The drive through the meandering hill road lined by tea plantation on one side and a valley on the other, was adventurous, indeed. We stopped at the Ramboda Falls Hotel as evening was drawing near and all of us needed something to eat. We were asked to get into another car, the likes of a Maruti van, which took us down the steep driveway from the main road.
In less than two minutes we were deposited in the hotel, which is named after the falls and I found it was the most scenic place I had ever seen, something really out of the world! One could fmd time standing still, viewing these falls from close quarters and the sound of roaring waters from the verandah of the hotel and also from the balconies attached to the rooms situated at a lower level. It appears film star Amitabh Bachchan once stayed here.
We reached Nuwara Eliya late in the evening after visiting a tea factory on the way. We learnt all about the different stages in the making of the product – from the time a tea leaf is plucked till the time it finally finds its place on the consumer’s table.
The Grand Indian Restaurant located in the proximity of Windsor Hotel, where we stayed, offered a good vegetarian menu. The next moming, we visited Seetha Eliya, (just 8 km away) a colorful temple for Seetha signifying her stay during her captivity. On the rock face across the stream are a number of circular depressions said to be the footprints of Ravana’s elephant. Facing the entrance are the idols of Sri Rama, Seetha, Lakshmana, Garuda and Anjaneya, (which are directly visible from the entrance), looking quite ancient.
On the left, in a shrine, we find all these idols except Garuda and it appeared they were brought from Kolkata. They are beautifully decked and regularly worshipped.
We visited the Hakgala Gardens, just a kilometre away, and legend has it that Hanuman, when sent by Sri Rama to the Himalayas to fetch a particular medicinal herb, having forgotten its name, brought back a chunk of the mountain in his jaw, hoping the herb was growing on it. The gardens grow on a rock called Hakgala, which means jaw rock.
Next on our itinerary was the Bentota Beach Resort, 210 km away, the longest journey we undertook on our tour package, which proved quite tiring for the time taken. Bentota is situated on the northern limit of the southern province at the confluence of the sea and the Bentota River.
We stopped at Devon Falls Restaurant which overlooks Devon Falls and a little distance away are The St Claire Falls, both offer a spectacular view to the visitor. The first falls from a height of 97 meters and St Claire is formed by the same Kotmale Oya flows over a rock ledge of 80 metres with three cascades into a pool producing a veil of foam which was radiating in the sunshine, presenting a contrast to the black rocks behind her. The restaurant too appeared sleek and beautiful with a giant sized shining copper boiler placed in its garden.
We reached Bentota Beach Hotel late in the night, thoroughly exhausted by the long journey of nearly eight hours. The whole place reminded us of Kovalam Beach in Kerala, with its sandy palm fringed beach bordering the warm, sparkling waters of the Indian Ocean. It was interesting to watch reluctant elephants being given a bath here.
Colombo, our last destination, just 62 km away, welcomed us with its warm and sultry climate. When we reached our hotel, Galle Face Hotel, again a legacy of the British, facing the beach, a Sri Lankan wedding reception was taking place. Soon another wedding party joined and the whole place looked like a scene in the films, with dancers performing to the accompaniment of drum beats ushering in the couple into the reception hall.
The buildings in this capital city are a mix of the Buddhist, colonial and Japanese architecture and look very aesthetic. The twin towers, the Bandamaike memorial international conference hall, the new Parliament in Sri Jayawardenapura, the biggest Buddhist Temple which contains a large collection of antiques and gifts from various countries in its museum including the minutest Buddha, are some of the important places one should not miss to visit.
Our chauffeur, Bodhi, was very friendly throughout the tour and was very proud of his family; his wife worked in a senior position in the Bank of Ceylon, his eldest son was married to a white girl, the second was studying for his management in Melbourne, and the youngest had just got into medicine, he said.
N Meera Raghavendra Rao