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Horton Plains National Park

February 17, 2008

 Tom –  Saturday night we hired Richard, the bar tender from the Bandarawela Hotel, to serve as our guide to Horton Plains NP – he was at the front desk at 5:30am.  The hotel had packed us a boxed breakfast consisting of a four layer cheese/lettuce/tomato sandwich, banana, two slices of pineapple, piece of cake and a bottle of water.  It was dark when we started on the two hour drive across pot holed one lane windy roads going up and down through the tea plantations and forest.  We saw some sambar deer as we entered the park.  It was difficult driving and my rental car really took a beating.  I would have had trouble finding the park without our guide.

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I paid the entrance fee for the three of us and car ($40) and we started on the 9.5 km (6 mile) loop trail at 8am.  Horton Plains are situated on a high plateau (above 7,000 ft elevation) so we started (8am) with our Gore-Tex on but after the first hour we were down to our shorts and tops.  The weather was ideal for this time of year and we had a good view from what is called “World’s End,” a drop off of about 1000 feet to some villages below and then through a gap another drop of about 4400 feet to the low plains leading to the south tip of the island and the Indian Ocean.

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Continuing on the loop, we followed the trail through the undulating grass lands and forest (some of the trees grow here and no place else in the world) to Baker’s Falls.  The route to the bottom of the falls was closed but Richard insisted that we go around the barbed wire and descend down a steep gulley to the base of the falls.  It was well worth the effort!  It was now hot and the base of the falls proved to be an ideal spot to sit in the cool spray and watch the crystal clear water plunge about 40 feet and then cascade down a valley.  They say that you should finish the hike by 10am because the mist (clouds) usually rolls in and you can’t see anything.  However, we finished at 11am and it was mainly clear though clouds were moving up the gap.

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Here are a couple of photos from our drive back.  This was a paved part of our one lane road.

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We bought a papaya at the roadside stand.

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On the way back we stopped at Adisham Monastery just west of Haputale.  It was originally a castle built by Sir Thomas Lester Villiers for his tea plantation.  It is now a Benedictine Monastery and they charge you a small fee to see two rooms (of about 50) and flower gardens.  The “living room” gave Richard the spooks because it had a painting of Sir Thomas that looked at you no matter where you were in the room.  We were told later that the monks had sold much of the antique furniture and even used some for firewood. The monastery has beautiful gardens and it is noted for its fruit production, which it sells in a small store in one of the old carriage barns and at an outlet on the main road.  We bought a bottle of mixed fruit cordial and a jar of orange marmalade.  They are noted for their strawberry preserves but they looked too dark for us.

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We had bought a papaya on one of the back roads (also a pair of coconut spoons) and after we got back to the hotel and showered we had them cut it and give us some pieces of lime to squirt over it and ate it at a table on the manicured lawn in front of the hotel. 

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What a contrast from this tranquility to our walk of only a few blocks through downtown to St Anthony’s church for 5pm mass.  The walk took us through a major part of the city that was packed with people on the sidewalk (concrete slabs over a sewer) in front of the shops.  Street peddlers were everywhere as well and it was difficult making our way through the commotion to the church.   St Anthony’s was at the top of a narrow three story staircase and was rather plane and obviously poor.  There were about 35 (including 10 nuns) in attendance for this mass and several things caught our interest: there was no collection! no one took the host and wine to the altar as an offering, and they sang “I Will Never Find Another You” as a hymn.

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