Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Week three: hiking in the Hill Country.

This post is a little bit late because in the last hotel we were staying in the monkeys had eaten the wifi box! Now, I know that sounds like the old "dog ate my homework excuse" but its true! Haha. There were monkeys everywhere in the hill country, frequently swinging through the garden of the hotel, mostly on the look out for food! And to think a couple of weeks ago I was jealous because mike saw a monkey from the bus window and I missed it!

Anyway, we have had another really busy week. After we left Ella we took an observation carriage on the train to Nuwara Eliya. The train was really slow, about 15km an hour, but wound through the mountains of the hill country so it is the best way to see the scenery. We saw miles and miles of tea plantations stretching as far as the eye could see in every direction. They often grow on very steep hills and picking the leaves must be an exhausting job.

Nuwara Eliya is also known as little England because it was where the British colonist settled and it did still have a hint of England about it. The climate here was cooler because it was about 2000m above sea level, therefore the vegetables and fruit they grow is similar to England. They also still have remnants of British input, for example the design of the houses and the park behind our hotel, one of the few parks in Sri Lanka.

From Nuwara Eliya we organised a trip to Horton plains national park. Because its at 2500m above sea level We had to leave at 5am so that we could see the views before the clouds came in. We arrived before sunrise and it was eerily misty and there was even frost on the ground, luckily we were prepared with our fleeces and hats!

We walked a 9km route that led us to two view points. The first was little world's end. A view point looking out over a 300m cliff. The second was world's end, which was 3 times higher at 900m high. It was still a little cloudy but the views were amazing, and apparently on a clear day you can see all the way to the coast. The views were amazing, but the walk through the national park was just as beautiful, with Moor land that reminded us of dartmoor, but with monkeys!

Don't worry...He's not really sitting on the edge! Just a clever camera angle!

After visiting Nuwara Eliya we moved on to Dolhouse, a little town that would serve as our base for climbing Adam's peak. We stayed in a sweet little guest house by a river, in a little log cabin on stilts with a balcony that looked over the garden (although mike thought it looked more like a shed!! Haha). At the top of the mountain is the sacred footprint; Christians believe that Adam's peak is the place where Adam first set foot on earth, Buddhists believe that the footprint was left by Buddha, and Hindus believe it was Shiva. Therefore the climb has become a pilgrimage for various religions. We got up at 2am to begin our climb. Because it is pilgrimage season the path is lit the whole way and there are tea shops lining the route. There are between 5200 and 6000 steps to the top. The final 2000 or so are a very steep continuous climb and when a man near the top told me there were 300 to go they seemed like the longest 300 of the whole climb!! We managed the climb in about 2 hours, which is quite quick, and after ringing the bell at the top to signify completing the pilgrimage, we treated ourselves to a well earned biscuit while we kept warm and waited for the sunrise.

The sunrise was incredible, and very bizarre to watch the sun come up from above the clouds! It was only when it was light and we started to make our way down that we could appreciate the views and just how high up we were. It was an amazing experience and definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far (even if I could barely move for 3 days after!).

We had a busy week in the hill country, with lots of travelling and lots of walking. But we had a few more stops before we could rest on the beach again, I will write about them next week. Love to all at home. Amy and mike xxx

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Saturday, 19 January 2013

Week two: From the coast to The Hill country.

We have had a busy week. On our last day at the coast we headed a few miles by bus to the town of Weligama. While we were strolling along the beach some fishermen asked us to help push their boat into the sea. It took about 15 of us to haul the boat down the sand into the water. Their fishing boats are beautiful traditional wooden boats that they like to individualise by painting them. They often go out late at nights and early in the morning so the sea is usually scattered with the tiny lights of fishing boats.

At the beginning of the week we left the beaches behind and headed for the Hill country. Our first stop was the small town Embilipitiya. From here we organised a trip to Uda Walawe national park. The park is home to about 800 elephants as well as many other birds and animals. We left the hotel at 5.30am, while it was still dark, and arrived shortly before sunrise. We spends about 3 hours in the park and saw about 80 elephants including some tiny babies! We also saw buffalo, jackals, parrots, kingfishers, bee catchers, 3 types of eagles as well as many other birds. The hotel even packed us a little picnic so we were able to have breakfast whilst watching the sunrise and the elephants!

The next day we travelled to Ella, this was a bit of a long journey... Not so much due to distance but because the old buses have to wind up through the mountains. We had to get three different buses in total and one was so busy Mike and I ended up sitting on a luggage rack at the front of the bus for 3 hours! But the public transport here is frequent so we have never had to wait for a bus for more than a few minutes, and its very cheap, about £1 each to travel 5 hours across the country! It's also one of the best ways to see the country side, and the views were amazing. During our stay in Ella we did a few walks and hikes. The first was to little Adams peak (a much smaller version of the real mountain we are going to climb next week!). The views from here were stunning, miles and miles of mountains and tea plantations!

Mike even did a bit of meditating...

In the afternoon we did a longer, higher climb to Ella's rock. You can see the mountain in the background of the view from our guest house.. We climbed to the top, guided by a very nice local farmer. He wasn't wearing any shoes and he was nearly 60 and yet he shot up that mountain like a goat and laughed at me when I needed to stop for a rest!!

This is the peak we climbed...

The view from the top...

We have moved further into the hill country now and have more walks and treks planned for the coming week. I'm excited and a little scared at the prospect of climbing Adam's peak, a pilgrimage before dawn to the top of a mountain involving climbing almost 6000 steps! I will let you know how it goes. Love Amy and mike xxx

Monday, 14 January 2013

The end of week one in Sri Lanka.

So we are at the end of the first week of our travels and it has gone really quickly. I suppose at the moment it still feels like we are on a little holiday and I'm expecting to pack up and go home soon but of course we have lots more to come. We started the week in Hikkaduwa, on the west coast. The plan was just to stay 1 or 2 days but the surf was good and we moved to a guest house right on the beach so we ended up staying here for 3 nights. The beach here was beautiful and mike managed 3 surfs a day, just resurfacing long enough to eat in one of the lovely restaurants on the beach before heading back into the sea! However it was more touristy than I expected... I thought Sri Lanka was just being discovered by tourists but apparently not!

After three days in Hikkaduwa we moved on to Galle, a fort town, further down the west coast. We only stayed here one night as it was more expensive and the town is quite small, but really interesting to walk around and very beautiful. The town is also more upmarket and "trendy", with lots of shops and some pretty vintage shops and art cafes. We went to some local fruit markets and sampled some of the local fresh fruit and a few of the the 32 types of bananas that grow in Sri Lanka!

Whilst in Galle we also went in a tuk tuk to a local turtle sanctuary where they take in and rehabilitate injured turtles and release newly hatched baby turtles into the sea. It turned out to be an expensive journey as the sanctuary was actually miles away... Closer to the next town we visited! But it was lovely to see the baby turtles! Mike has seen some sea turtles while he's been surfing and I'm hoping i'l see some in the wild while we are here!

Finally we have spent the last two days in Unawatuna, which has a picture postcard beach with white sands, blue sea and stunning sunsets. Because the beach is so beautiful, again it is quite touristy and the beach restaurants here are a bit more commercial than in Hikkaduwa and more pricey! However it has been lovely swimming in the sea and relaxing on the beach.

From Unawatuna we organised a whale watching tour as many species of whale migrate past the south coast of Sri Lanka from dec-march. This has been my highlight so far and we got to see about 5 or 6 blue whales and sperm whales (although as they are so huge you can only see a bit of the whale at a time, hump or tail, so we had to rely on the guide to tell us which species it was!) the photos didn't come out brilliantly as the whales move so quickly and the sea was quite rough so the boat was lurching all over the place (resulting in a poorly feeling mike). Apparently people often see huge pods of upto 2000 porpoise and dolphins but they were elusive today and the sea was quite chopping making any dolphins difficult to spot. I'm really happy to have seen the whales though as seeing these gigantic creatures in the wild is a once in a lifetime experience!

We are going to spend the next week moving south down the coast before making our way up to the national parks and hill country. Love to all at home. Amy and Mike xxx

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Friday, 4 January 2013

Temporarily becoming a travel blog...

Greetings and happy new year from Sri Lanka! I think I mentioned a few months ago that we were going travelling... Well here we are! I haven't posted much on the blog recently because we have been so busy with Christmas, moving house, finishing work etc. I had planned to start a new blog for the travelling posts because I'm aware that most of the people who read this (if anyone reads this!) are here for the crafts... But time ran away with me and I didn't get around to it. So for ease, and so that our families can keep up with what we are up to I'm going to continue posting here and I hope a few of you enjoy reading what we are up to.

We arrived in colombo early this morning after two long plane journeys. After a further hour in a taxi to the train station and a three hour train journey on a very slow (but cheap and comfortable) train we arrived in our first destination, Hikkaduwa. The hostel is on a very long, busy road that runs parallel to an equally long, but quieter beach. This town is fairly touristy as it is the base for surfers. Unfortunately the surf is fairly small at the moment so at the plan is just to stay for a day or two and then head down the coast. We went straight to bed when we got here at 9am local time (4am British time) as we had been up and travelling for 24 hours. We did go out for a long stroll along the beach this evening though and had a very nice dinner on the beach.

Hopefully up early for a morning surf if our body clocks are up to it and then plan the next stage of the journey. Xx

Location:Sri Lanka