Sri Lanka 2017 – Dambulla to Anuradhapura

Dambulla

In our travels we have come to the conclusion that less equates to more. Not for the first time, we are paying far less for a superb, high standard of room in Anuradhapura than the previous two nights’ accommodation in Dambulla. In this instance we are paying half of that.

It requires some prior research, but has happened so often for us that we hold to the maxim.

Dambulla Fruit & Vegetable Wholesale Market

Anuradhapura

Singer has had a long history in Sri Lanka and India, starting with the old treadle sewing machine. The company has now branched out into other appliances and its name is a common sight throughout the country – but, think on this: the majority Sri Lankans are Sinhalese and refer to themselves and their language as (phonetically) Singha. Now was it a happy coincidence for Singer, or very clever marketing?

Flora, vegetables and dried fish
Lakes, Buddhist temples, more delicious curries and snacks, more monkey business, the Bohdi tree leaf as inspiration for the Buddhist stupas and a tortoise
The lakes in Sri Lanka abound with bird life – many types of herons, and plenty of egrets
New Buddhist Stupa under construction – volunteer Buddhists and the Sri Lankan military help with the construction

This new Stupa in Anuradhapura has been under construction since 2010 and is about another 10 years from completion. It is solid and will contain more than 30 million bricks. It will end up gleaming plastered white and will stand nipple-proud adding to those that dot the landscape.

We were allowed to climb up a lot of steps to the top – no hard-hat or safety harness…..but we had to remove our shoes…..


Us and our hair shirts and other things

We mostly eschew the air-con buses in favour of the local 50-seater jalopies with crazy drivers. Hot and sweaty, we enjoy the circus as we await departure. Passengers (including travellers like us) cram in with their baggage. A line of pedlars noisily tout their tantalising food wares up the aisle and we take this opportunity to buy some goodies for the journey. Beggars thread their way through the crush doing their rounds, unfazed even as the bus starts to move off.
Once under way, the cooling breeze from the open doors and windows gives relief: the doors are never closed. All buses have on-board conductors who are as agile as monkeys and must have the proverbial memory of an elephant as passengers’ access is through both rear and front doors.

The frequent stops make the journey both interesting and lengthy. Believe me, the drivers have NO consideration for their passengers’ comfort – they are obsessed with passing everything in their way – however there is great skill in evidence here. The AC buses, however, fill up (right up, with fold-down aisle seats) and make minimal stops between A and B. Same standard of driving, but they take the highways. They cost only about three times more. We used one from Anuradhapura to Kandy.

Our 4-hour ‘local’ bus from Kandy to Negombo tested me sorely – sore arsed and sweat soaked I’m thinking it’s time to shuck this hair shirt shit – I’m going for a bit more comfort in these last couple of days. Only a few dollars more anyway.

Women can be seen in both villages and cities washing clothes the ancient way; thrashing them on the rocks (or concrete platforms) in flowing water.

Local people modestly bathe and wash themselves at the lakes’ edges in many an upland city. I suspect this has been going on for centuries, but feel that tourism will eventually force the practice to cease.

Rice production, which is second to tea production, is still very labour intensive but now mechanised. The use of the sickle is still prevalent here though.


Here’s an interesting fact

Especially for all you Kiwis and ex Kiwis:
Fonterra has a longstanding contract to supply Sri Lanka with milk. Mostly, the milk is sold under the Anchor brand – another once-famous product name in NZ. There you go, and you thought you knew everything!

For those cricket fans, the Sri Lankans also seem to have a healthy respect for the NZ cricket team.


Tropical Cyclone Ockhi

In case this completely escaped your attention what with the Australian media being obsessed with the riveting and ‘serious’ matter of whether politicians should only be Australian citizens, there has been some seriously bad weather over here:

Cyclone Ockhi – Wikipedia

Searches for fishermen during Cyclone Ockhi

We seemed to be charmed as we criss-crossed the island, missing most if not all of it.

Many fishermen lost their lives and my heart goes out to them – it’s a helluva hard way to earn a living in these parts and extremely competitive, without having the sea against you too.

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Sri Lanka 2017 Trip – Haputale to Kandy

November to December

Haputale

We went for a long walk this morning . . .
Tea estates all around the heights, including the famed Sir Thomas Lipton’s.

Hoorelli! Good news, the train is running again. The station is only 100m away and we have booked two 1st class tickets (about AUD12) to Kandy, a 5 hour ride. 2nd class (about AUD6) was full and for 5 hours we didn’t want 3rd class.

Haputale

We are quite fond of little Haputale. Our hotel is in the classic style – spacious rooms, lots of wood and great bathroom fixtures.

Kandy

“Kandy Kandy Kandy, don’t let me down —–”
Ooooh, I do like a good tune.

Our not so luxurious train took us through stunning, mountainous and hilly forest and tea plantation territory where we scanned the resident workers’ many villages and tea factories. I had no idea of the extent or scale of this product’s planting. It appears to compare to Spain’s grape and olive plantings.

We should have travelled 3rd class – and will next time. The 1st class aircon wasn’t even necessary (this time of the year).

Kandy is a pretty big city but we like it already. Rachel scored us a modern small hotel close to everything (AUD32) We’ll hole up here for few days before going to Dambulla, then Sigiriya.

Haputale to Kandy

Batty sir?

Kandy and enjoying it – but it is another reminder that THE AUTOMOBILE, AS A MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION, MUST BE REPLACED. It is killing towns and cities with congestion and pollution. Not just here where it smacks you in the face (it is getting like Delhi, where the Sri Lankan cricket team stopped play because of the air pollution level) but all over the world and, you should/will understand, there is a daily exponential increase in its use. Hard to photograph effectively!!

On sunset hundreds of those huge fruit bats set out across the sky while, curiously, in the exact opposite direction flocks of herons, crows and pigeons fly home to roost – no collisions were reported this evening ??. Also hard to photograph effectively!

The mezzuin’s prayer is intoned across the evening air in a soothing, lulling monotone and competes with the Buddhist’s perhaps more rhythmic chant from their nearby temple.

Dambulla by bus tomorrow.