18.09.2012 - 23.09.2012
The last couple of days in Mount Lavinia we didn’t really do anything worth writing about, just chilled out. Then on the 21st September it was time to say goodbye to the very first room of our trip and make our way to Kandy.
When walking about we took note of where the bus stop was ready for when we needed it. We packed up our backpacks and Mark helped me get mine onto my back (I struggle to do it on my own without sitting down to do it hehe) and then he easily slipped his on and we handed back the key to Priyani the lady that owned the property.
We needed to get bus 100 or 101 to Colombo Fort station and we knew from experience that the roads were busy and the bus can take a LONG time, so we left in plenty of time. The bus came straight away and we piled on with our backpacks (we have to pay for an extra seat for them). The bus was hot and sticky and a bottle of water that was on the rack above kept dripping on my bag. It took about an hour and a half to get to the station, with locals regularly getting on and off the bus, sometimes while it was still moving.
Once at the station a local man showed us where we could get some food inside by the platform. I went for the rice packet as that is what everyone else seemed to be eating so I guessed it would be ok. It was. Simple, but nice and filling. There was the tiniest cat/kitten wandering around looking for food meowing loudly and then playing with the straps on our backpacks. It reminded me of Boo before we left playing with my bag on the landing.
After we had finished eating we still had two and a half hours till our train was due. With our heavy backpacks we didn’t feel like exploring the area so we decided we would find a seat on the platform and wait it out.
I was enjoying doing a bit of people watching but soon realised that it was us that was being stared at, A LOT. Children would shyly smile at us, the men also but most of the time in a slightly pervy way. Sometimes we couldn’t work out which one of us it was aimed at! One old man winked at me though, so 1-0 to me! Haha.
Time went by surprisingly fast, with trains coming and going while we sat looking at them hoping ours would be better. It was well worth the wait! We were in the luxury cabin, out of the sticky humid heat, into lovely air conditioning, with free Wifi and leather reclining seats. Heaven!
Before we knew it, three and a half hours had passed and we had arrived at Kandy station. The owner of our next guesthouse had offered to pick us up from the station, which we really appreciated. We made our way out of the station and as promised he was there to meet us with his tuk tuk ready and waiting outside.
Kandy has alot of mountains and deep valleys. Our guesthouse is up one of the sides of the mountain but is still relatively near the lake. It is an easy walk down, oh my is it a steep walk up! This will definately get our fitness up. The tuk tuk made it up with a bit of a struggle, the two big backpacks probably didn't help.
It is lovely and peaceful up here, all you can hear is the crickets, birds and the monkeys! Plus the views are breathtaking. There is one downside, more mossies up here
After we dropped our bags off in the room we decided to go for a walk to check out the area. We took our mini torch for the walk down through the winding dark roads to the larger road round the lake (which also has no street lights). As soon as we reached the bottom we noticed a small local cafe with only a handful of tables and the food looked and smelt amazing (mental note for later).
We walked around the lake, mostly only lit by the headlights of the passing traffic, and made our way round towards the town. We had a quick look about, withdrew some money from the ATM and headed back. Our tummy's were now rumbling, so you guessed it, we stopped at the cafe on the way home (The Garden cafe) and the food was just as good as we thought, big portions and cheap too.
The walk back up to the guesthouse was even more of a chore with very full bellys, but it gave us a chance to walk it off.
The next day, Saturday 22nd September, we thought we would go for a walk around the mountains. We chucked our cameras in a bag and grabbed some water. The locals are friendly and LOVE having their picture taken. I am enjoying snapping away and suprisingly so is Mark. The houses built into the mountains are beautiful. We see a couple in the process of being built and it looks like hard graft. Their scaffolding is made of sticks!
In the evening we had tickets to go and see a cultural show of local music and dance and also fire eating and walking on hot coals! Our friendly host offered to give us a lift to the kandyan Art Associations Hall and we made our way in and took our seats.
The show was really good. The drummers were great, I don't know how there hands didn't drop off. The dancing was really good also and the outfits were colourful and intricate.
After the show we headed round to the Buddhist Temple, Sacred Temple Of The Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) and arrived in time for the service (dailt Thewava) to be in full flow. It was extremely busy. Our guesthouse host had kindly informed us to wear white or light coloured clothing and to have our legs and down passed our elbows covered to be respectful. We had to remove our shoes and walk around the temple barefoot.
The temple was stunning! The details, the colours, the smells! It was beautiful. There were a number of Buddha's around in their orange robes, quiet & peaceful in the middle of the bustling crowds. Locals had offerings of flowers and some sat dotted about quitely saying their prayers. The exterior looked lovely all lit up in the darkness.
On our walk home we made a quick stop in The garden Cafe again for some dinner, Yummy!
That leads us to today. At breakfast we were eating and quietly chatting when I heard a thud on the roof of the guesthouse and quickly looked out the window to see a monkey jumping down. We both jumped up and ran outside (I quickly grabbed my camera enroute) to find not one but 10 or so monkeys of different ages jumping all over everything. They seemed to be everywhere! We had been told the Wifi kept cutting out due to monkeys playing with and breaking the antenna but this was the first we had seen of them. It was funny watching the locals trying to shoo them away.
We were planning to just head out and explore again but changed our minds when our host had somebody round who was a tourist driver, who was available to take us to the Millenium Elephant Foundation. It is near to the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnewala, but our host said it was better. So we took his word and off we went.
It was quite a drive to get there in the tuk tuk and we got to see more beautiful views enroute. Our driver also pointed out these trees that had what must have been thousands of bats hanging upside down asleep off of them! We weren't even that close to the trees and the bats looked massive. I dread to think how big they are when their wings are fully expanded and am glad we won't be in the area at night to find out!
The Millenium Elephant Foundation (MEF) is a non-profit charity, founded in 1999. The MEF shares a 15 acre estate with Club Concept Elephant Bath and Restaurant and is working to improve the care, protection and treatment of domestic and wild elephants in Sri Lanka.
When we arrived it wasn't quite what I had expected. There were only a handful of elephants visible (I'm guessing/hoping the others were somewhere else wandering free within the 15 acres) Unfortunately the ones we could see were chained to a certain place where they were grazing or just standing about. I think this is maybe for the safety of visitors?? Maybe different elephants are brought down at different times for visitors?? I don't know.
The elephant we got to meet was Rani. She is 29 years old who came to the MEF in 2002 when her owners found it had become too difficult to look after her, although they apparently visit her regularly. I went into the water with her and she laid down so I could help wash her back. She was suprisingly hairy! But had gorgeous markings and beautiful eyes. I then got on her back and she stood and sprayed water up onto me. I was drenched!
She then walked out of the water led by her mahout (leader) and Mark joined me on her back. We went for a short ride. She was very tall and sturdy but weirdly graceful with it. After the ride we had a quick photo with her after I had changed into dry clothing.
When we had left and was back in the tuk tuk on our way home I felt completely different to how I had imagined I would feel this morning. I was sad and upset. I know what I had read about the charity and the good work they do but seeing Rani and the few other elephants with chains on them really upset me. I was concerned whether they were actually happy and that they weren't kept chained up all the time.
In an effort to cheer me up Mark reminded me of the photos our guide had showed us of some of the VIP visitors that had been to the foundation. The England cricket team, some actors and members of UB40. Mark said that surely people in the public eye would not been seen there if it wasn't a genuine charity as they would not want to be associated with a place that was cruel to animals. I agreed and tried to focus on our short time with the lovely Rani.
When we got back early evening we were very hungry as we had not eaten since 9am so we headed out for some food. We made sure we were back at the guesthouse before 8pm though as Mark wanted to catch the Arsenal match on the T.V as he is already missing football haha! So he is currently watching that while I am updating you! I did have to tell him to sshh at one point a while ago as he shouted loudly in celebration when Aresnal equalised!