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God, are we really half-way through March already? Where did the time go? It’s certainly been a tumultuous month so far what with the tragic and appalling events in the Ukraine and the knock-on effects around Europe and across the world. Just as we thought the planet was starting to recover from the unprecedented Covid pandemic we’re thrown back into death and uncertainty – along with a hefty economic hit.

Due to various events I’d really been looking forward to the idea of being able to get abroad again and had my eyes on Sri Lanka. So, today I checked the exchange rate. Sterling’s not been doing terribly well recently so you can imagine my surprise when I saw that compared to the other currencies I watch the Pound was up 27% against the Rupee. To give you an idea, last time I was in the country in January 2016 a pound was valued at 204 Rupees. It’s now at 356.

This made me do some digging. Apparently, the Rupee is being ‘adjusted’ due to economic hits which include a 40% rise in fuel costs and the collapse of the country’s foreign currency reserves due to Covid and the absence of foreign tourists – a situation that’s not going to improve as the No3 on the incoming visitors list was…Russia.

Even so, the country is an attractive destination as they’ve relaxed many Covid restrictions – making it easier to visit – and they need foreign currency. OK, there’s problems with various shortages but after living in post Brexit Britain the absence of stuff on supermarket shelves is more than made up for by the beaches! Besides, I’m not a fussy eater and I’m desperate to get away for some R&R and beach time.

Oh, there’s another attraction. Sri Lanka has the most amazing railway system. In some areas it’s still pure Victorian colonial, in others it’s modern, having been rebuilt after the terrible civil war. Oh, there’s a few modern Chinese multiple units taking over, but the infrastructure (especially the signaling) is out of another era and incredibly photogenic – especially in the hill country where the railway weaves its way through the tea plantations. Of course, it’s not going to last forever – just as it hasn’t in countries like Malaysia who’re spending huge sums dragging their railways into the 21st century. Thailand is too – and even India (the mother of all rail systems) is allocating vast amounts of capital to their rail budgets. So, today’s picture is one from my last trip to Sri Lanka back in 2016.

This is Haputale, in the hill country seen on the 17th January 2016. A German built diesel-hydraulic loco has called with a train from Badulla to Kandy whilst clouds swirl around the town which is perched on a ridge between two valleys 1431 meters above sea-level.

You can find many more pictures from this trip (and they’re not all railways – promise!) here.

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