Day 3 – From Nuwara Eliya to Tissamaharama via Bandarawela, Ella, Wellawaya and Thanamalvila (143 km)


Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

On the third day of our motorcycle journey, August 10, 2016, Meer Ali and I left the guest house in Nuwara Eliya around 9.00 am. The Lake Gregory nestled among the misty hills was beckoning and we rode towards the Lake Gregory, enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the cool breeze for a while, before getting back on the road once again towards the Nuwara Eliya City. Lake Gregory, which is situated at an elevation of 1,874 meters created by the British who ruled the island for some 150 years from 1815 till 1948 and named it after one of the British Governors in Colombo. The English liked Nuwara Eliya because of its temperate climate. In fact, Nuwara Eliya is also known as “Little England” to date due to its colder climate, British style architecture and a host of other similarities. For some time, we did not feel like leaving such a beautiful garden city like Nuwara Eliya, probably the most beautiful in the whole country. But we had a mission to complete and continued with our motorcycle journey once again.

If you want to read more on Nuwara Eliya, please read the passages below courtesy of some other sources.

“The city of Nuwara Eliya ( City of Light) was founded by the Englishman  Samuel Baker, the discoverer of Lake Albert and the explorer of the Nile in 1846. Nuwara Eliya’s climate lent itself to becoming the prime sanctuary of the British civil servants and coffee, tea & rubber planters in Ceylon (or present-day Sri Lanka.) Nuwara Eliya, is also known as Little England, was a hill country retreat where the British colonialists could immerse in their pastimes such as fox hunting, deer hunting, elephant hunting, polo, golf and cricket.

Although the town was founded in the 19th century by the British, the district is today visited by native travelers, especially during April, the season of flowers, pony races, go cart races and auto rally.

Many of the buildings retain features from the colonial period such as the Queen’s CottageGeneral’s HouseGrand HotelHill ClubSt Andrew’s Hotel and Town Post Office. New hotels are often built and furnished in the colonial style. Visitors the city can wallow in its nostalgia of bygone days by visiting the landmark buildings. Many private homes maintain their old English-style lawns and gardens. 

Due to its highland location, Nuwara Eliya has a subtropical highland climate  having no pronounced dry season, a monsoon-like cloudy season and with a mean annual temperature of 16 °C (61 °F).

In the winter months, there can be frost at night, but it warms up rapidly during the day because of the high sun angle.

The town’s attractions include a golf course, trout streams, Victoria Park, and boating or fishing on Lake Gregory. Victoria Park is an attractive and well-used oasis. It is popular with birdwatchers at quieter times because of the good opportunities for seeing species, particularly the Indian blue robinpied thrush or scaly thrush lurking in the denser undergrowth. The Kashmir flycatcher is another attractive bird species in the park.

Galway’s Land Bird Sanctuary, close to Lake Gregory, is an area of montane forest a few kilometers east of the town. Covering an area of 0.6 km, it is home to many bird and mammal species endemic to Sri Lanka, including wild boar and barking deer.”

 Nuwara Eliya City, Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya City, Sri Lanka

Our next stop was at the spectacular Post Office building in the city which is located in the center of Nuwara Eliya town and is one of the oldest post offices in Sri Lanka. The Tudor-style two-storey red-brick building with a clock spire, was constructed in 1894 by the British. We took pictures of this Post Office. I am certain this may be a strong contender to be one of the world’s ten most beautiful post office buildings. There were some rumors a few months back, that this 124-year-old post office was to be sold to an Indian businessman who intended to convert it into an Indian restaurant. The proposal was met with angry protests by the city folks and the workers of the postal department in Nuwara Eliya. Hence, the plan was temporarily withheld. Read more here: https://www.pressreader.com/sri-lanka/sunday-times-sri-lanka/20170604/281668254940656.

Post Office, Nuwara Eliya

Post Office, Nuwara Eliya

Farms close to Nuwara Eliya town.

Farms close to Nuwara Eliya town.

Our next stop was at the famous Seetha Amman Temple in Sita Eliya (Sita is written as Seetha by being more faithful to the way it is pronounced by Sri Lankans.) Legend says that this is the area where the Indian princess Sita was said to have been held in captivity by the all-powerful Sri Lankan king Ravana, to hurt the pride of the Indian prince Rama who was the husband of Sita.

(I will publish a separate post on the Ramayana epic once I finish writing about our own epic 5-day motorcycle journey.)

History and legends apart, the temple (also called kovil by Hindus) is a beautiful structure and both Meer and I took a lot of pictures of it from various angles. It is well-maintained and clean.

Seetha Amman Temple, Seetha Eliya, Nuwara Eliya

Seetha Amman Temple, Seetha Eliya, Nuwara Eliya

We stopped by famous Hakgala Botanical Gardens one of the oldest botanical gardens in this part of the world around 1.00 pm. (The garden was established in 1861, under George Henry Kendrick Thwaites as an experimental cultivation of Cinchona, a commercial crop thriving at the time. Once the Tea replaced the Cinchona, it was turned into an experimental Tea cultivation. In 1884 it transformed to a garden. Since then many sub-tropical and some temperate plants planted in the gardens. – Wikipedia)

It was a mesmerizing place full of various flowers and huge fern trees (which might have left unharmed since the Jurassic Age I guess.) When you see these treasures of nature, it is apparent that you feel antagonized about the British colonialists, the only Western power who were able to capture the whole of Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) as to what damage they have inflicted to this otherwise evergreen rain-forest in the Central Hills of Sri Lanka by introducing coffee, cinchona, then tea and various non-endemic flora for mere industrial and commercial purposes by uprooting and decimating (in my words, by raping, savaging and ravaging) the island’s virgin rain forest canopy, especially right throughout these hilly terrains, eventually causing in the process long periods of droughts in other parts of the country, as can be seen today. Since I am not an ecologist or an environmentalist but a naturalist, I had do better wind up the commentary on how the English planters completely bared vast swaths of island’s pristine primordial forestation.)

Huge fern trees at Hakgala botanical Garden, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Huge fern trees at Hakgala botanical Garden, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

A rose bush in Hakgala Botanical Garden

A rose bush in Hakgala Botanical Garden

Meer Ali in a place between Nuwara Eliya and Bandarawela.

Meer Ali in a place between Nuwara Eliya and Bandarawela.

Meer Ali enjoying "Ceylon Tea) in a place between Nuwara Eliya and Bandarawela.

Meer Ali enjoying “Ceylon Tea) in a place between Nuwara Eliya and Bandarawela.

Nanda Wanninayaka in a tea garden.

Nanda Wanninayaka in a tea garden.

Nanda Wanninayaka and Meer Ali

Nanda Wanninayaka and Meer Ali

Next, we proceeded to Bandarawela, one of the best honeymoon locations (which I too had the pleasure of enjoying in 2006) in the world. As we crossed the Nuwara Eliya district boundary, the landscape began to change. The closer the Badulla district, the more you get to see vegetable farms than tea estates. Still, it is a beautiful sight to behold and I wonder if anyone would complain about the change.

rawana-falls-0.jpg

Rawana Falls, Sri Lanka

We reached Ravana Falls passing beautiful mountain ranges via Bandarawela and Ella, one of the most visited places by the foreign tourists in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka. Once you pass Ella and reach Ravana Falls, you begin to feel that the climate has had a drastic change. Till Ella, misty mountains with with intermittent showers, drizzles, rainbows, endless tea gardens, beautiful waterfalls, and so forth kept soothing our souls and bodies, but the moment you go down to Ravana Falls, you are in the Dry Zone. The precipice is so steep and one cannot understand how a whole climate system changes within such a small distance. I doubt whether similar places are elsewhere in Sri Lanka to see such a sudden and vast climatic difference within such a short time and distance.

Meer and I spent quite a time at Ravana Falls and here a crafty vender of corn cobs locked horns with me as I bought corn cobs for Meer also for the Sri Lankan rates. He immediately recognized Meer was not Sri Lankan and has to pay more for corn cobs. The funny part of this is that not a single traffic policeman could recognize Meer was not a Sri Lankan during almost 1000 km motorcycle journey to issue him a ticket for not having an international driving license authenticated or attested by the Department of Motor Traffic in Sri Lanka😊. Meer and I took turns in riding the bike.

We reached Tissamaharama by late night on the bike by passing Wellawaya and Thanamalvila. Our plan for the next day was to ride to Yala National Park.

*Thanks Mr. Lionel Balasuriya (USA) and Mr. Sunil Rutnayake (Sri Lanka) for giving me a hand with providing more facts and editing the post.

 

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Recounting the Five Lucky Misadventures in My Two-Score-and-Ten Years of Bike Hikes in Sri Lanka


Nanda Wanninayaka on Bajaj Pulsar 200 (A file photo)

Nanda Wanninayaka on Bajaj Pulsar 200 (A file photo)

I have been riding motorbikes for over 30 years now. It is the most fascinating pastime for me, maybe next to horse-riding. (It is too early to take horse-riding a pastime because I don’t own one, not yet.) I started motorbike riding with a Honda C70 model motorbike my eldest brother bought for the family and then went into riding other models the friends use too. I bought my first motorbike, a stunning Bajaj Pulsar 200, made in India, the talk of the town those days and then kind of downshifted it to Bajaj Pulsar 150 in a folly without a valid reason. That unlucky Bajaj Pulsar 150 is now rusting away in a garage after it faced its second terrible accident. (First one happened by my brother-in-law.) I am hoping to salvage it by spending another 30,000 (195 USD) to 40,000 LKR (260 USD.) Let’s see how it goes.

What follows is the narrative of the five major bike accidents I met with still lived to tell the five successive stories.

First Misadventure

The first mishap took place when I was still in my teens and had not even been licensed to ride a motorbike. I was riding my eldest brother’s Honda C70 with my younger brother, Aruna as pillion. We were riding on the Suriyadamana Road.  I was as thrilled and free as a bird as this was a time I could enjoy daredevil things away from the watchful eyes of my other elder brother (Upali Aiya) who was hot-tempered and would be mad if he saw how fast I rode. With both Aruna and I frenzied with the new-found freedom, I was on the top speed and was singing “Zindagi Ek Safar” (the famous Bollywood song superstar Rajesh Khanna sang while riding the bike with his screen sweetheart on the pillion in the movie Andaz) as this was the song that surrounded my mind whenever I sped on a motorbike. The Sinhala language song of the same tune was also popular with charismatic Sri Lankan superstar Vijaya Kumaranatunga as the lead role.

The frenzy did not last that long. There was a sharp bend when you passed the public cemetery and I had no control at all when I tried to negotiate the corner and the bike got almost airborne and the rider and his pillion unceremoniously landed up on a heap of coconut leave decorations that had been used for decorations in a cemetery ceremony a few days earlier. I knew I was unharmed and was not sure if my younger brother was. He was not to be seen. It was then he, too, emerged from the heap of coconut thatches decorations and found to be unhurt. Maybe we both were saved because the heap of coconut thatches absorbed the impact and cushioned us. The bike’s front was damaged a lot and we could still manage to ride home the disfigured bike. I was waiting to see my elder brother going into a rage and barge at me but au de contraire, a calm elder brother told us just to be careful next time. This was the first big accident I had with a motorbike.

Second Misadventure

Nanda and Gayani

Nanda and Gayani (A file photo)

I was newly married and the nuptial couple were proceeding from the hilly and cool Badulla, or in other words, my better-half, a small-time beauty if I may classify her so, and I were on my younger brother Aruna’s Bajaj Pulsar 180 bike. Road from Badulla via Mahiyanganaya and Polonnaruwa was not in an acceptable state of repair those days but we so far had no problem even though I rode at top speed. We stopped several times on the way for snacks and meals and it was a beautiful sunny day with a gentle breeze – ideal condition for biking. Road was long yet I wasn’t tired and my better-half, too, enjoyed the ride in the pillion. I had been advised by several people not to take such long bike rides and instead use the public transport which was less expensive and less risky. But I was (and am) not the one who pays heed to others, especially in things related to my favorite hobbies. We started early from Badulla’s salubrious hills and it was around afternoon when we reached Habarana, the lush monsoon jungles. From Habarana to Anuradhapura, the marvel of ancient civilizations besides being my native territory, we came even faster because the desired destination, Mahawilachchiya, my native village, was closing in. We thought of taking the road passing Anuradhapura Air Force Camp (aka Northern Camp) and there was a bend of which no notice was taken by me as the corner materializing ahead seemed insignificant compared to the large number of bends we had just been negotiating all along the winding stretches I took from the mountainous Badulla to Loggal Oya on the plains. So, I misjudged that this was something very simple and too small to be treated as a noteworthy bend but the bend thought otherwise. It gave such a resistance and bike took its own control as gravity dictated, and not my frantic anti-gravity inputs to control the machine. It somewhat veered and a kind of careened and dragged itself on the tarmac and my precious cargo, the pillion passenger was thrown asunder from the bike first and me next. When I collected my senses in a rather dizzy way, I first looked at my wife to see if she were unharmed and beheld she was sedentary on the middle of the road and laughing out loud as she used to be. We both were all right saving some bruises in me and the bike was only slightly damaged. One has to be really in the good books of the providence above, to be able to walk away unharmed from such a grave mishap caused by sheer disrespect for Sir Isaak Newton’s laws of gravity.

Third Misadventure

Abhilash Wanninayaka

Abhilash Wanninayaka (A file photo)

The other day, in 2010 I was riding my own Bajaj Pulsar 200 Rocket and I was impatient as I was to see our one and only son, Abhilash after some time. My being emotionally overly eager to be with the child eclipsed my thoughts focusing solely on the bike’s controls and the traffic on the road from Isurupaya, Battaramulla in the metropolis to sub-urban Ja -Ela where my son lived with his mother. I was day-dreaming how to take the child in my arms, take him on the bike, tell him bedside stories at night, and so on. But I was still riding between Borella Junction, a principal roundabout in Colombo city, and the Welikada signal lights. All of a sudden, the bike back-ended a car and it was all my fault as I was behind the car and lucky for the car, nothing much happened as it had a strong buffer. I fell off the bike and could not get up till the driver in the car stopped it and came and gave me a helping hand. I explained to the driver my reason to speed and he being a, considerate man let me go without making a big fuzz out of it. It was a drizzly evening and I should have known better how to ride in such a wet weather condition. Besides, roads in Colombo are perennially greasy due to constantly leaking fuel from vehicles and one should be extremely cautious when riding or driving on Colombo’s metropolitan roads.

Fourth Misadventure

Real Michael Jackson, till I find a photograph of my friend "Local Jackson" I will use this for this post.

Real Michael Jackson, till I find a photograph of my friend “Local Jackson” I will use this for this post.

This was the most bizarre accident I met with. It happened in 2016. To begin with this episode, I could safely say that the great greedy Greek divine, Bacchus has failed to impose a bacchanalian lifestyle upon me. I partake in intoxicating spirits very rarely, and only if a good company is found at that, and I possess enough courage to say no to any drinking party if I am not in the right mood or if I think the company incompatible with me as far as imbibing is concerned. But on this particular day I was silly enough to drink with Sampath (aka Michael Jackson, due to his Jackson mania and Jackson imitations in his youth) during the bright day light, and that is a thing I never do. He brought some strong alcohol and I am a person who hardly get drunk even with the toughest stuff. I hear this is not something to brag about when it comes to drinking and the ones who do not get intoxicated easily have stronger livers and kidneys to filter away the toxic material that is alcohol various denominations of which were apparently invented and made use of among warring peoples. Despite its somniferous medicinal quality of inducing sleep, its misuse can make imbibers go berserk with its narcotic characteristic anesthetizing the drinker to commit inhuman acts, and it is what the wise say and I, am one such. (Once, at my nephew’s wedding I drank a little more than half of a bottle of hard liquor at Ranorawa, a small hamlet in Anuradhapura, and had a lavish meal and followed by a good shower to cool down the stuff running in my circulation and rode my Bajaj Pulsar 200 up to Kahathuduwa, Piliyandala via Puttalam road, some 220 kilometers and did not have any hiccup on the long ride since I was as fit as a fiddle even after gulping down such a big amount of tough stuff.) However, after the drinking session with ‘Jackson’ he implored me to have lunch with him but I declined and started to ride back home, Mahawilachchiya. It is said that one should not drive without having a meal and get exposed to the wind after a drink as both the acts catalyze the intoxicating process. I brushed off such talks and continued riding. I started feeling sleepy while riding but was okay till Oyamaduwa Junction and took the roundabout properly and all I could remember from there was that the speedometer marked a lot more than 100 kmph and I was on a daze. Bang! I heard I was hitting something big and hard and I was thrown off onto the right side of the road and the bike was on the left side of the road. To make things a comedy of errors, I fell asleep soundly just after the accident. Then I could remember a Buddhist monk coming and helping me to stand up and asking if I needed any medical attention. I said no and thanked the monk for helping. In fact, what had happened was that there was a used-up barrel of tar, filled with soil and placed on the middle of the road to prevent vehicles getting into trouble by falling into the big pot hole created in the middle of the road, during floods. It had been marked with yellow stripes but I was in a differently luminous world by that time and did not have the sobriety sense to see it. I broke my collarbone (which had already been fractured by another silly fall while riding inside a garden at a speed less than 5 kmph) and still I am deprived of playing cricket, my favorite game, for two consecutive years due to this fracture.) After this, I decided never to drive drunk even if I feel totally comfortable. It is putting others’ lives in danger than that of mine. Moreover, I decided not to drink alcohol except Wild Apple beer, which was introduced to me by a foreign friend of mine which is quite harmless and not bitter like other brands of beer. Thus, I have said goodbye all other alcoholic beverages.

Fifth Misadventure

Nanda Wanninayaka on Bajaj Pulsar 150 (A file photo)

Nanda Wanninayaka on Bajaj Pulsar 150 (A file photo)

The fifth and the most recent accident was inevitable and it happened on October 22, 2017. I knew it even before I mounted the iron horse that fateful day. I wanted to go to Colombo to submit my visa application for the then impending trip to Ecuador. But I was never ready for this as I did not feel fit enough for such a ride. You could say that I should have taken public transport if I was not comfortable with it but even if I did, I would still have knocked down by a vehicle even while walking that day as I was never fit or ready for this day. I wanted a good night’s sleep but my elder sister, who worries about me much more than I or anyone else on earth does, kept nagging me that I should come back from Ranorawa the previous evening and go to Colombo the next day. I was annoyed as I wanted to rest at Ranorawa with my other sister and her children and the cute grandchild but it was not to be due to constant coaxing from my sister. So, I had to forget everything and retrun to Anuradhapura the same evening and without a good rest or sleep had to ride to Colombo, 200 km far down, early morning the next day. I passed Dambulla (64 km), Kurunegala (110 km), Alawwa (132 km), and I was surprised why I didn’t still have the inevitable accident! Because I knew it would happen and it was inevitable. Passed Warakapola (147 km,) Weweldeniya (148 km) and Nittambuwa (157 km), still I was riding but knew it was imminent. Opposite Imbulgoda (168 km) fuel station, I saw a small sign board on the road side saying that they sell Katu Anoda (Prickly Custard Apple) juice and I went ahead, turned to the other side of the road and came back to the fruit juice stall by turning the bike the proper way. Bang!!! That was all what I heard and the thud was so strong it made me deaf for a while and I felt I was rolling with the bike several times round by round and then it stopped right on my chest. (While I was rolling, all that came to my mind was if I died or got crippled, what would happen to my son?) I could not move a muscle as the whole weight of the iron horse was on my body. People around later said that they thought I was done for! Anyway, I gathered the strength and tried to move the bike off my chest and then a few people who gathered there helped me. They were furious about the school bus driver who hit me from behind for the simple reason that he could not control his speeding and they were trying to harass him. I told the people to see if the kids in the school bus were hurt first. Luckily, they had survived the jerk and were unhurt. Having heard the news, the owner of the bus also came to the spot and asked if I should be taken to a hospital. I told him that I was not that hurt at that moment and there was less pain but the pains would increase by the evening for sure. Scruples notwithstanding, I rather let them leave the scene of accident or rather a traffic crime (where in fact both parties were guilty) because if this case were to be reported to the police the poor bus driver (his wife had just delivered a baby a few days back according to the driver) would have to lose work for a few days. Besides, I was to go to Ecuador and the last thing we both wanted was a court case dragging sine die. Therefore, we settled the case amicably and the bus owner gave me 20,000 LKR as damage – that was all what he could muster and I accepted it even though I knew already this would cost me a little fortune when I go to the repairer. A real gentleman, a Grama Sewaka (a village headman) called Mr. Wipula Jayawardhana who was extra helpful in assisting me after the accident took me to his home and gave me food and accommodation for the night. This is the typical Sri Lankan hospitality that is displayed anywhere in Sri Lanka. My condition worsened by the evening and I had to return home the next day and the bills of medical checkups alone cost me around 15,000 LKR (97 USD.) And the cost of replacing the digital meter of the bike alone costs 15,000 LKR (97 USD) and I am not sure when I would be able to afford to repair the bike.

The Sixth Misadventure –  hopefully the final … … … 

This is yet to happen and let’s hope that I would stay alive at least till I report it. Anyway, I am extra careful in riding motorbikes mainly because I either borrow or hire bikes now. I had to sell my last bike for a song and waiting to buy the next iron-horse, this magnificent Bajaj Pulsar 200 NS. I am not too sure if I would have the same patience once I mount my own bike though.

Bajaj Pulsar 200 NS

Bajaj Pulsar 200 NS

A selection of motorcycle safety URLs (Thanks Sunil Rutnayake for these links and editing my post.)

http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com

https://www.msf-usa.org

http://www.smf.org

msf-usa.org/downloads/mom_v16_GS_low_res.pdf

https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2013/04/10-motorcycle-safety-tips-for-new-riders/index.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorcycle_safety

https://www.motorcyclecruiser.com/maids-motorcycle-accident-study-lessons-921-crashes

https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812148

https://one.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/motorcycle/safebike/anatomy.html

https://rideapart.com/articles/10-common-motorcycle-accidents-and-how-to-avoid-them

http://www.mcrider.com

https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/pdf/mc/motorcyclesafetyguide-a.pdf

https://dmv.ny.gov/driver-training/motorcycle-manual-motorcycle-safety-program

www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/road…/helmet_manual.pdf

http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/report/en/

http://ridermagazine.com/tag/motorcycle-safety/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorcycle_training

http://motorcyclesafetynews.com

https://www.msgroup.org/articles.aspx