World Travel – The Original Garden of Eden

I HAD enjoyed less than five hours’ sleep when I awoke at seven o’clock in the morning, and Timmie had slept about four, but we regretted that we hadn’t been wakened earlier. We had planned the previous days to go by rail to a place called Kandy with the Eddy boys and Sidney Webster, and the express train was due to leave at eight o’clock. We had permission from Captain Logan to remain away from the transport two days, since, as he said, we’d ” been very good policemen during the voyage.” Mr. Casey said that he and Jack, the boatswain, could settle any disturbances which might occur on board, and of course we would be back in time to do our share of the work before the McClellan sailed for Singapore.

We hurried through our breakfast in the mess-room and went ashore as fast as the ship’s steam launch could go. We were in continual fear that Captain Linder would see us on the launch and call us back, but we reached the landing-stage in safety. The sailing-master had told us on a previous occasion that masters-at-arms had no right to use the launch on any occasion whatever, except with his permission.. But as he wasn’t up, we thought it would be all right to risk a scolding. We met the other boys at the railway station, and they were nervous for fear that we wouldn’t arrive on time. ” If you’d missed this trip,” said Sidney, ” you’d never have forgiven yourselves, for Kandy is surely the garden spot of the earth. They have there in the Royal Botanical Gardens what well might have been the original Garden of Eden. I’m sure the original one couldn’t have been more beautiful than this.” We told him that if we had missed the train we would never have forgiven Captain Linder, for he would surely have been the one who was to blame.

Railways in Ceylon

The railway train was very similar to the one I had seen in Egypt. There were the three classes of carriages, and, as usual, we boys economized by traveling second-class. The third-class was crowded with natives almost to suffocation, and Sidney Webster said he wouldn’t hear of our riding there. The fares were six, four and two rupees for the different classes, and, as a rupee is about fifty cents in American. money, it cost us about two dollars to travel the seventy miles to Kandy. The ride was worth a great deal more money, for it proved to be the most fascinating railway journey I had ever enjoyed, surpassing in interest and beautiful scenery even the famous Swiss railways. When the road left Colombo it plunged almost immediately into a tropical forest, and in a few minutes we were surrounded by the most luxuriant vegetation I had ever seen. The country was flat during the first hour of our journey, and every little while we passed along the border of some marsh or lake, which was crowded with aquatic plants. Sidney told us that there are numerous crocodiles in these little lakes, and we instinctively shuddered at the thought. The great trees in the forests were twisted together in most remarkable ways, and covered with creepers, which, in some cases, had strangled the life out of them. The undergrowth was dense, and we weren’t surprised to hear Sidney say that one cannot walk more than half a mile an hour in a Singalese forest, for the reason that it is necessary to cut one’s way at every step.

We were continually on the lookout for monkeys among the trees, for we had heard that they were to be seen in this country; but Kenneth Eddy was the only one who saw any, and he said they were flying from the train into the denser woods. We saw many birds with beautiful feathers, and there were hundreds of cockatoos, which seemed to wear all the different shades and colors of the rainbow.

After we had traveled about thirty miles, the railway left the flat country and began to ascend among the hills. It wound in and out among the peaks, going rapidly higher, and the view became magnificent. Howard wondered what would happen to us if the train should leave the track, and we all requested him to think of some more pleasant subject. ” A great many people have asserted that this railway is the most picturesque in all the world,” said Sidney, and we said that we could agree with that sentiment as far as our experience permitted. Howard and Kenneth said it reminded them of the Union Pacific Railway in America, though of course the mountain scenery was somewhat different. In Ceylon we had tropical vegetation all about us, while at home the peaks were bare and bleak. The air became deliciously pure and cool as we ascended the mountains from the low country, and we began to understand why so many people in Colombo find Kandy a delightful residence during the hottest part of the year.

When we reached the famous city, after a journey of nearly four hours, we found it beautifully located. There were hills and valleys in every direction, and it was evident that a great deal of money had been expended in making the place attractive. Kandy was formerly the capital of Ceylon, before the commercial importance of Colombo made it advisable to move the seat of government there. We boys went to engage rooms at a small hotel, and then started out immediately to see something of the town. It was delightful to stroll about a place so rich in natural beauty. There is in Kandy an artificial lake, surrounded by a road where the people go to drive in the afternoons, and back of the town is a small mountain with a shaded road winding around it, from which you can get a fine view with every step. There were seats along the way, where people may sit and look at the scenery, and it is possible from some points to see for miles over the hills and the valleys. The hills are all covered with trees up to their very summits, and are restful to the eyes.

In the Garden of Eden

We couldn’t be satisfied to let the afternoon pass without a visit to the famous Botanical Gardens. These gardens were first established at Colombo more than a hundred years ago, but as the climate there was not as favorable as desired, they were removed two or three times, and finally located at Kandy. They cover an area of about a hundred and fifty acres, and are most beautifully laid out. They are said to be the most complete and beautiful in all the world, and after our visit we boys thought the statement could hardly be an exaggeration. There is a little river flowing through the gardens, and in some places it has been widened into pools where rare aquatic plants are growing. We saw strange trees, which we had learned about at school, but never expected to see growing.

There were many different specimens of the india-rubber tree, and there was a kind of palm, called the palmyra-palm, which Sidney said was very different from the cocoanut-palm which we had seen growing in Colombo. The two varieties will not thrive in the same neighborhood. The palmyra-palm grows almost wholly in the northern districts of Ceylon, while the other is found in the southern counties. Both are valuable to the native, as they furnish food, clothing, and shelter. Their fruit is similar, though not exactly the same, and can be eaten fresh or dried. The palmyra-palms which we saw at Kandy, grow to a height of seventy or eighty feet in a straight stem, which branches at the top into fan-shaped leaves, among which are found the clusters of fruit. When the kernels of the fruit are planted, they grow sprouts similar to parsnips, and the natives make many palatable dishes from them. The wood of the tree is valuable for building purposes, because it is one of the few varieties which the white ants refuse to touch ; but the tree is chiefly valuable for the coarse sugar which is made from its juice, in the same way as from the cocoanut-palm.

Some of the plants in the Botanical Gardens bore gorgeous flowers. ” If I saw them painted in a picture,” said Timmie, as he looked at them, ” I wouldn’t believe they could be natural. I would never have believed such colors existed in flowers if I had not seen them with my own eyes.” The orchids interested Howard, because he had some orchid plants at home. ” But I’m afraid I won’t appreciate mine now,” he said, ” after I’ve seen these brilliant specimens.” I told him that he shouldn’t feel that way about them. ” Yours may be as choice in America,” I said, ” as these are in Ceylon.”

How Coffee Is Grown

After visiting the gardens, we returned to the hotel about five o’clock, and one of the ship’s passengers, who had been kind to me on former occasions, said that he was about to visit a coffee plantation, and asked if we would care to go along. We accepted the invitation with alacrity. We had heard that Kandy is the centre of the coffee industry, and that tea and coffee raising are the chief industries of Ceylon, so if we could see something of these our knowledge of the island would be considerably strengthened. Before we returned to the hotel we had learned a great many things about the business, and none of us felt particularly anxious to engage in coffee-planting. Some great fortunes are made at it in Ceylon, just as money has been made at cotton-raising in America, but fortunes have also been lost. Coffee land is very high about Kandy. The best of it brings about $600 an acre, and the wild and uncleared districts are sold at $65 an acre. So it requires considerable capital to buy the land and start the plantation. Then the coffee plants do not bear until after they have been planted six years, and that is quite a long while to wait for money to begin to come in. In the meantime the plants may have been destroyed by rats or other vermin, leaving the planter greatly in debt. There are many men in Ceylon who are poorer to-day than when they reached the country, on account of their failures in the coffee business. Of late years it has not been possible for planters in Ceylon to compete with the products of South American plantations, so the raising of coffee has been greatly curtailed. Men are devoting their attention now to tea, instead, and this is likely to be the chief export of the island in the future. Ceylon tea has become famous the world over within a few years, and it has come out ahead in competition with the Japanese and Chinese varieties.

Most of the tea and coffee plantations are situated at a distance from the railways, and the products are hauled to the station in bullock-carts. When we boys first saw such a cart we laughed outright, it looked so primitive when we thought of our American horses and farm-wagons. But the bullocks are not to be ridiculed. Though they may be slow, they are also sure, and they are invaluable and absolutely necessary to the planters and farmers.

There was a band concert at Kandy during the evening we were there, and it was interesting to observe the crowd in attendance. They were of varied nationality, but the persons who interested us most were the high-caste natives, with their elaborate costumes. Sidney Webster told us that it is very easy to tell the caste of a Singalese by the sort of comb he wears, and the height at which it is stuck in his hair. Some of the women at the concert were decorated with quantities of jewelry which must have weighed several pounds, and which were certainly inconvenient to carry about. One young person had rings on all her toes, as well as on her fingers, with numerous bracelets and necklaces, beside. The poorer Singalese wear just as much jewelry as the rich, only it is of course of inferior quality. The women decorate themselves with ornaments which are made out of sea-shells, shark’s teeth, carved wood and the like.

The Tooth of Buddha

Kandy is chiefly famous, not because of its beautiful gardens, but because it has a great curiosity in the shape of a tooth of the founder of the Buddhist religion. This tooth is kept in a temple, and when we boys visited the place in the morning we found that great precautions have been taken against the loss of the sacred relic. In the middle of the temple we entered a room which had neither window nor door, with the exception of the narrow opening through which we passed. The atmosphere in the room was anything but pleasant. Of course there was no ventilation, and the perfume exhaled by the quantities of flowers sent as offerings made the air damp and sickening. Several Buddhist priests followed us into the circular chamber, and one of them, who could speak English, began to explain the history of the relic. We suggested that we would rather see it first and hear about it afterward, so he sent for the key to the shrine which contains the tooth. The shrine is bell-shaped, and stands on a table of solid silver. The priest opened one door and then another, and finally, in the last compartment, we saw the tooth, lying on a golden lotus flower. The priests who were standing about seemed to look upon it with great reverence, and we didn’t wonder at this when we learned its history. It seems that, according to the Buddhist chronicles, the tooth was secured at the funeral of Buddha and carried into India, where it remained during eight hundred years. Then during a war for its possession it was sent on a ship to Ceylon, but the vessel was wrecked, and for some time the relic was buried in the sand by the seashore. Finally another ship came along and completed the journey to Ceylon. The tooth remained in this island for two hundred years, and was then sent back to India, only to re-turn to Ceylon after another century had elapsed. It is also supposed to have been in China and in Burmah, and there is a Portuguese account which says that the tooth was destroyed by them. The account of its destruction is given in detail by several historians, who say that it was pounded in a mortar and the dust was thrown in a river, but the priests at Kandy say that these accounts are entirely false. When the British were in possession of Kandy, immediately after its capture they had the tooth examined with great care. It was pronounced nothing but a piece of ivory, which had become yellow with age.

As the tooth is about two inches long, we boys decided that Buddha must have been a very big man to have had it for his own, and we all left the temple feeling that the relic is a swindle. Thousands of the Buddhist faithful travel to see it every year, and on this account Kandy has become one of the chief centres of the Buddhist religion.