HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I hope everyone is enjoying the New year and feeling a bit more alive than Erin is! (Kirsty I hope you've recovered enough to leave the house- Anna I hope you've recovered enough from sharing a room with Kirsty to come back to our house!)
So 11th December, the four of us were let loose on Sri Lanka.
On the 26th of December we returned home- 5 days sooner than we had planned we had missed the South Coast sun and the friendly people. We had survived meeting a Russian cult, a Canadian woman who was possibly stalking Erin and a very angry Sri Lankan hotel owner.
Our travels started in South East, where we explored Yala National Park, We travelled around by Jeep, admiring the water buffalo, crocodiles, eagles, elephants, jackals and other assorted wildlife the park had to offer. In the local restaurant, eating a large rice and curry in attempt to recover from the 5am start necessary to see the animals, we were privy to a unique sight. Opposite the restaurant by the river, 20 Sri lankan men were dancing in their boxers, sporadically jumping into the river, only to clamber back out again and resume boogeying to the boom box in the back of someones van!
After a day around Yala we headed to Ella- we had only planned to stay in Ella one day. However, we arrived and fell in love with the place. Arriving in the late afternoon we were looking for a guest house recommended in the Lonely Planet which we couldn't find. (I may have been map reading- anyone on my Outward Bound course knows this is a fundamental flaw in any plan!) Luckily we stumbled across a sign advertising MOIST CAKES. We were in love. It turned out to be some lovely log cabins, owned by Gunaseeri and family, who also had a little café. We stayed in the cabins, walked around the local area, visiting the close town of Haputale by train. We made friends with Gunaseeri's son who was our age and every evening he brought out his two guitars. We sang British songs, while he sang sri lankan songs- his father provided lots of free moist cakes, and we were even invited to stay an extra night for free!
Next on our travels was Badulla, where one of Jo's friends runs an orphanage. We stayed for one night. It was amazing. This may sound stereotypical and standard charity gush, but the children there are possibly the nicest I have ever met. They were children who had been arrested by the police or taken away from abusive family members. They were given a choice got to prison or to this orphanage. The children at the orphanage were unrecognisable from the street kids they had been. We sang songs, danced and played games with them. Although it was only a day we stayed I hope we will go back. When we left they gave us the scraps of paper- any present they could afford and cried. They were so lovely and open to anyone that loved or showed them some warmth, one girl clung to me begging me not to go. I felt like crying as well, and something in my heart felt like it was exploding and melting all at the same time as I thought of the lives these children had- and the future they deserved.
Sri Lanka's famous cultural centre. Foreign powers have been invading the country for over 450 years, yet Kandy has remained virtually untouched. Somehow we managed to miss most of the cultural aspects. We were banned from a few as the boys were exposing too much flesh (yes I did say the boys- not us!). My favourite part of Kandy was when we visited the Elephant Foundation- outside of Kandy.
On arrival Erin and I decided to go the whole hog and RIDE AN ELEPHANT.
Yes. RIDE AN ELEPHANT.
It was an amazing sensation being so close. Riding one I realised they are incredibly hairy, each hair bigger than my hand and as tough as rope. Their gait gave the sensation that at every step they took you would slip off its side. It ambled gracefully along small human footpaths as though it did not realise its massive size. After our uncomfortable ride, we staggered off and down to the river, where the elephant, totally trusting, lay down while we washed it with coconut shells. This huge beast lay there exposing it's weak points to us and flailing its trunk about mildly. After our scrub we climbed on the elephant again- this time it loaded its trunk full of water and then gave us a powerful elephant shower! The look on its face made us think that possibly it was enjoying itself as well. Amazing!
The Knuckles Range
To be frank- the Knuckles range was not the favourite part of the trip. A beautiful place- unless you were us. Stuck in a hotel in the middle of no-where, unable to afford any of the food. We had to walk along a leech infested road to the nearest shops which only sold cream crackers and tomatoes. The nearest village was 10km away, we began to walk there mid morning-luckily half way we were picked up by a bus. NO ONE else seemed to be staying at the hotel and the staff were suspiciously absent most of the time. In the surrounding area there was nowhere else to go- we had to stay in the hotel most of the time! Horror film anyone?
We hastily headed down South to New Aurelia where we stayed for a day. In New Aurelia we explored the town- Erin and I had a girls day-we went shopping, and ended up back at the hotel with facemasks- Erin's one looked like she had an incredibly bad fake tan!
Then we headed to Hatton where we were spending Christmas day. On the way we managed to pick up a woman from a Russian cult- she was travelling with her master- who she payed 200 euros every two weeks to be in his religion. It turns out she was staying in the same place as us and was determined to be our friends. On arrival at our guest house the owner tried to charge us twice as much as agreed- him and Herbie had an impressive argument! Luckily I was too busy unpacking my whole bag in search of a lost object to join in. We were promptly moved to a single room with no water. We washed in the local river, then we went to bed and promptly got shouted at by an angry, naked Frenchman as our toilet was broken and was making too much noise.
We were up at 2am to climb Adam's peak. The route to Adam's peak was lined with shops selling everything from food to Buddha posters. There appeared to be no-one else climbing, for the first half an hour. All the way up the hill was littered with tea and roti shop, their wares were carried up by hand (think of climbing a munro with a huge box of fizzy drinks or a gas canister) The boys were lovely, as Erin and I puffed up the hill, overtaken by two year olds, the boys patiently waited for us. When we got half way up the crowd thickened, we were climbing with hundred, thousands of other people, some were sleeping on the mountain. Old ladies who had trouble walking were being helped up by helpers, babies, foreigners, all sorts were climbing. When we reached the top, it was so packed that we weren't able to reach the temple at the top. We sat with the huge crowds on the steps and opened Jo and Alan's Christmas present- a beautiful sari pin and some sloe gin. Then we ate hariboes and jelly babies (thank you mum!) and watched the sun rise over the mountains. Then came the descent- which I won't bore you with! We arrived back at our guesthouse, had a lovely swim in the river. In the afternoon we opened our prezzies, had a delicious bbq, with crackers and everything ! After the bbq I forced the others to play our traditional Christmas game of dumcrambo- which they enjoyed! Then we played Chess, phoned out parents and generally relaxed.
The next day we went home, we'd missed the South Coast!
On New Year we went to the director of Children's Hope house- it was swish. Swimming pool, live band, the whole sha-bang, everyone was in beautiful long dresses. Erin and I turned up in old jeans and t-shirt! The live band was amazing- after they left Suboda asked if we would please start the dancing as none of the rest of the party was eager. We leapt onto the dance floor (Erin and Michael) while Herbie and I shuffled on, looking a little more embarrassed! However our wild perseverance must off paid off as soon everyone was up! Next we led duck races across her pool. It was all in all a great new year- although I was sad to miss Dad's 60th party.
In the past two weeks school has began, we've had several lovely events, Joan arriving, Nick and Ingrid visiting and some sad times, like leaving our favourite school Welhengoda.