25th February 2009
Well I’m nearing the end of my extraordinary and very happy time in Sri Lanka and it’s done everything to encourage me that it is a fabulous place for Wild Frontiers to be bringing clients.
At the risk of sounding repetitive and clichéd – beautiful places, beautiful hotels and beautiful people – spiritually and visually.
I have felt relaxed, and at home ever since I arrived. Everywhere it seems people are charming, kind and open – in three weeks I have barely found exception to that. The variety here is huge and in such a confined area. No exhausting long drives and always something to see through the window. Last week I was surfing on sun kissed, palm fringed beaches in perfect water, then watching in awe as a pod of vast Blue Whales cruised back and forth passed our boat in the early morning light. On the way home as the sun warmed we jumped from the deck into the deep smooth blue of the Indian Ocean to ride the sparkling swells. The next day I watched Leopard and Elephant on the low dry plains of the south before heading into the cool hills to climb Adam’s peak – a pilgrimage site for three of the four major religions who all coexist in Sri Lanka in harmony. There is of course a shadow of sadness and frustration cast by the war in the north and the damage it has done and is doing on many levels, however, people are very optimistic now. Life and tourism continues as usual in the vast majority of the country.
From Adam’s Peak I’ve explored the jungle and discovered a mesmerizing variety of fauna and flora. There must be twenty different kind of fruit all ripe and ready to eat and my favourite discovery is the Kitul Palm from which the villagers extract by cutting the huge flower, in a similar way to the rubber trees, a milky sweet liquid from which they make a delicate fructose treacle, the sucrose free “jaggri” sugar cake, and a delicious tipple they call “toddy”.
Now to discover and experience some of the rich culture and history of Sri Lanka, I’ve travelled from the British heritage of the tea plantations in the hills around Nuwara Eliya, along the rumbling ancient railway (also British) to Kandy, the second capital, in the hill country where it’s king’s ruled until they ceded to the British early in the 19th century. At Sri Lanka’s most sacred site – the Temple of the Tooth – that holy relic delivered here from Buddha’s remains in India, lies contained in seven golden caskets and attracts a daily attendance of devotees to the thrice-daily pooja’s. It is a peaceful and moving experience to join the parents, children and elderly all thronging round together whispering gentle prayers. Lastly then I made it to the “cultural triangle” where more ancient civilizations have left their various impressive marks at among others, Dambulla, Sigirya, Polonnoruwa and Anuradhapura, before returning to Colombo, which is a cheerful clean and colourful city on the sea.
There is plenty I’ve missed out and still plenty more to explore here but next week I’ll be back in London getting Sri Lanka up on the Website so watch this space for a wonderful new trip later in the year.