Kandy to Colombo

5 04 2008

Woke up very early again to get to Colombo. The train left at 6:15 so I wanted to leave the hotel by 5:30.

All the lights were out, I woke up the front desk clerk from a nap – he was very apologetic. I told him not to worry, I would rather be sleeping myself! They called a tuk for me – no negotiations this morning on fare, as he knew where he had me.

A quick cool ride to the train station before the sun rises, so cool in fact that the windows are not even open in our coach. All baggage is searched as we enter the station. I board my coach, noticing the only real difference between 1st and 2nd class is that the seats are a bit closer together, and do not recline. On the other hand, the seats are wing back, which makes napping easier. This activity is what most everyone on my coach does, after eating a takeaway breakfast.

I am luckly sitting on the other side of the train this time, so I can see a different view – even if for most of the ride my view is the side of a mountain.

We go down the hill to the plains, it is a 1:44 slope, not that great, but I do notice what looks like two run away tracks at stations. They arch off the main and go up quickly against the grade.

By 8:50 I am in Colombo – entering the station at full commuter push. The air is still cool-ish (maybe 30) so I walk to the hotel. It is only 3 blocks and 15 tuk ride offers away! I enter again the coolness of the Hilton and ask for an early check in. Given the 35% occupancy rate, it is given. Plus, I am upgraded to an executive floor. Score.

For a couple of hours I sit, relaxing, going through photos, looking at the very active port, taking photos I shouldn’t 😉

I decide to have a walk in the old city. Not much to see there really, as it is pretty much security checkpoints, so I head to the Galle Face Green. It is a nice walk up along the Indian Ocean, watching the ships on the horizon. I chat with some kids off school for lunch, who are playing in the ocean, showing them some photos I took. It was really nice to talk to some people who just wanted to chat and practice english, and who did not want anything else.

Had lunch in the new commerical district south of downtown, and then walked back to my hotel. I am pretty sure I looked like some kind of steamed meat – i know I felt like it!

That evening I took drinks and dinner in the lounge – as it is all free – and watched the sunset from the 19th floor. Had after dinner drinks with a couple of technical people from Singapore until late in the evening, forgetting that I had an early flight out.

Up early the next morning, already checked out. One hour hotel car ride to the airport (fun to be in) and I am checked in. The flights and my tickets work!!!!


To Kandy

1 04 2008

Back this afternoon to Colombo – actually I have been back since this morning, but nonetheless, it is afternoon, I am in my hotel room after a long walk and a shower, writing up this note.

I wish I could add more photos to this, but my photo taking ability is hindered both by the overt security force placement here in Colombo, and my loss of photo taking skills in Kandy.

The first night in Colombo, I ate at the hotel, as they had a Sri Lankin restaurant – which was quite good, and rather hot. One of the servers was very helpful in telling me how to eat each dish, and what each one was. After dinner, I went to a walk along the Face Galle, a long park and sea wall. The weather was pleasant, only 26-28. After the walk, I took an early evening after a nightcap as the train was leaving early in the morning.

Up and checked out by 6:30, for a short tuk ride to Colombo Fort station. Wonderful light and archetecture, but as I was not wanting to get security forces in my photos, my opportunities were limited. A couple of shots with my handheld unfortunately did not turn out.

I was able to get a walk-up 1st class ticket – RS 300, or CAD 2.85 – which is an observation car this morning. Basically, reclining seats, more leg-room, and big windows looking out the back. Same air conditioning as the other cars…

notice the fans on the ceiling

The train left promptly at 7:15 speeding through the northern suburbs of Colombo. Every few minutes a train would pass by southbound full to the gills with commuters. These trains were traverse seating, with many large doors, with a motor engine at one end, and a second driving cab at the other. There was only one other European in the car — from Germany. The rest of the 1/2 full car were Sri Lankin.

For the first half of the trip we sped on a double main-line, CWR (continuously welded rail), with concrete sleepers (ties) – infrastructure not unlike what we have on our main commuter lines. We were rising slowly (each station has a mean elevation noted) from sea level to 50m.

from the train, soon after leaving Colombo

rice paddies

Then the line split, and after the next station we left you quickly realized you were not on the main line anymore. What was before CTC (centralized traffic control) moved to station towers, with mechanical interlocking, with mechanically operated semaphores! As well, most crossings were manned, and manually lifted and put in place.

station before the climb – we were waiting for the morning train from Kandy

For the next part of the trip, we went up the side of the mountains to the highlands around Kandy. In 30 minutes we went from 50m to 500m, though 8 tunnels. It was a rather spectacular climb.

photos from the rise up the mountains to Kandy

Eventually we make it to Kandy. The station is a terminus station, with a junction to the line farther inland a few km from Kandy station. Outside the station grounds are teeming with tuks and busses. I grab a tuk and for more than the price of my train ticket, I am off to my hotel, which is actually outside of Kandy.

The noise in Sri Lanka is amazing. Horns, yelling, cars, exhaust, all at 10. And the exhaust. I cant imagine what the respiratory illness rates are here….

As I write this, I watch the container ships dock and leave the main port in Colombo. It is rather fascinating the watch the dance of the big container ships being berthed or taken to the ocean. The port barriers are removed just before the ships pass, and are quickly replaced. I wish I could take more photos, but here is a quick one I snapped:

Waiting for the upgrade

7 11 2007

2.5 days more of work, then I am off on my vacation to NZ. I think I should be more excited about it, but I am not. Well, yes, I am looking forward to it, but I am not excited.

Maybe tomorrow.

Until then I wait for my upgrade to Sydney clear, and plan my next trip, around the world via CMB 🙂