The kids have started school holidays , so we celebrated with out first extended trip. This time we took a week off and drove around the amazing hill country. Sri Lanka’s Hill country has elevations from 500m -2500m and is best known for its iconic tea plantations – set up originally by the British, known as the ‘Plantation Raj’. Its also home to beautiful national parks, mountains, hill towns, stunning views, and, as we were to find out, not a single straight section of road!
First stop was Kandy. Kandy is a large city known as the cultural capital, with a long history of being the Royal seat of Sri Lanka. We set off later than expected after our hire car met with an accident (pre delivery, thankfully) so my work colleagues once again excelled themselves by arranging a replacement via a friend. Car hire here is very different. Cars cost a fortune to buy and maintain, so many people rent them out for weekends to help pay the bills. You call a bloke, he comes with his car, you shake hands and pay him, and off you go!
The drive up to Kandy was nothing short of insane – busy Friday traffic on narrow windy roads in the dark with everyone in a mad rush – I eventually got the hang of the ‘uphill blind corner petrol tanker overtake manoeuvre’ – for go kart fans – I think our time at the track has helped my SL driving no end !!!
We eventually arrived in Kandy , all our paintwork and skin intact, and settled into our tiny guesthouse, which was perched at the edge of a rainforest near the centre of town, at the end of a twisty gravel road ( a win for Googlemaps).
In the morning we wandered down to visit Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic – a Buddhist temple where various versions of a similar story compete to describe the events that led to Buddhas incisor being encased there in 7 babushka doll like layers of golden casket. There is a lot of historical debate about whether it is really Buddhas tooth – the Portuguese say they destroyed it – but the temple is nonetheless large and beautiful. The grounds also house the palace from the last Kandyian king – the Kandy empire by the 18th century were still independent from the Brits (the last in SL), but disliked by the locals as they were actually Indians from Tamil Nadu who had suppressed the Sinhalese after taking over the kingdom in the 16th century when the last Sinhalese king died without offspring. The threat of an uprising convinced the King to peacefully handover to the British in 1815.
Click to enlarge photos
That afternoon we walked around the lake in the centre of Kandy, and returned to the cultural centre in the evening for a surprisingly exciting hour of traditional Kandyan dancing
The kids loved the fire eaters and walkers
The following day we jumped back into our Nissan Sunny and headed off to Kitulgala stopping on the way at the magnificent Royal botanic gardens at Peredeniya, which we loved for their wide open spaces and huge trees