Note: The USB drive at the Hotel Glendower (where I'm currently using internet) isn't formatted, so I can't upload pictures. There are currently 67 pictures uploaded; there will be many more soon, but I'm not sure how soon. :-)
So, to pick up where our hardy travellers left off, it's the afternoon of the 9th in Kandy. I had a nice lunch at Rams, chicken vindaloo, I think, but Karina was somewhat disappointed with her vegetarian thali -- not enough actual curries. We then headed off to the market, though we were intercepted on our way by someone who worked at our hotel (this one really did, since he remembered details about us), and who talked us into going to the main market in his company. He steered us to a fruit vendor and then a fabric merchant, and while he didn't ask us for money, I'm guessing that if we had bought much, he would have gotten a cut from the merchants. But maybe I'm just being cynical -- perhaps he really did just want to practice his English and be nice to two slightly bewildered tourists.
The market itself was interesting but somewhat overwhelming, and while the prices were certainly cheap (the same fresh vanilla beans that they had at the spice garden for $7 were more like a dollar at the market), Karina and I found that we had a hard time coping with the incessant persuasion, the relentless attempts to sell us something, anything. We did spend a while looking at fabrics, but didn't end up buying anything -- nothing was quite what we wanted. We escaped the market having only purchased some sour mandarins (K is a big fan of sour, me, not so much).
In the late afternoon we walked around the manmade lake to the Temple of the Tooth, which is quite spectacular. If you go remember that you hvae to be decently-clad -- no bare arms, bare legs, excess cleavage. You go through two security checkpoints before you're allowed to enter, but they mostly seemed to be checking the appropriateness of your clothing, rather than fretting overmuch about possible terrorism. We took many gorgeous photos inside.
Afterwards, we had a small adventure. We took a tuk-tuk to dinner at Senani, a Chinese restaurant that was advertised as having a tremendous view, which they did. Karin's food was fine, but my Peking chicken was seriously dry and sitting in a bland brown sauce. Sadness. The worst was yet to come, though -- when we left the restaurant, we found that there were no tuk-tuks hanging around, and that the restaurant driver wouldn't get off work until 10 (it was a little after 9) and din't know where our hotel was anyway. The danger of wandering off the beaten path! We weren't sure if our hotel was up higher on the hill than we were, or somewhere on the other side of the lake. We walked out onto the street and considered walking downhill to the center of town, in the dark, but it really didn't seem like such a good idea, and the nice security guard outside told us it wasn't 'safe for ladies.' He also said that a tuk-tuk would be by in a bit. We waited, and waited, and waited. When a tuk-tuk finally came, that driver didn't know where our hotel was either, and much conversation ensued between him, the security guard, and random other men in the building nearby, trying to figure out where it could be. I was pretty stressed out and unhappy about the whole nobody-knowing-where-our-hotel-was-including-us thing; I felt like an idiot for not carrying the address with me, and I was so tired that I was just barely managing not to cry.
Luckily, Karina is more of a night owl; she was in decent shape and able to cope. In retrospect, we should probably have just taken the tuk-tuk down to the center of town and found someone else to take us to the hotel -- there were definitely some drivers down there who knew where it was, and had taken us there before. But we just weren't thinking that clearly. So eventually, we got in, and he drove us down to town, and he asked various friends where it might be, and finally someone seemed sort of confident that they knew where it was, and told him, and we went off. And we went through all sorts of areas that didn't seem familiar at all, which didn't bode well, and I was continuing to quietly freak out, but finally, finally, we saw the sign for Stonehouse Lodge, and we knew we were almost there. He had just gone a different (longer) way than the way we were used to. Not the best adventure of the trip, but as Karina kept saying, travel mishaps are part of the experience, and it certainly taught us to always keep the address of our hotel with us!
The 10th was a pretty quiet day -- essentially, we got up early and went to the train station and caught a five-hour train to Nuwara Eliya.
We had a pleasant time -- I started reading Audrey Niffeneger's The Time Traveller's Wife
, which was totally engrossing and delightful, and Karina took kazillion photos of the incredible scenery. I ended up taking some too.
When we got to Nuwara Eliya, we took a tuk-tuk into town (Karnia saw a bear monkey on the way!), checked into the Grand Hotel, which was indeed grand, and went to find internet, passing the pink post office on the way.
Finding internet was more difficult than anticipated, because the place mentioned in Lonely Planet was way off the beaten track, and we eventually needed a policeman to walk us there. It was a tiny little room in the midst of a stinky market, only 8 rupees a minute, but still, not so much fun. By the time we both finished and headed back, it was almost dinnertime. We stopped at the local carnival, set up for the Tamil/Sinhalese New Year, which is upcoming, but sadly, it was essentially closed down for the day. Karina got some good photos of lights in darkness. A good dinner at the Grand Indian, and then we went to bed early, because we had a big day planned for the 11th.
We got up at 6, had breakfast at 6:30 (yummy buffet; I had stringhoppers and curry, tea and juice, and Karina was very excited to find that they had peanut butter), and then met our driver to head out to Horton Plains. Along the way we stopped and took photos. I saw a mongoose run across the road in front of us! Horton Plains was rather fabulous, though also a tiring hike (9.5 km round trip). Incredible variation in hiking environments, from plains to forests to hill tops, lots of different vegetation, flowers, birds.
We got a close-up of a bright green lizard, and at the end of the trip, we got to meet Raja, the park's pet sambar deer, with magnificent and quite sharp horns.
Before that, we saw quite a few deer in the distance. We saw tremendous views from the first view spot at World's End -- the world does just seem to drop away for miles below you. Incredible. I got to pretend I was king of the world. :-) By the time we got to the second spot, the mist had come up, blanketing everything, but Karina seemed to like that even more -- she is apparently quite passionate about mist.
The best part, though, was when we got to Baker's Falls, a rather dramatic waterfall. Karina has been dying to bathe in a waterfall, and with very little encouragement, she went in (fully dressed). I took many photos, but didn't go in myself, mostly because I was pretty sure I'd freeze to death, if not in the water, then afterwards, walking around in the chilly mist with wet clothes. Karina is made of hardier stuff than I, at least when it comes to cold.
It was mid-afternoon by the time we got back, and we were tired! We did a bit of shopping in the hotel gift stores -- prices that are about a third what they'd be back home, about three times what they'd be in town, but oh, such a relief to shop in peace and quiet, rather than being constantly hounded by people trying to sell us stuff. I wish someone could explain to the locals at European and American and Australian tourists will probably buy more stuff if you leave them alone to browse in peace. Though maybe it's just us? Dinner at the Grand Indian again, again very good, and then quiet photo editing in the evening, and finishing the Niffeneger novel. I loved the first third, brilliant, and the rest was quite solid and touching, if not quite as interesting (except in spots). One of the best books I've read in the last year.
Today has been slow; I'm sore and tired from yesterday. We've decided that I'm really not in good enough shape to climb Adam's Peak, so we'll save that for another trip (with a month of stairmaster in advance to prepare :-). Editing photos and journal writing and brunch this morning (milk rice and curries, juice and tea...) and now we're off to visit a tea planation and hopefully the Hakgala Botanical Gardens. Tomorrow will be an insanely long travel day -- train ride back to Kandy, followed by drive up to Dambulla.