Tag Archives: peaceful

Ella, 2015

On the way to Ella my parents, husband, daughter and I stopped at Kudwella. We took a short walk past stalls of dried fish to the Ho-o-maniya blow hole- and boy did it blow! The water was bright blue against the dark rocks and stretched far into the horizon.

The next part of the drive took us through Udawalewe National Park and we were lucky enough to stop and see an elephant on the side of the road by a lake. A local bus had also stopped and he seemed to enjoy the attention.

It was raining by the time we started climbing into the hills, but that didn’t stop me jumping out to take a picture of Rawana Falls. Our daughter was sick after all the winding roads so we were glad to reach our accommodation for a couple of nights at the Zion View Hotel.

And what a view it was- right across to Ella Rock. The restaurant had the best views from the top floor and they also had a handy kids play area with a swing and other toys. We met another family with a young boy and our daughter was in play date heaven.

Our family room was a couple of floors down, but still had an amazing view of the rock, Ella Gap and Rawana Falls with a strategically placed hammock on the balcony to watch it from. Early morning sunrises with the little one didn’t seem so bad sitting there with her as the morning fog lifted to reveal the view.

My husband and I ventured into the small town for supplies and stumbled upon a film crew shooting. It was a fight scene so most of the locals were watching excitedly. We also found one of the many funky new cafes that have cropped up in Ella.

Not brave enough to climb through the gap to and up Ella Rock, I was still glad that we had come to see such a beautiful place and taken in the peaceful hill town.

Related posts: Mirissa, 2016, Galle, 2015, Cooler Colombo, 2015, Old Colombo, 2015, It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Hot air ballooning in the Hunter Valley

I had wanted to go hot air ballooning for a long time. I saved up birthday and Christmas money for 2 years and finally had enough for the ride and some nice accommodation in the Hunter Valley. I jumped on Red Balloon straight away and booked the experience with Balloon Aloft and then counted down the days until it was time to take flight.

The excitement started the night before when you have to check in by phone at 6pm to make sure the next days flight is going ahead and to confirm you were coming.

The next day I woke at only a little earlier time than usual at just before 5am- yes, my name is Roshan and I have a toddler. I drove myself to Peterson’s Champagne House to check in in person with my pilot Richard, by all accounts a very experienced hot air balloon pilot who had flown everywhere from the Swiss Alps, to, well, the Hunter Valley.

There was 20 to a balloon basket, so our team, the blue team, piled into our allotted bus and we drove to the first launch site to release a test balloon- the same as the ones you get at kids parties- except with a red light on it.

The wind was not right, so we were driven past Margan and Cockfighters Ghost to another launching site in Broke which was nestled at the foot of a very nice looking mountain range.

We got off the bus into a very chilly field, just as the sun started rising. And then we all spread out the balloon in a fashion reminiscent of the parachute game I used to play at school.

I met a balloon enthusiast and his wife, who had been ballooning in my dream destination, Capadocia, plus also Egypt and a few other places. They were planning for Portugal or Morrocco next.

Our balloon was inflated with cold air by dangerous looking and noisy fans. While this was happening I watched 3 other balloons be inflated and take off into the dawn. It was a beautiful sight and you could almost feel your spirits lifting up with the balloons as they went. My excitement built as I knew we would soon be joining them in the air.

Richard added hot air to the now inflated balloon, using four gas cylinders and then the basket started lifting from horizontal to vertical and it was time for all the passengers to jump in quickly before the man on the ground holding the balloon was taken away. I had to switch sides and was scared the balloon would take off without me.

And then we lifted up and drifted off. It was so quiet and still that you could hear dogs barking in the nearby farms.

We floated around, away from the mountains that now had the early morning sun shining over them.

Taking in the other balloons drifting around us and the shadow of our own in the fields.

The scenery was shrouded by early morning fog that lifted to expose vines, farmland and kangaroos, just waking up and hopping around.

A camera suspended on the balloon took a group photo and I took a terrible selfie shot.

We flew up and down and through the valley taking in the gorgeous view and enjoying the moment.

The silence only punctuated by the occasional burst of gas into the balloon to keep us afloat.

Before too long, it was time to land in a friendly field with enthusiastic cattle dogs and startled kangaroos. We braced in the landing position, took a couple of hops and then it was all over.

Time to pack up the balloon- a lot harder than unravelling it- and head back to Petersons for a champagne breakfast with chocolate. We were also given a thoughtful thank you pack with discounts at other wineries and shops for rest of the day.

What a great experience, definitely not one for adrenalin junkies. More peaceful than I thought it would be, I was glad that I had done it. Now, just to get myself to Capadocia for round two.

Related posts: It’s a Winery ThingAdventurous vs Risk TakerAll creatures great and small

Mexico City, 2011

I had heard Mexico City was dangerous, so was a little apprehensive about visiting. When I found out my husband had booked for us to stay in a rough neighborhood, this did nothing to allay my fears. When we got to the hotel, we were informed that the following day was a public holiday and there would be political protesters everywhere. Despite all this, I have never felt safer in any large city than I did on that Labour Day Monday in Mexico City.

Our hotel had a lovely roof top pool, which we never managed to utilise due to killer jet lag. In an effort to get back in the right time zone we walked to the Torre Latino Americano for a great view of Mexico City- it is huge. I had no idea how big until I got the birds eye view of the endless sprawl. My favorite building I could spot was the close by Palacio de Belles Artes with its beautiful multi-coloured roof.

We continued down Calle 5 de Mayo, which had many old mosaiced buildings, to the Zocalo main square, flanked by the Palacio National and the Catedral Metropolitana. The square had a political protest group in the middle and Aztec Indian dancers on a side street. Behind the Palacio National we found a skeleton statue as a shrine for Santa Maria outside the Templo de la Santisima Trinidad.

The next day was Labour Day and as soon as we stepped outside, we found that there were protestors everywhere and 4 different types of police. Despite the sheer numbers of people, it all seemed relatively peaceful.

One of the main streets- Paseo de la Reforma- was closed for the public holiday and there were families with kids walking, biking and roller blading along the wide road. I saw the biggest stone seat I have ever seen, along with many monuments and statues, including the Budapest-like Monumento a la Independencia with a gold angel at the top.

The Monumento a la Revolucion- a Paris-like arch- was a hub of riot police and protestors who had marched there along the flag lined Plaza de la Republica. Alameda Central park also seemed to be a hive of activity for the locals.

We decided to seek out the Mercado de la Merced, which we later found out is located in an actual dangerous part of the city. I did wonder why the streets were lined with prostitutes. The market itself was an explosion of colour in flowers, piñata’s and chillies.

Our next stop was the Arena Coliseo to see a genuine Luche Lubre wrestling show. It was very entertaining, and I am sure the extra spicy Doritos and cheap beer helped. After the show, my husband bought a blue wrestling mask and posed for a photo with a policeman. I suppose after the long day of protesters, a couple of tourists were no hassle.

The main thing I wanted to see in Mexico City was the Teotihuacan ruins. However, we discovered that it was the one day of the week that the ruins were closed, A lesson in always read the guide book carefully was well learnt, thankfully at the start of our trip.

That night, we were cheered up by dinner with Eugenio, who my husband had met through his rotary exchange program, and his wife Cynthia. They were lovely warm people, even though I had never met them before. We went to a fancy restaurant and they introduced us to fine sipping tequila and cactus salad- which was actually very yummy.

If this was only the beginning, we were in for a hell of an awesome trip in Mexico!

Related posts: France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, Hungary, 1997