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.

 

Day 2 – From Naula to Nuwara Eliya via Katugasthota bypassing Kandy (129 km)


Meer Ali and Nanda Wanninayaka in Nuwara Eliya

Meer Ali and Nanda Wanninayaka in Nuwara Eliya

We started from Naula and bypassed Kandy as it is an utter waist of time to go through the city. So, we went via Katugasthota to Peradeniya, then to Nuwara Eliya via Gampola. The road was amazing and the vegetation was so green and beautiful. It was colder when we reached Nuwara Eliya, the paradise in Sri Lanka due to lapse rate. We spent the night at a small guest house opposite famous Lake Gregory in Nuwara Eliya. We also walked around the lake at night which was a beautiful experience.

At Gampola town

At Gampola town

Nanda-Wanninayaka in Nuwara Eliya

Nanda-Wanninayaka in Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya

A waterfall in Nuwara Eliya

A waterfall in Nuwara Eliya

Meer Ali from India with the waterfall in the background

Meer Ali from India with the waterfall in the background

Nanda-Wanninayaka-waterfall-0

Nanda Wanninayaka with the waterfall in the background

Meer Ali at Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya

Meer Ali at Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya

Nanda Wanninayaka at Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya

Nanda Wanninayaka at Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya

Night at Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya

Night at Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya

Motorcycle Journeys – Trip to Mahawilachchiya from Koradekumbura via Nuwara Eliya and Kandy with Aleksandar Isailović from Serbia


Route to Nuwara Eliya from Koradekumbura

Route to Nuwara Eliya from Koradekumbura

Aleksandar Isailović from Serbia and I were woken up by Jayaweera Jayasundara in the morning of May 17, 2017 as we had asked him to do so to see how his “students” practiced physical exercises early hours of the day in the village playground.  Jayaweera arranged a three wheeler for us and I felt bad as to why we can’t walk while others in the village just walk or jog to the playground. But he wanted us to be comfortable I guess.

Jayaweera Jayasundara at the playground while his followers are doing physical exercises.

Jayaweera Jayasundara at the playground while his followers are doing physical exercises.

Jayaweera Jayasundara at the playground while his followers are doing physical exercises.

I was ashamed of traveling to the playground by a vehicle as there were 50 odd people – young, middle aged and very old – were already there and they all had walked to the place before 5.00 am. How many things do we take for granted when there is an initiative like this? (I will write a lengthier blog post on this later to do the right justice to Jayaweera and his followers.)

Jayaweera's family with Aleks

Jayaweera’s family with Aleks

Jayaweera’s wife took the pain of cooking us Kiribath and Katta Sambola for breakfast.  She was very caring for us and arranged two lunch packets also for us to have on the way. We said goodbye to the family and Koradekumbura.

On the way to Nuwara Eliya we stopped at Seetha Amman Temple to take few pictures. This is a temple which the Indians value and respect more than the Sri Lankans. The temple is situated in Sita Eliya and is believed to be the place where the King Ravana, the all-powerful ancient Sri Lankan king kept the Indian princess Sita imprisoned to take revenge from her husband Rama who insulted Ravana’s sister Shurpanakha . Read Ramayana to learn more details. This is just a legend than history.

Seetha Amman Temple, Nuwara Eliya

Seetha Amman Temple, Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya City from a distance

Nuwara Eliya City from a distance

Road to Nuwara Eliya City

Road to Nuwara Eliya City

We went to Nuwara Eliya and spent some time at the Lake Gregory which was a very picturesque site. Water level was low as Nuwara Eliya does not get sufficient rain in the summer. I wanted to ride a horse here but we did not have enough time for it as we had a long way to go back to Mahawilachchiya.

Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya

Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya

In Lake Gregory in Nuwara Eliya

At Lake Gregory in Nuwara Eliya

Aleksandar Isailović at Lake Gregory in Nuwara Eliya

Aleksandar Isailović at Lake Gregory in Nuwara Eliya

A vegetable stall by the roadside

A vegetable stall by the roadside

We spent some time to take pictures of spectacular extensive tea estates. The greenery and the intermittent fog with the mist made the place very romantic. I was lucky to spend the whole year 2006 surrounded by this type of stunning environment. I want to return to the hills for good. In fact, I was planning this since I was a kid and saw the beauty of Nuwara Eliya in Sarath Madhu’s comic ඉතිං ඊට පස්සේ (Ithin Eeta Passe) in the comic weekly සිත්තර (Siththara) where the story was wound around the hills in Sri Lanka. The only thing which prevented me settling down in here was my commitments to Horizon Lanka at Mahawilachchiya. But now I am planning to transfer the project to the safe hands of the youths in Mahawilachchiya who are being given responsibilities to run the place on their own. It will take time, but I am confident about them.

Route to Mahawilachchiya from Nuwara Eliya

Route to Mahawilachchiya from Nuwara Eliya

 

A tea estate in Nuwara Eliya

A tea estate in Nuwara Eliya

In Nuwara Eliya

in Nuwara Eliya

Aleksandar Isailović in Nuwara Eliya

1 Aleksandar Isailović in Nuwara Eliya

We had some tea at a small tea shop in Pussellawa and it was not hot enough. I complained the shop keeper and he apologized and waved off the price of the two tea cups. We paid for bananas we had there though.

A fruit stall in Pussellawa

A fruit stall cum tea shop in Pussellawa

We did not want to go via Kandy City as Aleksandar had already visited Kandy the previous week. Kandy is a congested city with a lot of traffic and I didn’t like to get stuck in there. The only time I loved Kandy was when I was in love, a long time ago. I loved to walk along the Lake Nuwara Wewa holding hands with my sweet ex-girlfriend. Those were the days….. Aah….

A jackfruit stall in Matale - Dambulla road

A jackfruit stall in Matale – Dambulla road

We bypassed Kandy and directly reached Katugastota via Gannoruwa. Had our lunch by the roadside and proceeded to Anuradhapura. We had some delicious jackfruits in a small village between Matale and Dambulla. Aleks loved jackfruits. He had earlier eaten cooked raw jackfruit as a curry and it was here he ate the ripe ones first.

Mahawilachchiya Reservoir

Mahawilachchiya Reservoir

We reached Anuradhapura by the evening and had tea at my sister’s house. Then we proceeded to Mahawilachchiya around 6.30 pm. The whole journey was a fascinating ride for me. But my friend was exhausted as he had to be on the pillion of the bike throughout the whole bike hike as he was not comfortable riding my bike model (Bajaj Pulsar 150) despite having an international driving license.  Thus we ended 630 km – 3 day- bike hike. The whole ride was a “chanceless” one. There was not a single බුදු අම්මෝ! (Oh My God!) moment throughout the ride. At least not for me. I don’t know about Aleks though.