Originally published: 10th December 2007
The South Coast
We are just about done with Sri Lanka and it’s been a hell of a time. We started of on the south coast, where we went beach hopping at Hikkaduwa, Weligama, Mirissa and Dickwella. Mirissa was the paradise beach of popular imagination, a wide bay with tall, rocky outcrops at the points of the crescent leading into a lush beach liberally decorated with palm trees. At one end were these two wooden shacks under the shade of the trees where you could look out into the ocean under the biggest sky sipping cocktails (yes, I fell off the wagon again but when fruity cocktails are a quid and a pint and a bit is 70p, it’s hard to continue to say no).
Hikkaduwa and Weligama were where we got our surfin’ freak on in fine stylee. I managed to get some full on standing wave-riding action in Weligama for the small price of some nasty sand grazes and a suspected bruised rib. Totally worth it, though. No feeling like it in the world. It’s like running on water. Duuuuude.
As it was my birthday and as Erin had just got her tax rebate (Inland Revenue, you say? Refunding money, is it?) we decided to check in to some resplendent 4 star luxury at Dickwella Resort. For the price of a room at the Travelodge, we got a big-ass cabana with air conditioning, a four poster bed with a mattress that you needed a ladder to climb on to, breakfast, a 5 course candlelit Italian dinner and a whopping great pool where I got to do a test scuba dive. Being underwater for extended periods looking out a crazy visor breathing through a lump of rubber is all sides of awesome. At once.
We then stayed at Tree Tops Farm bang in the middle of the jungle. This is the definite highlight so far for both of us. Our bed was a mattress on the floor of a treehouse. Underneath us and built around our tree was a kind of mud hut construction with a dried leaf roof decked out in homemade wooden furniture where we ate and chilled and where our 5 hosts slept.
It was just us and them, with no electricity (the evenings were magical cause they decked the place out in candles and lanterns) and fresh water pumped from a well and cause it was mountain water, and unlike most of Sri Lanka, it was OK to drink. Our shower consisted of standing butt nekkid by this well, surrounded by trees and leopards (or their tracks, at least), and hoisting great bucketfuls of cold well water (minus the frogs) over ourselves.
The meals were different varieties of curries in infinite amounts and rice 3 times a day with an ice cold beer at dinner time (how they kept it ice cold I’ll never know – it was steaming out there), but it was damn tasty. Our host Kamal was a knowledgeable chap and took us on a coupla hikes through the jungle, checking out all sorts of cool stuff like these parasitic trees that attach themselves to the branches of other trees and let their roots grow to the ground while they feed off the insides of their hosts. All in ultra slow tree time.
There were also these weird spiders with massive horns, bright blue rectangular furry caterpillars and these crazy mushrooms that bleed. I have never been more at peace with the world. Even the mosquitos mostly left us alone as we lay in hammocks watching the sun go down and reveal such a cacophony of stars that I have never seen (or, more likely, never bothered to look at) before. Totally lush.
The Hill Country
All too soon we had to leave and head off to Ella, which was high up in the mountains (1000-odd metres) but was refreshingly cool. It was a pretty treacherous bus journey. All the drivers are crazy – overtaking on blind corners at speed blaring their horns next to jaw dropping drops – but I think that the flashing lights, statues and images of the deities that decked out their garish dashboards helped us get there in one piece. Not that I’m superstitious, or anything, but it’s funny how scientific principals and logical arguments disappear easily when you’re looking out of an open bus door down steep drops. Real steep drops.
After Ella it was Haputale, where it was even higher and we actually needed to sleep with a blanket at night! A blanket! I sometimes had to wear trousers! Crazy cold, it was. Anyhow, we did a 12km hike from a place called Lipton’s Seat (the tea guy) with a couple from Cambridge. We went with them to one of the tea factories that goes into Lipton tea, the details of which were dead interesting to us, but probably not to you guys. If you want a detailed description of how they make tea, let me know.
Finally (after getting slightly lost on a train – I know it’s on rails but somehow we did it), we reached Kandy which is all in a tizz cause England were playing Sri Lanka at cricket.
Yesterday we went down to the elephant orphange which was stupendous fun. It was the same one that Erin volunteered at and we are very thankful for the lack of health and safety standards in Sri Lanka. Not only can you hang out of the train door as it trundles through the jungle (another very calming and peaceful way to spend time), they let an entire herd of 70 elephants wander down a market street to the river to bathe, all gawped at by impressed and ever so slightly frightened tourists.
Seriously, these animals are massive. Very gentle though and, with a little tip to the Mahout (‘the elephant guy’), we got to jump in the river with the elephant and help it with its bath. I’m going to live with an elephant one day. Oh yeah.
Today we went down to the cricket ground and had a wander on the grass and it’s tiny, like a village cricket green, so look out for us if any of you lot are watching it on the telly (we are going on Sunday). Our friend from Cambridge who owns a brewery was telling us that the brewers in the UK received an email that there has been a Presidential Decree assuring the English that there will be enough beer for the entire test match, and all of the breweries have been put on alert.
Apparently, the last time there was a major event with us Brits we managed to drink the country dry. Either something to be proud of or disgusted by, I guess.
Off to India next for a whole other world of crazy.
View Sri Lanka Photos.