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Embedded Photos: 1.Nuwara Eliya Post Office, Sri Lanka 2.Tea Plantation Hills, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka 3.Testing a Delicate Tea Leaf, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

Sri Lanka Flag SRI LANKA


October 30. COLOMBO to NUWARA ELIYA  We went round and round about where to head on our tour of Sri Lanka and decided to leave the beach going for the Maldives and went to the mountains and Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle in the middle of the country.  By the time we got our tickets to Nuwara Eliya the early morning trains were sold out so we didn't leave until late morning.  It was a full-day ride so that meant we would be getting into Nuwara Eliya around 5:00.  To make sure we would have a place to stay we called ahead and made a reservation at the Grosvenor Hotel.

Train tickets in Sri Lanka were incredibly cheap by western standards, even with the tourist premium, so we bought seats in the first class "observation" car.  With some careful juggling we were able to cram all of our stuff into a single tuk-tuk and get to the Fort Station in plenty of time for our train.  It wasn't even at thNuwara Eliya, Sri Lankae platform so we sat with our bags and waited on the ground.  The station was bustling and the old building had loads of character.  There is always something romantic and timeless about traveling by train, something that a bus or airplane just can't quite match.  A Nescafe cart ploughed up and down selling cups of coffee, nearly taking us out on one lap, and local trains came and went while we waited.  When the train finally rolled up we were a bit disappointed at our "observation" car.  It was a rattletrap of a train and the observation car must have been from colonial times, with stiff brown leather seats and wood paneled walls.  It was the last car of the train and the seats all faced backwards so people could take advantage of the larger then normal windows.  That was all well and good but there wasn't a lick of air-conditioning except for some fans that were evenly positioned down the middle of the carriage.  Even that wouldn't have been so bad if our fan had worked properly but, as luck would have it, our fan didn't rotate.  The blades worked but the face just sort of chugged along with the erratic motion of the train.  We eventually got a brief bit of relief but it was soon lost when the train jolted again and the fan flipped in a different direction.  Since we were in the back carriage the train jerked from side to side during the whole journey.  That was a plus when it came to keeping the fan moving but a negative when you were trying to sleep. 

I'd had a horrible night's sleep with more bites materializing in the morning.  While the scenic ride Nuwara Eliya was one of the trip highlights I couldn't get myself very interested.  The large slippery leather seats with bouncy springs and arm rests that were too wide made getting any rest a challenge.  Still I was too tired to stay awake and felt my head bobbing up and down and around while I tried to pretend I was getting some rest.  Our fellow passengers were a happy bunch, enviably happy, and they were excited about the train ride.  WePedro Tea Estate, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka struggled with where to put our large backpacks but the men in the front row kindly let us stash them near their seats.  A number of the people appeared to be related, or at least knew each other, and familiarity grew with time as more people got to know each other.  It was all quite charming in the beginning.  One of the men of front chatted us up a few times, giving us friendly advice on where to go.  He was from the southwestern coast where some of Sri Lanka's finest beaches were located and he was certain that we couldn't leave the country until we had been there.  We tried to explain that we wanted to visit the Maldives next, which are pretty much all beaches, so we were spending our time in Sri Lanka seeing the mountains and historical sites.  It never seemed to quite sink in but then he was getting more and more inebriated as the trip went on.  Joined by a couple of other men, he started singing and playing a kind of flat hand-held drum.  Dressed in their batik-dyed Sri Lankan shirts the lively bunch was very entertaining, in the beginning, but as they got more and more drunk they couldn't really keep the sound together and a fun sing along turned into just noise, hours of noise.  He kept trying to chat us up as well, making sure we understood that Sri Lanka had a real culture to behold, not like America where we have no culture.  Okay, I'll try to remember that... 

Even in my drowsy irritable state I did manage to catch some of the scenery and it was very beautiful.  As we gained in elevation the vegetation went from moist tropical greenery to hillsides full of tea plantations; the odd Buddhist moment marked the landscape.  The train chugged and rocked through the hills, slowly loosing time.  The journey took seven hours,  getting us into Nuwara Eliya about an hour late.  We negotiated with a minivan for a ride into town.  Naturally they wanted us to try a hotel that they recommended but we insisted that we had a reservation at the Grosvenor Hotel.  They acted doubtful and waited while we went to check into the hotel.  It turned out that their doubt was not entirely unfounded.  The hotel had just given away our room and had to clean another room for us.  They said that we were late so tPedro Tea Estate, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lankahey thought we weren't coming.  We arrived on the same train that we told them when we made our reservation and it was routinely late so, really, a reservation at the Grosvenor Hotel just didn't mean anything.  We were given a pretty crappy room as well, more like a long narrow closet.  The room next door, supposedly our intended room, was at least twice the size and had a fireplace.  But, all rooms at the hotel were the same price, lucky us.  We had tea in the living room while we waited for our room to be cleaned and chatted with three Brits that were traveling with their own driver.  They had just come from the Cultural Triangle and gave us some good tips.  After getting cleaned up we ate dinner at the hotel, which was slow and mediocre.  The weather was rainy and pretty cool in Nuwara Eliya, which was somewhat of a relief from the coastal heat but not great weather for visiting tea plantations.  The hotel didn't give us enough covers to keep warm so we were very glad to still have our sleep sacks with us!    

SRI LANKA Colombo Oct 25 Oct 26 Oct 27-29 Nuwara Eliya Oct 30 Oct 31 Kandy Nov 1-5 (1) Nov 1-5 (II) Polonnaruwa Nov 6 Sigiriya & Dambulla Nov 7 Colombo Nov 8

INDIA Ft.Cochin Nov 9-15 (I) Nov 9-15 (II) Nov 16 Nov 17-18 Madurai Nov 19 Nov 20 Tiruchirapalli Nov 21 Nov 22 Nov 23 Chennai Nov 24 Nov 25-26 Nov 27-28 Ft.Cochin Nov 29 Lakshadweep Nov 30-Dec 4 (I) Nov 30-Dec 4 (II) Trans-India Train Dec 5-7 (I) Dec 5-7 (II) Siliguri Dec 8 Darjeeling Dec 9 Dec 10-13 Dec 14 Sikkim Dec 15 Dec 16-20 Dec 21-23 Dec 24 Dec 25 Darjeeling Dec 26 Dec 27-Jan 2 Siliguri Jan 3 Jaigon (Bhutan) Jan 4 Kolkata Jan 5-6

THAILAND Bangkok Jan 6-13 (I) Jan 6-13 (II) Jan 6-13 (III)