A Travellerspoint blog

The 5000 steps of Adams peak

sunny 30 °C

"You what?", "how many?", "5000 steps!", "sounds awful Rob I don't want to do it!". Just 2 weeks prior and I'm reading about Adams peak in our worn out guidebook. "It'll be proper type 2 fun sus, plus your ankles getting better so there's no excuse" I say genuinely quite excited about the prospect of a decent challenge. "Oh, and we have to be up at 2.15am to leave at 2.30am to catch the sunset". Sus looks at me and doesn't say a word, she doesn't need to I've seen that expression many times before, this isn't good news! Fast forward 2 weeks though and we are standing at the top of Adams peak with a huge smile on our faces.

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Adams peak is a unique place as no matter what religion you are (Hindu, Buddhist, Christian) there's something here for you, a bit like Thorpe Park in the summer. We didn't see it but apparently there is an impression of a footprint in a bit of rock at the top of the mountain under a small pavilion. Now depending on what religion you follow this footprint is either the footprint from Buddha himself, created by Shiva (if your Hindu) or St Thomas, the founder of of the Christian faith in India. Pilgrims come from far and wide all year round to ascend the mountain and pay homage to the footprint and their corresponding God.

The climb begins in a small town at the foot of the mountain called Delhousie, it's utterly horrendous. Its a town that serves only one purpose, to squeeze as much money from tourists and pilgrims as humanely possible. Take all of the tackiest plastic toys that you could imagine (think awful fairground or arcade) lined up on stalls that stretch on a single road for about 4km and you have a pretty good idea of what its like. I'm amazed at the sheer quantity of shit (sorry mum but there is no better word!) for sale and as I keep walking past stall after stall I wonder how they are all still in business. There is the odd stall selling useful stuff like wooly jumpers, plastic raincoats, umbrellas etc but the vast majority sell these god awful baby posters (in which every baby is white and usually naked!) and other useless tat. Anyhow, we wonder on and find our guesthouse nestled between the stalls and settle down for a few hours before the dreaded alarm goes off.

'Beep, beep, beep', 2.15am arrives and I force open my eyes. A croaky voice next to me pipes up "I'm not going, you go, leave me here". To my surprise 10 mins later we are both up, dressed and ready for the climb. Luckily for us we had met and agreed to walk with a lovely Swiss couple who we got chatting to over dinner the night before. Having someone to talk to whilst climbing up was great as it completely distracted us and before we knew it we were more than half way up! A quick tea stop and an hour later we were up at the top ready for the sunrise at 6am. The sunrise was incredible. We had a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains as the sun slowly rose from the horizon. As soon as the sun was up we watched a procession in where a rather delicious thali style banquet was paraded around under a very ornate umbrella and the Buddhists all prayed in unison, chanting together. It was the first sign of active religion we had seen and captivating to watch.

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We stayed at the top for around 30 minutes taking in the view then started the walk down. We descended the 5000 odd steps in a couple of hours and headed to our guesthouse for our well deserved brekkie, still talking all the way with the lovely Swiss couple we had met.

Next stop is the city of Kandy - we've heard rather damning reviews of "chaotic" city life but we're reserving judgement until we're actually there! Until next time folks.

Rob and Sus x

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Posted by SusieRout 00:03 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (1)

Under my umbrElla!

Ella and Haputale

sunny 30 °C

As we climb the mountain by bus (a rather less manic experience than getting to the hill stations in India) we immediately relax and look forward to the mountain life which awaits us. Immediately our impressions of Sri Lanka change as the location is beautiful. The stunning mountains stretch as far as the eye can see but its more than that - the people are more friendly and their happy demeanors make us feel more laid back. We feel more satisfied in one day here than we have in a whole week by the beaches. We've quickly come to realise that Sri Lanka isn't a backpacker destination and in order to enjoy a certain level of comfort and visit the tourist attractions you're certainly in your pocket looking for cash much more often. Our shoestring budget of India has vanished and the ability to get what you want when you want at any time of day or night (a man always knows a man who knows a man who can) certainly doesn't exist. We've had to adapt our mindsets but now we're in the mountains that's easier to do.

The first few days have been very special and ones we won't forget quickly. Finding accommodation with a view which isn't booked up is a tall order but we eventually find somewhere and it's certainly worth the miles of walking with our backpacks. We end up in a friendly guesthouse with a view which would rival the best in the world and two of the friendliest couples we've met on our travels. We end up having dinner with Laura and Rob, a couple from Southampton, and it turns out we have lots in common. Having also travelled in India we can relate to the many funny stories they tell and listening to Rob's (two Robs is confusing) tale of his over zealous approach to safety, especially when sleeping with his moneybag on the overnight train, has us in stitches. We do hope they come and visit in NZ! We also had the pleasure of meeting Anissa and Yassine, a French couple who are doing a whistle stop tour of the Country. We really enjoyed our hike up little Adams Peak as dawn broke and loved our non stop easy rolling conversation along the way. It is to them we owe the stunning views of our accommodation for Rob's birthday and as they left, less than 24 hours after they arrived, we found out that they had brought us our room for the night as a present. Such a huge act of kindness even had me lost for words (I know) and left us feeling we were on cloud 9 as we were so amazed at their generosity even after we had just met. We will be sure to pass on this act of kindness along the way.

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Our hike up Ella's rock was impressive, although our efforts at the top weren't rewarded with the picture perfect view I had in mind for Rob's birthday. As soon as we arrived swarms of locals were peering over the edge whilst the army and police assessed the area. It had turned out that a couple of the villagers had fallen to their death from the top the day before and the single flip flop left on the edge of the cliff was a stark reminder that whilst the natural world offers so much beauty it offers so much danger too.

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As we enjoyed the hill country so much we decided to head to the Tamil town of Haputale and enjoyed a 9 mile walk from Lipton's tea plantations to our guesthouse on the side of the hills. We were rewarded with a clear 360 degree view from the top, an unusual sight as the clouds often roll in, and it was stunning. Walking back down and saying hello to the ladies hard at work picking the tea was amazing. What a different life they lead! Although they get paid so badly I was relieved to seen that a hospital was on sight and a school for the children and we even caught a role play of a group of students performing to their teacher who was sat in her woolly hat outside in the sun although we had no idea what it was about. Here we were back to the Indian ways of eating huge amounts of very tasty food for the fraction of the price elsewhere in Sri Lanka and it was nice to be back to our Indian ways for a bit.

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Now we head on a long journey through to Adam's Peak, the 5000 step pilgrimage which I hear is extremely strenuous. I don't know what I've let myself in for as we have to start walking at 2:30am for sunrise but Rob is pretty adamant about it. Let's see what all the fuss is about!

Love Susie xx

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Posted by SusieRout 23:30 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Life's a beach

sunny 30 °C

9th February 2017.
West Coast of Sri Lanka

We've been in Sri Lanka a week now and having been in India we believed it would be of a similar environment but more calm and orderly. We were wrong (surprise surprise) and it's taken this week to adapt to a new culture and way of life and find our feet. We've had to change our plans due to my sprained ankle and this has meant we are travelling our route the wrong way around, starting with the beaches which are dotted all along the west coast and then going inland. I've felt like Goldilocks on holiday; one beach beautiful for sure but deadly quiet (Bentota) one beach too touristy and hectic (it's like a Russian takeover) but the third one (Unawatuna on the South coast) just right. The beaches differ greatly and Sri Lanka caters for everyone's taste, you've just got to find what you want which is the difficult part.

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Since the hype of India we are feeling slightly underwhelmed at the minute as it lacks a certain charm India has. The highs and lows were so extreme there and it wasn't uncommon to experience a whole range of emotions in one single day but there was such a good energy everywhere and the places were so vibrant and the people so friendly. There is no other place like it and by the end it had won us over! So the transfer to Sri Lankan hasn't been quite as easy as we expected although each and every day we become more used to it.

A turning point in the last week was when we visited the Tsunami Museum. It was a raw and thought provoking account of what the Sri Lankan people have been through. When you watch natural disasters at home you're so far removed it's very difficult to comprehend but seeing just how hugely affected the whole Island was then and how it plagues them today explains a lot of the way of the people and you have to admire their grit and determination when everyone has lost so much. What with that and the Civil War this Country has been through so much more than we could ever imagine. Also talking to the Locals brings about a new perspective and once you crack their hard outer shell the majority are genuine and friendly. One woman had set up a few tables outside her home and we went there for a breakfast a couple of times. At the start she seemed rather annoyed we had turned up and demanded we had the scrambled eggs as it was easier to make but by the end she couldn't do enough for us, plying us with more food than you can imagine and telling her stories of her life.

We've also taken a day trip to Galle. It's the fourth largest City and once you get out of the modern part and into the Dutch fort area it's a beautiful place to wile away the hours. There are huge colonial buildings everywhere which has a variety of shops and cafes to choose from and the old fort is dotted along the coast offering fantastic views of the sea.

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We were told by fellow travellers not to expect much from the food in comparison to it's northern neighbour but we've been pleasantly surprised. If you find a Local making food, simply with a couple of tables out the front then you're on to a winner. The home cooked food has been delicious and we have been tucking into huge portions of different Sri Lankan curries, often made out of the local fresh fruit and vegetables in season. I'm slightly concerned at the rate in which our waistbands could expand if we continue like this. We've also had the chance to test out our culinary skills with a Sri Lankan Cookery Course which was great fun. Making coconut milk from scratch is a rather more lengthy process than I imagined and the food was delicious. It is worth noting that the majority of accommodation has been more upmarket too although everything is much more expensive than India.

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At the moment our time here feels like a jigsaw piece and we only have the corner parts. We're looking forward to filling in the gap and creating a well rounded view. We can't wait for Safari which is coming up in the next week and then we're heading inland to the cultural triangle. Exciting times ahead, the mountains await.

Love Susie and Rob

Posted by SusieRout 23:11 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (1)

Vive la Pondy!!

sunny

We arrived in Pondicherry and had unknowingly stumbled into possibly one of the busiest times of year. It was Republic day on the Thursday and a four day holiday/celebration over the weekend. Our blasé attitude towards organising accommodation proved to be a right pain as we spent the first 3 hours going from hostel to hostel with everyone seemingly booked up. We did eventually find an overpriced damp room with a horrendous ceiling and a freezing cold shower.....that'll teach us for not booking early hey!! We put our accommodation woes behind us though and headed out to explore the city of Pondicherry.

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Pondicherry is an old French Colonial fishing port with around a million inhabitants, roughly 7000 being French. The old part of the city is broken into quarters with the French quarter consisting of picture postcard cobbled streets, beautiful old French houses and a rather decent bakery (we did eat too many lovely croissants, yum!!). There is a nice promenade along the surprisingly clean sea front where every evening local families and couples stroll up and down admiring the view with a customary ice cream.

We decided to get up early on our second day in 'Pondy' and take part in a cycle tour of the old part of the city. It was a great introduction to the city and interesting to see our surroundings before it awakens fully. The city has very distinct quarters of Muslim and French and it was fascinating to see the architecture differ so suddenly between them. Post cycle tour we thought what better way to spend the day then with a massage, a look round the city and some yoga in the evening. My massage was great and with a guy who talked to me about his life, his beliefs and his hatred of cricket (first guy I met in India who didn't like cricket). Susie came back from her massage and mentioned the word 'torture chamber' and said she was in a room which wouldn't look out of place in a Jack Bauer 24 episode. Luckily we both survived and spent the rest of the day wandering around the city looking at the BFG sized Ghandi statue and various churches and temples dotted about. In the evening we partook in a yoga session which was an opportunity to prove how unfit and inflexible I am panting and struggling along whilst the seasoned yogis effortlessly contorted their bodies into weird and wonderful shapes. Our dinners in Pondicherry were expensive compared to the rest of India (£12+ for two) whilst being pretty average and we never really got a 'decent' meal despite our best efforts.

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The one big difference we noticed between Pondy and other Indian cities was the lack of rubbish. Yes there are the other 'typical' Indian city life stuff; lots of street dogs, plenty of hungry cows, hassling tuk tuk drivers etc, but for some reason very little rubbish. I can only assume that the infrastructure is there to deal with it more efficiently owed potentially to the French, Vive la France!! The quantity of rubbish has been one of our biggest frustrations whilst travelling as beautiful landscapes have often been tainted by the piles of rubbish left. Anyway more about rubbish coming up in another blog post, bet you can't wait hey!!

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We left Pondy and headed to our last destination before flying out to Sri Lanka. This stop was to be Mahaballapuram, a very small costal ultra touristy resort. I tried a bit of surfing as the waves looked very small and perfect for the beginner surfer. I had never tried surfing before and realised that it's really tough and I'm not very good at it. I just (literally just) managed to stand up after an hour of failing miserably so was quite chuffed on my walk back despite the sunburnt back and bruised ribs. Mahaballapuram was the perfect way to spend the last few days and we were both sad our time in incredible India was up. It was now time to look forward to a new country which awaits. Sri Lanka here we come!

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Love Rob and Sus.

Posted by SusieRout 21:54 Archived in India Comments (1)

On the buses, India style!

sunny 14 °C

India bus journey trip.

I have only been truly terrified a handful of times in my life. These times have mostly been when I was rock climbing, the sudden rush from the fear of falling can, for a split second, paralyse you. This fear I can mitigate for the large part as I have pretty much full control of the situation and my actions. Today's experience on an Indian bus was one of the most terrifying experiences in which I had no control over whatsoever.

I genuinely feared for my life at multiple times during our 14 hour bus journey from Mysore to Kerala. I spent a large part of the trip figuring out the best position to sit in if we were to crash (which felt quite likely) so that I would suffer minimal damage. There are no seatbelts on any of the buses that I know of so holding a metal bar in front of me with white knuckles was my only way of protecting myself from catapulting through the front windscreen.

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As we started the journey I noticed some key differences between driving in the UK and in India. My favourite difference, and the most dangerous of these, is the use of the invisible 3rd lane. Most roads in India are single carriageway and the need to overtake EVERYTHING seems to be the number one absolute primary importance to the driver. Enter the 3rd lane, it is technically the quickest way to overtake small transport (cows/scooters/tuk tuks) hence why every larger and quicker vehicle uses it. This results in the largest and deadliest game of chicken I have ever witnessed. Its an unofficial game of 'whoever's largest wins' and when 2 vehicles of the same size come together then it is a battle of wills. Only at the very last minute one will back down and concede defeat, millimeters away from a head on collision. This game of chicken lasts hour after hour after hour. Just as I thought it couldn't get worse enter my 2nd favourite difference between UK and Indian roads. I remember watching the film Speed with Keanu Reeves when i was about 13 years old but never imagined that I, 17 years later, would literally be part of it. Bus drivers try to avoid slowing down using any method available to them. Usually this involves copious amounts of increasingly frantic horn blowing or undercutting on dirt verges... why not, it all counts or the bomb goes off!!!

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After 14 hours I manage to peel my white knuckles off the thin metal bar in front of me. I thank God (I can see why religion is popular in India) and get off the Steven King inspired journey. I got given the advice after the journey that the best way to deal with 'the fear' is just to 'let go'. I'm not sure if this was just a knuckle saving method or a mental hurdle I need to overcome. Either way i know me and this metal bar in front of me are pretty inseparable! Until the next bus journey and fear inducing trip, I can't wait!!

Rob x

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Posted by SusieRout 08:03 Archived in India Comments (0)

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