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Monday, 10 February 2014

Canals to Colombo.

We have just got back after a couple of weeks in Sri Lanka. We arrived at about 0730 in the morning and almost the first thing we saw was a canal! It seems that when the Dutch occupied the place they realised the potential of using the lagoons and sand bars to connect up together for transport and flood  protection. The British continued this work when they completed the Hamilton Canal in 1804. They made a route from Colombo to Negombo in the north. They also linked the port of Colombo with some canals to move goods in and out of the  capital. They used wooden flat bottomed with blunt bow and stern. They were covered in a canopy of coconut leaf matting. They ere used to bring the rubber, copra and spices from the nearby plantations to the port. They were also used as transport as the roads were not well developed. Actually they still aren't! It seems that they are attempting to bring them back to life by fixing the banks and opening up parts that have been in filled. There seemed to be vast quantities of water hyacinth on the water though. I think the intention is not to use it for transport so much as to make it a tourism facility. By linking with the lagoons there would be opportunities for bird watching, fishing etc. One problem is the newly opened express way from Colombo to airport, just north of Negombo, runs right alongside it.

Padda boats just before WWII.

We stayed with friends in Colombo and traveled in land to see more of the place. Colombo has had very little town planning since Independence and the roads and buildings seem to be just so jumbled that there is constant traffic chaos. There is the new expressway to the International airport and a new express way to Galle in the south and the plan is to connect these up round Colombo, but the rest of the road system is almost country roads to us. This makes journeys slow going as the amount of traffic is horrendous. We went down to Galle and its fort and to see ancient fortresses and rock cut temples and Buddhas, then to Kandy and a couple of nights looking round the Temple of the Tooth Relic and the Botanic gardens and then up into tea country which was beautiful and so peaceful and cool. We also had the mandatory  visit to an elephant orphanage. All in all a great time and nice to have a bit of sun too. We rounded off our trip with a day on the beach at the Mount Lavinia Hotel which was a great way to chill ready for home. It was built as the British Governors retreat but when one of them extended it to accommodate his fancy woman he was forced to sell it to the government. It has a lovely faded charm and lovely views. The terrace is a great place for a sundowner.

Cargills Department Store, Colombo.

Inside Galle Fort.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphange.

Dambula Cave Temples.

Sigiriya, Lion Rock. (A long climb to the top, but worth it).

 Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Kandy.

Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, near Kandy.

Tea country near Nuwara Eliya or Little England.

Mount Lavinia Hotel, Colombo.

All in all a great place for a bit of winter sun and I reckon we will go again as it was also to get together with my friend and make new friends too. I hadn't bargained on going dancing but we had a good evening out.

Now looking forward to getting away on the boat next month.

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