Ella and Yala


We left Kandy bound for the little village of Ella, Sri Lanka. Our drive was to take us through the Hill Country of Sri Lanka. I had read that it was a beautiful drive, but I was not prepared for just how dramatic it could be in places.  This is the area of the country where tea is king, and often for as far as the eye could see the hills were covered in a verdant carpet of green.

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Picking tea

We arrived in Ella a little road weary.  The last 500 yards was especially interesting.  Our hotel was up on a mountain and the road was under construction.  The solution was to take a tuk tuk sent by the hotel.  It was a memorable ride.  The hill was so steep that the tuk tuk could hardly make it up the steep, curvy road.  We kept stalling out, rolling backwards, and then getting another run-and-go, until we made it to the top. But it was worth it because the hotel was in a stunning location and we had the first cool weather (altitude) since arriving. It was truly a welcome respite.

 

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Ella

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But I will have to say that the highlight of the visit to Ella was the private cooking class that our driver/guide, Dinesh, arranged for us.  We prepared the entire meal and then had the best lunch we’ve had the entire trip. And that’s no exaggeration!

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Preparing for our cooking class

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Cooking Sri Lankan Cuisine

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Coconut oil for the fried eggplant.  Simply delicious.

 

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Sri Lankan food is a lot of vegetables and little meat.  Very healthy.

In the photos above our instructor is preparing the fresh coconut for the sambol.  It was another of my favorites and is eaten similar to a condiment.

 

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Preparing the banana leaves that served as both a warming vessel as well as dining plates.

 

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The rice and other prepared foods are then arranged in bowls and inverted onto the banana leaves.

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Finally the food is folded into the banana leaves and placed in a steamer.

While the packets of food were warming in the steamer the popardam are prepared.  We are then ready to eat.  Traditional Sri Lankan food is typically eaten using your hands.  I gave this a try and actually succeeded for the entire meal, however it just felt wrong to a certain degree.

After we ate we continued on, driving through more beautiful countryside to our next destination called Yala and its national park. We stayed in a wonderful ocean-front resort right next to the entrance of the park where we planned a morning safari drive the following day.

“Morning” means leaving the hotel at 5am! But we were blessed with a nice sunrise and cool temperatures at the beginning.  Perhaps I’m jaded by having been on safari in Africa and Sri Lanka simply doesn’t compare to the grandeur. We searched in vain for the elusive leopard to no avail. Alas.

 

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Sunrise in Yala National Park

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Crocodile.  A big ‘in

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Always one of my favorites!

And the finally, after eating dusting and bouncing around for hours I rewarded myself with a little down time.

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