Manky Dogs (manky dogs rule Sri Lanka. It doesn't matter where you are they are there. At the beach, on top of the mountain or at an Ancient City)Short Eats (yummy little savoury delights that cost a pittance)Ginger Beer (The best Ginger Beer ever!!! And I had one every day)Curry & Rice (yummo - Sri Lanka knows how to make a good veg curry and the best thing is that you get several little assorted dishes)Monkey's (Monkey's, Monkey's, Monkey's - everywhere and I had to take photo's of them all)
an Indian Visa(What a pain in the A**!!!)
After telling a couple of white lies at the airport (your not supposed to enter Sri Lanka without an ongoing flight reservation and that is what I was doing!!), a 3.5 hour flight and many glasses of Aussie Chardy I arrived into the troubled capital of "Colombo". The only safe way into town at this time of night was by taxi. Luckily they have a prepaid taxi service so I knew that I wouldn't be overcharged. The trip took about an hour as the city is located quite a distance south of the airport. I wasn't sure at first if I was arriving into Colombo or Colombia as the military presence with weapons on the streets was high.
I was meeting up with my friend Naomi (from PSG Days) who had arrived earlier that afternoon and had accommodation all organised (what a nice change from having to do it myself all of the time). The guest house was an old mansion and it was very nice (more upmarket than my budget normally allows). My taxi driver had problems finding the place and we drove around and around in circles asking locals how to find it. I finally arrived at 11:30pm and of course there was much catching up to be done.
It was very exciting to be travelling with a friend again.
Tour of the North
The next day we set off for the train station to head north. Our plans were to visit the Ancient Cities of Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Anuradhapura along with Dambulla Caves, Elephant Safari and some other temples.
Once at the train station we decided to stick our heads in the Tourist Office and before we know it we are off on a 9 day tour with our own driver. Our itinerary had changed completely but not the content. We had just planned to do it the wrong way around. This plan also included me getting my Indian visa in Kandy as it was apparently an easier process than doing it in Colombo. Whilst we were here there was a bomb scare but we were totally unaware. There was military in the city everywhere as the Palestinian President was visiting.
The first part of the tour was a train journey from Colombo to Kandy. The journey took three hours up into the hills and was a bumpy ride. We had tickets in First Class Observation but it was far from being first class as it was hot and bothersome.
Our driver picked us up at the other end which was a bonus as it started to rain. We then went to our guest house for a relaxing evening with a beer.
The first stop the following day was the Indian Embassy. We arrived just after 10am and I got my paperwork and my number - I was 70 and seeing that they were only at 23 it was going to be a long wait. 3 hours later we left the embassy and that bit was only the beginning. I had to come back a week later to see if my visa was approved but seeing that we would be back in Kandy in less than a week then it was going to be a problem but we decided to worry about this later on and get out and see the sights of Kandy as it was now after 1pm.
The afternoon was spent enjoying the picturesque botanical gardens. We were forever being stopped by students who wanted to practice their English. Their questions always involved cricket and "are you married". Luckily for me Naomi knows a bit about cricket as my knowledge is pretty well none existent and regarding the marriage question we just told them we were smart. After this we went to the Temple of the Tooth and a Cultural Show finished with a very important stop at the supermarket then it was back to the guest house for another relaxing night with a curry and a beer.
The following few days we travelled north visiting Ancient Cities, Temples and at the national park we saw about 50 elephants. The history and nature of Sri Lanka is really fantastic for such a small country. One of the sights that we visited was Sigiriya. A mountain with ancient ruins on top. It is not known if it was a city or a temple. Either way it was very impressive except that we got caught in very heavy rain once we reached the top. We stood under a small tree which really didn't help much. Luckily we were wearing our rain coats so we kept reasonably dry. The great thing about the rain though is that we were the only silly b******s up there. Once the rain stopped we passed many groups making their way to the top so even though we got a bit wet we could soak in the charm of this mystical place on our own.
On our last day up north before heading back to Kandy and then heading south we treated ourselves to a five star lunch at a five star hotel called Kandalama Hotel. It was way out of our budget but it is just one of those things that you do. The hotel is really beautiful and has won many awards. It is 1km long and is built into the side of a cliff. We had the buffet lunch so we both stuffed ourselves to get our money's worth. I was eating foods that I hadn't had for a long time - it was so good.
Before heading south into the hills and the tea plantations we rang to see if my Indian visa was ready for collection. It was not possible for it to be ready this early so it just meant that I would have to return to Kandy at some point. What a pain but what else could I do.
The hill country was really pretty with tea plantations as far as the eye could see. We visited a tea factory which was really interesting. Never new that tea is first fermented. For lunch we ate at a very local place. We ate some interesting small eats and curries including our favourite's 'wadi' and 'onion bread'. That night we stayed in a place called Nuwara Eliya . It was very cool up here and I even had to put a jumper on.
The next morning we made our way to the village below Adam's Peak. On the way we called the Indian Embassy again to see if my visa was ready for collection as we would extend our tour by a day and return to Kandy with our driver to collect it. Hence it wasn't, so we decided to continue with our original plans and I would collect it at a later date.
Our 9 day tour finished in a small village near Adam's Peak. We arrived early afternoon but our ascent would not start until 2am. A walk around the village took all of 5 minutes. As it was not the season everything bar a shop or two and a couple of guest houses were open.
A mid afternoon siesta took place as we would be getting up at some ungodly hour. It was pouring down with rain anyway so a good excuse for a nap.
Surprise, Surprise a curry and rice was had for dinner. It was massive and bloody good. I stuffed myself ready for the 5,200 steps that awaited us.
It rained all afternoon and we were concerned that we may not be able to make the journey but once the alarm went at 1:30am the sky was clear.
The walk was pretty bloody hard and took us 3 hours to climb the 5,200 steps. The moon shone down on us giving us a bright path to follow, the leeches stayed away from us (thank god) and Naomi didn't pass out on me (which for a moment near the top I though she might of). Once we made it to the top it was still nearly an hour until sunrise so we hung out in the caretaker's hut which was a lot less chilly than sitting out in the wind.
The sunrise was really spectacular and the 360 degree views breathtaking. The land below us was covered in cloud not allowing us to get a view out to the ocean but didn't deter from the view.
Our climb down took two hours and during our descent we could not believe how many steps we had actually gone up and how steep it was. If we had done this in daylight hours it would of been a lot harder as you would of seen where you were going and how much farther it was to get to the top.
Once back at our guest house we had a well deserved breakfast and then it was off Hatton to catch the train to Ella
The train ride to Ella was really nice through the tea plantations. We were not able to get first class tickets so we had to travel 2nd class. This turned out to be really good and a lot more comfortable than first class.
Ella is a very small village and we ended up staying here for 5 nights doing a lot of nothing. We took lots of walks and found a really great place for tea and toast for breakfast. We stayed here for 5 nights because we were meeting up with Naomi's friends (from Australia but currently living in Sri Lanka for six months) who were on tour with one set of parents.
Mirissa is a sleepy town compared to many other beach towns in Sri Lanka and would have to be one of the prettier beaches. It is lined with palm trees and the water is clean and clear with a bit of surf. We met up with our friend Alison (UK) that we had met earlier in Sigiriya and again on the train to Ella, also their was Bernie (Australia) that we met in Ella. I spent 3 nights here staying with Naomi's friends (Mark, Michelle and Finn) who live in a massive apartment. It is actually a guesthouse and they have the top floor which includes 5 bedrooms, kitchen and huge living and dining area not to mention the great balcony out the front. They also had Mark's parents staying but there was plenty of room for us all. It was really nice to be staying in a homely environment after spending months in hotels.
The weather was not fab with overcast days and some rain so Bernie and I decided that we would try and get north to Jaffna. It was a long shot as we had to get through the area that was currently under fighting but we were out for a bit of an adventure. As I still needed to get my Indian Visa (the sager continues) we would make the trip via Kandy. Our adventure however was short lived as by the time we arrived in Colombo we discovered that there was no way that we would make it through as even the UN was getting through. Oh there was one option though and that was a private helicopter -'yeah right, like I'm made of money because I'm white'. We decided that because we couldn't get to Jaffna that we would try out Trincomalee instead. It was north east and proclaimed to have the number one beaches in Sri Lanka.
In Colombo I discovered that Monday was a bank holiday so the embassy would be closed - w*** - this meant that we had to wait another day before heading to Trincomalee. Well so be it !!! The day was spent catching up on downloading photos (there was a lot). The next morning I was up bright and early to get to the embassy and line up ready for opening time. Well I got there and believe it or not it was closed for an Indian public holiday. s*** another day I had to wait. My friend Bernie decided to head off anyway and we would meet up the following day. That night Bernie rang from Trincomalee to say that the bus journey was a nightmare. The bus stopped about 20 times for security checks and it was late by the time he got there. The hotels were very expensive and he decided that he would catch the train out first thing in the morning and head back down south to Mirissa. I decided then that I wouldn't make the trip up if it was a hassle and also head back down south to one of the many beaches but not as far as Mirissa.
The next day I finally made it into the embassy - yippee. I was the first in line at 8am ready for opening at 9am (I wanted to catch the train at 10:30am to Colombo. It would be tight but it could be possible). My plan however to catch the train (or any train that day) was short lived. My visit to the embassy that morning was only the first stage as I would have to leave my passport and return at 4pm to collect it with my visa. Bloody hell India will want to be good with this amount of hassle. So another day was spent in Kandy (lucky Bernie wasn't waiting for me in Trincomalee as I wouldn't of made it!!).
The hassle of my Indian visa actually worked out for the best as I wasn't aware that it is valid from day of issue not day of arrival into the country. If I had collected it two weeks back I would of been having to leave India earlier than I wanted to. Funny how things work out.
I left Kandy with my Indian Visa in tow and by mid morning I was making my way back down to the coast by train. I decided that I would head to Unawatuna for my last few days to soak up some sun. I had to change trains in Colombo and believe it or not I bumped into a guy that I had met in Marissa who was hanging out with Alison and he said that she was now in Hikkaduwa and staying at a hotel with the word 'Dolphin in it. I then decided to get off at Hikkaduwa instead which worked out for the best as it was closer than Unawatuna. I arrived into Hikkaduwa mid afternoon and walked down the main road looking for a hotel with the word Dolphin in it. The first one I came across I didn't even go inside as I knew Alison wouldn't stay somewhere like that so I kept on trudging. After about 15-20 minutes or so I saw a person coming towards me that I thought looked familiar and sure it enough it was her. She had no idea who the woman was that was smiling and waving at her as she thought I was still in the north.
We walked back to her hotel and I got a room. It was very nice. We then went off for a beer by the water to catch up on our past week. The next couple of days were spent soaking up some sun, a trip to Galle to see the fort (not very exciting) and a night out for Halloween at the local nightclub where lots of dancing took place and my poor legs were very tired by the end of it. I made it to 3am and Alison went through until 5:30am.
On our last day in Hikkaduwa we had our last walk along the beach to our breakfast spot and then it was time to head to the train station. The train was more than 30 minutes late and once it did finally arrive we could not find any seats. We plonked ourselves down in one of the areas between carriages where locals tend to hand out the door and watch the world go by. Soon we had started up a conversation with some kids from Colombo who were sitting in the 3rd class section. They were Muslims and there outlook on life was interesting yet quite depressing. The girls were 16 and currently at school but once there schooling was over and they turned 18 they would marry through arranged marriages were they would become prisoners in their own homes (words straight from their mouths). Our chatting with them helped the 2.5 hour trip pass by quickly. One of the girls even had the same birthday as me.
In Colombo we had to change to another train and we finally made it to Negombo by late afternoon. Not much happened here except a walk along the beach (which is really dirty) at sunset and then dinner and bed ready for our early departure to the airport.
Sri Lanka in short is a fabulous country which is definitely worth a visit as it has so much variety to offer. From Ancient Cities to Beautiful Beaches to Amazing Wildlife.
It certainly sits high on my list of favourite countries!!!