Kandy, Ella and Yala

I boarded a local bus and started my 4 hour trip over to Kandy.

The first bus took a little over an hour and was really quite comfortable, costing me the equivalent of 50p and taking an hour. I had a seat and everything.

Unfortunately my second bus of the day wasn’t quite as pleasant. In Sri Lanka the local buses feature a door at the front and at the back, however throughout the drive these doors don’t close, not normally a problem if your sat down or holding on. I boarded this bus just as it was pulling away so I was the last aboard, and it was packed. This left me, with my big bag and my day bag, precariously perched next to the open door as our bus driver did his best Damon Hill impression going around tight corners, I thought I was going to fall out, or at the least id lose my bag, a friendly Sri Lankan man saw my discomfort and held onto my bag for me, freeing up a spare hand for me to cling on for dear life. After about an hour the bus lightened up and I was able to grab a seat!

I got to Kandy exhausted following the bus ride and headed to my hostel. I spent an evening planning what to do in Kandy and where to go next.

Kandy is famous for having the Temple of the tooth. A large Buddhist temple housing some holy remains, I was keen to explore it and discover more. However, the day I chose to do this happened to be a holy day so it seemed the whole of Sri Lanka also wanted to check out the tooth. An hour queuing up in a line, well I say line, more a free for all. My days of going to watch Reading FC play came in handy trying to navigate the huge crowds of worshipers. While this was fun for a while it did mean I wasn’t able to see much of the temple, or learn a thing about why it was holy or what the tooth was. The steep foreigners entrance fee also meant I wouldn’t be returning.

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I had teamed up with a Canadian girl from the hostel for the day of wandering. A walk around the peaceful candy lake followed by a walk up to a hotel we had heard about. It was recommended by the lonely planet and was described as Lewis Carrol meets Gaudi.

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A long hike up a hill to the hotel left us ready to be impressed, from the outside it looked like a normal hotel, however when entered it was like stepping into the rabbit hole and tumbling into wonderland. It was like someone had taken Tim Burtons wet dream and created a hotel. Wax covered chandeliers along with old tables, wheelchairs, sofas etc completed with spooky wonderland effigies all around the rooms. Upon exploring the hotel we discovered it went on forever, like a warren, it was also entirely deserted of guests adding to the spooky feeling. We decided it would have made the very best youth hostel in the world. Having gate-crashed their hotel and explored we decided to order a drink. We got a tamarind juice. Now in my head I think I was thinking tangerine. I was expecting some sort of citrusy drink, however what emerged was like nothing ive ever tasted. It was a foul concoction with two distinct layers, one clear, the other clouded with bits. One sip was enough!

We walked back to the hostel via a giant Buddha statue at the top of the hill and I collapsed exhausted into bed, my fit bit telling me id managed 27000 steps and climbed 160 odd stories, and it wasn’t even 5pm!

I bid farewell to Kandy and boarded to train to head to Ella. The train route is famous for boasting some incredible scenery, and it didn’t disappoint. Green everywhere, mountains in the distance, huge green hills and cliffs interspersed with gorges and small rivers. It was stunning!

It certainly gave me a taste of what to expect in Ella.

Now Ella has to date been my favourite place in Sri Lanka. Why? Well upon getting to the hostel, I met a fellow brit and went to the pub, where they sold cider. I mean that would be enough for it to win town of the year. But not only was it selling cider, but it was selling Somersby’s cider. Not the Somersby’s we get in the UK, no it was the Somersby’s I drank through my travels in Australia. It bought back some very good memories drinking that again and I confess I got rather nostalgic.

Cider aside I just loved Ella. Its  surrounded by great walks and filled with friendly locals and adventurous travellers.

I went for a walk up to little Adams peak, id been put of Adams peaks by the holy day and description of the climb, I like walking, I like hiking, however Adams peak seems to be just a whole bunch of crowded stairs to the peak, id rather climb a mountain over a trail or with ropes, not 4000 odd stairs. However never say never, there’s still time in Sri Lanka for me to try it.

Little Adams peak, is a lot smaller than Adams peak, without the religious significance. While there are stairs to the top there is also a trail. I’m not sure many people realised there was a trail as I was alone on It for its entirety and many parts of it seemed overgrown. I had a great time walking this train, headphones in with the Dixie Chicks playing loudly, stomping through overgrowth and avoiding fallen trees. I may have even had a little singsong when I knew for sure I was alone.

I reached the top and was greeted by some stunning views of Ella and of Ella Rock, a taller hill across the road.

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As I had some signal I thought it would be the best time to skype mum for catch up. She seemed impressed with the views! I did some more exploring along the top of the peak, there are several peaks in a row and I wanted to see them all, this involved a fair bit of scrambling and slipping at times but I had a great time!

The walk down was much easier and I had some energy left so went for a walk to the 9 arches railway bridge, its an impressive bridge with some amazing scenery around it. I was able to time this really well as I got there as a train did so managed to get some pictures from up high. Another scramble down got me onto the tracks and the bridge for some more photos. 

I befriended other people in the hostel and decided the next day to have go going up Ella Rock. This is a much longer walk and much harder. We walked for around 2km along the train tracks before starting to head up. It was much steeper than before and I must say this walk showed me that even though ive lost weight travelling my fitness levels are really poor!

Upon reaching the top I paid an extortionate amount for a bottle of water before looking out over little Adams peak, across the road, in a reverse of the previous day. Whenever I complete something challenging I get a sense of euphoria, its only enhanced when the reward is some incredible views!

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A nice meal and a banana chocolate rota (soooo good) followed with my new friends from the hostel before we said our goodbyes. I was of the Tissa and to the Yala national park.

I missed the bus In the morning and was told id have to wait another 4 hours for the next one, so being awful at saving money I jumped In a cab for the 2 hour long trip to Tissa. I managed to get a decent price for the taxi and felt quite smug, until we got to Tissa and the drive tried demanding more money to take me to my actual hotel. I managed to use a few tricks id picked up in India and was dropped off at my hotel at no extra charge.

I got an early nights rest ready for my safari at 4 30 the next morning.

A mosquito filled night (my net had holes in it) in a room with no fan meant I wasn’t the best rested for my trip!

Our vehicle for the safari was a modified pick up truck, a roof and some seats had been put in the bed of the truck, and we set off at breakneck speeds to the park.

Yala national park is famous for the amount of leopards it has, leopards are very difficult to spot and so far id never seen one on any previous safari. The African Leopard being the only animal of the big 5 id not seen, so I didn’t fancy my chances much.

There is a real thrill in being on safari, knowing that out there somewhere there were elephants, bears, leopards etc, roaming wild, ready to turn up around any corner.  Being in a small group aswel, there’s the added competition on being the one to spot something. As we drove around we saw lots of Kingfishers, deep, wild board, monitor lizards and mongoose before we came across an elephant at the side of the road, this set the tone and we managed to find loads of elephants, we were lucky enough to come across 3 tusked males (there were only 10 in the whole park) but no leopard.

Until our driver got a called raced off, a leopard had been sighted. We joined a que of about 30 other vehicles to try and see this leopard around 100m off in the bush up a tree. I’m not sure how much a saw, maybe a tail, maybe not, I thought it was a bit sad that all these vehicles were all crowding trying to get a view, unsurprisingly the leopard didn’t hang around and moved off.

 

Despite not really seeing a leopard I really enjoyed the trip and thoroughly recommend it, its worth the early morning wake up!

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The next day I boarded a tuk tuk to head to Situlpawwa, a rock temple right in the heart of Yala national park. My eagle eyes driver drove along the roads, I thought we was trying to earn a tip by spotting animals for me, it didn’t quite register that there were elephants, bears and leopards out there that he was looking out for. This occurred to me when he slammed breaks and stopped, explaining there was an elephant in the bush up ahead and was dangerous so we needed to wait. Not sure he backed his tuk tuk vs an elephant in a chase!

Situlpawwa was so quiet, my driver and I were the only people to climb up to the 2 peaks and it was so peaceful, I can totally understand why a Buddhist might come to meditate or worship there! To escape the chaos of everyday life and listen to wind while taking in the great views of Yala park. It was really special and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Its not on the main tourist itinerary and I’m glad of it.

On the drive back the tuk tuk slowed down as about 20m ahead of us a Leopard crossed the road! It was only there for about 10 seconds, too slow for me to get a snap, but it was huge! A lot darker than id imagined, in my head they were quite a light colour, I could see why they were so hard to spot! The driver pulled level with where it had cross, turned of the engine and we looking into the bush hoping for one more glace at it. Alas it wasn’t to be, but I at last saw a leopard!!!

It occurred to me afterwards that pulling over, turning off the engine in a vehicle with no doors while a big ass cat was in the area wasn’t the safest idea, but I think the driver was as keen to see it again as I was!

The next day was another  travel day, think time to Tangalle and the beach. It was only a short bus ride and I was there within 2 hours. The sea and beach, id missed it!!

I spent a day relaxing on the beach, sipping beer and lying in a hammock before renting a kayak and going for a paddle around the lagoon. I was the only boat on the lagoon and I soaked in the quietness. Coming very close to some Cormorants, water monitors and these small fish that kept jumping out of the water like dolphins. It was great fun, although writing this my arms are still sore!

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I had planned another beach day however the weather turned and the heavens opened so I’m currently stuck inside as it rains, the locals are really happy for the rain, I’m not so impressed!

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