Sri Lanka Hill Country

After wilting in the coastal heat, AKB and I headed for the hills. We were really looking forward to changing climates, and only had to pay the cost of a couple of miserable bus rides to do so. I won’t get into the details of sardine-tin-tight, non-air-conditioned buses with the occasional dick-to-shoulder frottage. No, AKB has already posted her account of it, and i won’t beat a dead horse. (Though I just might punch the next crotch that rests itself on my shoulders.) No, let us focus on more pleasant things: cool climates, beautiful views and delicious food.

Our first stop, Ella. At elevation, its climate was vastly different than that in the south. Lo, fog! How I’d missed thee… A sleepy two-street town, Ella is perched on rolling hills covered by tea plantations. When we first rolled into town, misty fog welcomed us in its cooling arms and created such atmosphere. We would spend the next few nights hiking through the tea estates, reading, waiting out power outages, and eating excellent food. The regional specialty, it seems, is a garlic curry. Much better than it sounds, it is literally piles of garlic cloves in deliciously spicy broth. Yum. That, along with various other curries (eggplant aubergine, kankung, squash, and many others I can’t remember the names of), added up to some of the best food we’ve had so far in Sri Lanka. Highly recommended.

I think that AKB and I aren’t yet used to relaxing. Travel is different from vacation — it requires constant planning, packing and unpacking, negotiating and haggling. So, when the sleepy nothingness presented itself to us here, we felt hard up for entertainment (too bad the new police chief in Ella is a hard ass, and that the reggae bar’s “Rasta Shake” is no longer what it once was.) To wit, we were totally engrossed in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which was on the telly over dinner one night. Ugh. [Cuz you know… Indians have voodoo dolls and eat eyeball soup. Bad movie, even in a cheezy way. Sorry.] It’s a bit of a paradox, letting stresses consume you while being away, but we are adjusting, learning to relax and unwind when we can.

After a few days in Ella we took a scenic train ride further north to Hatton, and then an even-more-scenic bus ride through endless tea estates, finally ending up in Dalhousie, our homebase for climbing Adam’s Peak, aka Sri Pada. It is said that the footprint-shaped imprint at the top of this 7,359 foot peak belonged to either Buddha or Adam, as he left the Garden of Eden. To us, it proved to be a severe ass-kicking. We left our hotel shortly past 2am to walk through town and start our ascent. Not quite sure what the weather would be, we had brought layers and even invested in fleece hats (fifty cents down the drain!) only to figure out that the Sri Lankan definition of cold is a balmy 53 degrees F (ie: summer time in SF.) Needless to say, our extra layers only served to weigh us down.

Once again, I am faced with the strange internal conflicts of being a Westerner in a developing country. AKB and I have, in our preparation, purchased countless supplies — three kinds of mosquito repellent, headlamps, guide books. We have invested in new sandals and donned our finest performance wear. Personally, I fretted in anticipation of the climb, as if we would freeze atop some miniature Everest. Let’s just say that nothing made me feel more dumb and privileged that evening than seeing dozens of barefoot elderly women making their way, albeit slowly, to the top. To complain here about sore quads and calves, and endless out-pour of sweat would be shameful. No, let me rather convey the awe and inspiration in seeing entire families trekking for hours on pilgrimage — groups of old ladies wrapped in a few sheets of cotton, conquering the thousands of steps, pulling each other along in chants of prayer; fathers carrying yawning toddlers up and down the mountain; couples of every age, being brought together…

It was a wonderful experience (despite a few moments of physical misery along the way), and seeing the spectacular sunrise from the peak that morning made it all worthwhile. We were lucky with the weather — no rain or fog. We were lucky in each others’ company. We are lucky and blessed, and I am once again reminded of this.

***

We have been in Kandy for a couple of days, and are taking in this historic town slowly. Very slowly. The daily rain has put a damper in our motivation, and we have seen a few sites. We are here for another day or so, and will do the local tourist circuit, but so far our time here has been, well, carefree. We are being lazy tourists, taking a vacation from travel, opting for a beer over museums. It’s good for us, and we are slowly realizing that.

2 Responses to “Sri Lanka Hill Country”

  1. ignacy’s blog » Blog Archive » Planes, trains, boats and automobiles Says:

    […] our prior experiences with Lankan buses, AKB and I high-fived each other in anticipation of a relaxing train […]

  2. ignacy’s blog » Blog Archive » From Beach to near-Bronchitis, and Beyond Says:

    […] call that cold?” we chuckled, expecting a repeat of the temperature wussiness we’d seen climbing Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka. Karma got the last laugh, as it had throughout the trip, and our bravado quickly evaporated as we […]

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