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Buddha Locked the Keys in our Car

February 16, 2008

Helen – Getting ready for this trip has me on edge.  We need cold climate clothes for the mountain area where we are going to hike the Horton Plains, then clothes for three days in Colombo, plus another set of clothes for two days SCUBA and snorkeling.  That alone was driving me crazy but then Tom decided that he was going to pack up all his other personal things into a large suitcase and lock it up in his office at the university along with his printer and important books.  I didn’t want to do it and was agitated, so I went to the beach while he did his thing.  Afterwards, I felt badly about that and locked up things in the wardrobe closet and hid the key, the rest of the things I put in my large suitcase and hid it out of sight.  We are so paranoid about theft now that it is stifling.  We also got a young Japanese man (Kenji) to watch the house, rake the leaves and protect the sea turtle shell drying in the front yard while we are gone.  He seemed a bit skeptical about the shell and said what if I protect it 5 days and then someone steals it on the 6th???  What could I say??  We also gave the domino game to the Germans so they could play while we were away.

The next morning we were ready to go by 7:30, Tom stopped at the office to check his email and call the kids.  We were then on the road along the coast in the same direction (east) that we went the first weekend seeing the temples and the blowhole.  We were not going to stop until we reached the first new town, Tangalla.  Just before we got to the town we saw a hotel from the 1970’s built to represent a cruise ship.  We stopped to have a look and not only was it unique but the workers were in the rafters with their plastic bottles and sticks, banging and shouting, trying to coax the pigeons out.  It was pretty funny with the birds flying around and trying to roost in another section and then the man there yelling and banging to get them to fly outside.  The hotel had a lovely beach front, a pool, cabins with balconies, and spiral staircases.  You really got the feeling of being on a ship.

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Tangalla is a beach town with lots of small rental units and restaurants.  It was hit pretty hard by the tsunami but is recovering.  We stopped at one beach to gather different kinds of coral then went to a small restaurant for tea.  Tom’s famous words that morning were “if you see anything interesting, just tell me to stop!!”  Well, I mentioned the man on the bike with at least 100 baskets, he didn’t stop.  I mentioned another man on his bike with bananas piled high behind him, again he didn’t stop.  Then we saw a really large Buddha on the side of the road and again he passed it by.  I said, “I don’t know why I mention anything because you just continue driving.”  He gets a little upset saying, “How many Buddha pictures do you need?”  I counter and he turns back, gets out of the car, crosses the street to take the picture with me in it, and then returns to the car to discover that in his haste, he locked the keys inside!!  

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Of course we don’t have a second set of keys and are now standing outside the car in front of the Buddha amongst the crew that was working on the road.  They right away start to come over to see if any of their keys will open our door – of course not.  Then they start to gather different things to try to jimmy the lock on the driver’s side…nothing happens.  More men come with more tools: screw drivers, different size metal pokers, plastic cording, etc.  Nothing is working and more men come to the rescue…we are now to about 20!!  Trucks and cars stop along the way to help as well.  Buses drive by and the people in them just wag their heads and smile.  The crew is now working on both sides of the car and even trying to get into the trunk.  We decide that we are going to break the small window on the back passenger door and Tom picks up a big rock…they say NO!! and take it away from him.  They send a man on a motorcycle to bring someone from town who works on locks…he comes with a pair of pliers!!  HELLO!!!  By now we have some damage; they have pulled up the lower window molding on the driver’s side.  I guess the main problem, besides the keys being locked inside, is that the car has an auto- lock system.  Anyway, Tom finally breaks the window with a man’s large heavy knife (which he was using to pry the window molding from the little vent window).   We all cheer when the deed is done BUT we should have done it 1.5 hours ago.  Everyone goes back to work and we go on our way, wondering how we are going to fix the window for the rest of the trip.

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We stopped in several small towns and could not find any help.  We did find this fellow using an old foot powered sewing machine.

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In the first larger town we stopped at several car parts stores and their reply was that it could only be repaired in Colombo or Galle.  We couldn’t believe it!!  So the next plan was to get some plastic to cover the window.  After two more stops, a young man was able to get some heavy clear plastic, cut it to size, and glue it in place.  It really looked pretty good and very much like the glass.  In addition, it only cost 0.80 cents! 

We are on our way, two hours behind schedule and now will have to rush to reach our mountain destination before dark.  Even on the main highway (?) you can only travel about 30-35 mph and with the road construction we spent a lot of time waiting to get through certain areas.  Here is a picture of some water buffalo and birds along the road

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After we reached Wellawaya, we took A4 west moving up into the mountains past some beautiful scenery.  Here is a pic of a roadside temple.

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We stopped briefly at 500 ft Diyaluma Falls for some pictures. 

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Our final destination for the night was the busy market town of Bandarawela.  We had reservations for two nights at the Bandarawela Hotel which was a tea planters club built in 1893.  It was furnished as a hotel in the 1930s and hasn’t changed since!  There is a guard in jungle khakis with ranger hat at the entrance, male staff in peasant outfits and waiters in white jackets with brass buttons and long white shirts.  One of our waiters has been there for 30 years and asked where we were from.  After hearing America, he says I love country western music and my friends and I get together to sing on weekends and have a lot of fun.  I ask who are your favorite singers?  He replies, Hank Williams Jr. and Kenney Rodgers!!!  Which reminds me, back in Matara, we listen to the BBC radio station and they play real oldies (40’s and 50’s) which for them are relatively new, especially the songs they played for Valentine’s Day.

The setting of the hotel with the lovely gardens and old furnishings were well worth the stay but the food was awful, supposedly English fare that we did not enjoy eating, even the desserts! (one was blueberry cheesecake which had no cheese; it was more of a jello consistency with a rubbery blueberry glaze).  Another funny thing, the beds were short-sheeted.  The method they used to cover the blanket with the sheets left the blanket un-sheeted at your feet.  When we tried to rectify the problem we found that the sheets were too short for the bed size.  We were just fine without the blanket so got rid of everything but the sheet.  They think it gets cool at night and they offered hot water bottles to warm the beds, we smiled and said no thanks! 

The first evening we met a couple in the bar…Ken and Ylva…he was born in Sri Lanka but is of Irish/Scottish decent and is a general manager of a tea plantation in nearby Haputale.  He arranged a guide for us for the following morning for the Horton Plains hike and we made arrangements to visit them at their Bungalow before we left the area.  We went to bed early since we were leaving the hotel at 5:30am.  It was a clear cool night and the stars were beautiful. 

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