From Galle we took two trains – the first to Colombo and the second from there to Kandy. The Colombo to Kandy route is touted as being a very scenic journey, and they aren’t kidding. For the last hour or so the train winds its way along ridges, through tunnels and under towering rocks far above valleys of rice paddies and villages, with receding mountains in the distance.
Kandy is set at around 500m and has a great climate – much less humid than the coast although still hot during the day. The town is set around a lake inhabited by turtles, monitor lizards, snakes, thousands upon thousands of fish of all sizes and a plethora of smug and well-fed looking herons and cormorants. A walk around the lake is very much de rigueur for tourists to Kandy, which include plenty of the domestic variety, and this seems to be a very popular place for Sri Lankans to get married judging by the number of wedding photo shoots I’ve seen over the last week.
The most important sight here is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, a large collection of buildings housing a tooth of the Buddha. Kept in a bejeweled casket under careful guard and several meters away from the many pilgrims and foreign gawkers (like us), it leaves one a little under whelmed to be honest, and doesn’t come close to the ghoulishly fascinating spectacle of the body of Saint Francis Xavier at the Bom Jesus Basilica in Goa (whose missing toe is a story for another day), or any of the dozens of hands, skulls, fingers etc that can be seen in the monasteries of Greece. More interesting to my mind was the nearby collection of small Devales (shrines dedicated to the protector gods of Sri Lanka and Buddhism) – see image above right. The Sri Lankan form of Buddhism contains many Hindu influences which is perhaps not surprising given that (to Hindus in any case) Buddha is considered to be an avatar of Vishnu, one of Hinduism’s three major deities. One of the small temples here is devoted to him.
The highlight of our stay here, though, has to be the day spent watching the Twenty20 World Cup cricket. Having managed to buy a ticket from a local lad we made our way to the Pallekele Stadium. At a face value of Rs500 (£2.50) our guy made a tidy £7.50 profit whilst to us the tickets were a snip at Rs2000 – a tenner for a seat in the grandstand to watch two matches! Everyone’s a winner as they say…
The first game, Sri Lanka v New Zealand was an absolute cracker. NZ batted first, then Sri Lanka were up. The crowd was right into it as you can imagine, and we were being honorary SLs for the duration of the game. With SL needing 1 run from the last ball it seemed in the bag – but then Thirimanne gets out and the game goes to a ‘Super Over’. The rest is history as they say and Sri Lanka won the game. The England v Windies match was rather dull by comparison!
The last 50kms or so of the train ride into Kandy from Colombo are beautiful, but pictures taken from trains are rarely successful so I had my eyes peeled for possible locations to come back to during our stay, and the town of Kadugannawa (around 15kms from Kandy) seemed to be a likely spot. A few days following our arrival in town we hopped back on the train to Kadugannawa and walked a mile or so to where the road rounds a corner and drops down into the valley. The view was good but not good enough, so we set off up a narrow track that lead around the hillside hoping for a more expansive view.
We found the view we were looking for – it happened to be out the back of a local guy’s house. With typical Sri Lankan hospitality he invited us into his garden and although looking a little bemused as I set up the tripod (see image below right taken by Rich), offered us a fresh coconut each and sat with us while we waited for the light to reach it’s crescendo.
The shutter speed used was 0.7 secs at f/11, the best aperture for maximum sharpness – the sweetspot of the lens if you like. As always when using the tripod ISO is set as low as possible – 100 or 50. The sky was very bright with the sun still above the horizon so I stacked up 2 ND grads (a 3 stop and a 1 stop) to control contrast. Some minor tweaks were made in Photoshop to curves but not much else.
Walking back to the train station in the dark I fell down a hole and think I broke (or more likely bruised) a rib. Don’t tell me I don’t suffer for my art…!