Thursday, 24 May 2012

Sri Lanka, the cold and the hot

The local bus from Kandy to Nuwara Elyia was $1.50 for approx a four hour trip. We weren't actually traveling very far in k's but were heading up the steep and windy roads into tea country.

We were piled into the bus with the aisle once again turned into seats, this time with some bad local music belting out loudly and everyone talking over the top.I put my music on and cranked it up, sat back and watched as the landscape changed the further we climbed.

I checked in to Mount View Cottage mid afternoon and enjoyed a cup of tea on my balcony. I know, I never drink tea, but when in tea country and all that. It was starting to get cold, like really cold.

After three months of steamy hot weather feeling chilly was initially a bit of a novelty. But putting on most of my clothes so I could sleep became a bit painful.

Up early the next morning to explore the area. It is so green and lush it is amazing. First stop had to be a tea factory. The tea making process is quite complicated and I got slightly bored with the detail the lady wanted to give me. I was more fascinated with the ladies picking the tea.

The areas the tea plantations cover is enormous (and steep) and each tea bush can be picked 4 times a month (see I was listening!) which means there's never a female looking for work in this part of the country. The men don't pick the tea, too hard for them I guess.

The white dots are tea picking ladies with the tea leaf bags on their heads.

I had another cup of tea then jumped in the car with the young dude who owns the guest house. He and his wife are locals who recently moved back from Melbourne, unbelievable. He worked at the Rialto hotel on Collins street and loved it, his wife worked at some place in Dandenong and didn't like it at all. Understandable really.

I checked out the huge lake in the middle of town and we snuck into the fancy golf course for a look. Parts of this town still have the old British feel to them - one place is still a members only club for Brits!

There was a really interesting catholic church built by the British hundreds of years ago. The oldest gravestone in the cemetery out front was dated in the mid 1600's. Quite amazing really.

We then stopped at a temple. This is my tenth million temple so far. There were a group of young kids there so I became the novelty for them.

I loved the little girl with the red sun glasses head band!

I got dropped off in the little town and had a wander around. The local market stalls all sell rip off outdoor gear like North Face.I did think about buying more layers but with only one more night in the hills I figured my trusty hoodie would do me.

I wandered into a local lunch place, seemed popular so thought it might be worth a shot. I managed to get the dude to understand 'vegetable', he nodded happily and off he went. Next thing my table started filling with food, various vegetable dishes and a mountain of rice. And it was spicy, very spicy. It was so delicious and cost $1.20. There was enough food left over to feed all the tea picking ladies for a week.

I needed a few supplies for the epic journey the following day so popped into the supermarket. Unbelievable the things you find, and they can't really speak English in this part of the country!

The next day I had to get to Mirissa at the very bottom of the island. I had the option of 11 hours on the local bus or 5 hours if I hired a van. There was no choice really, I'll go without food for days to take the van option.

The van driver dude was cool and he took heaps of short cuts through little local roads. It made for a bumpy ride but great viewing.

My two nights at Spice House in Mirissa quickly became three. This is a small little beach town with beautiful clean beaches and the guest house was amazing. I was the only person there during my stay but I think chef cooked up enough food at brekkie and dinner to feed a full house. Over catering seems to be very common in this country. I told them to make me local spicy food so every meal was a treat.

And they delivered coffee to me on my balcony which made me feel very spoilt.

After a few days in paradise it was back on the bus to the capital of Colombo before taking on the epic flight ....Colombo-Bangkok-Hong Kong- Tokyo.

Although my 2am flight was delayed a few hours I was spoilt on the plane with spare seats and lots of pillows. Not such a bad way to spend 20 or so hours.

Posted from somewhere round the world...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Taking on Sri Lanka one bus at a time

So last Friday I packed my bags and escaped from the health farm. I gelt amazing after two weeks at the Ayurvedic Retreat but enough was certainly enough! I headed to Negombo a beach town just north of Colombo. My guest house was amazing, owned by an English couple who promptly made me a large pot of coffee. I sat on the verandah overlooking the pool (yay!) and savored every mouthful - two weeks being caffeine free will make you do that!

I checked out the town and the beautiful beach then had real food for dinner. Loading toxins back into your body makes you feel worse than detoxing so I had quite an early night.

I was up bright and early, had vegemite toast for brekkie (did I mention how cool this guest house is?) then the fabulous Rukshan Anthony and his wife Rosalie arrived to pick me up. I hadn't seen Rukshan since I left work at Perpetual so we had lots to catch up on.

We headed inland to Sigiryia, stopping at Rosalie's family house on the way.

We stopped at Dambulla to see the temple cave - got to the top and didn't have a ticket but the views were amazing and the big buddha was very big. There was certainly no need to walk all the way down the hill, buy a ticket and walk all the way back up again.

The local monks were playing a spot of cricket so I had to join in.

We checked in to Eden Gardens Hotel then headed off to Sigiryia rock. It was half three but still very hot. And man the rock looked big. I think my first comment was 'there's no way I'm going to the top of that thing'.

But I made it to the top quite easily (despite my dickie knee from my yoga incident). There was a little breeze as you climbed higher which helped! Rukshan and I were quite pleased with our efforts. And the views from the top were amazing. There was a cave about half way up with painting that are thousands of years old.

By the way, this climb proves that you can do anything in havaianas. I've been in flip flops every day since leaving Oz - not sure why I'm carrying a pair of shoes.

There were a group of school kids climbing with us and they were lots of fun, but it did make it feel a bit like Picnic at Hanging Rock.

The next morning I said goodbye to Rukshan and Rosie and jumped on the local bus to Kandy. This was an adventure - my first night couch surfing.

Benjamin sent a tuk tuk to collect me and we headed out of town into the hills. I met the family, mum, dad and one of the sisters then Benjamin took me touring around town. Kandy is a beautiful place.

I chatted to this dude at the local market for ages. The only English word he knew was cricket!

The temple of the tooth of Buddha is a big attraction in the town. The locals bring lotus flowers to leave as an offering so it smelt amazing.

We then headed to the shops to buy food for dinner. This was my contribution to the family, and it was loads of fun. I snuck in chocolate for the mum even though Benjamin said she shouldn't have it.

Benjamin's mum cooked up an amazing feast.

The next morning i spent quite a few hours in the Botanical Garden. Ive taken loads of pics for you mum, will send you a separate link.

Then it was goodbye to the family and back to the bus station.

Staying with a local family was an amazing experience. I learnt so much about life in Kandy and loved these warm and welcoming people.

I will certainly be couch surfing a whole lot more.

I piled into the local bus (along with half the town), heading high into the hills to Sri Lanka's tea country. That is a whole other blog, stay tuned.

And yes, they do turn the aisle into seats!

Posted from somewhere round the world...

Friday, 11 May 2012

Farewell health farm

So I lasted two weeks at the health farm, or Lotus Villa Ayurvedic health retreat. What a strange two weeks it's been.

There have only been a maximum of 8 people here, but only four for most of my stay. There are millions of staff - well just over 100. I've spent my days being massaged until I'm an oil slick, taking weird medicine concoctions and eating strange but ok food which never really needed much chewing - refer to pics in previous post.

I have lush soft skin, shiny hair and more energy than I know what to do with. Too much energy for a place where there isn't much to do. I've walked the beach, swam laps in the pool, practiced yoga (til i had my 'oops moment), meditated, created my own mini-gym (back pack as weights) and buried my nose in a book. But it's been hard to spend much time doing anything as there is always the next person saying 'time for your next treatment' or 'time for medicine'. Being woken up on your sun lounge to take awful medicine doesn't make for a happy Lynne.

But the doctors (in orange) knew exactly what we were doing at all times so I was a good health farm girl.

I've enjoyed my time here. On 1 May there was a big afternoon party for the staff and their families to celebrate may day. There were some interesting games created and everyone had a fun time.

There was an opening ceremony, I got to light a little oil thingy. Then the national anthem was played and flags raised. Very Olympic games!

This game was hysterical. People were blind folded, twirled around loads then headed off to try and hit a clay thing. Only one person made it.

The kids raced to eat a bread roll tied to a string. All looked a bit dry really.

Filling scotch bottles with water from the pool was hysterical. I did wonder what scotch bottles were doing at the health farm .... I haven't been able to sniff out any booze.

Then the craziest game of all was walking the palm tree to grab flags off the end. A very bendy, wobbly tree I might add, luckily the tree was tied over the pool as there were loads of spills.

It was great to see the staff in their casual clothes having fun and wonderful to meet their children. Sri Lankan people are so warm and friendly with smiles that light up their faces.

And the highlight of the day was cake. It was dry, boring cake but what the hell, it was cake.

The other highlight was going to the local temple with some of the staff to provide food for the local people. The retreat is in a country area so many of the locals struggle to provide food for their families. It was Buddha's birthday, so everyone was dressed in white looking beautiful.

As today was my last full day at the retreat, I didn't have to have any treatments - or take any medicine. My day started with a flower bath .... amazing.

Notice my name made out of flowers on the side of the bath.

Then I had a blessing from the senior doctor before coming back to my room to change for the pool. This is what I found in my room.

The room boys were so proud of their work and got a kick out of my squeals of delight.

So with my doshas now aligned and armed with a list of foods that I should and shouldn't eat (to keep my doshas sorted) I head out tomorrow to explore this amazing country. First stop, probably Maccas.

Posted from somewhere round the world...