Saturday, February 17, 2018

Buddha statues of Budurwagala, Sri Lanka

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At Ella, there were many boards put by tourism department providing information about the nearby tourist places. Most of them were in my list but the one showing the rock carvings of Buddha drew my attention. It was not in my itinerary but our driver mentioned that it only required a small detour on Ella Galle road. So, it got added to our list!!

Budurwagala rock cut statues
We had to stop our car a km from the place due to ongoing road construction. The walk was along the backwaters of Budurwagala reservoir which was very beautiful. Our driver mentioned about the presence of crocodiles in the lake. My daughter was eagerly looking out at the lake for the crocodiles while at the same time keeping healthy distance from waters!! But we did not find any crocodiles.

Budurwagala reservoir
The temple complex made its appearance at the end of the road. It was in a very picturesque location surrounded by trees. 

The handout provided at the entrance mentioned that “The remnants of the rock carvings visible at the site reveal the image of the Buddha in the standing posture in full relief and seven standing images of Buddha images of much lesser size engraved from a vertical rock face in the semi relief form. The features of the images are enhanced by the application of stucco finally impregnating their surfaces with different hewed pigments. In addition to these rock carvings believed to belong to the 7-8c A.C a large number of ruins are seen scattered around the site”.

The size of the largest Buddha statue is about 52 feet from head to toe.

In general, it was a nice place to visit. It is about 35 km from Ella in Monaragala district. There are many Buddhist places nearby like Rakkhittakanda monastery, Maligawila, Yudaganwa, Wettambugala, Budupatungala, Mailla, Dematamal vihara and Galabedda.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

New Zealand farm in Sri Lanka

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When our driver told he would be taking us to New Zealand farm, I was bit confused. It was not in my itinerary and I was not very interested in visiting farms. But our driver said that it looks like New Zealand and completely out of this world. That looked exaggerated as I had always seen people comparing the local places to the world’s best locations. Nevertheless, I did not say anything at that point of time allowing driver to proceed towards the farm. Chaya and Tanu were very excited.

Scenery near Ambewela
Very soon, I had to correct my understanding as we were in for a pleasant surprise. The picturesque Kande ela reservoir made its appearance. With no people around, it looked very serene.

Kande ela lake
The landscape changed as we entered into Ambewela farm area. Having visited New Zealand before, I had to agree that the scenery in that part of Sri Lanka was indeed comparable to New Zealand!! The cows grazing peacefully in the grasslands looked very beautiful. 

Cows grazing in Ambewela
In the earlier photo, I had carefully ensured that the frame contained only cows and grass. But there were also windmills!!

Wind mills in Ambewela
At Ambewela village, we took the deviation to Ambewela farm. This should not be confused with New Zealand farm as both are same!! Due to partnership with New Zealand Government, the farm is also called as New Zealand farm.

A lake near Ambewela

On the way we crossed the beautiful Amebewela reservoir. 

Outlet of Ambewela reservoir
Having enjoyed the scenery so far, it was now time to enter into the farm. There is a separate entry for tourists. The crowd was very thin in spite of Christmas holidays as it was quite early for many tourists.

Inside Ambewela farm

The farm itself is typical where there are separate section for various activities. The main shed housed milking cows. I did not get answer on how they would milk hundreds of grazing cows we had seen on our way. It looked like the place was mainly setup as tourist attraction while the main facility being located elsewhere.

Milking cows
Another shed housed weaning cows.

Weaning cows
And there were calves. 

There was a section for pregnant cows too. They had extra chain put around their necks. 

Pregnant cows
Stud bulls also had a section. Considering the widespread practice of artificial insemination, I was not sure about their roles!! 

Stud bull
In general, it was a nice experience though I do not like the animals in cage. It would have been good if there was a guide to explain the process. Even in cheese factory, there was no one to explain.  But still it is a good place to understand the dairy process. Of course, icing on the cake is the scenery between Nuwara Eliya and Ambewela. That should not be missed. 

Ambewela farm
This place is about 17 kms from Nuwara Eliya and is on the way to Hortons plains national park.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Baobab trees of Savanur

While traveling to Gadag we were passing through a small town of Savanur. Interesting I had recently learnt that there were three Baobab trees in the town. That was surprising as I thought that these trees were seen only in Africa. Anyway, out of curiosity we took a detour to visit these trees in Savanur.

Boabab tree
Situated in a school complex, they were huge baobab trees!! Authorities realizing its importance had put a fence around it to protect from miscreants. The board erected at the place provided some information about the trees.

Looking at the size they must be about few hundreds or thousands years old. Not much information is available about its age. 

Baobab trees are not just present in Savanur but are also seen at few other locations in India. Genetically the trees are said to be very close to African counterparts and it is surprising how did they enter into India. At Savanur, mythology has easily solved this issue by telling that Lord Krishna bought it from Africa!!

Final note
Do not ask locals about baobab tree. Locally they are known as “Dodda hunase mara (Big tamarind tree) or kalpavrusksha. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Train journey experience in Sri Lanka

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The train journey between Kandy to Ella is said to be one of the most scenic routes in the world. Obviously, it entered into my itinerary when I planned the trip to Sri Lanka. But I found that the booking process was complicated. It was not possible to book tickets online if you are outside Sri Lanka. Few trains had private first class compartments added which could be booked online. But their web site always had issues and I had to drop my plans of train journey in Sri Lanka.

Nine arch bridge near Ella

In Sri Lanka, our driver suggested us to take the train journey between Nuwara Eliya and Ella. The journey was about 3 hours and was termed to be the most scenic route. He said considering the busy season, the first and second class tickets would not be available but we could buy third class tickets from the railway station just before the journey. While we take the train, we would come by car to Ella with luggage. That sounded like a nice idea.

Train entering into a tunnel
The nearest railway station near Nuwara Eliya was Nanu Oya, 9 km away. The train was supposed to start at 9:30 AM and hence we were at railway station at 9 AM. We got the train tickets without any issues and entered into the platform. For 60 Sri Lankan Rupee, it was very cheap.

A railway station in Sri Lanka
With people started pouring into the platform, we slowly realized that our journey would be a challenge as the train would be very crowded. Most of them were tourists and we could hardly see any locals.

Nanu Oya station
As the train slowly entered into the station, people got into tizzy and looked eager to enter into the train. Seeing the crowd, I started doubting whether we could even get into the train. But being an Indian and used to crowd handling, I was confident that I could barge in. I took Tanu with me and pushed ourselves into the train. Chaya was bit slow but she managed to get in.

Highest station in Sri Lanka

Since the train had come from Colombo, it was already full and no seats were available. The prospect of spending three hours standing on the train loomed large. We even thought about getting down the train and calling our driver back!! But having gone far into this journey, it was not good to turn back. Also, with the crowd getting down was not possible!! Many people were still on the platform and could not get into the train!!

At one of the stations

We managed to get Tanu a seat by requesting a local to adjust. Things started getting better as the train pulled out of the station. Taking photographs was difficult due to the crowd but I managed to take one the waterfall that appeared. Slowly, people started adjusting to the situation and very quickly we entered into conversations. It was interesting as there were people from many nationalities. It was too much for a Chinese kid to handle the crowded situation and she puked. But their parents managed it so well by putting vomit bag in her mouth to ensure cleanliness. I remembered an incident long ago where a lady puked on me carelessly in a bus!! 

Eglin waterfall
As the train reached Ambewela station (30 minutes from Nanu Oya), one person got down and I could manage to get the seat. Chaya and I sat on that seat alternatively. Another Chinese kid was tired of standing and I asked her to sit on my lap. Her mother seemed to be very happy with out gesture.

Tea estates
The train entered into Hortons plain national park where the scenery was at its best. Halfway through the journey at Haputale, people seating next to me got down and Chaya managed to get the seat.  

It took nearly 3.5 hours for the train to reach Ella station. Our driver was promptly waiting for us.

At Ella station
Finally, was it worth? What can be done to make the journey better? Indeed, there is no question about scenery but it is similar to Nilgiris toy train journey or between Kukke Subramanya and Sakleshpur. But each route is different and I think that one should have an experience of Sri Lankan train. Here are few tips to make it better.
  • If you are concerned about crowd, try to book first class. Also, try booking via travel agent. I could have asked my driver to make booking earlier but it did not strike my head.
  • Trains from Kandy to Ella is crowded but the other way runs with less people. It is a good idea to plan the trip from Ella.
  • Avoid peak season if you do not like crowd.

Waterfall near Ella
During the train journey, keep the following things in mind.
  • I did not see any toilets in third class. (I may be wrong too). Keep this in mind and make use of restrooms at stations.
  • Try to travel light. It will be really hard with heavy luggages.
  • If you are prone to vomiting during journey, keep vomit bag. It will be handy.
  • I did not see anyone selling water or food stuff in the train between Nuwara Eliya and Ella. Better to carry some food items and water.