Chapter 11 - Ed and Percy Return for Visit in 1992

It took me 32 years to return to the mother country. Percy had been with Dad sometime in the 1970’s, but I had not been able to go back to Sri Lanka due to family and work commitments and when I was C.E.O of the trustee company of the Australian Retirement Fund, I talked to Percy about returning and with the permission of both our wives we booked a three week tour of the island through a travel agent in Melbourne. This was the first time that Percy was returning as an adult. After receiving my first Australian Passport, and finalizing our itinerary, we were ready for take- off.
Airport Farewell

We travelled aboard an Air Lanka plane in economy class. During the flight I was asked whether by the Air Hostess whether I knew a person who was on the flight and was a friend of mine in Ceylon. Much to my surprise it turned out that my friend whose name I cannot recall was an executive with Air Lanka and he was returning after a business visit to Australia. Even though I had not seen him for over 30 years, we immediately recognized each other and those years just disappeared when we recalled our experiences as teenagers. When we flew over Broome on the Western Australian coast, both Percy and I were invited into the cockpit to see the lights of the town below us. This was an experience that I shall never forget and will never be repeated again due to the strict security, following 9/11. The drinks were “on the house” and over the hours I obviously did not count my drinks of whisky and dry ginger, whiles talking and had to resort to the air sickness bag. After this, the time taken for the direct flight from Melbourne to Colombo seemed to fly.
Percy in our roof at the Galle Face Hotel
We arrived during the night and were picked up by our designated “Driver” in a Peugeot 504 and taken to Colombo. Our first accommodation was at the Gall Face Hotel. The standard of the hotel at that time was “tacky” and the air conditioner was very noisy and the room being on the Galle Road side of the hotel we could hear the traffic below our window. After a fit-full sleep, advised the management that we would be asking the travel agent to find us another suitable hotel. We had selected the Galle Face Hotel for sentimental reasons, but had not been informed about the condition of the hotel.

Our next stop was the Ramada Renaissance Hotel on the Beira Lake. The conditions were excellent and we enjoyed our stay while we recovered from our “Jet Lag”.
Ramada Hotel

This was during the time of the civil war and it was fascinating watching from our room, the air force helicopters land and take off from the Sri Lankan Air Force Headquarters that was opposite the hotel. We had a very pleasant stay and our impressions of Sri Lanka improved considerably.
Percy at the Ramada Hotel

View from Hotel over Beira Lake

Helicopter taking off from Air Force Headquarters

While in Colombo we arranged for our driver “Gunne” to take us around the city before we started on our tour of the island. The next day we headed off “South” and stopped briefly at the Kalutara Temple where the driver had to say some prayers and make an offering.
Bridge over Kalu Ganga

Turtle Farm Hatchery

We visited a turtle farm where they were breeding turtles before releasing them back into the ocean.
Turtle Breeding Tanks Lunch at Hikaduwa

We stopped for lunch at the Hikkaduwa Beach Bar.

The final stop for the day was Galle where, again for sentimental reasons, we stayed at the Closenberg Hotel that was originally the Dutch Governor’s residence.
Closenberg Hotel, Galle

Percy and Gunne relaxing

Another “first” was sleeping under mosquito nets and this was an interesting experience. The Dutch period furniture in the hotel was also fabulous. Our dinner with a beer was well appreciated and we had a good nights sleep.
Sleeping Under Mosquito Nets
Antique Dutch Furniture

The hotel was on a promontory with views to the Galle Harbour and the ocean below.
We visited the Dutch Fort and the Dutch Church and when walking on the fort wall came across the Galle lighthouse.
Inside Dutch Fort Galle
Closenberg Verandah

Percy was keen to go the top and take a photograph of the surrounding countryside, but the light house keeper said he not allowed to let anyone climb to the top. We gave him a substantial cash incentive to look the other way and made our way to the top. The view was fantastic and well worth the price.
Gate of Dutch Fort Matara

Dutch House in Matara Fort

The next day we headed off to Tissamarama and on the way visited the Dutch Fort at Matara and also saw women making lace at a small factory.
Lace Making

We stopped for lunch at the Hambantota Rest House for a great curry feed with a beer.
View from Hambantota Rest House

Beer and lunch at Rest House

In the afternoon we toured the Bundala Sanctuary, hoping to see elephants, monkeys and other wild animals. We were not disappointed. We reached our destination late in the afternoon and enjoyed a refreshing drink.

We went for a swim in the pool and had a great dinner and prepared for another night under mosquito nets. The standard of the rest house was excellent.
Bundala Rouge Elephant

Weaver Bird Nests

The next day we visited the Kataragama Shrine as our driver was on a pilgrimage and we accompanied him and observed his worship. At the entrance he bought a coconut and after praying he broke it on a stone that was there for that purpose.
Tissa Rest House and Swimming Pool overlooking Tissa Wewa

He lit a coconut oil lamp at the Sacred Bo Tree and after a visit to the temple performed a hand washing ceremony at a tap that had been installed for this purpose. We witnessed both Hindu and Buddhist priests perform their rituals in their own temples and were glad that we had the opportunity to see the Kataragama Shrine.
Kataragama Shrine Entrance Prayers on Entry

This was our first visit to the shrine that is revered by both Buddhist and Hindu religions and is visited by millions of worshipers every year. We removed our footware as a sign of reverence and were allowed to witness the various ceremonies that were taking place while we were there. I think our driver “Gunne’ appreciated the fact that we took the time to view his worship and this strengthened the bond we had established earlier. We were not tourists looking for a good time, but persons interested in the culture of Sri Lanka.
Hand Washing Ceremony Sacred Bo Tree

On the way to the Tissamarama Guest House we inspected the statues of Sri Lankan kings and the Dagoba at the site.
Dagoba and Entrance to Statues of Sri Lankan Kings

It had been a hectic day with plenty of walking and we looked forward to a refreshing beer. Our driver had bought some venison on the way and the guest house chef cooked it for us. This was the first time that either of us had tasted venison and it was different.
Tissamarama Guest House Percy has a beer with driver “Gune”

Next day we headed off to see the Yala Wild life Sanctuary. We paid our entry fees and hired a land rover that we would use to travel through the sanctuary.
Entrance to Yala Wildlife Sanctuary

Yala Sanctuary Jeep

With jeep loads of other tourists our drivers tried very hard to spot the elusive leopards and when they spotted one it was like rush hour at Flinders Street Station as all the jeeps in the vicinity converged on the spot.
Leopard among the trees

Percy filming at beach

We also paid for our driver so that he could enjoy the experience also.

After we had been to the Yala Sanctuary we commenced our journey to the mountains of Sri Lanka.
Roadside Curd Stall

Drink of King Coconut

Our driver stopped at a road side staff and recommended the purchase of some king coconuts that the women who ran the stall sliced for us and we drank the milk of the king coconut. Quite refreshing, but an acquired taste. He also bought us a pot of curd that he said we could have when we got to Nuwara Eliya.
Ella Rest House

Relaxing with a beer

Percy Filming Ella Road Ella Gap

We stopped at the Ella Rest House for a rice and curry lunch and continued to Bandarawella. We visited the church where our cousin Phyllis’ (Mum’s brother Berti Ebert’s daughter) husband The Reverend Charlie Thomas was the Rector during the 1950’s and where the family had visited.
Bandarawella Anglican Church

Head Master’s Punishment

We then proceeded to St Thomas’ College, Guruthalawa, my alma mater. It was great to see the old college after over 30 years and the then Principal Mr.C.B.Ratnayake welcomed us.
St Thomas’ Guruthalawa Chapel

De Saram Junior Dormitory

There had been substantial changes since I left, the most notable being the new Assembly Hall and Library.There was now a junior school, new senior dormitories, science laboratory, teachers accommodation and primary school classrooms, to mention a few of the improvements.
New Assembly Hall

Original Class Rooms

The Head Master took time to show us around the College and we appreciated his efforts to impress us with the improvements to the infrastructure.
Swimming Pool

Plaque in Library

We were impressed with the changes and wished the Headmaster the best for the future. As it was school holidays we did not get to meet any students.
Our Bedroom at Grand Hotel

Our next accommodation was at the Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya. Our bedroom had an open fire and was very comfortable. The next day, we visited Mrs Cynthia Thomas (daughter of Mr & Mrs Ward) who lived in the house at Mahagastota and were privileged to see the leopard skin of the animal that her father had shot at the back door of the house during the 1930’s when the jungle at that time covered most of the hill.
Ed at Mahagastota house with Leopard Skin on wall

We also visited the Nuwara Eliya Gardens and this brought back fond memories of our holidays.
Nuwara Eliya Gardens.

One cannot visit Nuwara Eliya without having a game of golf at the Nuwara Eliya Golf Course where our grand-father was a member and had won a trophy. Percy who was a first time golfer and I a rank amateur, with the help of two very helpful caddies hired appropriate clubs and set off for a game of golf.
Entrance to Nuwara Eliya Golf Club

When we finished the first nine holes we were invited into a small rotunda and offered sandwiches and a cup of tea. This was a pleasant surprise and much appreciated. It is a pity that more golf clubs in Sri Lanka have not adopted this practice. After a rather ordinary round of golf with our caddies giving us instructions and making club selections, we retired to the club house, refreshed ourselves and sat in the verandah for a beer and Sri Lankan spicy nibbles.
Percy chipping
Club House Verandah

The next day we hired a jeep and made our way to Horton Plains National Park. The road that had one time would have been sealed was now a track with deep furrows and the journey was hair raising to say the least.
Road to Horton Plains
Farr Inn at Horton Plains

My comment in the photograph album is “must be the worst road in the world”. We stopped at the Farr Inn on Horton Plains, had a drink and commenced our walk across the plains to “Worlds End”, passing through a forest.
The view from Worlds End due to the steep drop of several thousand feet was fantastic and we were told that on a clear day you could see the Indian Ocean in the distance. We then passed Bakers Falls on our return walk. The experience was great as I knew we would never repeat it.
Walking through Forest
Filming Bakers Falls

At the Falls

On the way back to Nuwara Eliya we were forced to stop at the Potipola Station level crossing as there was a goods train travelling to Badulla. There was also a train carrying the President that was at the station waiting for the goods train to pass. We were therefore stopped until both trains had passed, before continuing to Kandy.
Pattipola Station and Level Crossing President’s Train

At Front Door of “Peach Cottage” “Gunne” In Lounge/Dining Room

The next day we visited “Peach Cottage” that was now owned by the Muslim Mosque that was on the next property. We went to the mosque and spoke to the trustee of the mosque who was very obliging and opened the gate and let us into the house. The property was run down as it was not being used and the only use was the land for the cultivation of vegetables. It brought back memories of our holidays that I had forgotten about for a long time. We were told the building was to be demolished once the purchase had been settled.
Entrance to Summer Hill Residence 

In the Lounge Room

The next day we packed up and made our way to Summerhill Estate for a stay with Vernon and Marlene Tissera. Vernon at that time was the Chairman of the
Antique Furniture in Residence The Tea Estate

Janatha Estates Development Board and we stayed at the Chairman’s Bungalow. After meeting our hosts and being shown our room, we walked around the tea estate and came back for an afternoon drink of tea.
Tea Factory Tea Maker

That night at dinner we met our hosts guests who had arrived from Colombo and had a jovial
interlude, recalling previous escapes as young people growing up in a very different world. The visit was arranged through my good friends John and Toni Rodie who lived in Melbourne. When John was planting in Ceylon, this had been one of the estates that he worked on. Again, this would be the only time that we would have the privilege of staying and being entertained at a estate bungalow.
The next day we bid our hosts goodbye and visited the Pedro Estate factory and started down the mountain on the road to Kandy that was named “The Ginegathena Pass”.
Ginegathena Pass Tyre Change in Kandy

Our arrival in Kandy was delayed when the car got a flat rear tyre that our driver “Gune” had the arduous task of changing with a ready-made audience of spectators. Our accommodation was at the Swiss Hotel in the heart of Kandy.
Our stay in Kandy was to be a “cultural Tour” that as youngsters we had not experienced.
View of Kandy Lake from Café

Drying Pepper behind Cafe

We had given our driver “Gunne” One Thousand Rupees when we were in Nuwara Eliya to spend on himself while we were otherwise occupied. As Percy had not tasted “Arrack” he promised to give us a lunch of devilled pork at his favorite café and have a bottle of double distilled arrack to accompany our lunch.

We visited the Peradeniya Gardens and after that had the lunch that “Gunne” had promised us. Percy had such a good appetite, both for the food and drink that he overindulged and balanced my indiscretion of the plane coming over.
We visited the Temple of the Tooth and later viewed the “Cultural Show” where there was Kandyan dancing performed by both males and females, finishing with a “Fire Walking” ceremony.

Our next stop was a stop at a hotel near the Dambulla Rock Temple, where we spent our last night in Sri Lanka.

Dambulla Rock Temple

On the way to the Elephant Sanctuary we passed a roadside transport museum where old road making equipment had been preserved for posterity.
Our first visit to the Elephant Sanctuary was an eye opener and we enjoyed the visit.

On our way back to the airport we stopped to see a man collecting rubber from a tree and showed us the elasticity of the product.
Our return to Australia was uneventful until we got the Sydney. As we were in transit we were not allowed out of the airport and when we finally got back on the Air Lanka flight we were in for the biggest fright of our life. The plane began taxing to the runway and when hurtling down the runway, the pilot aborted the take off and scared the living daylights out of the passengers.

To make matters worse the plane was taken to a maintenance area and the passengers had to spend another 4 hours in the plane while the necessary repairs were made. We finally took off and arrived in Melbourne some five hours late. We sure were glad to be home in one piece.

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