Sri Lanka, called Ceylon up until the 70ties, has a history that spans over 3000 years. It is mentioned in an ancient script – the Ramayana how Ravana, the king of Lanka abducted the beautiful Sita, the wife of Rama, an avatar of Vishnu. Hanuman, the monkey God, who could fly because his father was the wind went to Lanka and found Sita. It is then believed that he created the group of islands between Sri Lanka and India in order to enable Rama and the monkey army to cross the sea and save Sita.
Sri Lanka is a diverse country in many ways and there are loads of things to do, from mountain trekking to beach dwelling. It is home to many religions, ethnicities and languages. It is the land of the Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Moors, Indian Tamils, Burghers, Malays, Kaffirs and the aboriginal Vedda. Sri Lanka has a rich Buddhist heritage, and it is said that the first known Buddhist writings were composed on the island. There are Buddhist temples everywhere. Though in recent years the history has been scarred by a thirty-year war which ended in 2009. We will remember it best by the people we met there.
To enter the country you need a fairly expensive visa (70USD) which you can gain upon entry. Don’t forget to complete the immigration form and have all details ready when reaching the immigration desk, otherwise you will annoyingly be sent to the back of the queue by the grumpy official.
We decided to not stick around in Colombo and went straight to Kandy, where we stayed in Kandy Guesthouse which was actually not in Kandy at all, but 10km outside. This was completely fine as it meant we weren’t right in the busy centre. It gets a bit chilly here in the night, which was great as we finally got some sleep. We had a lovely dinner cooked by the host
Then we met the other travelers who just arrived, a family of five. It struck me how incredibly confident these kids are. The boy sat right next to us and told us about their two weeks in Sri Lanka and that they’ve been on the road for 18 months so far. He then told us about all the countires they’ve been to, a pretty impressive list. We did hear about people doing this trip with their children, but 18 months with three kids is amazing. You can check out their blog here www.mmbzl.com
Kandy is pretty nice and we spent the day walking around. We first checked out the botanical garden.
It seemed that a rather famous Yugo has been here before us
We also met this guy, who was happy to strike a pose
Then we went to the big temple
The entry tickets for foreginers were ridiculously expensive and there was a queue, so we decided to go get some lunch instead. Walking along the big lake, we saw this guy drying in the sun
The next day it was time for us to take the six hour train trip further to Ella. We were told this train has a view wagon, so we booked this option. Turns out the viewing wagon is basically the last wagon on the train and there is only one window more than usual, it shakes considerably more than the other wagons so totally not worth the extra bucks. Before getting on the train, we met a German couple well into their 60ties who were travelling around Sri Lanka on their bikes.
We arrived at Ella pretty late, but were absolutely stunned when we saw our bedroom view in the morning.
What you see there is Ravanas rock. Mat went up there one day while I stayed behind to admire the view from the balcony.
I did go trekking one day. Though I’m not sure it’s called trekking if you walk 7 km down a road, still it nearly killed me as it was so hot. Here we are getting ready for trekking
Actully that photo is probably also a good example of how to create an electrical fire hazard with phone chargers. That first day we trekked, we walked up a tall waterfall.
It was quite cool all the way up as not many people bothered to go that far, so we were all alone and could splash our feet in the waterfall pools. A funny thing happened on our way down. We met a stray dog who seemed to have problems getting down the slippery rocks. Not wanting to leave the dog there, we found a route a bit higher up where we could walk down through the forest and got the dog to join us. You could tell she was happy to get away and once we reached the forest, ran all the way down in that goofy excited way dogs do.
We continued walking the narrow path until we reached a tree with big monkeys on it. As we were approaching the monkeys started screaming loudly towards us and showing their big teeth so we started looking for a different way, which seemed a bit impossible without going back on the rocks. Then suddenly the stray dog came back, stopped between us and the tree and started barking at the monkeys, until they all ran away. The dog then stood put in one place until we passed and walked all the way down with us. There was no doubt that it came back to help us and to thank her we bought some savoury crackers and fed them to her.
Ella was really nice and it was good to get some fresh air after the polluted towns of India. Sri Lankans also seem a bit more laid back, so we could chill out to. The main dish served everywhere is Rice & Curry, which usually consits of a banana leaf wrapped boiled rice parcel and around seven curry dishes to follow. All really yummy and I loved this way of eating, where you try a little bit of everything.
After four days in Ella and the mountains we (I) were ready to move on to the beach. Transport options were a cheap seven hour bus ride through the bendy mountain roads – a journey that at best can be seen as a reasonable suicide attempt. A taxi which would take around four hours, but at a ridiculous price of 15 – 19 000 Sri Lankan rupees (£70). Or a seven / eight hour tuktuk ride at 7000 rupees (£32). Yes, you guessed right – we were heavily considering the tuktuk! The point is not that we can’t afford 70 squids, it’s the fact that these taxi rip offs earn around a months pay in less than a day. It’s crazy that tourists actually agree to this!
Not being super keen on tuktuking it, we made a “Share taxi to Galle” sign and put it in front of us at breakfast. After a while we started talking to a guy who could potentially find a more reasonable taxi, when the waitor told us he has a friend who is taking some tourists that way, possibly they wouldn’t mind us tagging along as the car was big enough and the cost was 7000 rp.
And that is how we met Yvonne & Ludovic
We had the best day with these Swiss lovebirds, who met eachother while studying medicine and were on their first trip outside Europe together. Seperately, they have pretty much travelled all over the world and gave us some good pointers on where to go. Guys, you are awesome, hope rest of your trip was fun! With them we also saw the southern most tip of Sri Lanka
That’s how we got to Unawatuna, where we were meant to stay for two days and move on to the next beach. This place had such a good vibe that we actually ended up staying there for rest of the trip. This whole area is apparently full of good surfing beaches and has been well visited by surfers, which is probably why all the young guys here have adopted the Ozzie surfer look. They mostly have longer hair, some of them sunbleached dreads. Tbh, after feeling a bit out of place in India, it was great to be somewhere where people made an effort to look out of place. I loved it. And this is also where we met Lucky.
Lucky is still a baby and was found by the villagers under a tree and taken to Aruna who has looked after an orphan monkey before. Arunas monkey had grown up and was recently released into the wild, he hoped he could do that with Lucky too. At first I didn’t buy his story, as we saw a few guys walking on the beach with shabby monkeys, earning money by allowing tourists take photos with them. But then we saw how gentle and protective he was with Lucky. Some tourists walked over and he asked them to switch off their flash to not scare the little guy. It was really nice to see this. Aruna sells coconuts on the way to Jungle Beach and also looks after a few stray dogs. He told us that his dream was to open up a roti shop there and sell packed lunches to tourists that walk past. Aruna, we hope you make it!
That night we met Faree & Chavi, a couple from Colombo, sitting next to us in one of the restaurants in Unawatuna. We ended up partying with them until well into the next day, watching the sunrise on the rocks underneath the big Buddha statue, as giant wawes were coming in. What a crazy night!
These guys are legends and definitely one of those people we know will stay in our lifes. They are the most liberal natives we’ve met so far and it really refreshing to see that there are people like them here too. They are a total joy to be around. A few days later we were flying from Colombo and hung out with them again. It was short, but sweet and we look forward to seeing you again guys!
We have now been on the road for 1.5 month and are definitely over the holiday feel. It seems like ages ago that we worked in a London office and all the stress and work worries seem really far away. Though Mat is still working on a personal project and we get the joy of logging the occasional JIRA ticket for that. We’ve definitely learned a lot, but I’m missing our lives back home a little too. There are certain things you take for granted back home, things like washing machines. The sight of one of these babies makes me super excited, especially if there’s fabric softener involved in the picture.
At the moment we’re back in India and are currently in Auroville, an European settlement created by a French woman they refer to as “the Mother”. Yes, it is definitely a hippie movement and I’m loving every chakra healing moment of it. Especially the organic parmesan cheese the Italians make on their farm. We’ll be staying her for four more days, then move further on to Rishikesh. More about this coming soon.