Archives for the month of: April, 2016

We flew from Colombo on the 26th March and had booked a handy hotel “The Orange Suites” which was only 15minutes from the airport in Bangalore. It was a good location for getting back to the airport to catch the Flybus to Mysore the next morning which took 4 hours. We headed to the quirky “Pai Vista” cave restaurant with waiters dressed in safari gear for a bite of good Indian food with our driver who then took us from Mysore to Udayagiri, another 3 hour trip. It was a better way to travel than the very winding roads
from Calicut up into the mountains.

The retreat had changed quite a lot with the addition since last year of two new blocks of six units each and a large new restaurant and yoga hall. These were all being completed while we were there.
We also had the addition of a rescued puppy named Julie and a mother dog with a few of her puppies.

When we arrived there were several French guests including a French Buddhist monk, an American who lived in France and several English and an Italian. Everyone was very friendly and supportive which
made for a great atmosphere while having the sometimes taxing treatments.

We stayed in one of the new units built last year which had wonderful views over the surrounding mountains and down to the plain below. The sounds of cicadas and birds of all kinds greeted us in the early mornings. Some of the smallest birds had the loudest voices and the woodpeckers seemed to start their tapping later in the day. There was the occassional sound of gas guns from the wildlife reserve below to deter the elephants from going too close to the villages.

The coffee trees looked very sad with their drooping leaves waiting for rain. The coffee had been harvested in January and February. We did get a quick couple of downpours and some of the coffee
trees below came into flower with a lovely subtle perfume. The trees pick up after the monsoon rains start in May/June.

There was no wifi available for the computers and the signal for the mobile phones was usually very weak so I was driven to a town about 1/2hour away to use the internet and Maurice continued on to
another town to the dentist to have his root canal treatment and full ceramic crown fitted. Again a gem of a find, recommended by the doctor at Udayagiri with the whole thing costing $160!

There were many more staff this year with many being trained to cope with the increase in guests to come. All the staff were helpful and obliging from the cooks and waiters to the therapists, doctors and night watchmen and Ajith the manager who became a father for the first time while we were there.
We visited his wife’s home and met the very alert fellow who was only six days old.

The yoga master’s brother was married and we were all invited to the wedding so I and another couple of English guests went along and we were the objects of curiosity. Many of the guests came and
spoke to us and once we had congratulated the bride and groom we were ushered inside to have a delicious biryani lunch before heading back to the retreat. It was a great experience.
We even saw an elephants on the way back.

We heard no tigers this year – they probably moved further afield with all the construction going on. It was much hotter at this time of year with a lot of morning mist and haze all day but the
sunrises were always beautiful.

Friends have asked us what we did all day. The treatments usually started from 9.30am and went throughout the afternoon depending on how many guests there were. We also had the 1/2hour doctor’s consultation every day. A sample of the day was usually:

Puja 6.15am-7am
Yoga from 7-8.30am
Breakfast 9am
Walk down and up the mountain 1hour
Doctor’s consultation 1/2 hour
Yoga nidra 12noon for an hour
Lunch 1pm
Treatment 2.30pm- massage/poundings/medicated rubs 1hour
Afternoon Yoga 4.30-5.30
6pm Dinner
Puja 7pm

We also got some exercise from the 82 steps from our unit to the restaurant and yoga hall several times a day!
There were a couple of temple festivals while we were there and “Vishu” a big family celebration for the New Malayalam Year on the 14th april. Only the Christian and Muslim staff were on duty while
all the Hindu staff had the day off. We were invited to the manager’s house to celebrate where various neighbours and family were gathered in a lovely rural setting about 1 1/2hours away.

Maurice had his treatment so three of us went and spent a nice couple of hours chatting and lots of photos were taken by all.

It was easy to stick to our specific diets and regimen while we were at the retreat and the test will be once we leave and go back into the real world with all it has to offer. We both enjoy the
yoga so much but it is very difficult when we move around so much in the van to keep it up.

We left Udayagiri on the 24th April for the long drive down the mountain and into Calicut to catch our flight to Mumbai.

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We drove the next day from Ella to Tissamaharana and checked in to the very nice “Coconut Garden hotel”. Thank goodness we had a light lunch because a Safari jeep picked us up (Ravi included) for the bumpy hour’s ride to Yala National Park and then the very bumpy ride around the park. There were not many vehicles there in the afternoon for which we were grateful. Parts of the park border the
Indian ocean and the park itself was beautiful with some wide open areas and many watering holes.

The driver was very knowledgeable about the flora and faura and he pointed out many species of birds which we otherwise would not have seen. We saw monkeys,wild boar, crocodiles, wild buffalo, spotted
deer,elk and three different elephants.
As we neared the end of our time in the park our guide got a call to say that leopard had been spotted so we tore off and joined another few vehicles. We saw the back of a female and male leopard disappearing through the dense bush. We were lucky to see the elephants and leopards really as in the 35,000 acre park there were only a dozen elephants and twenty two leopards.

The next day we left for the 3hour drive to Koggala Lake to see where the Catalina flying boats used to land during WWII. There was also an old Avro plane parked near a cafe near the ocean. We had
lunch at quaint “Cafe Ceylon” and then went on to Galle for the night. The rice harvest was in full swing with truckloads of rice waiting to get into the storage sheds and mounds of rice drying at the side of the road. There were many stalls of Buffalo curd (yoghurt) along the road so we stopped I bought a small terracotta container with curd, topped with a little honey to try. I’d had buffalo mozzarella but never curd. It was delicious. They discard the old containers each time so we saw ingenious walls of terracotta containers, some painted white along the road.
I spotted a dead crocodile in the river mouth but Ravi and Maurice didn’t believe me so we turned around and they too saw it upside down and rather on the nose!

We reached the historical enclave of Galle which sits on a promontory. It was built by the Portuguese in the 14th Century but most of the heritage buildings date from the Dutch in the 16th
century. Most buildings are well restored and many swank hotels and villas were all over the small town. Ravi told us that most of the area was run by muslims and he also said there were many fake
gemstones manufactured in China to be found in the town.

We stayed in a lovely rooftop room in a quiet area in the town which was more or less pedestrian with very little traffic. Before dinner we walked up to the ramparts to watch the sunset with many

schoolchildren who were very excited about up coming interschool cricket matches. We found a very atmospheric restaurant called “Forteza” and had a great meal before walking back to our guesthouse.

At Madu Oya (Lake Madu) the next day we were given by Ravi a tour on the 68km river bounded by mangroves and small islands. One produced cinammon in every shape and form and another had a small
ancient Buddhist temple. From there Ravi took us back to Colombo on the expressway for our last night in town. We were sorry to leave Ravi who had been an excellent driver and guide and a lovely chap. We had left our large bags in the Colombo 7 B and B and stayed the night there again. We had a slap up dinner at the Kingsbury
hotel near Galle Face.

After a visit to the hairdresser the next morning by tuk tuk and a last Sri Lankan meal at Green Cabin we were recommended to go to the “Barefoot” shop with it’s wonderful hand-loomed fabrics before
catching the taxi to the airport for the flight to Bangalore.

We thoroughly enjoyed our two week trip around some of Sri Lanka and will definately return to see more.

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We had an early 4.30am start before the station master from Nuwara Eliya drove us to Horton Plains National Park an hour and a half away. It was worth getting up early to see the beautiful sunrise.
The hotel had packed us some sandwiches and eggs for breakfast which we enjoyed before we set off on the walk. It was quite cold until the sun rose and we started along the 9km track through the plain. We saw a wild Elk and several bird species and we were on our own for a lot of the time and could enjoy the tranquility of the place and the beautiful views down the valley at world’s end. We had quite a hunt for our driver because when we arrived back at the carpark it was overflowing with tuk tuks and cars.

It was light on the return journey and the hills were a patchwork of vegetables – potatoes, carrots and leeks.

We had a bit of a rest and then Ravi took us to see the very British Raj looking “Grand Hotel” and “Hill Club” with their manicured gardens and period decor. Very Pukka!
The Grand Hotel had a very good Indian vegetarian restaurant at the bottom of their driveway and it was so popular that there was a crowd of people waiting outside for people to leave. Luckily we arrived early.

Ravi drove us the following day to “Nanu Oya” where we boarded the train for the scenic ride to “Ella” through the beautiful tea plantations and mountains. Many of the hills were covered with gum trees and we saw workers burning off low scrub along the way. Two years ago the fire took hold and the train was cancelled for a week as the forest burned. I got a lot of information from “Kasun” the train guard who let me stand in his compartment for the 3hour trip. He gave me tips of what to look out for along the way and was always on the lookout along the track. He told me that he has had to deal with people who threw themselves in front of the train and also stupid passengers who sat on the edge with open doors or who lent out too far and fell off the train. He had the whitest trousers I’d ever seen.

We reached Ella which was 1000mtrs lower down the mountain and which was warmer during the day. It seemed to be a backpacker’s haven by the number of young people staggering around under their enormous packs. It was the stopping off point for those who then took buses down to the coast.
The “view” hotel high up overlooking “Little Adam’s Peak” and down the valley was a beautiful spot for guests however the driver’s quarters were sub-standard so Ravi moved hotels after the first night.

We walked up through the tea gardens and climbed the Peak in the morning to have beautiful views all around Ella. A dog was posing for us on the edge of the rock and didn’t move from there for as long as we were there. We met a nice Irish couple at the top so stopped and chatted to them for a while. In the afternoon we drove down the mountain to see Ravana Falls where locals and tourists were enjoying a dip below the waterfall.

It was full moon on the 22nd March (Poya)so no alcohol was being served. We walked down into town to “Down Town Rotti” and had a good “Rotti Kotthu” a Sri Lankan speciality which was very tasty.
I then had a coffee and Maurice a hot chocolate and that cost as much as the two meals and two lime sodas combined.

Ravi told us that unlike southern India the marriages are no longer arranged ones except in the small villages and different generations tend not to live under the same roof especially in the cities. The younger generation all want their own space.

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