Thursday, August 12, 2004
Here I am waiting, already checked in and scanned for bombs, guns and drugs. Muzac is chiming sleepy background melodies, willing me to nip into the duty free shop and spend my left over rupees on the usual junk. We managed to avoid the departure tax, so maybe I'll pop over. Or I could just convert the 1000Rps into Qatar Reals for tomorrow's stopover in Doha, Desert Safari included.
Not quite sure what wild animals will be threatening to eat me in the desert. There certainly won't be any elephants. Not like here in Sri Lanka - saw about 50 of them herding it around wild in a nature reserve.
I have this strange feeling of having been here for almost ever. Driving up the road back to the airport from Columbo, I can easily remember the minor traffic accident that forced us out of our cab and into a tut-tut, on our way down into the city on the 1st August. But so much has happened in the meantime and we've hardly stopped to think about it.
Sri Lanka has been an excellent holiday. Starting with the beaches of Nilaveli and the reef and wreck diving, we found the people friendly and the trains dirt cheap. The bus to the ancient city of Pollonaruwa wasn't so comfortable, but the sights were fine nonetheless. Crumbly red bricks, pagodas and goats under a warm leafy sky. Don't bother with a guide though, if you ever go.
Together with les francais Stephane and Helene the private air-con taxi down to Kandy was a bit more luxurious. We stopped in Sigiriya to mount the heights of the mountain fortress, looking over the deep deep jungle dotted with elephants, and sniggering at the ancient cheeky frescoes.
In Kandy we managed to hook up with a Government Official. Major Kumar is in charge of security for all the hydroelectric installations in the country, so he took us up to have a 'limited access' tour of the Victoria Falls dam, looking from 100m down onto two converging rampaging rivers. And he paid for all our meals for 2 days. Very nice!
Being English, it was pretty interesting checking out a tea plantation in Nuwara Eliya, high up in the mountains. So now I know where PG Tips comes from.
When we made it back to Columbo yesterday, we decided to stay in the 'Mount Lavinia' area, down the beach. It was a seriously good move since the main area of town up by the Fort is basically a bit of a dump, and completely dead at night. The streets of Mount Lavinia remind be a little of some Tokyo backstreets. And then there's the Mount Lavinia hotel - a plush colonial 4 star with excellent views along the bay and a tasty Mongolian Barbecue using meat without any bones in.
So, on to Doha!
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