Thursday 28 March 2013 – Tissamaharama.
I was awake ridiculously early considering we were aiming for the 9:15 bus to our next destination which is about four hours away – Tissamaharama, or Tissa for short. As the coffee and pancakes had no negative impact on me yesterday I totally abandoned my no eating or coffee before a long bus ride rule and repeated yesterdays breakfast as there was time to kill before the bus. We got to the bus stop by 9:00 and there was already a small group of westerners waiting for the bus. The main drag of Ella was pretty deserted.
The bus was late and a few more people had turned up before it arrived, we got to talking to an English couple, Adam and Jules while we waited and exchanged numbers to talk later in the day about sharing a jeep for a safari tomorrow morning. There was the usual scramble to get on the bus, which was already fairly full. Adding a dozen westerners all with large packs seemed to be a challenge the conductor relished, he moved other passengers about, put packs here and there and managed to get everyone seated, an amazing piece of work as I would not have thought it possible!
The driver was the fastest so far in Sri Lanka and we howled down from the hill country towards the south coast beaches. We were all hanging on tightly to prevent being tossed from side to side, it was a crazy run down, though strangely I did not feel at all terrified – unlike Vietnam. We only had one eye closing moment as we overtook a car into the face of an oncoming truck. We stopped a few times on the way, seemingly at random and usually incredibly sharply. At the main town we had the usual vendors board the bus but also a lottery ticket seller which I haven’t had on the bus before, though there are dozens in the street of every town. The guy standing chose to stand exactly next to a row of three girls even though at one stage the seat in front was empty. No one else was standing…
In the last village before Tissa the bus was boarded by a whole bunch of touts selling the various guest houses and safari rides, it was all a bit hard sell and I didn’t particular enjoy it, though it was worse once we all got off the bus. As we did not have anywhere to stay we ended up being the last ones in the bus stop and were mobbed by a group all yelling hotel names and rides to various places. I told them all to keep quiet so Benne and I could talk. I was remarkably polite too. We eventually decided on a place and got a free ride in their safari jeep. The hotel was nice, cheaper than some places and exceptionally clean and tidy. I elected to take a room without air con – a decision I regretted all night long. We arranged with Adam and Jules to use the safari company from their guesthouse as it was cheaper than ours. Wahoo – a game drive in Yala National Park tomorrow.
After a fried rice lunch Benne and I went for a walk to find a tuk-tuk to take us to a nice old dagoba we had seen on the way in, though on the first attempt we ended up at the wrong one, but decided to take a look anyway. I loved thr rice drying in the drive way.
Our next attempt was thwarted as the tuk-tuk driver did not speak any English, though he faked it enough to get us in the tuk-tuk. As we went the wrong way at the lake I spotted the dagoba out of the corner of my eye so we got out and walked.
Tissamaharama Chaitya was constructed around 150BC and is 180ft high, it too is supposed to contain a Buddha tooth relic – he must have had one heck of a large mouth ! It was my favourite Dagoba in Sri Lanka, I liked it for the roof supports from the buildings around the outside. It was also great to be the only people there. Tourists don’t come to Tissa for the ruins, they come here to access Yala National Park.
We walked into town after as I wanted to get a new hat and I found a nice ‘Adidas’ cap for five bucks – score! We bought some beer from the beer shop. This is a fairly non-typical one, they are usually dirty and grungy with solid steel bars and a small point to hand money in and bottles out. I find it ironic the way they are called wine stores, but don’t sell wine, only beer and cheap spirits. There are always customers…
We stopped by the lake on the way back to the hotel but had missed the last of the good light. I would loved to have been able to wade out there and get into the trees, but there are lots of crocodiles here!
We went back to the hotel and had a beer before walking around the street looking for some dinner. The one other place open was selling meals at London prices so we ended up going back to our hotel, where they opened the kitchen for us. There are not that many people here!
After a very average meal we went to bed. It was so hot and humid and the fan barely penetrated the mosquito net which I had to use as it was mossie city here. It was not a great night. I ended up having a nice long email conversation with El from 3:30 until it was time to get up at 4:30 and get ready for the safari It was a pity the internet was rubbish and we couldn’t Skype, but it was a lovely way to start the day.