinnamon into powder. The aroma is intoxicating and we leave with a few stalks.

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FISH FEELING PLACE
Next stop the "fish feeling place". There are two netted ponds on the dock each swarming with fish that nibble the dead skin off your feet. Mani and Kathy stick their feet in one of he nets and instantly hundreds of excited fish swarm their feet nibbling away. Both Mani and Kathy ate in hysterics. 10 minutes and their feet are nibbled to a new freshness.

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HERB GARDEN
The last stop is a visit to an herb garden. We are shown lots of exotic herbs growing. We nibble on licorice and curry leaves, and see tamarind trees. A couple of hours later we are back to the river, have lunch at a place where fresh seafood is paraded in front of you for one to choose their meal and half an hour later it is served for you. We are back home for a late afternoon swim and a wonderful fresh tuna dinner at Wijiya before returning home to pack up for our morning departure.

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BLACK PEPPER PLANT

Posted by RDILL 09:43 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged lake koggala Comments (0)

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