Terry Brosnahan continues his account of his trip with his family around Sri Lanka in July last year.

Kandy, in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, is the cultural capital.
With a population of 125,000, it is nowhere as manic as Colombo which has 750,000. The surrounding bush-covered hills and size remind me of Dunedin.
We stayed at the Queens, a charming hotel built under British rule which was trading on its reputation as the rooms were tired. However the staff were friendly and it was central.
Like many places in Sri Lanka, trying to buy alcohol was difficult. We walked all over the centre of the town and by chance overheard a group of fellow tourists talking about buying booze. We ended up behind the supermarket across the road from the Queens. It was a poorly lit, dingy bottle store with strict instructions to conceal bottles in a bag.
Later that night we went to dinner and I commented that there was no alcohol on the menu. A waiter lent over and whispered in my ear, “You want Lion beer”.
Like everywhere in Sri Lanka it costs to look. The Royal Botanical Gardens were interesting but not worth NZ$60/each. We did get a bargain on what seemed genuine clothes in Kandy though one of the domes of my Levi’s jeans later fell off.
From Kandy the plan was to travel on the train to Ella. A travel agent tried to sell us reserved second class seats at US$25 each, but we bought them for NZ$2.50 each at the station. What we didn’t know is that between the travel agents buying up the reserve seats and the locals getting on several stops before the Kandy station, there were no seats left for the tourists.
Even though we had arrived early it didn’t help when the train arrived as there was a mad push to get on. My wife and our 12-year-old daughter were swept to the front of the carriage while 15-year-old and I were caught in a maul back in the entrance.
It was shoulder-to-shoulder and amazingly at just about every stop (there were many of them) local food sellers would come aboard weaving their way through the standing masses with baskets or 20-litre plastic containers on their head or shoulder.
After about three hours standing I said to two young British chaps I was thinking of getting a standing desk for work.
Perhaps it was the time of the year but the vegetation wasn’t lush, but dried out. We didn’t see much in the way of the iconic tea plantations advertised. Probably too tired from standing most of the seven-hour journey.
For viewing, it pays to sit on the left-hand side of the train going to Ella and of course the right coming back to Kandy.
If you don’t mind sharing with other tourists, Ella is a small, pleasant town to wander about. An early morning walk along a local shortcut to an historic railway bridge next to a tea plantation was a good. So too was the visit to a local tea factory.
The factory guide, who must be a retired manager gave an excellent tour and insight into how tea is made. All tea, green, white or black comes from the same plant. We stopped and looked at the tea bushes on the way back. All of the tea is sold at auction with Dilmah and other companies buying it.
We never saw or heard a mosque in Ella but unfortunately there was a special religious Buddhist festival and the monks chanted until the early hours of the morning.
Every time the monks started chanting the many stray dogs would start barking. At night our sandals and shoes were put
in containers in case the dogs stole them.
From Ella we travelled with a hired car and driver to the southern coast.
We stayed at the Sole Lunar resort and spa, Tangalla. It was excellent, the staff friendly and helpful.
They organised transport to see a sea turtle lay its eggs. After several hours of waiting, the guides found a mother turtle digging its hole and laying its eggs.
The turtle then covers them up and never has anything to do with its young again.
After that girls started calling their
mum Mother Turtle, which was most unfair.
Beaches along the coastal road to the ancient port city Galle were virtually deserted but would be a popular destination outside the monsoon season. My daughter and I went for a swim in what was supposed to be a safe beach but were badly caught in a rip.
Rocks prevented us swimming straight across it but thankfully she had a boogie board and eventually we made it ashore. Another tourist said her sister had to be rescued by a surfer the day before. Thanks for the heads up.
You can’t help liking Galle as the historic fort is lovely and interesting to walk around. Some locals told us they were tired of living in a Unesco World Heritage fishbowl. We stayed at the Lady Hill Hotel, a former monastery which sits on top of the highest point in Galle about 1km from the fort. A nice and peaceful boutique hotel with a pool, a good breakfast and friendly staff.
After Galle we had two relaxing days at the Grand Centara, Bentota, and then back to Colombo.
We inquired about high tea at Galle Green but at about US$60 each, we decided to pass.
Sri Lanka was certainly interesting and the people are lovely, very friendly. However, it takes a long time to travel anywhere and the trip wasn’t as relaxing as others. In hindsight we should have stayed in fewer spots, longer.


• Good torches as, like many Asian countries, the lighting is poor.
• Women’s sanitary products are very hard to come by.
• Small chiller bag and slicker pad.
• NZ or Aussie sunscreen.