We left the grandeur of The Grand behind us and set off for the final stage of our holiday at the beach of Kalutaru. It was going to take us a full day of travelling time to weave our way down from the hills to the western coast and the relaxation of our Beach Resort. Despite the length of the journey our guide was not in a rush and was happy to leave it until 9.00 am before we hit the road.
We soon discovered why he happily left it until 9.00 because he set off "at a right belt" as we careered down the windy hills through the tea plantations. At some points in the journey the trees were almost a blur as the minibus hurtled down the straights before a severe breaking on the corner and then foot down on the accelerator yet again. I reckon our driver had transformed over night into a budding Formula One racer!
Suddenly he stood on his breaks as we arrived at a photo point and before we had time to get out of the bus we seemed to be surrounded by local children. Quite where they’d come from is anyone’s guess! Our guide cleared the way for us and despite my concerns that they would be plaguing us with hands held outstretched for cash it seemed that they were more curious than anything. They peered at us from the side of the bus and then gave broad grins before retreating for cover.
Back in the bus and we seem to have settled for a more sedate pace. Perhaps our guide had heard my no so gentle cursing as we’d hit another bump in the road or he’d veered quickly around another bend throwing me across my seat. There are loads of small produce stalls on route and up here many of the small two roomed dwellings are constructed out of timber and mud. You can quite understand the devastation that resulted from the recent heavy rains hitting these constructions with their total lack of anchorage by way of foundations. In a torrent they’ll act like rafts on a river!
We pass through a variety of tea estates and despite it being a weekend there are a few pickers out working. We’d seen them earlier in the day trudging along the road with bags on their back, spotted a few in the plantation snipping at the tea leaf tips, and finally taking their offerings to the roadside collection points for quality checking, weighing before logging the amount earned for their efforts. What surprises me is how colourful they all look as they turn out for this tedious employment, just to keep the world in a good supply of tea.
We pass small temples with golden Buddhas at their entrance and decided that Sunday (the day of our travel) must be washing day on the island. Why? Well the grassy banks at the side of the road are layered with clothes drying out in the heat of the day (despite the lack of blue sky) and at one point we stopped by the river bank to intrude on the washing antics of a few mothers and their children. Despite our frantic camera activity these good natured families smiled up at us with cheerful waves. The children initially bashful soon became brave when they realised that these white strangers in a minibus were prepared to smile and wave back
Having left the tea plantations behind us we’re now moving into much flatter land and rice fields become the predominant form of agriculture and at one point we stop next to a large plantation of rubber trees. It was evident that they are still being "bled" for their sap and we couldn’t resist a "nose around". Mind you we didn’t tarry too long when we saw the size of the ants that were trekking up and down the trees!
We saw a variety of birds on route including the Long Necked Grey Egret, Long Billed Sunbird, Indian Pond Heron, Sri Lankan Jungle Fowl, Asian Koel and the white bellied drongo to name but a few.
It was a long but interesting drive from the tea plantations to the beach resort and although we enjoyed the trip we were pleased to have reached the resort hotel in one piece. No we wopuld unwind and relax for the rest of our stay on the island of Sri Lanka.