I recently made online friends with a Sri Lankan-based travel writer and fellow cricket fan, Keshiya Leitch. During a recent long weekend, she took off with some friends up into the hill country and I asked her to write a travel article for my blog so I could share her trip with my friends and followers. I hope you enjoy Keshiya’s story as much as I did.
Long weekends, long weekends and MORE long weekends! It’s only May and we’re already into the seventh long weekend on the Sri Lankan calendar, this time it was the weekend commemorating the delightful festival of lights known as Vesak. For the uninitiated, Vesak marks the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Gautama Buddha.
Along with Vesak comes the chilly weather in most parts of my island nation, but it simply encourages most people to laze around at home and cuddled up, watching movies over a cup of hot chocolate or tea or perhaps a bowl of sizzling peppered beef curry and roast paan (toasted Sri Lankan flatbread). Ah, what bliss! That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? However, the crazy weather didn’t prevent me hitting the road with friends up into the lush hills of Kandy.
Kandy is located 115km from Colombo, the country’s capital, and is 465meters above sea level. It’s known as the last Kingdom of Sri Lanka and is an iconic citadel in its own right where once great kings ruled and where nature, art and architecture flourished. It’s the capital of the hill country steeped in cultural heritage and natural beauty, set amidst historic monuments, enchanting forests, great rivers and breath-taking views of picturesque mountains and valleys.
My friends and I have been quite stressed and needed an ideal retreat for rest, relaxation and a good time in a peaceful setting and we’d chosen this location well. Present day Kandy has retained a certain magic, a mystery and an aura of the past that still resonates throughout this quaint city of old-world charm. High in the hills, we discovered a hill station, Mahakanda, located only 10 minutes away from Kandy making it wonderfully cool and a delightful break from the insane heat we’ve experienced over the last couple of months. Mahakanda is very beautiful and serene but the commute up the hills is quite challenging.
The highly hospitable caretakers would provide home cooked meals made from all the provisions we brought. We arrived in time for lunch and all of us gobbled down steamed basmati rice accompanied by a silky dark chicken curry, a rich hearty dhal curry, rustic devilled potatoes and crispy Papadam (thin, crisp seasoned disc-shaped dough made from gram flour and deep fried). Yummm!
The caretakers ensured we spent a welcome chore-free weekend (phew!) but a couple of my friends volunteered to do a little cooking and cleaning and make the occasional cup o’ coffee. It was a very communal feeling, complete with animated chats and the occasional laugh over a cup of hot Ceylon tea. It was a little reminiscent of the old colonial days when city folk would head up to relax in the cool of the hillside forests. When we explored the mountains by car, I couldn’t stop smiling – the mountains are just so incredible.
Mahakanda is quite the haven for backpackers with numerous hiking trails throughout the hills and for those wanting the more touristy experience, you can hop in a tuk tuk (3-wheeled taxi) and head back down to Kandy for shopping or cafes. I recommend bringing all your essentials, though, to avoid driving or walking all the way from Mahakanda down to Kandy in the middle of the night looking for Alka Seltzer or toilet paper! Entertainment is self-made: we played loud music, laughed at air guitar mishaps and crazy dance moves, enjoyed delicious sizzling BBQ, group sing-alongs and awesome sights, all of which provided the best weekend ever!
If you decide to visit Sri Lanka’s hill country here are the Must Haves – clothes for layering, a big blanket, your camera, a book (if you’re travelling alone – there are no TVs to watch at night) and all your personal toiletries. And the Must Sees include Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak), Dalada Maligawa (temple of the tooth relic) and Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
Keshiya Leitch – “Been There, Done That”