Train, beach, temple,beach and train…

October 15, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Posted in Food, Friends, Health, Life, Love, Travel | 1 Comment
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A month or so ago VSO lifted the security restrictions for travel to the east and with in a few hours txt messages were flying around the vols suggesting a train trip. So a few days later 7 of us are at Fort station awaiting the arrival of the overnight to Trincomalee( or Trinco as its known here)check  it out on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trincomalee

Trinco has been celebrated  since antiquity allegedly for its  superlative  deep water harbour one of the finest in Asia. Sadly with the onset of civil war in 1983 the town became and remains a flashpoint for ethnic tensions, due to a population evenly divided between Tamil, Muslim, and Sinhalese communities. Its position made it the island’ s collecting point for the war displaced persons. This stretched the resources and infrastructure to breaking point, parts of the town burnt to the ground during the communal riots. Following the ceasefire thousands upon thousands   of Sri Lankans flocked from Colombo and the south some for the first time others for the first time in twenty years.

Since the conflict ended in May of this year there have been security restrictions on travelling, so like us vols once this was lifted again the Sri Lankan s made their way there  again in droves. Need less to say the train was busy but that was all part of the experience. We had booked tickets which meant we got a seat, which was cool, but  nothing like the London to Edinburgh night train by any means. Knowing this I was prepared for the journey, once we were going 20 mins or so I opened the bar! Sat back and looked out in to the night! Our travelling companions were a young family with a sleeping 2 year old, a SL chap working for a charity which funded him based in Leeds ( small world again)lots of older SL men, who were very interested in my  unlabelled plastic bottles of fluid that the other vols would come and partake of from theirseats. As the journey progressed it became apparent that we were in the wrong carriage and we would need to leave the train at a specific stop and join the front carriages or we would end up in Batticoloa( which is a place Id never been to but was not the destination I wanted )why didn’t we just walk through the carriages umm not that easy when people are sleeping in the aisles, it was packed to the gunnels! We dismounted an hour or so later some of the group got seats and 3 of us sat on the floor near the open door which was great in the absence of air conditioning!

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We arrived weary about 6am jumped in a 3 wheeler to see vol C who was to be our host , we said hellos and crashed out for a couple of hours before heading to Uppuveli beach. The aches and pains of the journey were soon forgotten at the sight of the Indian Ocean …it was beautiful, the beach of fine white sand was were we stayed for the whole day and into the evening. Sunday found us venturing to the Hindu temple which was swamped by visitors, there  was a great atmosphere! Next we travelled to Nilaveli the second of Trincos popular beaches, described by the prolific novelist and journalist Carl Muller as “peach perfect, picture post card resort, with its sugar sand beach ,a creaming sea of dreamy blue, and a lagoon like a sculptured topaz” and I’d have to agree with him!

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As those of you who have holidayed with me know  I’m no beach babe ,however living here being so lucky to be able to visit  and see so many beautiful beaches… I’m getting in to it! A good time was had by all catching up with Vols ,chilling out in  such magnificent settings watching the fishermen with their catch, the families who spent hours in the water, left little time to explore the town .So when we left the next morn we  promised to return.

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Which was nearly sooner than I had hoped when we again pulled in to a junction stop I hopped of to use the loo with N, on returning to the platform we saw the train slowly pull away with our mates frantically waving us to make a run for it, have you seen how high those old trains are and it was gathering speed. I cant remember what was going thro my head, a jumble of oh no, bugger, no purse, no ID, this is not happening ,what to do …??? the guards were shouting ‘Madam half an hour,’ the people on the train were laughing, I breathlessly  replied I had to get on , not get a train in half an hour arggh! What he was trying to say was the train is not leaving it is just changing engines and will be back in half an hour! Oh,  ahh, Ok I see,  (Sarah stops running! ) N and I returned to the platform to the amusement of the awaiting passengers. The train did return in less then 10 mins our friends were also bemused ,as they had no idea  what was going on…hilarious!

The rest of the return journey was uneventful, apart from an hour before arriving in Colombo the carriage lights went off ! murder in the dark any one ??was that your hand being shrieked every so often! The countryside slipped by our open windows ,we played cards, ate the short eats,( street food brought on to the train in baskets by men, better than  any BR or Virgin train trolley food  and v v cheap!) we played scrabble, ate biscuits and fruit, had a snooze, listened to ipods, it was a long but a lovely journey, one I would not have missed and look forward to doing again before I leave!

Kandy Perehera and David Beckham???

August 23, 2008 at 11:47 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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15.35pm on Friday 15th August 2008 found me on the Inter city train from Colombo bound for Kandy, accompanied by friend’s food and drink for the 2 1/2 hour journey. We were off to see the Esala Perehera, documented as one of Sri Lanka’s most spectacular festivals and one of the most colourful religious pageants in Asia. Its origins date back to the 4th century AD.

The train journey was my first in SL so I was very excited; having been to Kandy on 2 occasions the train journey gave me the opportunity to really see the country side not visible by road. I had managed to purchase seats in the observation carriage for 3 of the party (2 travelled in 2nd class as they had been on a SL train  last month )this is situated at the rear of the train with a huge window so you travel backwards as you take in the views. Intercity refers to just that, not the speed it travels which allowed many photos to be taken without being blurred (very different from my high speed train travel in Japan!) I would recommend it, the views are amazing!

We were met by the guest house owner Malik, (this is a common service offered of the SL’s when booking the accommodation). We had booked a 3 bed roomed apartment 15 min walk from the centre of Kandy for 2,700 rupees each for the 2 nights(£13)the Palm Gardens- www.palmgardenkandy.com

This was a good find and will be used again I am sure; we enjoyed our evening meal at the terrace restaurant as the sunset and the views of the hill country in the morning as we munched our brekky.

We took a stroll in to Kandy where we checked out the preparation s for the evening. We had arranged tickets through Malik for seats to observe the parade at a third of the price of what the touts offered us as we meandered our way through the streets. Being a Poya day no alcohol was sold in Kandy until 2pm the next day. We took a rest at the Queens hotel with ginger beer and cadju nuts (cashew) chatted to the life guard on duty as we envied the swimmers in the pool as the temp reached the 30’s. He turns out to be a scuba diver instructor in Hikkaduaw so details were taken as I really fancy having a go whilst I am here… we’ll see!

Kandy was busy with people arriving from all over the island, some coming for the whole ten days. They were taking their place on the pavements, large groups of friends, 3 or 4 family generation s together enjoying picnics or ice cream whilst arranging their sheets of plastic. Security was tight lots of check points, with the army and police visible in huge numbers; I noted police dogs for the first time.

We made our way back to Palm Gardens to change with time for a quick G& T before being transported back to Kandy for the tickets, it was quite farcical, the van driver was to meet Malik with the tickets but the roads had been closed off so the van driver was asking us which way to go in Sinhalen…we did meet Malik who then sent us off with a name less chap to the entry point but we were up against it, the check points would close at 6 and no entry would be allowed. We did manage to locate our seats following a hurried pace (for SL) plus the 2 very thorough body and bag searches we were seated at 6.15. Kick off was due about 7.30pm but we were prepared for a SL time delay armed with litres of water, and snacks we sat back and waited. I commented on how quiet it was, the last time I had been in a crowd this big was at a music festival in the UK. I had read that the perehera was not about spectator participation, being described as “a carefully orchestrated quasi theatrical event” this one was to be televised for the first time in over 165 countries .Basically the perehera consists of 5 separate processions, the main one is from the Temple of the Tooth with the replica Tooth Relic, which is the centre piece. Each of the other 4 processions made up   from devals around the country, consists of elephants, various dignitaries in Kandyian costume, with dancers and drummers. A canon being fired signals the start of the perehera, so we had our cameras at the ready and were snap happy for the next 3 and a bit hours as we watched elephants adorned with lights file passed with dancers, musicians mainly drummers, torch light bearers burning dried coconut shells, some trumpeters and free form dancers costumes various .The male dancers were of all ages and sizes all seemed to be having a great time. Even the guys who had various back piercings attached to pieces of string being held by a guy as they danced along, oh matron, made me squirm a bit it can tell you! The TV crews were close to where we were seated so we had good views as they stopped to be filmed. The Pattini procession is the only one devoted to a female deity and attracts mainly female dancers. The girls certainly did it in style one group had Marge Simpson  type multi coloured head pieces 3 or 4 foot on their heads fantastic. Yeah it was indeed a sight to see despite the numb bum!

We waited back to let the crowds thin out a bit before we join the thousands making their way through the streets. As we passed the train station looking for a trishaw, thinking of a cool beer that awaited us back a guest house I went over in my left foot on the road side, I hobbled a long thinking it was a bad sprain. Back at the ranch first aid was provided a bag of frozen chips produced and applied to the swelling, pain killers taken and a beer for medicinal purposes accepted.

 The next morning at breakfast Malik insisted I visit the local Ayuvedic doctor. What did I have to lose? With my interested entourage in tow we literally popped next door. No conversation with me was made, no therapeutic relationship embarked upon between Dr and patient, as an elderly gentleman lifted my foot and stared to pummel it quite hard, well with tears in my eyes I with drew my foot and asked him to proceed hemin hemin( slowly slowly)He got the message! I think I did actually settle back in to the chair as he rubbed oil in to my foot, applied some heat, via a ball of cloth from a pot on the stove next to him which was quite comforting, then slapped on some henna coloured paste, followed by what looked like stuffing mixture, Malik informed me was herbs and bark of local plants. An oiled cloth was applied followed by a blue strip of material as a bandage then a white bandage on top 300 rupees madam I was sent on my way. If nothing else it enabled me to get to the front of the queue for the  A/C bus back to Colombo.

I slept surprisingly ok, on removing the bandage as instructed I realised the swelling had increased and I could not weight bear. A quick phone call to VSO at 9 ish and by 11.30 I had been to hospital, seen,  x-rayed, and a plaster cast applied to the fractured 5th metatarsal. The pain/aching is less each day ,it being more awkward than anything, and has slowed me right down! My friends and colleagues have been brilliant and rallied round. As I type from my balcony leg outstretched on a pillowed chair I am smiling to myself, I was aware on leaving Blighty I would have lots of experiences in Sri Lanka, but sustaining an injury similar to Mr Beckham was certainly not one of them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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