Last night I got chatting to three French folk in the guest house. A friend of the owner was flogging them little packs of various spices. They (the spices) looked good but my rucksack is full and I’m not sure we’ve finished the ones we bought 8 years ago. It was good to chew the fat drifting between French and English, though I had difficulty following the full speed conversation amongst the French.
“Expeditor” the guest house is pretty good, but suffers from a nearby gang of crows. They’ve appointed one to start kicking up a din at 5am, which sets off a neighbourhood dog until the remaining crows kick off at about 6am. There is very little danger of sleeping in.
After breakfast and settling the bill, I took a tuk-tuk into town via an ATM and bought my train ticket. Getting on the train was the usual melee: I counted myself lucky to find a seat until I got chucked out of the carriage as I hadn’t reserved a seat. The fact I’d tried and failed didn’t seem to count. The result was I stood all the way from Kandy to Hatton (3 hours). A steady stream of people who ought to have been in the reserved carriage tried in vain to make their way through the locked door and debated how safe it would be to disembark at a station and haul their cases along the platform against the oncoming tide of humanity trying to board. There were also the sellers of oranges, coffee, nibbles of various types and bottled water of dubious provenance.
Immediately on arriving in Hatton, I tried to book for the next leg of the journey in two days time: all booked, so I’ll definitely be standing, as I’ll be joining an already busy train. What a bloody shambles SL Railways are. They only still exist because the Brits built such good infrastructure all those years ago. I’ll stop before I trigger an international incident.
The bus to Dalhousie was waiting for us and a large number of people flocked on. I got a seat. The countryside by now is more open, with every possible bit of arable land covered in tea plantations, the bushes standing neatly in serried ranks. The road is really twisty, banking round corners on hills, charging down to hairpins before chugging back up the other side. But all very scenic.
At one point we drove through a village where some sort of festivity was going on. Apart from drumming, chanting, parades with gaudy flowers etc., the pieces de resistance were two or three floats with protruding pantries – think rickety homemade cranes- with guys flying suspended from them like near-naked supermen. They were suspended from these gantries by wires attached to hooks that pierced their skin, so they had large pyramid flaps of skin vaguely reminiscent of bats into which the hooks were fixed. They swung from side to side as the floats slowly jolted forward and they didn’t seem to be in any great discomfort, smiling and waving to the crowds. I haven’t described it very well but it was definitely macabre. I tried to take some photos, but they’re not much cop. Whether this was a Hindu thing or even some local take on Christanity (Easter Sunday, after all) I couldn’t say.
Then the bus broke down. A bit like our Bongo campervan, much of the engine is in beside the driver, so luggage was moved, engine covers dismounted and noises made with bits of metal. At times oily rags were produced. Although we were right out in the country, there was a wee stall selling drinks etc. Maybe the bus often breaks down there. The odd tuk-tuk passed but no signs of progress on the bus. I gave it 15 minutes then decided to take matters into my own hands. My GPS showed the route alone the road clearly and a distance of just under five miles, so I knew it was feasible. However, I’d hardly gone 100yards when I came across my first female tuk-tuk driver chatting to a couple of friends and soon all four of us were rumbling along the road, her friends just coming along for the ride.
A lot of the place names here have Scottish overtones. Apart from Dalhousie (pronounced Del-house), I’ve noticed Glentilt and Moray Estate as well as a number of distinctly English (language) names such as Hatton, Norton etc.
I’m staying in the Punsisi Rest with quite a reasonable room. I was told “fourth floor”, but they failed to mention the Little Adam’s Peak after that. Hopefully the photos will clarify.
The real Sri Pada, aka Adam’s Peak, with “Buddha’s footprint” at the top is about 2243m so there’s a climb from here of about a Munro’s worth and about 4 km to the top. Not bad, you’d say, but most of the ascent is on steps and I suspect it’ll be a bit of a killer. Everyone – guidebooks, locals etc. say to allow 4 hours. The idea is to reach the top for sunrise, so it’ll be a 2am start! I hope a) it’s worth it and b) I make it to the top. I suspect there’ll be hundreds of people, so I may end up wishing I was in Colombo!
The weather here is very different from Galle. I’m still in tee shirt and shorts, but not over-warm. The sky is heavily overcast, with a distinct dampness – not quite rain, but not just humidity. Sri Pada is hidden in the cloud, though I believe that’s common for this time of day. I have packed a fleece in my rucksack as well as a waterproof. I’ve plumped for zip off trousers and a spare tee shirt to cover all eventualities. The path up is lit, providing there isn’t a powercut.
Wish me luck.