After having successfully extended our visas in Colombo we boarded the train to Kandy the following morning. Our main goal for the next 10 days in the Sri Lankan hill country was to go and find the beautiful tea plantation scenery. What we got mostly, was rain. Heavy rain with strong winds. In fact we were feeling the force of cyclone Ockhi! Power was down and the train couldn’t run. Add to that some disappointing accommodation and a bout of car sickness. Yes, we have to admit, we lived through some “downs”. But they just made the “ups” even better.
Some of our highlights:
- Walking around Kandy Lake (on a pavement – what a relief!), spotting an impressive amount of water leguans and millions of fish. Not a lake to swim in!
- Watching a Kandy dance performance. Touristic, yes, but for sixty minutes our senses were treated to music, song and dance. What we didn’t enjoy was being eaten by mosquitos while we were sitting there.
- Riding the train from Kandy to Nanuoya in 3rd class, passing miles of stunning looking manicured tea plantations. We loved the section between Hatton and Nanuoya best. Also on the way back from Ella to Kandy. What a sight!
- Cuddling up in the comfy beds of our holiday home in Nuwara Eliya (during the big storm), watching – I hardly dare to say that this was a highlight! – the X Factor semi-final before preparing a vegan dinner solely with fresh vegetables from our local food stall at the side of the road.
- Joining a rice & curry cooking class with Anula at the “La Ella Breeze” in Ella. A very spontaneous decision – which was well worth it.
- Eating coconut roti with dhal (main course) and honey (desert) for lunch at the Folly’s in Ella. The guy who manages the place is waiter and chef at the same time and prepares everything you order from scratch. Obviously, you have to wait a little before food is served, but it’s super fresh and tasty. What else do you want?!
- The girls’ absolute highlight: Walking on the railway tracks. They loved it so much, we hiked the route to the pretty “Nine Arches Bridge” twice. I was relieved that the trains did not run those days due to land slides on the tracks. Much better for my nerves.
- Trekking up “Little Adam’s Peak” – once in misty weather, once in pure sunshine. The view was completely different, but worth the walk and sweat both times.
- Staying at Pranobaa Homestay in Kandy. Twice. The location of the place is perfect, just a stone’s throw away from the lake. But it was not the location that we loved the most. It was the people who run the place. Prasanna, Anoma and Sirya made as feel like being part of the family and looked after us so well. And another plus: The girls found a lovely, English speaking playmate in Basuru, the son of the owners. They had great fun.
- Washing, feeding and riding elephant lady Lakshmi at the Millennium Elephant Foundation, where they look after injured and badly treated elephants. John and Lilly even got showered by the grey giant. What an experience!
The learning curve:
- Advise from a local: If someone is nice to you, offering help, walk away. All they want is your money. The advice came to late for us: At the train station in Colombo, a deaf guy was exceptionally nice to us, showed us what carriage to enter and where to sit… he did not accept our tip, but five minutes later he came back to collect much more money than what we intended to give.
- Nuwara Eliya, also called “Little England”, is far from looking English. The only thing in common is probably the weather. We experienced a 58 hour non-stop heavy rainfall.
- The quality of accommodation has a direct influence on John’s and my mood. The girls somehow don’t seem to be affected by that phenomenon though.
- In Sri Lanka, your children are called “babies”, no matter how old they are.
- The red splotches on the ground (all over!) are not blood.
- A good driver is also a good tour guide. If you need one, contact Harsha (+94 77 616 7376 / email@example.com).