6th – 7th October 2018
Apart from a bout of food poisoning I received from Prezzo earlier in the year, Steve and I have avoided any lurgies since we started our travelling adventures last summer. So it was annoying to say the least that I picked up a pretty gruesome cold the day before we flew to Sri Lanka. We flew Saturday evening by which time I was bouncing between bouts of shivering and hot sweats – so I dosed myself up and hoped for the best. It was an 11 hour night flight on Sri Lankan Airlines. Ear plugs and eye mask in place, swaddled in blankets and pillows, we both managed to have quite a restful night, woken up two hours before landing by a stewardess dishing out hot flannels and the offer of ‘Ceylon tea.’
We were met at the airport by our hotel driver and had a pleasant, though wet, drive to our hotel in Dambulla, in the Ancient Cities area of Sri Lanka.
Oh yes, we have discovered that this is well and truly the rainy season! We are still trying to fathom out why the England Cricket Team would arrange a tour at this time of year … it’s going to be interesting to see if any cricket is played!!
We arrived at Hotel Freedom Village after a 3 hour drive, to be met by lots of smiley and welcoming staff. A lovely secluded hotel – just the job. Several of the staff showed us to our room, carrying the baggage, telling us all about the hotel and room options, restaurant choices, holding umbrellas over us etc. We soon found out that we were the only guests staying here for the next couple of nights so they were tripping over themselves to settle us in.
It’s a relatively new hotel but the rooms are colonial styled with dark woods, ornate furniture and ceiling fans, very authentic. By the time we’d unpacked and rested a little it was time to explore the restaurant for our evening meal. I was still feeling rotten with my cold so not up to venturing far or for too long. So a simple dinner in the hotel was perfect …. cooked by three chefs and with two waiters to serve us … it felt like ‘the days of the Raj.’
Although beautifully warm, the rain was still persisting … beginning to think there may be no let up. After a couple of beers we decided to retire to bed early … on enquiring about mosquitos we had a team of staff accompany us to our room armed with sprays and fluorescent pink mosquito zapping bats to clear anything that may be lurking!! I am happy to report a mosquito-free experience so far.
Monday 8th October 2018
We awoke to sunshine – still cloudy but the sun was definitely peeking through and it was warm. A fabulous breakfast – all sorts of delicious fresh fruits, eggs and toast … and of course ‘English Breakfast Tea’ (but the label clarified that it is pure Ceylon tea). This reminded me of when we were here earlier this year, the hotel waiter enquired about the tea we grew in Yorkshire!! Suffice to say we enjoyed the tea black rather than sample the warm condensed milk provided.
These lovely little palm squirrels entertain us while we’re eating breakfast.
We decided to enjoy some leisure time at the hotel pool while it was not raining – it’s actually a perfect temperature – in true Goldilocks style … “not too hot and not too cold!” Managed 20 laps of the pool and then just chilled – still trying to shake off this lingering cold bug. Some beautiful mountain views in the distance.
Later in the morning the Hotel Manager offered to drive us around the local area and to take in one popular local attraction – the Dambulla Cave Temples. We had explained that I was still feeling under the weather so didn’t want anything too strenuous. Caves sounded pretty manageable.
First stop was the Cricket Stadium to ask about tickets – as they do not return monies if ‘rain stops play’ we decided to wait till nearer the time. Sampath showed us around the local high streets and then we drove out to the Cave Temples. I had been informed that I would need a sarong to cover my legs and longer sleeves so had come equipped. What we hadn’t come prepared for was the 300 odd steps up to the Caves … and with extra layers of clothes and still sporting a temperature I was well and truly overheating!! Naturally there were a few retail opportunities on the climb up … and one very persistent stall-keeper ensured us that Steve would need a skirt to cover his knees!
It was so worth the climb though – five separate caves with buddha statutes and paintings, first created over 2000 years ago. Absolutely stunning and a very peaceful and meditative place.
Then back to the hotel for more relax time … and afternoon Ceylon tea for two!