Having located the missing passport, we piled into a taxi and asked to be taken with all speed to Don Mueang Airport. Bangkok traffic being what it was, requesting speed was rather a joke. Normally, asking an Asian taxi driver for speed would have been extremely ill-advised, given they way they drove as a matter of course.
We arrived intact and were ushered aboard a sparkling clean Thai Airways jet of type long forgotten. The service was impeccable, as always and we arrived finally in Colombo, where we moved in to the Galle Face Hotel..
Perhaps I should have mentioned that this journey took place all the way back in November, 1982. Consequently, the photographs are somewhat antique.
Back in that distant time, we had no internet to help plan an itinerary, but we had Tim who, in spite of his occasional foibles, was an excellent organizer.
The Galle Face, built in 1864, was delightful. We sat looking out to sea, tropical breezes cooling our tired bodies and we relaxed after all the running around. We could happily have stayed put. But there was an island to explore and a very interesting and beautiful one, so we consulted the front desk to inquire about hire cars and decided that for $50 apiece, for a week, we could actually lash out and hire a car with a driver, and not get lost! So we met our good man Nelson, who smiled widely the whole time and made frequent stops at spirit huts on way, just to make sure we would be safe.
Maybe he began making those stops after we broke down in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately people materialized from somewhere to see what was wrong and before long they had the problem rectified, though it was a mystery how this was accomplished with no actual tools.
When he learned that I was going to Sri Lanka, my boss told me I must be sure to visit some old friends who ran a tea plantation, so we drove up into the hills to Hatton and were greeted like royalty.
At that stage jet lag and exhaustion caught up with me, unfortunately, and I collapsed onto quite the most extraordinary bed I have ever slept in.
Let’s just say I didn’t exactly sleep.
Next day, our generous host took us on a tour of the tea plantation
Tea was planted in rows down the sides of the hills. You’ll have to take my word for how lush and green it all was.
In the distance we could see Sri Pada (Mt Adams) elevation 7,359 ft. It is sacred, as the Buddha left a footprint there.
Our hosts pressed us to stay longer, but we had a lot to see and insufficient time, so we pressed on, the following day to Nuwarya Eliya, at 6,000 feet. Here we thought to take dinner at the Hill Club. The only problem being that “proper dress” was required and Bobby had brought only jeans.
This was easily overcome when he borrowed a pair of Frieda’s slacks and rented a tie. It was all frightfully pukka. We were served by waiters wearing white gloves, a set meal for $6. We felt we could afford a bottle of wine!
Recent photographs, from Wikipedia
At the crack of dawn, next morning, we found ourselves in the open back of a Landrover, heading for World’s End. Nelson’s Peugeot was not hardy enough for the route.
The vehicle had been out all night and we sat, somewhat uncomfortably on wet seats, making jokes and trying to convince ourselves that we weren’t cold.
At the end of the road, we had a 3 mile hike to the view from a sheer drop at at 4,000 feet, where you felt you really could see the end of the world and you felt heat and humidity rising up from the plains below.
We were told, cheerfully, that a young couple had jumped the year before. My toes curled.
Continuing our journey through the beautiful countryside, we arrived at a seaside town on the east coast called Kalkudah where we decided to take the luxury of a two night stay.
It was such heaven to sit on our veranda looking out over the sea, and to walk on a beach where the only other person was a fisherman in the distance.
The luxury of two nights in one place meant canceling a visit to Trincomalee, but we thought it best to enjoy ourselves and not go home totally wrecked.
We were staying in local rest houses that were extremely cheap but very comfortable. Full board, which included meals was (then) $10 a night. We began to think we might have to relocate to Sri Lanka.
Everywhere we went people smiled and waved. Perhaps they were glad to see tourists as Sri Lanka has had many periods of political instability when it really wasn’t safe.
There was no evidence of such things when we were there and we loved it.
Refreshed by a lazy day at the beach, we carried on to the 11th century ruins of Polonnarua, which was the ancient Kingdom.
Moonstones were at the bottom of staircases and entrances
Next we went on to Anuradhapura, in the North Central Province, a major, very ancient city dating to the 4th Century BC.
It was a good job we’d had that day at the beach, because, you see this big rock below? We were destined to climb it.
Sigiriya, the Lion Rock, features an ancient fort, at the top, 349 metres. It can be reached via a stairway of 700 steps, some of them next to a sheer drop. I was so proud of myself for making it, but we weren’t done yet.
The fort was interesting and Tim got photographs of the beautiful frescoes:
At Mihintale we were encouraged to climb another 1,000 steps to view a Dagoba and well, we didn’t want to disappoint anyone, so we climbed and were rewarded by viewing the 3 most beautiful peacocks I have ever seen, and many other gorgeous birds.
At Dambulla, more steps to view a cave temple…
We arrived then for our final night in the delightful city of Kandy, nestled in the lush central hills, around a sparkling lake. Here was a place I thought I could be happy for life,
Here, too was the Temple of the Tooth. Dating to the 14th Century, it houses a relic, of the Buddha.
We were able to visit inside the temple and like all sacred Buddhists sites, it moved me. It was quite beautiful.
What could no longer move, however, were my legs. Finished, done, on strike.
At the hotel I had to mount the stairs sideways, dragging each leg as I went, which Tim seemed to find vastly entertaining, himself not being thus afflicted.
Back in Colombo, we wanted to shower and change before going to the airport, so we repaired to the Galle Face and asked if we could rent a single room for the day. Tim and Bob were drawn aside and came back looking amused. “What?” I asked. “Well, they wanted to know if we were gentlemen.” However we were allowed to have the room and made great use of the shower.
Then it was the great trek home which had its moments, the first being that we were given seats in the upper deck, providing still more stairs for my poor malfunctioning legs. I couldn’t even make them go in the right direction. At Dubai I stayed on board, where normally I would have cruised the duty free shops.
In Amsterdam, I was obliged to vacate my seat and collapsed in the airport waiting room.
KLM must have known about my legs and determined to torture me because for the final leg we were once more upstairs and we were seated next to a chatty lady who claimed to be a travel agent returning from a familiarization trip.
Tim talks to everyone so he asked the lady how long she had been in the Netherlands.
“Oh,” said the travel agent:
“we didn’t go there, just the Holland bit.”