Driving southward from Kandy towards Nuwara Eliya, or the small town of “Little England” as it is popularly known in Srilanka, was a slow paced climb upon mountain roads. But that gave me the opportunity to admire nature. The narrow small stretches of road winding up the mountain to bend or turn, every few hundred meters, gave me glimpses of spectacular valleys, tall trees, small villages, tea estates, farms and flower gardens.October was supposed to be the wettest month in this mountain range, but the weather held out. Not too sunny nor bright, the mountain landscape, did however reveal the darker shades of color, which was quite pleasing to my eyes. The weather was cool and it got colder as we drove to reach the town which was 1850 meters above sea level.
The town was developed by the British in 1846 as a summer resort, hill station.A few of their Tudor style mansions, town square, market and other buildings did create an Englandish picture post card appearance. It was lush green every where. People wore wind cheaters or woolen knitted sweaters over their formal clothes and woolen skull caps to cover their heads from the chill breeze that became chiller by evening. Leyland buses, colorful lights in pastry shops, dressed chicken spinning on skewers in grill ovens at the busy restaurants added another dimension to this quaint town which was a world different from the rest of Srilanka.
Being a weekend the town was crowded by the top cream of Srilankans, who had come to spend their Saturday and Sunday with their family in this hill station. That does not mean that things are expensive. Yet boarding and lodging is. I enjoyed the best weather in Srilanka, a good diner and a small night cap which was just enough to put me to sleep without any worry. The night rest was refreshing.
I woke in the best of spirits the next morning and enjoyed a buffet breakfast of juice, eggs, bacon,toasted bread, corn flakes with milk, fruits and a nice cup of English black coffee.The day began with a slight drizzle but the sun came out softly to dawn a pleasant day.It was 7.30 in the morning but the towns people hadn’t woken up. The town square was almost empty. I took a long walk around town enjoying the bright red colors and architecture of many buildings and stood to admire a Post office which was built in 1894 and which still was in use.
I walked through a park and watched jockeys train ponies in the nearby race course. I strolled past a golf course and beside a lake. I took a boat ride to visit a spice garden that cultured a variety of native spice plants, trees and medicinal herbs. Having spent a few hours of quiet, at a leisurely pace, I returned to the hotel to take a drive to the nearby tourist attractions.
Leaving little England we moved southwards admiring waterfalls, mountain streams and stopped beside a Hindu temple. It is said to have been built in the garden were Sita the wife of Rama was kept captive by Ravanna the king of Lanka who left his elephant to guard her. Hanuman the king of an army of monkey men, who was an ardent devotee of Rama sneaked his way into the place, met Sita and requested she escape with him which she refused. She instructed him, that only Rama should avenge Ravana and take her back.
A shrine honoring Hanuman and impressions of the elephant’s foot marks,visible upon the banks of a stream flowing beside the complex attracts many Indian devotees. Having seen all of them we got back driving further south towards the Ella caves and waterfall, which were places, also associated with Ravana, Sita, Rama and the Ramayana.
During the drive, I was given to understand that there is another mountain nearby called Adam’s peak. This is claimed to be where God having created the first man Adam and dropped him upon it. The peak was supposed to give a panoramic view of the entire world or rather the entire island. There was Adam’s Peak and that I knew was the highest mountain in Srilanka but there were too many beliefs attached to it. The Hindus believe that their God Shiva stood there to look beyond the island to control the advance of the Indian Ocean. The Buddhist believe it to be where their earliest monks resided doing penance. Be that as it may be, all religious belief happened to converge upon this mountain peak and thereby considered sacred and safe from destruction.
Coming to Srilanka I had not thought of the so many tales, legends, epics and beliefs associated with this naturally beautifully island. If at all, these legends were true, Adam’s peak must be true too and the mountain must be part of the biblical garden of Eden or the Paradise lost. If I believe it to be true then I must feel very happy to have visited Paradise. Believe it or not fiction does it bit and makes travel an interesting event.
Coming to think about the places and associated epics tales,legends and beliefs the natural, unspoiled beauty of the island was good enough; for me to wander and thereby gather more sweet memories that were sweet as honey and at times that hurt like the sting of the bee while gathering honey.