Gammaduwa is a village located about 1h20m from the Matale town in the central province of Sri Lanka. The temperature today is a cool 24c probably because of the elevation of 930m above sea level.

Off the beaten track that even Google Maps could not quite navigate, we finally reach our destination, the Kudaoya Villa.

Originally built (probably in the early 1900’s) as a hospital, this building has been transformed into a delightful villa comprising five large bedrooms with en-suite baths, a large sitting area with a fireplace and an equally large dining area. A long open veranda, a perfect place to sit and watch the mist come rolling in every evening or sip a coffee while enjoying the dawn break over the Knuckles Mountain range, is reminiscent of an old hospital waiting area. For anyone who enjoys cold water, (not me!) there is a pool located at the end of the garden.

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I would like to consider myself to be a somewhat-of-a-daredevil. I am up for a challenge and will try anything provided it will not disfigure, maim, or hurt me. At my age, I will also tend to be a bit more careful in what I do.

Back in 2016, I was on another one of my April escapades, and one of the countries on my itinerary was Slovenia. Here, I had a chauffeur cum guide named Drajan, who was showing me the sights and significance of this stunningly picturesque country.

One day, he drives me to Bovec, a mountain town in northwestern Slovenia, surrounded by the peaks of the Julian Alps. After a while he pulls up at a hangar and before I know it, I’m being introduced to the tandem operations manager, Andrej Kostanjevec at Xtreme Skydiving. Drajan thought that my visit to Slovenia would be incomplete if I didn’t see it from above. Together with Andrej , they try valiantly to coax me into a tandem jump.

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It’s a sultry Sunday morning, and even at this early hour of the morning, the heat is rising from the parched earth. I have navigated myself from Mahiyanganaya (where I spent the night) to the Pollebadde Galaasha Road in Maha Oya, as per instructions given to me by Nayaka Aththo (Chieftain). He flags me down outside his home. As I get down from the vehicle, he hurries up to me, clasped my hands together and greets me. I reciprocate by giving him a sheaf of betel leaves.

Nayaka Aththo is going to be my guide and guardian for the next two days as he leads the way to the summit of the formidable Nuwaragala. He is one of the few remaining Veddhas from the Pollebedde indigenous clan, descendants of Danigala Mahabandarala – a different ancestry to that of the renowned Damabana clan in Mahiyanganaya. After the death of his father three months ago, he has taken on the role as head of the clan.

Ready with my backpack, topped up water bottles and sleeping bag, and he with his sack containing a few worn out pots and pans, pouch of betel firmly secured around his waist, and an axe over his shoulder, we set off on the 9km trek. It is 8 in the morning.

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Steeped in history and home to one of Sri Lanka’s 16 sacred places (solosmasthana), Mahiyanagana, once a sleepy town, is now a bustling city. I am passing through Mahiyangana en route to Nuwaragala in Maha Oya.

One of the focal points of this city is the Mahiyangana Raja Maha Temple, which plays a significant role in the history of Buddhism in this country. On a Duruthu Full Moon Poya day in January, and nine months after attaining enlightenment, Buddha visited Mahiyanagana (1 BE. or 528 BC), his first visit to this island nation.

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Inconspicuously hidden in a tangle of trees and marked pathways is The Backwaters Lodge. A short drive from the main Wilpattu National Park Hotel Road at Eluwankulama, google maps is spot on!

On arrival, friend and host, Tarique Omar is at hand, with his charming smile and inimitable manner to ensure cold towels and a fresh juice is served, check-in is smooth, breakfast is laid out, and all the visitors are well taken care of.

I feel privileged to be amongst a special gathering of friends who have come to The Backwaters to celebrate the second anniversary of this amazing place!

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