Hello everybody and welcome to another post in my already large series regarding a trip I made to Sri Lanka in early 2014 and with my usual advice to new readers that they may wish to begin at the start of the story which they can do here.
28th February, 2014.
If you have read my previous posts you will know that I was in Ella in the Uva Province and so, with my very recently acquired skill of accessing non-copyright images from the internet I have provided a map of that Province along with the Provincial flag here (© commons licence). I am actually quite proud of myself as I am a complete technophobe and it only took me an hour or so to work out how to do this
Let me tell you about Uva Province now that I have mentioned it. It is arguably my favourite Province in Sri Lanka although that is a very hard call to make as I love the whole country.
Uva was created in 1896 under the British administration and is the second let populated Province after Northern with a population of 1.2 million. The name is said to derive from the noise the wind makes blowing through the mountains that are the predominant geographical feature of the Province which is supposed to sound like “hoo-wa”.
In the modern era Uva came to notice in 1817 – 1818 when it was still part of the Province of Kandy during the Third Kandyan War, a long running conflict between the army of the King of Kandy and the British colonial forces. This was largely brought about by the British breaking a treaty they had made with the King.
The Uva–Wellassa uprising, as it became known, was eventually quelled by various units including the 86th of Foot, the Royal Ulster Rifles, and I cannot help but wonder what my countrymen would have thought about soldiering in a climate so different from Northern Ireland.
What happened next was certainly not one of my country’s finest hours. Every able bodied male over the age of 18 was executed and the leader was beheaded. It is estimated that up to 10,000 men were put to death. Houses were burnt, domestic animals slaughtered, wells poisoned, irrigation systems destroyed etc. etc. It was horrific.
That is enough history for the moment. Regular readers will know that I had fallen down a bit of a rabbit hole in Ella in that I was doing very little except sitting in the Chill Café all day every day, watching cricket on TV (there was a world championship on), doing bit of work on my computer and occasionally eating in one or other of the numerous generally excellent restaurants in the village.
This day was to prove no exception and I did very little until the evening when I wandered off down the hill to a restaurant whose name I cannot for the life of me remember but that does not matter as it is now rebranded as the 360 Ella restaurant. It is an upstairs restaurant so I am not sure how that might or might not work for the mobility impaired. It was pleasantly decorated with lots and lots of fairy lights everywhere.
The menu is the usual mix of Sri Lankan and Western which seems to be fairly interchangeable throughout all the restaurants in Ella and from it I chose a lamprais which I spoke of in the previous post. It is basically rice, dry curries and sambols cooked in a banana leaf. This particular version of it was very good.
Another thing I like about this restaurant is that it is one of the few places in town that has regular live music, indeed a couple of years later I ended up doing a guest spot there one night. Looking at their online presence, which I have linked above, it seems that this is a practice that continues in 2021.
1st March, 2014.
I “moved house” again on this day. I have told you in previous posts that I had left my original guesthouse, which I was very pleased with, as they were fully booked, and had moved into a fairly unspectacular hotel room.
I had been in the Chill Bar as usual the day before and chatting with one of the barmen who by now I had become quite friendly with. I don’t know quite how it came up in conversation but he told me he could get me a room in the home of a friend for a much cheaper price than I was paying in the hotel. Sounds good to me.
I had been booking my room on a day to day basis so it was no problem to check out and I waited for my mate to finish work at about teatime and he walked me out the Passara Road a little way, then dived into a small grocery shop. I thought he needed to buy something but he beckoned me in and introduced me to the couple who ran the place. They had very little English between them but they seemed terribly friendly.
Perhaps I was being a bit slow that day or perhaps it was several hours of drinking Lion lager but it took me a while to work out what was going on, I initially thought he was just introducing me to friends or something and then it became clear. They owned and ran the shop, lived out the back but they had a room upstairs which was normally a guest room for visiting relatives or whatever but which they let out if it was available. Fine, I am always up for a homestay.
The lady led my out of the front of the shop down a very arrow unpaved entry to the side, up a set of stairs that I was to find out later had no lighting and no banister which was to prove a bit tricky that first evening and led to me carrying my torch every day I went out from then on.
As you can see, the room was basic but spotless and had everything I needed including hot water which is pretty desirable in the highlands. The “view” was a pile of building rubble from the new hotel that had gone up a couple of doors down.
Looked at dispassionately you would say to me, “Whatever possessed you to stay there?” and I have no good answer other than my gut which I have mentioned before and which rarely fails me. I just took one look at it and though, “This will do nicely”. It did do nicely and I stayed there for quite some time but I am getting ahead of myself.
Having had a quick wash and brush up I went back downstairs when the man waved me into the shop. I thought there was some paperwork to be sorted out but not a bit of it, I was ushered into the back, their private quarters and pressed to tea and a few snacks. As I say, they had little English and I no Sinhalese (or Tamil, I don’t even know what language they spoke) but we did the usual getting on famously without conversing trick I seem to spend so much time doing on the road.
I eventually prised myself away from their hospitality about three cups of tea to the good and headed off to the bar. This was to be a feature of my stay. If either of them or even any of the kids saw me coming or going I was virtually forg-marched into the back for tea. The hospitality in Sri Lanka really is something else.
When I got back I got straight into the bed which was very comfy although I was glad of the two blankets as it can get a little chilly at night in the hills. Look at that, we are into March already and “Who knows where the time goes” to quote a fabulous Fairport Convention song. I suppose we might as well carry on to………
2nd March, 2014.
I said the bed was comfy and it was indeed, so comfy in fact that I did not get up until nearly lunchtime and got ready to head out and see what might happen. Obviously I was snagged by one or other of the lovely people I was staying with and the “Ella tea ceremony” began all over again which did lead to a bit of a mystery. What I had taken to be the family dining room appeared to be just that but I sneaked a look into the kitchen and it looked more like a small restaurant operation. I have no idea if they run some sort of eating establishment for locals and I never saw anyone coming or going so I really do not know.
The rest of the day was utterly predictable and spent in the Chill Bar. I didn’t even venture out for my daily meal and even went horribly Western with a pizza which I have to say was very, very good.
The 3rd March was another of those “lost days” with not a single image so we shall pass quickly on and I suppose four days is enough for any post so I shall break there.
If you want to see if I ever break free of the Ella Triangle, which is much more pleasant than it’s Bermuda equivalent, then you’ll have to stay tuned and spread the word.