Friday, 11 April 2014

Wednesday 9th April

By five past eight we had breakfasted, checked out of the Thilanka and were walking through the Mango orchard towards the car.  
Pruned just like the apple and plum trees at home
Our first stop was a short walk from the Sigirya rock where Ajith had arranged for us to have an elephant ride. We mounted by means of a platform constructed in a conveniently placed tree and had a forty minute ride that took in a short section of forest and marshland as well as the road that leads towards the Lion Rock. 
30% and Me, in heavy disguise ***
The Mahout's assistant persuaded me to buy a bag of stubby bananas and, as we ambled along, our ride would reach up over its head for me to place a fruit between the finger like tips of its trunk. 

After post ride photos and bananas we left and headed for our next stop...

... After an hour or so of dodging Tuk-Tuks we arrived at an Ayurvedic Herb Garden and were given a guided walk around the plot. After seeing the plants that provide us with so many of the spices in our kitchen at home we were treated to an Ayurvedic head, shoulder and back massage before some "gentle" persuasion to buy some of the spices and oils from the garden shop. 
Nutmeg & Mace
We then had another session of weaving around Tuk-Tuks and trucks as we climbed up towards Kandy. Here we lunched and the spent longer than I would have chosen perusing sapphires at a Gem shop. Surprisingly 30% would not be persuaded by the prospect of beautiful multi carat orange sapphire being wrought into a fine pendant and we left without making a purchase …

... although the Gem Store manager did comment that the ring bought from Littleton auctions on Saturday would sell for ten times the price we had actually paid. 

It was the a short drive, or rather it would have been if Ajith hadn't got lost, to the Tamarind Gardens where we will spend the next two nights

The Tamarind Gardens is a ten acre working farm in a poor village where the main industry is dolomite mining. It has basic accommodation and allows tourists to spend some time living like a local and getting involved in local projects. The farm is owned by an ex UK civil servant of Sri Lankan origin and his wife, who is a Tea Planter's* Daughter. They are a delightfully quirky pair and have thrown themselves into this Eco tourism cum working dairy farm project. They are also involved in a local project to install water tanks for all of the local families so that they can make best use of an intermittent water supply**.
Sunrise at The Tamarind Gardens
We spent the remainder of the day getting to know them, eating a fine home cooked meal and sharing a few Lion beers. 
* Don't be fooled by this job title as it is a masterpiece of understatement. The Tea Planter is actually the Estate Manager i.e. The guy who runs the plantation.
** the water tends to flow from the municipal system at around three in the morning and the locals have to stay awake, repeatedly trying the tap and then filling whatever is at hand when it eventually flows.
*** I am the front half

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