Friday, May 30, 2008

Travels with Rachel Part 2

Continuing the saga of my trip with Rachel, which actually ended two weeks ago, but I've been too busy to post this until now:

So when we last we spoke I was sitting in Arugam Bay.  I
wasn't totally honest because I didn't want anyone to
worry, but we were actually stuck in Arugam Bay for
security reasons. See I'm supposed to be keeping Rachel
safe -- that is why we hired a driver (rather than risk the
public buses, which seem to be the latest target
in the
conflict). So I chose to go east during elections. In my
defense, I did
check with people in my office who all said
it would be o.k. Also there were
elections in Batticaloa last
month and nothing happened, even though riots were
anticipated. I believe Rachel's parents and husband may kill
me (and they are
on this list so I'm here to publicly apologize).

Turns out these elections were for seats in parliament and
thus, more danger was expected. Also, the whole point of
going to A'bay was to go camping in Yala, which was closed
for the elections! Yes, I did have reservations to actually
camp in Yala and no one thought to call to let me know the
park was closed. So we spent three
days lazing about in A'bay
(which, for those taking notes, is perfectly safe -- we
leave because of the surrounding areas). We went swimming
until the last day when the surf picked up and we got
thoroughly pummeled in our five minutes in the
water. We did
go to the Buddhist temple ruins in Pottuvil. According to the
monk who walked us around, the tsunami
split at the sight, so
the ruins were not disturbed. The
stupa, however, was taken

We also went on a lagoon tour. The lagoon was nice and
peaceful and it made it very difficult to understand why
we couldn't leave when everyone seemed fine.

I wanted to go the morning the polls opened. This seemed
logical -- go before the polls actually open and get to
Monoragola, only two hours away, before anything happens.
But the U.N. staff were told to not leave their compounds that
day, and thus we were advised to stay in A'bay.

So we left the day the results came out, which seemed really
stupid at the time, but I was listening to others (didn't that
behavior get me in this mess to start with?). We got to
Monoragola right when they announced the government won
-- this was supposed to cause riots, but I haven't heard of any.
The entire time we were in A'bay things were fairly peaceful
except for one bombing in Ampara town that killed
people. Ampara is actually rather far away from A'bay.
Then we drove the long drive to Adam's Peak. At the top there
is supposed to be a foot print of Adam when he was cast out
of paradise, or Buddha or Shiva -- depending on which religion
you subscribe to. Of course, there is a large Buddhist temple
at the footprint. The climb is up stairs -- 5,200 to be precise.
It was a very long hike. You are supposed to climb at 2:30
a.m. so that you can see the sun rise. Of course the day
we chose to do this the clouds were too dense to see any-
thing and it poured rain the entire way down. So I dragged
my extremely heavy camera up that mountain to take just a
few photos near the bottom. Ugh.
Then it was off to Sinharaja (after getting thoroughly ripped
off by our hotel for breakfast -- do not, I repeat, do not stay
at the Green Hotel. 350 rupees for toast and jam is a
complete scam and after that climb you really want more for
breakfast). We got to Sinharaja and it was raining, but Sunil
still took us on a short walk around his village. I arranged a
homestay for us and we stayed with the same family I
stayed with last time.
That night our driver mentioned the next day was the last. Um,
I booked the car until the 14th. Apparently someone did the
math wrong and booked it for 10 days, but the 4th to the 14th
is actually 11 days. I'm going to take some credit for this.
Though I know I sent my day-by-day schedule to the person
booking the car, I may have actually said ten days at some point.

This little change meant we could not go into Sinharaja the
next day. Actually, we are o.k. with this as both of us are
feeling the pain of 5,200 steps. I would like to point out
that Rachel is far more worse off than me. This is a woman
who goes to the gym five times a week and usually sprints up
mountains past me. So I'm feeling pretty good about myself
right now.

Rachel did get to go to the buffer of Sinharaja. Sunil was kind
enough to take her on his motorbike. She got to see a
Ceylonese Magpie, which is incredibly rare, so I hate her now.

Then it was off to Galle. I don't truly understand our driver.
He went a really round about way to Galle, even though he
knew we were trying to squeeze things in that we wanted to
do in two days. And we were successful, even with the
crazy route. We stopped in Ambalagoda to look at masks.
Both Rachel and I bought one. I got a used mask, which
makes me fairly happy though I had to pay 300 rupees
more than I wanted.

Then we went to Una to visit Dick (who wasn't there, but
we didn't know since his phone is broken) and so Rachel
could buy some bags made from old saris. Yes, we are all
about recycling on this trip.
One hour wandering around
the Portuguese-Dutch fort in Galle and we were on the
way home. An hour in Galle Fort is enough, but Rachel
was walking at a snail's pace, so we missed a few things.
We did explore the wall around the fort and w
ent into the
old Dutch Reformist Church.
In my effort to make this a wonderful trip, we stopped on the
way to pick up 25
mangosteens! Yep, we are indeed living

So now we are back in Colombo. Two days here and then
Rachel leaves. I'm hoping she
can walk a bit tomorrow so
we can wander around Pettah (market area).

Side Note: I'll do an entry on Pettah and Wesak over
the weekend and then I should be just
about caught up.

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