A super early start this morning, getting up at 3:30am, and then on the road with Pubudu for the ~2.5 hour drive to Horton Plains National Park. Stopping on the way to refuel at 4:30am.
Sunrise near the entrance of the park just before 6am.
And at an elevation of 2,130 metres. The temperature was much cooler than in both Ella and down at sea level the day before.
Pubudu sussing out my entrance permit for me. About $25 so not cheap.
A Sri Lankan Sambar Deer. These guys were quite friendly, and seem to get alot of attention (and food) from visitors.
At the start of the trail, where they were quite particular about people taking in unnecessary plastic, and even removed the loose labels on my water bottle and re-wrapped food in paper. It was quite reassuring though to see how they cared about keeping the park clean.
I then headed off at about 6:30am on the 9.5km trail loop to the 'World's End'.
And on the final stretch. World's End is a sheer cliff with a drop of about 1,200 metres (4,000 feet).
My guidebook said that the best time to get there was in the early morning, as after ~9am the cloud rolls in, and you can see nothing but a wall of mist. Hence I had literally speed walked the trail. When I go there at ~7:15am I was the first person to arrive. It was a great place to enjoy breakfast and take in the breath-taking view.
After a few minutes the mist in valley started to clear, and you could see all the way to the bottom. In February 2015, a Dutch honeymooner managed to stumble over the edge. Luckily he was saved by a tree after only falling 30 metres though, and was rescued successfully after 3.5 hours.
At ~7:35am or about 20 minutes after I had arrived, some of the other hikers had started to come, although the clouds was now starting to roll back in.
I then continued on the loop track, on to the Horton Plains.
Stopping to admire Baker Falls, named after the famous explorer, Samuel Baker.
I then met back up with Pubudu in the carpark after a great 3 hour hike. Some endangered and very curious Toque macaques as we drove out of the park.
We then drove on to Nuwara Eliya, a town often referred to as 'Little England'.
At the Grand Hotel, that was first built in 1828 as the holiday residence of Sir Edward Barnes, the fifth Governor of Ceylon.
And where we also refuelled with some coffee and cake.
Nuwara Eliya Post Office. The town used to be the place to escape and relax for the English and Scottish pioneers of Sri Lanka's tea industry.
We then continued north towards Kandy.
The hill country between Nuwara Eliya and Kandy are where the first tea was planted in Sri Lanka after the coffee crops were wiped out by disease in the 1870's.
At Mackwood's Tea Estate, founded in 1841 by Captain William Mackwood.
I then joined a tour for a brief education on everything about tea and to see the whole process from tree to cup. Tea is still picked entirely by hand in Sri Lanka.
The withering/wilting process, where the tea leaves are gently (but not entirely) dried. The air was thick with the distinctive and familiar smell of fresh tea.
Next is the 'disruption' process, where the leave are bruised and torn to promote and quicken oxidation. I am not a big tea drinker, but it was very interesting to see the process of tea being made from start to finish.
'Fixation' and final drying, where the leaves are slightly heated to stop the oxidation process. Alot of the people in the area are descendants from people in southern India who came to work in the tea plantations. They are also known as Hill Country Tamils, to distinguish them from Tamils in northern Sri Lanka.
Enjoying the finished product.
And getting some tea to take home for 500 rupees (~$3.50).
We then walked down the road to see the tea being picked.
The sacks on their back are hung on straps over their head.
Some other tourists were watching and taking photo's from the road, but I couldn't resist getting closer and went for a walk through the tea plantation.
The ladies were bemused to see an errant tourist in their midst.
And couldn't help having a laugh!.
We then continued the drive north.
Stopping at Ramboda Falls.
Puna Falls in the distance.
We were getting close to Kandy, but it was already 4pm and I was getting quite hungry so we stopped for some pastries.
And getting to try some Sri Lankan sweets.
After negotiating the late-afternoon rush hour traffic we finally made it to the centre of Kandy.
Kandy Lake. Kandy is is the second largest city in Sri Lanka after Colombo, and is the cultural capital of the country.
The lake was created in 1807 by the last Sinhalese king of Kandy, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, using forced labor.
We then went to a Kandy cultural dance. We got there quite early so managed to get front row seats.
Playing with fire!.
The costumes and performance was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.
And some more fire to finish!
After the show we headed to a local restaurant for dinner.
And had some delicious beef curry and rice for less than $2 each. Super spicy too!
At my room at Blue Haven Guesthouse where I had a shower and had an early night, ready for another early morning tomorrow.
The view from my balcony at 5:30am, with Pubudu warming up his car below.
First stop of the early morning, the Temple of the Tooth, a UNESCO World heritage site beside Kandy Lake. Security to get in was very tight, as the temple had been attacked previously including with a massive truck bomb by the LTTE in 1998.
We got there just after opening but it was already very busy for puja (offerings or prayers).
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth houses Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic, a tooth of the Buddha.
The long queue of people stretching up the stairs.
People queueing up to the small window to get a glimpse of the gold casket, holding 5 further small caskets of diminishing size with the holy tooth held within (you don't actually get to see the tooth itself though).
People lighting prayer candles.
We then went for a walk around Kandy Lake, and had breakfast of egg sandwiches and banana that the guesthouse had packed for us.
Next stop was the Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue, situated up on a hill overlooking Kandy.
We then drove to the outskirts of town to see the Royal Botanical Gardens. Created in 1750, the gardens were used by Lord Mountbatten during the Second World War as the headquarters of the South East Asia Command.
I was pretty exhausted from the two early mornings in a row, so laid out under one of the tree's and enjoyed the shade and peace and quiet.
After the nap, I lumbered over to the garden cafe and had a nice cool lassi.
Despite being Saturday, the traffic was still pretty crazy with the roads jam packed. To avoid any chance of being stranded in Kandy, we drove over to Polgolla Reservoir to confirm the landing/boarding place for my afternoon flight back to Colombo Airport. Luckily just as we arrived a plane was just landing, so got to see it touch down and taxi in.
It was about 2pm, so we went to grab some lunch at a local restaurant before heading back to the reservoir to catch my afternoon flight.
The Cessna 208 from Colombo flying over the reservoir gates on final...
...and touching down into Polgolla Reservoir. Cinnamon Air is a relatively new airline, commencing operations in 2013.
The airline has three Cessna's, each capable of holding 8 passengers each.
They kept the engine running while the passengers disembarked from Colombo and I quickly boarded soon after.
The view out the window of Mahaweli River as we take off.
And continuing the ascent.
It was just me for the return flight to Bandaranaike International Airport.
Looking over the pilot's shoulders.
Starting the descent into Colombo Airport.
On finals before touchdown.
And coasting down the runway.
Once we parked up, two people came out to meet me at the plane, one to hold an umbrella for me for the short walk to the terminal, and another to carry my bag. Not sure if you get that even in first class on Emirates!
And at Cinnamon Air's dedicated domestic terminal at Bandaranaike International Airport.
Their driver then dropped me off at the main international terminal to catch a taxi into Negombo.
Outside the Camelot Beach Hotel with the '1 lakh' Tata Nano taxi. I was pleasantly surprised for my first ride in a Nano, which has a miniscule 2 cylinder, 624cc engine with a 28kW (38hp) output.
And my room for the night. It had been recently refurbished, and for $49 a night was very reasonable.
And the view of the hotel pool and the beach beyond from my window. As Negombo is only ~ 6 kilometres from Bandaranaike International Airport, it is a popular place for travellers to relax at the beginning or at the end of their trip to Sri Lanka.
I then went out to enjoy the last few moments of sunlight on Negombo Beach.
And enjoyed a relaxing stroll while watching the sunset.
Dinner was just at the hotel restaurant, where they had a buffet with a great selection of tasty food, with both local and international cuisine.
And a good selection of sweets for dessert to finish too.
I went for a morning run around Negombo after a good sleep in. I ran past a couple of churches and as it was Sunday morning, both were literally overflowing with people, with outside loudspeakers so they could hear the Pastor speaking from within. Apparently more than half of the people in Negombo are also Catholic.
After a shower I then headed down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.
I was exhausted after the last five days of travel, so went for a swim in the pool and then lazed out on a lounger for most of the morning before checking out just before 12pm.
After settling my hotel bill, I went for a walk into the centre of Negombo.
At the local markets.
Where they were selling some very fresh chicken!
I then wandered down to the fish markets.
Where they were lying out fish to dry.
I then went to a local restaurant for one last fiery hot Sri Lankan curry.
And then went to buy some apple shaped candy to take back home.
After flagging down a tuk-tuk driver, I was off to the airport for 1000 rupee's. He managed to doze off on the way though, and narrowly missed crashing into a lady on a motorbike!
Spending the last of my Sri Lankan rupee's on a chocolate brownie at an airside café.
And about to board the Oman Air 737 at the end of a fun six days in Sri Lanka!