After a night in Colombo, I am off to SIGIRIYA via an air-con minibus, which left the Colombo bus station at 0900 hours. It was a 3.5 hours bus ride with multiple stops to DAMBULLA. (450 rupees) From Dambulla you have to take a tuk-tuk the next 20 kilometers to SIGIRIYA which was about a 10-minute ride and 900 rupees.
I stayed at the Lakmini Lodge.126 Sigiriya, which was right in town and walking distance to Pidurangula and Sigiriya Rock are also known as Lion Rock
The next day I started at 0700 to beat the crowds and the heat. Lions Rock box office opens at 0700 and the cost to enter was $35.00 US for foreigners
Lions Rock has over 1000 steps to climb to the top. Along the way, you are rewarded with alfresco artwork on the rock from over 100 years ago, which is amazing. A mirror wall, which is a white cement wall, that shines when the sun shines on it and a spiral staircase that hugs the rock. At the top, you get a great view then back down the same way. It was well worth the early start as by 0900 when I had finished the crowds were coming and the heat was rising.
After a shower, breakfast and a nap, it was afternoon. I arranged a tuk-tuk to take me to Dambulla Rock Temple which is a world heritage site. It took about 30 minutes ( 200 rupees return) The cost to enter the Rock Cave was 1500 rupees
The caves were amazing with Buddha paintings on huge feet of statutes walls and ceiling that are in pretty good condition 100 of years later. For me, I found it just as spectacular as the Ajanta caves in India that I saw in 1998.
There are 2 parts to the Rock Temple. The Rock Temple and the Golden Temple, And yes more stairs to climb but not as many as this morning
I left Sigiriya at 0930 via taxi. It was a 3-hour taxi ride to Kandy. (7000 rupees $35US) . Versus the bus which would have taken 5 hours plus. The Taxi ride to Kandy went through some of the most beautiful areas with spices and rice paddies and some stops along the way( which you cant do on the bus).
My room at Café Aroma Inn 90 Colombo St was ready when I arrived. And everything I wanted to see was a few minutes walk away.
The Kandy Temple also is known, as Temple of the Tooth was a 5-minute walk. It is huge building with land, a canal, and a Buddhist Museum. The entrance fee for foreigners was 1500 rupees just over $10.00 Canadian. It is close to the lake so you can walk around the lake. This lake is fenced in white stone and it is beautiful. Before the walk, I went through the temple and the museum. Unfortunately, I was not able to witness the ceremony that happens twice a day.
Then off to St Paul’s church which was next to the temple and just taking in the city
Dinner was at Chillout Lounge and Bar. Yes, it was hoping ,unbeknownst to me Sri Lanka was hosting an international cricket tournament.
I am off to Ella this morning via the Blue Train at 0740. Very fortunate to have gotten a ticket as the tickets sell out fast and this is not high season. (when I arrived in Colombo 5 days ago I went to the train station to get a ticket as I had heard they sell out , as Kandy to Ella train is a very popular and this was all that was left).
The train ride from Kandy to Ella is slow 5 plus hours and is said to be one of the most scenic train rides. I now know why. The view of the tea plantations and the scenery is spectacular. Plus it’s cooler as you are going up the mountain and the train ride is very relaxing.
Ella is a very small town but quaint
Shortly after I arrived it started to rain so I opted for 1 hour ayurvedic massage for 300 rupees $22can not cant beat that. When I was done the rain had stopped so I got a tuk-tuk t take me to the Famous 9 Arches Bridge. The reason this bridge is famous is that it is made from rock bricks and cement only no steel in this bridge built in 1941 and still standing.
Dinner was at Spice Ella I had Kuta ( roti chopped up with chicken and vegetable. Delicious and filling with a local beer 850 rupees $5 can
I was up early and left my hotel at 700 to hike Little Adams peak and was back by 0900
To get to the start point of this hike if you are in town walk to the tiny police tourist information booth and walk up that street till you see the path between the Gardens and Chill Out restaurant. This is a direct trail that you follow. You eventfully get to stairs that you climb and it’s well worth it. The temple and the view. Along the way you see people going to work, children going to school and workers in the plantation.
On the way back I stopped at the 98 Acres Hotel to inquire about cooking classes none today.
( I did return later in the day for a drink as the views from this hotel are amazing)
After returning to the hotel for shower and breakfast I got a tuk-tuk to Lipton’s Seat in Haputale, which was about 1 hour away. Part of this ride is going up very steep mountains with spectacular views of tea plantations and people working in them. Unfortunately, when I got to Lipton’s Seat it was foggy. (I am told if you want to miss the fog you have to go early in the am )
On the way down I stopped at Dambatene Tea Plantation which is owned by Lipton’s tea the tour was 250 rupees $2
Back in town, I got my ticket for tomorrows train to Nurawa Eliya(as I left it to the last minute only 3rd call left 300 rupees 2can)
Dinner was at Chill Café I town full of life and a very happening place
NURAWA ELIYA (NANU-OYA)
I left Ella for Nurawa Eliya also known as Little England on the 0900 train. It took about 2.5 hours with stops along the way and again amazing scenery
As Nurawa Eliya does not have a train station you get off the train at NANU-OYA station and take a 20-minute tuk-tuk to Nurawa Eliya it was 800 rupees and no negotiation at this stop
I stayed at the Single Tree Hotel 118 Haddon hill about a 7-minute walk to town. Single Tree Hotel organizes trips to Horton Plain and one is planned for tomorrow.
I walked to the Grand Hotel to try and organize a Sri Lankan Cooking class and there will be one tomorrow afternoon,
Victoria Park is across from the Grand Hotel. It is tranquil with some different looking trees
Dinner was at the Queens Wood Cottage BBQ Hut
The next morning I am off to Hortons Plain at 0530 to hike “End of the World” Loop in the park. The hike is a total of 9 kilometers. When you get to the top you are again rewarded with breathtaking views if you don’t have clouds. We were in luck as it was a clear day but the clouds started to roll in as we left the top
A note about the trail it has 2 sides right and left both sides take you to the top but the right side is supposedly easier to get up. Our group started on the right side and saw Bakers Fall, Hortons Plain a then Little Horton Plain on the way down. The path starts smooth then gets rocky but if you take your time you do it. The group entrance rate was 3900 rupee each vs 5000 rupees for an individual. This park is very strict If you have a plastic water bottle the label has to be taken off and if you bring food it cannot be in Styrofoam.
Got back to the hotel after 1100 just in time to shower then head to the Grand Hotel for my cooking class.
My Sri Lankan cooking class at the Grand Hotel was with Chef Augusto Lowe and cost $30 US and was well worth it. There were 2 other people in the class. We made 6 dishes which were then served to us and then we got a fancy dessert fruit platter ( and a copy of the recipes to go)
My third day in Nurawa Eliya was laid back as it was a holiday. So I went to the Central Market and had High tea at the Grand Hotel which has a rotating menu 1500 rupes $ 12 can can’t beat that and the food was delicious. Planned my taxi to Udawalue tomorrow.
I left Nurawa Eliya via taxi at 0800 for Udawalawe. And arrived at Kottawa Village my hotel in Udawalawe 3.5 hours later and again beautiful scenery along the way. Kottawa Village is like a resort. It was amazing. This was my favorite accommodations while in Sri Lanka Some would say I was glamping as I stayed in a “standard tent” that was self-contained, that had wood floors, and a deck with furniture.
On arrival, I booked my safari the next day
So the next morning at 0515 hours we were on our way to the Udawalawe National Park for our safari. The gates to the park open at 0600 hours then all the jeep drive to the ticket office to get tickets.
This was a 6-hour tour and you are taken all over the park via jeep and we were fortunate to see water buffalos. Monkeys .peacocks, owls, serpentine birds lizards and more
Our group ( and most other groups) had a picnic breakfast in the park. With a great view of the mountains and lake
I was back to the hotel/(kottawa Village ) by noon. And the rest of the day was by the pool or on my deck.
Both nights I had the buffet dinner in the village resort for $10.00 US and the safari was 7000rupees $51can
After breakfast in Udawalawe I took a 4-hour taxi ride headed for my 1-night stay at the Jet Wings Blue Hotel in Negombo. This is close to the airport for my departure tomorrow for the Maldives