Seeing Central Ceylon part 1 …. Let’s not speak of Adam’s Peak



The man who we arranged the tour package with two days before at the Fort Colombo train station pulled up in a small Suzuki van at our guesthouse in Kandy just as we were finishing breakfast. He had with him another man and they waited outside for us. We checked out and greeted the booking agent and were introduced to Janita, who would be our driver for the next four days. He was a happy guy in his mid-twenties and spoke decent English. We gave a Dutch couple, who were leaving our guesthouse at the same time as us, a ride down to the Kandy train station since it was raining. Every bit of karma helps. After we drop them off we get to the business of going over the plan for the next four days and payment. It totaled up to being just at the top of our budget but still seemed like a good deal so we stopped at a bank machine and pulled out the full amount for the tour. My wife, being very suspicious, snapped photos of them and the license plate of the van. Smart! It all felt legitimate to me and so we paid the agent and soon after that we pulled up to top the tank off with gas and the booking agent shook our hands and said good bye. We pulled away from the gas station leaving the booking agent behind. Seemed weird but then again he was just arranging the tour and not coming on it with us.

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Janita was really nice and talkative. We discussed the usual like: ‘Where are you from?’ ‘What sort of work do you do? And we asked him similar things about his life and family. Adam’s Peak is even farther up in the mountains so the roads slowly winded up through the thick forest. As we go along Janita tells us about his country and culture, pointing things out along the roadside that were interesting. Having a private car and driver is luxurious and a bit beyond our budget but you really get your worth out of it. We stopped along the way and tasted the red bananas, which were delicious, from a stall on the side of the road and he was quick to find a nice place to use the toilet when we needed it.

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As we get higher and higher up the hills, there starts to be waterfalls by the side of the road and eventually we see the edges of tea plantations. The tea plantations look almost like very well maintained garden shrubs lining the hillsides. Soon every hillside is covered in zig-zag patterns of the tea plantations. We stop into a tea plantation called Blue Field’s and to see the process from the picking the leaves to the final products. The girl guiding us has a cute accent in English and shows us where they dry, crush, and sort the different classes of tea. Everything is very old since the place is over a hundred years old so even the wood boards of the floor and the furnace are very aged and colonial looking. We finish off with a cup of tea and head toward Nuwara Eliya, nicknamed the English village because of the stately homes with well-manicured gardens. It was picturesque and very quaint. Apparently many rich Sri Lankans have a home here. We stopped in the main part of town and had an incredible vegetarian meal at a place that looked like only locals eat. The food was fresh and delicious. We ate with our fingers.

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Full and satisfied we start to make the ascent up the ‘town’, it is a few hotels and some shacks selling water and bags of chips, just below Adam’s Peak. As we go on, we start to see the mud slides caused by rains and at one point we see where about a quarter of the road is washed away down the hill. We keep pushing on and my wife is looking sick of it all as we pass under fallen trees and pull onto an even worse road for the final hour uphill to the place where our beds are. We pull into town and the power is out from a fallen power line we passed over on the way up. It doesn’t look like there have been tourist here in weeks as all the shops are closed. It starts to rain harder as we get out of the van and shuffle up to our room. In the hallway leading up to our room, it almost seems like it is raining inside the place with all the leaks. It is like most rooms in Sri Lanka. The floor is tiled and the bed has a mosquito net over it. The toilet seat in this one has a crack in it. The boy who shows us the room says the power will be on in half an hour. Quickly that time goes by without power. The rain and wind pick up more and more and even though the view looks spectacular the looming climb tomorrow in the rain is worrisome. Eventually it is time to go down stairs for the dinner we ordered and so we make our way down with flashlights we had bought for the trek. As we eat dinner by candle light we discuss the chances of the rain letting up and the power coming on. To our surprise the power flicks on and our hopes brighten a bit. We climb back up the five flights to the room and settle in and weigh the option of not going up the mountain if it is still raining so hard at 1 am, which is when we should be waking up to get ready. We decide the chances of seeing any view from the top are pretty slim and agree that it would have to be clearing up when we woke up if we were going to hike up five thousand steps at the break of dawn. The wind and rain make us think we might just slide off the mountain in our hotel room. It sounded like a train was going by. When I woke to check the weather at 1, it was only getting worse. I tucked back in and we felt happy with our decision to give up on Adam’s Peak. I still do not regret it one bit.

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The next day we go down for breakfast and speak with two Italian women who made the same decision, to skip the climb, and we all patted each other on the back for making such a wise decision. After breakfast we grabbed our snack packs that we had ordered from the hotel for the climb and saved them for the ride the next town. As we go down the mountain we pass by another downed power line, this one looks like a telephone or power lines. It is a beautiful drive down though with the tea plantations and waterfalls everywhere we looked. We stop and get some great photos and about a minute after we get back in the van I feel bites on my ankle and look down to see my ankles covered in leeches. So we stop in a hurry and all get out and check ourselves. It reminded me of the scene from ‘Stand by my’ where the kid gets a leech on his junk and passes out. For the next hour we are still checking ourselves constantly but never find anymore. With the leech scare over, the drive is nice seeing the landscape change from so wet and lush to a little bit drier as we pass back through Kandy and then farther down until we get to Habarana outside of Sigiriya. We stop at our hotel and get our bags unloaded. It seems like a bit of a ghost town so we settle in for the night.

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