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British duo overjoyed on completing 174 kilometre walk

Lanka a safe tourist destination



British tourists Keith and Lucy Lanham arrive at Heritance Kandalama flanked by naturalist Nayana Wickramasinghe and escorted by a mounted rider. Pic by Saliya Rupasinghe

On January 1, British tourists Keith and Lucy Lanham expressed great joy and longing on completing a walk of 174 kilometres from Sri Lanka's western coast town, Negombo, to Kandalama, in the interior of the island. Kandalama is a locale, in and around where monarchs etched a richly endowed heritage which endeavours from yore, revealing its diverse secrets, time and over.

Kandalama, is in close proximity to Sigiriya, where the reputed 'Eighth World Wonder Rock Fortress' stands and is visited by thousands of locals and foreigners every day. Kandalama, like Sigiriya remains consumed by the jungle tide since the 5th Century AD, adding to its splendour.

The reaching of the dream hospitality unit, Heritance Kandalama, by the British couple, where seven floors blend harmoniously with lush nature along a one kilometre building and reflect the genius of architect Bevis Bawa, is but a later part of the story.

The tale began by chance, when two Decembers past, Keith and Lucy were brought to the shores of this Emerald Isle by two friends. They began their holiday at Taj Exotica, Bentota, and Christmas 2005 was spent at Heritance Kandalama, then known as Kandalama Hotel.

"It is the most amazing hotel. The design is wonderful. The infinity pool is like no other," Lucy said.

The Sri Lankan human ingredient was the other factor: beaming faces, concern, sharing. "You do not try to put it on; it is there in the Sri Lankan pattern," Lucy said.

Hearing the negative publicity levelled against Sri Lanka in the international media and by the overseas travel trade, Keith and Lucy decided to lend a hand.

But, first, back in hometown, London, walking is the past time of these building surveyors, and the Lanhams trudge 10 to 15 miles on holidays. Among other things that walking does, it keeps Keith and Lucy relaxed.

Here, in Sri Lanka, the Lanhams started their walk on December 20 and strolled an average of 14 kilometres per day, guided by the chief naturalist of Eco Team (Pvt) Ltd, Nayana Wickremasinghe, with breaks at intervals of two miles, and stops to lunch and refreshments.

The Eco Team, the company for nature, adventure, eco and agro tourism planned the journey. This type of tourism is common in India and Nepal, for instance, and is yet to be developed here.

Keith and Lucy stopped to lunch even by the roadside. Accepted invitations to the homes of people, to tea and food, ventured into villages and learned of the South Asian island's rural lifestyle.

They visited Buddhist temples and partook of a Buddhist offering (Buddha pooja). At night, they camped in tents, or rested their weary heads in resthouses and hotels. They even went to a Hindu Kovil and accepted a pure vegetarian lunch. On December 24, Keith and Lucy fulfilled their religious obligations in the Anglican Church in Kurunegala.

"Sri Lanka is no less dangerous than England was a couple of years ago, when the IRA was militant," Lucy said. It caught Keith's fancy, that at that time, people went in and out of the United Kingdom?

The duo explained that the media around their world grossly exaggerates. "How else will their story be bought?" Lucy questioned.

"Then, why do you believe everything that is said." "The British culture is such, we believe what we read," Keith said. "But, put it into perspective and it is nothing."

Were the Lanhams apprehensive when they undertook the walk? "No." They placed their trust in the Eco Team.

Back home, would they recommend Sri Lanka as a tourist destination? "Wherever we talk to people we will advocate Sri Lanka as a safe tourist destination."

Keith and Lucy hope to come back to Sri Lanka in December this year. They are confident, Heritage Kandalama where everything including the spontaneous hospitality, exquisite service and excellent food, the architectural building and aura of the surroundings will remain matchless.

But, there must be something negative, about Sri Lanka? "Only that the bus drivers mode of driving is awfully frightening, but we saw no accidents."

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Emirates passengers to win spectacular take-off in 2007

Travellers out of Colombo on Emirates in the new year will be accorded a spectacular take off with the launch of a mega on-line booking promotion by the award-winning Dubai-based carrier.

A whopping 750,000 Skywards Miles are up for grabs for Sri Lankans who book their travel on-line via www.emirates.com/lk between January 1, and March 30, with three winning chances every month.

This opportunity to accrue Skywards Miles from the airline's frequent flyer program is open to Skywards members as well as non-members who will automatically be enrolled as Skywards members when they book their travel on-line during this period.

"By all expectations, 2007 is going to be a momentous year for Emirates, and this generous offer reflects our anticipation and excitement as the new year dawns", Emirates Sales Manager in Colombo Devika Ellepola said. "This is a fabulous opportunity for our customers to start their travel on a high note."

All passengers who book travel on Emirates on-line in each of the three months of the promotion will be entitled to participate in a draw at the end of each month. The first prize at these draws will be 100,000 Skywards Miles, while the second and third prizes will each be 75,000 Skywards Miles.

To win these prizes, the on-line booking must culminate in travel on Emirates during the three months of the promotion. Travel on code-share flights (designated by a four-digit flight number) is not eligible for this promotion.

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