Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sri Lanka Adventures (1)

Holidaying in Kandy - Sri Lanka 23-30 December 2010

Our trip to Sri Lanka was one unplanned on the spur of the Sultan’s decision to award a public holiday, a reward to the people to mark the end of the National Day celebrations that had begun on the 18th of November, at the end of December with one week’s notice.

With such short notice the choice of places to visit became somewhat smaller than usual... the Northern Hemisphere was out, being snowed in and flights curtailed, the Middle East and North Africa seemed to offer more of the Nizwa sameness and other interesting places required visas that needed to be processed through Muscat over several days which was out of the question as we’d never be able to connect with the Embassies during working hours. Hence we looked for somewhere exotic that did not require a pre-purchased visa and came recommended by friends and colleagues... So
Sri Lanka and Kandy it was.

A rapid check on the web revealed that our decision had been made just in time as the list of possible accommodation was getting shorter by the day and the flights in and out of Muscat were becoming fuller by the hour as well as more expensive.

We booked our flights, found a hostel in Kandy - The Forest-Glen -and prepared for somewhere different. The anticipation of lush green rainforest, of rain and the possibility of talk with fellow travelers giving us pleasure after the drab sameness and isolation of Nizwa.

Forest Glen lives up to its name.
23rd December:
We left Nizwa as soon as we could on the Wednesday and wandered around the Muscat City Centre getting those few essentials for travel we couldn’t pick up in Nizwa and headed for the airport in anticipation of waiting in some degree of comfort in the Oman Air-Emirates Lounge until our flight was called at 5.00am.

Unfortunately there was no such luck. We couldn’t access the lounge until after the boarding pass had been issued which wouldn’t be until 2.00am. So with a four hour wait in front of us we looked for comfort in the terminal but the Muscat Airport proved to be spartan and devoid of comfort.... even getting a coffee was impossible and the few seats available for waiting passengers to perch on were the targets of many other waiters’ eyes.

Anyhow, we survived and made it through into the comfort of the lounge, coffee, food and a chance to doze.

The trip to Dubai was quickly over. The transit wait was pleasant (at least we could stretch out in some comfort ) while we waited for our flight to be called.

The flight to Colombo was via Male in the Maldives where we were kept on the plane for two hours for refueling and the Maldives holidayers disembarked. The Sri Lanka bound passengers clambered on board and we taxied to the end of the runway. With the anticipatory hum of the engines and feeling of pre-launch surge the plane was readied for take off only to be interrupted by the Captain announcing that we were returning to the terminal as some passengers had not boarded the plane even though their luggage had. So, for security reasons, the luggage was to be found and off loaded before we could be cleared for take off.

We eventually heaved into the air three quarters of an hour later than scheduled to arrive in Colombo closer to 8.00pm than the scheduled 6.20pm.

Fortunately our driver was still waiting, patiently, for us clutching a sign for “JONE PAPPRILL” and our introduction to Sri Lankan transport. The van was redolent with the aroma of damp carpet and the evening dank with tropical drizzle as we headed out of Colombo towards the hills of central Sri Lanka.

We wound our way through narrow roads lined with battered shop fronts, cycling couples - the passengers holding a golf umbrella over the pedalling riders - battered buses, pedestrians ambling, package laden, into the shadows of the street and shrines to deities of many religions looming from lay-bys carved from rain forest up towards Kandy.

Even though it was late at night and, by now, raining steadily the little shops appeared to be determined to remain open, lit by a flickering lamp or trail of coloured lamp rope, until the last possible customer had passed and the final hope of selling the fruit or vegetables or providing a last minute haircut had disappeared into the night.

The porch - Forest Glen
The van ground its way up the hills, passing signs for businesses advertising “Hotels” that weren’t hotels but grocery stores offering a chance to buy a cup of tea and a snack, to reach Kandy around 11.00pm and to make our way up the rutted lanes into the forest park above the town along the imposingly named “Lady Gordon Drive” and the Forest-Glen Bed & Breakfast.

We collapsed into bed around midnight, after a coffee with our hostess, Indra, and fell asleep to the steady drip of rain on the trees outside our room.

No comments: