Sunday, September 7, 2014

You might want to pour yourself a second cuppa and settle in.  This is going to be a long post.

The highlight is the visit of R to Colombo.  I managed to embarass her at the airport and we've had fun ever since!  A little background, R lived with us in Korea many years ago and that's where we cemented our friendship.  I've always told G that if we bust up, I get custody of R!

View From our apt.  RJP photo
Best things about R are her spirit of adventure and humour.  She eagerly plunged into the depths of Slave Island.  It was great to have someone to shoot with and it made it the most enchanting experience yet.  We had a freedom and welcome that I don't think anyone else could've.  People came out to speak with us and show us their homes. R furthered the sense of connection by using the playback on her camera for people to see. It was just that extra little touch and her natural ease that made it so much fun.  
RJP photo.

We ended up absolutely gobsmacked when this one lady lead us into her house. It was as neat as a pin.  We met her husband and they graciously offered us some of the chocolate her son had sent from Dubai.  It was a sorry sight all melted, but the gesture was beautiful.  It is always those with the least who give the most!  The whole day was a high like I have never had!  We resolved to come back with prints. 

After that, we hopped the train down to Galle.  We eventually got seats and R was surrounded by a group of police who were on their way to a wedding down south.  They were chatting her up and taking snaps.  Gawd knows where those will end up! Great fun though.  Of course, Galle never fails to impress and delight.  We stayed at Mama's and when the rains came ("What???! It never rains in Galle") we hung out the windows like middle aged strumpets solicting clients! 

Have to tatt everyday or I'll go crazy!
Evening stroll along the rampart. RJP photo
Regardlesswe ventured forth into the rain and hung out in cafes and chatted.  We ate very well (go to The Heritage Cafe for their Sri Lanakan food!!) and R ended the evening by curling up with a little light reading that we had found in the room, "Pschyosexual Infantalism".  Beats Tom Robbins all to hell for travel books!

The famous fishermen along Welligama Beach.  RJP photo.
G came down on Sunday and whisked us away to Welligama.  We were so lucky that this day had a whack of pole fishermen out and about.  Of course, they had handlers and it cost 120 SLR for these shots, but well worth it I say!   We ended up at a 2 level shack where we had lunch overlooking the sea.  Post fried rice, we frolicked in the waves before heading home.  It was nigh on perfect!

The next day back in Colombo we got the pictures developed and returned to Slave Island.  That was fun as we had to try and locate people.  Everyone wanted to see the photos and have a good laugh at their neighbour's expense!  I felt that it was very important that we do that because they gave us so much more
TukTuk Mechanic. RJP Photo

The tuktuk mechanic is memmorable for me as he was very gentle and quickly took his photo inside so it wouldn't get grubby.  His face is a tale of his life's struggles.  Little things do mean a lot.  One muslim lady who accompanied us on our search said as much.

Hangin' out the Expo Car. RJP photo.
The next stop was Kandy.  After considerable confusion and stress we managed to get on the Expo car up to Kandy.  It was well worth the 1100SLR (all the trains have been worth the price!)  We got into Kandy and up to the Sharon Inn where the rather, quirky owner seemed to take a liking to us and we were soon booked for dinner, a driver, and train tickets.  So we went and strolled around Kandy.  I dragged R to all the places I like to go...old style fabric shops and we managed to buy the last bit of the "Marimekko" poppy print.  Then off to a few more shops then home.  After a nap we climbed up to the road behind the Sharon where I had gone with S.  

Outside of Helga's Folly.

We went further along and much to my surprise and delight found "Helga's Folly".  I've been looking to go here forever!  I had read about it in the Lonely Planet (yes, I'm that old that I use Lonely Planet) and in a biography of Isabella Blow who had married into the family.  It's quite magical but the entry price to photograph the place is a bit steep.  Luckily, the clerk was bored and let us wander around the grounds.  It was his work on the outside of the buildings and walls so we exclaimed loudly about how good it was!

The next day we planned to go up to Polonnaruwa and then Minneriya.  It's the site of these ancient standing Buddhas, among other ruins.  Minneriya is where the elephants gather in Aug/Sept.  It was a pretty ambitious routing to be sure.  The distances aren't long but travel takes a lot longer.  
"I'm with Stupa!"

Even if it didn't work, he was pretty nice!
We stopped at a spice garden along the way and R was so impressed with it she decided to have a consult with the "Nature Power" doctor.  That's what it is called here to distinguish itself from Ayurvedic medicine.  It was very cool and I vaccilated between thinking "snake oil"  and "this is the way to go" .  However R's experience was quite positive and she picked up some "meds".

We got up to Polonnaruwa sometime after lunch and it was smokin' hot, almost sickeningly so. R was definitely not on top of her game but she's a trooper.  Most of the ruins are just that and we kept jonesing for the Buddhas.  The large, all brick chedi we saw before getting to the Buddhas was really nice but we'd pissed away so much time on other ruins that we just zoomed through it.  

Lastly was the Buddhas.  They were well worth the wait.  We could've stayed there a lot longer too.   It's been kind of cool seeing these Sri Lankan sights in old Duran Duran videos and then actually getting to go there.  "Simon LeBon, wherefore art thou?" 

Unfortunately due to our late start and the incompetence of our driver we missed getting to Minneriya on time.  Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise as R had not been feeling 100%.   She conked out on the way back to Kandy and slept the whole night. I kept holding a mirror under her nose just to make sure!  It was an unfortunate mistake and I would recommend that one be more insistent on what they want to see and have some sort of a schedule to stick to.  The drivers are always trying to get you to see stuff off the beaten path and thereby grease the palms of their friends.  We let the Sharon Inn owner know that we weren't happy. 
Zen Dawg

Our next morning was the trip to Nuwara Eliya.  Of course it was raining (no need for a rain coat it never rains in Nuwara Eliya!  Sheesh...think I'd learn!) Along the way we stopped at the largest reclining Buddha in Asia.  The temple seemed to be run by boys aged 5-11.  They had a great dog that very Zen and just hung over the balcony taking us in!  The little kids crowded around us asking for "Buble, buble" .... we had no idea.  The singer?!  Until we figured out it was bubblegum they wanted!  Cheeky monkeys they were! 

Lovely, misty day.
I hate monkeys.
Most the view was covered in mist but there were still glimpses of the hills and the occasional tea picker.  We seemed to stop at every single waterfall along the way!  I was so sick of them that for the last one I stayed in the car only to have a troupe of monkeys jump on the car and peer in at me! 

A "WTF?" moment for the locals?
"Bucket list?"

By the time we arrived in Nuwara Eliya it was cold and pissing down buckets of rain.  First order was to purchase your classic "Traveling Vermin" brand rain ponchos.  Thank God we did.  They did add a modicum of protection but it was still chilly!  The 320 SLR "Hello Kitty" polar fleece pants started to look pretty good.  The town is very different from Kandy.  It is a real working town and the majority are Tamil. We managed to get some good shots.  The market there is small but very lively.  We stayed at the Glendower Hotel as G and I did last time and again, it was lovely.  This time however, we got a renovated toilet and were quite comfortable.  R marveled at all the flowers in the garden as they were almost identical to those she'd plant in Canada! 

Being in Nuwara Eliya you have to go to the Grand Indian to eat but they changed it to a buffet and R's stomach was still iffy so we went into the Grand Hotel instead.  I think we landed at Fawlty Towers! Our waiter was quite entertaining as he was very cranky and a bit put out that we were there!  But the other staff made up for that when R had a big struggle with trying to get her rain poncho on and a very cute staffer stepped in to help!
Nanuoya Station
Once again, hangin' out a Sri Lankan train.

Next morning our driver arrived.  He was great and I will make an effort to get his name out there for people.  We drove to Nanuoya for the train.  It's on the Hatton road and it's almost done.  It's completely opposite to what G and I experienced in Jan.  It will be really nice to drive.  The station was chockablock with foreigners, some going up to the Knuckles to hike, others back to Kandy or Colombo.  We had booked second class and it was pretty nice!  A new car, open windows, 2 toilets, no a/c and no non-stop Disney movies!  If I were recommend any rail trip in Si Lanka, this would be it. One of the most spectacular train rides ever.  You are high in the tea hills coming down through the lower elevations to sea level in Colombo.  It's verdant, beyond belief.  The vistas stunning.  I got to ride out the side again and R was great about buying whatever the vendors had to sell.  OMG! BUY THE HOT FRIED PEANUTS WITH CURRY LEAVES!!  Sorry to yell but they are awesome!

We found out that our ticket was through to Colombo so we stayed on and arrived about 4:30 pm.  Not bad, about 6 hours...stress-free and for 600 SLR each.  That night we took R to Min Han our hole-in-the-wall Chinese beanery for dinner. 

Monday was pretty lowkey but Tuesday we went out to Negombo to the Fish Market.  That town gets more interesting each time I drive through.  (There are a few tinker shops I'd like to go to so I guess I do give a tinker's damn! I crack myself up.)
Fish monger
This time I took her into the wet market and it was quite a sight.  No one there was there to pose for pictures they were working and selling and buying.  A different feel but not unfriendly.  The light is very strong and hard to get balanced photos of. The fishermen were very proud of their catch and the banter lively.  Being from the prairies I have no idea what all these critters are.  But the wealth the ocean provides boggles my mind.  

Could've stayed for hours shooting faces.  We moved over to the drying area and then up to the beach.  

We bought a drink at the JetWing Hotel and just drank in the view.  There were dhows all along the horizon as well as on shore.  They are such a graceful boat and that they can sail in different directions at the same time never fails to amaze me.  I think I might have to book a dirty weekend here.

Chillin' in Negombo.

Yesterday was Pettah Market.  I felt a little guilty taking R into The Corner Shop "just to look at fabrics" but I knew she'd love the stuff.  She bought 4m of fabric to cover her couch in her favorite colours all for ~ 1300 SLR.  We also popped into a trim store and honestly, I don't know how she decided which trim to buy.  I'm always a little overwhelmed. R is so easy to take rather hectic places.  She felt comfortable enough to get some good snaps of the hubbub that is Pettah.  

So the last few days R had to have adventures by herself as I was subbing at work.  I think she quickly got used to having the driver!  No doubt once home she'll get into the backseat of her car and wait there for Nilifer to show up!  Apparently he used a bit of "diplomatic privilege"  to get some choice parking spots while squiring her around.  I think she's used it more than I have!  

Quite an amazingly fun time for me.  I was surprised at how much we did and what there was to do!  As I've said, her interest in getting out there and her excellent photography skills made it so much fun.  Time whizzed by and now she's back home...and I'm back to my everyday adventures...solo.  

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