After we’d looked round the temple in Kalataru we decided to have a wander and check out the main town.
This bustling community is still refreshingly village like in its appearance and it looked very like most of the communities that we’d passed through on our brief tour of the island. But here we were walking amongst it. Just metres away from the temple we saw St John’s Church – an unpretentious church in the shadow of the temple and the bright yellow clock tower. Still this shabby looking building has an unassuming presence, with its standalone bell tower and a tatty notice board proclaiming "worship every Sunday – 10am. ". I can’t be sure that the place is still in use but I’d certainly like to think it was the centre of the crowds each Sunday.
As we continued on our way a Tuk-Tuk "roared" past us with its passenger seats crammed full with coconuts and we cautiously crossed over the road near to the clock tower with its very busy intersection. Shops are real interesting here as most are specialist and seem to sell both new and second hand items alongside each other.
Some are decked out as you’d expect 1930’s shops to have been with their dark stained glass fronted storage cabinets taking care of the goods. Indeed products of a bygone age. The was a fascinating window display of bread loaves stacked on shelves - charmingly unsophisticated, but at least you didn’t to think too hard about what they were selling,
Although the streets have griminess about them there’s no shortage of colour with the Tuk-Tuks seemingly competing with each other for the best decorated and most colourful award and women walking and looking immaculate in their bright saris. Scratch card vendors excitedly announce over local tannoy systems.. . Well I’m not sure what they announce, but it seems to ensure that they have a steady flow of business although I only saw money being passed to the vendor, so I guess there weren’t any spot winners.
What was disturbingly fascinating was the crude and "Heath Robinson" looking electrics. To say that they were in the open air and serving the local community they seemed to be somewhat makeshift. We just had to wonder about how often they failed to "deliver the goods".
No one seemed to be hassling us and despite one guy inviting us to follow him for "the best photo opportunity in town" we could almost have been part of the furniture. My wife and I negotiated the purchase of some spices and shopping on the "high street" in a non-tourist shop just confirmed how silly we’d been buying some spices from the spice garden on our "road trip". I recognised the specialist shop selling natural means for cleaning the teeth and sorting out bad breath and although it looked better than what we’d seen in Nuwara Eliya I still wasn’t tempted!
We turned into a small market area on route to the train station. It was full of fresh vegetable and fruit stall. The area of town was colourful and busy and everyone seemed so good natured. Around the back was the bus depot and I could have spent much longer watching people cram onto the buses and then hang on as the bus lurched off on its journey. Not one bus left without being crammed full.
We headed back past the temple and over the river to check out the view and a gold Buddha that we’d seen on our tuk-tuk journey into town. Passing by several small stalls we decided that the walk to another market further down the road was much further than we’d thought and so turned to check out the availability of a tuk-tuk. They’re never far away and within seconds they were queuing up for our business. Deal secured (always agree a price before getting in the vehicle) we shot off down the road back to our hotel for a beer or two before our evening meal.
What a delightful excursion that had cost us less than £3 for our transport and given us a real insight into how a local town works.