Tag Archives: Hike

Winding through Hill Stations in Sri Lanka

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A tale of two towns is how to look at Kandy & Ella. Kandy, the central highlands capital, hosts chaotic traffic and crowds that loop a peaceful lake. It is also a sacred city for Buddhists thanks to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. We trained up the mountains from Colombo to arrive in Kandy with no plan, no hotel, and a big appetite! Relying on the tips of our Tuk Tuk driver (a big no-no for travelers!), we were promptly taken to Kevin’s Inn, which did sit on the lake (sounds pretty but isn’t) and provided us with a big room at a reasonable price. What we didn’t know until late in the evening was the paper thin walls; every scream from our loving neighbors stirred us into giggles of laughter!

We went for an all day tour north to Sigiriya, the 8th wonder of the world. It’s amazing and known widely as Lion’s Rock because of its shape. We hiked, sweated, and hiked to the top; the views are amazing and the climb can definitely be scary as you are on a tiny stairwell on the side of the rock.

sirigya

Standing at 200 meters high, the rock became the home for King Kasyapa 1500 years ago as protection from nearly everyone after he overthrew his father (and murdered him). He also usurped his brother to steal the throne. This evil guy eventually died in battle after his brother returned with a larger army to take back the throne.

As you climb the rock, you see paintings on the walls depicting daily life of the time; amazing that these are preserved. You can see stairs carved into parts of the rock that were once used to get to the top. On top, there is the former palace along with large areas for water and storage of supplies. This is one of 8 World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka and quite impressive indeed.

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paint sigiriya

Back in Kandy after a long day that included an expensive stop at a Spice Market thanks to the ladies, we ate a delicious local food that is basically chopped up noodles with veggies and some of the best juice drinks we’ve had. This weekend was Lord Buddha’s birth celebration; as you can imagine, Temple of the Tooth was packed with locals and tourists. Another World Heritage site, the Temple houses the relic tooth of Buddha after he died in 543 BC. Legend has it that Sri Lanka was chosen to be the home of the tooth relic because Buddha declared that his religion would be safe for 5,000 years there.

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Hopping the train to escape the crowds, we took a beautiful ride along the mountains to the small town of Ella. The train ride itself was worth it as we passed through lush jungle to tea plantations and mountain top views. Fortunately, we planned this stay and are thankful for that. Our accommodation at Mt. Zion gave us glorious mountain and valley views as well as a great starting point for day hikes. One day we hiked through tea plantations to the top of Little Adam’s Peak – a holy site and then ate a delicious lunch at 98 Acres resort before hiking some more. The next day, Leticia and I abandoned the kids to hike the biggest mountain with our guide sporting local flip-flops; a great workout and fun day together.

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We hike to this mountain top!

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View from our place of waterfalls + train

 

 

nap time!

nap time!

We enjoyed 3 of the best days of our trip in Sri Lanka with Ella. The weather pattern was amazing too as we would wake to sunshine and enjoy that until the late afternoon fog rolled in with a little rain; soon enough the sky would clear for the star gazing above. The food at our hotel, Mt. Zion, was so good that we never even ventured out for dinner; every night, they served a veggie spread of local dishes. Sadly, we had to say goodbye to our friends at Zion and take a short (5 hour) bus ride down to the beaches of Arugam Bay, one of the top 10 surf spots in the world.

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Goodbye Ella!!!

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Zion’s guard dog

Flinders: Kanga, Emu, & the 1/2 Liter Elephant

Setting:

  • Flinders Ranges, South Australia – edge of the Outback and home to 6 aboriginal groups

    The elephant sits at sunset

    The elephant sits

Cast of Characters:

  • Chris – dork dad
  • Leti – 4WD specialist
  • Louisa – modern day carioca
  • Sebastian – biologist boy
  • Elephant – 6-meter campervan ->
  • Kanga – General local pop.
  • Emu – Minority local pop.
  • Aussie – Local people / tourists (friendly folk)Reptilian

Special Guest Appearance by: Slithering Snake, Black Widow & a host of local feral friends

Prologue:

After 6 weeks traveling OZ via plane, train, and auto, we packed our bags and threw them into the Elephant – a campervan of beastly large size. A spectacular specimen that generates cheers from our children because of its clear superiority when compared to our Kiwi campervan.

Act 1: Flinders National Park Entrance

As if on cue, Kangas come out in full force to greet our entrance to the Flinders Ranges. We spot them everywhere – in the bush, under trees, on the side of the road. Dead or Alive!

The first comments come from everyone with echo calls in the camper, “Look! A Kangaroo! Wow! Look another Kangaroo. There another one!” The repetition of Kanga calls goes on until we realize they really are every-friggin-where!

EmuTheKanga carioca  girl screams, “Snake! OHHH My God, I see a SNAKE!” Two minutes later, Chris shouts, “Lizard!” as he spots a friendly bearded dragon out for a walk on the highway. Luckily…no splat!

Now all eyes search for predators. Leti spots an Emu family – 2 chicks following daddy. These guys are fast and smart at avoiding our elephant unlike kanga.

Intermission: Totally Stoked Sunset

As we reach the midway portion of our trip in Flinders, we drive our elephant up to Stokes Lookout for sunset. We are not the only ones as there are several guided tours that arrive too – great news because we get a free guide to explain the beauty and size of Flinders.

Flinders sun

Caught completely by surprise on a sporadic cloudy evening, the sunset illuminates the sky in 4 – “I’m not kidding” ways. First, it lights up the Pound in front, then the side clouds get to show off with colored lights (on each side) and nothing like the full moon rising behind you to cap it off.

This sunset replaces my previous #1 off the west coast of Nicaragua which had a double rainbow behind us as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Stokes humbles the Big Blue Mountains in eastern Australia.

Flinders cloud 2 Flinders sky Flinders moon

Act 2: Feral Foodies Unite

We are crossing over the Ranges and our fearless 4WD specialist takes us on a marathon length off-road tour. Thanks to her perseverance, we break through to the other side for lunch at the famous Prairie Hotel.

Biologist Boy: “Dad, order me a burger and fries.”

Chris: “Sure thing son. Louisa what would you like?”

Carioca girl: “Hmm, let me see – I don’t know.”

Chris: “Well, they got good burger choices like Kangaroo or Camel.”

Carioca girl: “Um, I don’t know – um, I think I’ll just have the steak burger dad.”

Chris: “Really? You don’t want to try a Camel or Kanga?”

Biologist Boy: “I don’t care, just order me a burger!” Exits to men’s room.

Carioca girl:  “No, I think I’ll just have the steak burger dad.”

Chris: “Ah, c’mon! Ok, then but we’ll share!”  Waitress arrives to take the order.  “We’ll have a Camel burger for the boy, a steak burger for the girl, and I’ll have a…well, that leaves me with the kangaroo burger. Oh, and a large beer please!”

4WD Leticia walks in after touring restaurant’s aborigine art collection.

4WD Leti: “I’ll have a beer too and” she looks briefly at the feral menu “the tasting platter please.”

Biologist boy: “Dad – there’s a huge black widow in the bathroom! Check it out.”

Chris: Tone of please don’t be fooling with me “Seriously? Where is it?”

Biologist boy: “Yeah, it’s really big; must be ready to lay eggs or something. You can’t miss it on the urinal.”

Chris: Tone of regret for asking “Great, I can’t wait.”  Slowly walks off as one would to their death.kanga burger

Food arrives and the burgers are huge! The platter has kanga meat pieces, emu paté, camel salami, and veggies.

Biologist boy: “This is a little hammy if you ask me.” Chomping on camel burger.

4WD Leti: “The emu paté is great and I like the camel salami. Louisa, do you want some?”

Carioca girl: “No thanks. I’m good!”feral platter

Chris: “Here, try the kangaroo Louisa – it’s really good.”

Carioca girl: “No thanks, I’m good!”

Repeat for all Louisa offers to share but regretfully she tries the feral foods.

Act 3: ½ Liter Elephant

Chris relieves 4WD Leti since her arms are vibrating from the off-road driving and it takes some time for dork driver Chris to realize the fuel tank is empty.

Chris: “Whoa! Leti, there are only 2 bars left for gas!”

4WD Leti: “Then stop at the next station.”

Brilliant idea and dork Chris stops at the next station, which is CLOSED.

Chris: “We can try for the next station with 2 bars left, we should make it.”

He starts to do internal calculations in his head, which repeat until the end of the story, and then continues in Chris’ dreams for the next few nights.

Biologist boy: “Dad, I’ll guide you and we’ll make it!”

Chris: “Ok, look up in the driver’s manual to see how much fuel is in reserve.”

Biologist boy: “It says either 4 liters or 7 liters depending on our tank.”

Chris: “Great, we should barely make it; if not, it will be a nice run to get gas. I remember running out with Eustace in Mexico – we were one hill away from a station too. What an experience.”

Biologist boy:  “We’ll make it dad.”

The elephant, a sweating dork Chris, and family pull into the station with red light fuel flashing for many minutes now…and it’s CLOSED!

Everyone: “NOOOOO!”

Chris walks into a bar across the street either to get help or a nice stiff drink – how about both! All heads turn to look at this out of place stranger as the cowboy doors swing behind him. Chris notices the time warp too and thinks ‘I’m not in Kansas anymore, am I Toto?!’ 

Gap-toothed beer drinker: “Well, look here.” pointing to the dork.

Chris: “Any chance you know when the gas station will open?”

Bartender: “Where you from?”

Chris: “States – in Florida. We just near ran out of gas.”

Bartender: “Ah, ya, I could tell your accent is different and we don’t call it gas.” Entire bar of 6 people laugh heartily at my expense.                                               “Call Pete. I’m sure he’d come by to open it up and get you some petrol.”

Conclusion: Pete stops by, grunts, charges a $10 bonus to come save us and fill the tank. Go back to calculate the fuel put in with the size of the tank and our elephant had only a ½ liter of petrol left! Farewell to the Flinders! We loved it!

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wilpena flinders mtn sunset yoha peace

Bossa Noosa LIVE!

The tunes of BossaNoosa (we reserve right to copyright this!) played and this is an absolutely totally awesome place in the world! My dad, who claims NorCal as God’s country, may even agree that Noosa matches up. Ok, so there is no Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco but there is a fantastic beach with great ocean water for swim and surf. The hills roll and it feels like a mellow California beach town. There are some great hikes on your doorstep that take you into a koala preservation park as well as along the cliffs and beaches of the coast. Then, for a bit of shopping/dining, just over the hill is Noosa Heads, a small time South Beach (without the trash and chaos). Can you hear the bossa beat playing now?

We spent one afternoon hiking trails and beach head; Leti and the kids spotted a nice snake in the trees but no koalas! We lunched at a local spot in Noosa Heads and ate some scrumptious sandwiches with acai smoothie. One night we hit our grill for some steaks while Sebastian mastered his bellyflop in the pool – see the pain below. We were so content in our BossaNoosa life that we could easily stay there a long while and it gives pause to reconsider that there may be more than one God’s country or at least more Gods. Thank you Noosa!

Da Splash - notice the form has not changed. Clean, full spread, nice splash! YOHA!

Da Splash – notice the form has not changed. Clean, full spread, nice splash! YOHA!

Beautiful entry: arms wide, face looking into future, still water awaits!

Beautiful entry: arms wide, face looking into future, still water awaits!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following photos are bonus GoPro shots from Great Barrier Reef:

Louisa & Leticia walking along 10 meters deep!

Louisa & Leticia walking along 10 meters deep!

Hanging Ten Down Under!

Hanging Ten Down Under!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corals colors are diverse and amazing!

Coral colors: diverse and AMAZING!

Who needs a tank when you can simply dive under and hold your breath? "Nobody!" says Sebastian

Who needs a tank when you can hold your breath? “NOBODY!” says Sebastian

 

Sebastian & Louisa in front of Oz colors

Sebastian & Louisa with the colors of Oz