United Kingdom, Sri Lanka · 14 Days · 50 Moments · August 2017

We be Sri Lankin'!

12 September 2017

Following the tea plantation we headed back to climb Little Adam’s peak and, as all good hill walkers will tell you, make sure you set off in the middle of the day and summit around midday to maximise your suntanning time! Regardless of the heat once we got to the peak we were treated to some utterly stunning views which we sat taking in for what felt like mere minutes but was closer to an hour. We decided to go and see the 9 arch railway bridge on our way back which again provided some really great views. We were told that the quickest way back to Ella was via a stroll along the railway (but just to be careful if any trains came along)...which is exactly what we did!
With one half of the EF feeling satiated and energised for splorin’ & the other half feeling uncomfortably rotund, unable to move & in need of some water to aid digestion we gathered our things and headed for a local tea plantation in a tuk tuk which descended (rather rapidly) to the valley floor before (rather lethargically) ascending back up the other side of the valley to the plantation. The tea plantation tour itself was really rather interesting & we had the most amazing guide who had worked in all aspects of the tea production process & was rather knowledgeable talking us trough the process of controlling between quality, strength and flavour of the ‘teeeea’. They explained how in Colombo they still have weekly tea auctions where major commercial tea sellers come to buy the tea of varying quality from various producers before blending the ‘teeeeas’ to their own blend. The top of the factory had lovely alternative view of the valley & sold unblended tea which we indulged in☕️
The next morning we were treated to a HUGE traditional Sri Lankan breakfast on our balcony with the most fabulous views down the valley...at which point a section of the Expeditionary Force (EF) voiced their rather apparent disdain at the large volume of fruit served (mainly papaya). Now, in order to not seem ungrateful & towards our kind hosts it was put upon the remaining member of the EF to consume the fruit entire... unfortunately dear reader, I have to inform you that there just weren’t enough room fo all that fried food and fruit in a single belly (much to the disappointment of the wider EF community)....suffice to say that this would not be an isolated incident with such issues on the expedition!

11 September 2017

Following our arrival we prioritised fried rice refuelling before our wee host zoomed down to pick us up in his tuk tuk. After a short ride we arrived at our lovely accommodation which had the most fantastic views of Ella Rock and Little Adam’s Peak. We were advised that we should book our train ticket to Hatton ASAP so we hopped back in a tuk tuk & zipped down to the station to grab our tickets only to be told at the ticket desk that a grand total of 4 tickets are released for pre-booking & they’d all gone but that they were sure we’d get on the train. To ensure this was a productive journey we booked our Hatton to Kandy billet & decided to splash out & pay an extra £5 for 1st class tickets - AC here we come! After this we strolled into Ella where we found imitation Italian coffee, unavailable restaurants, mosquitoes that could bite through Kevlar, learnt to play Go Fish, learnt that Jess cheats wherever possible & found the worlds only tea themed restaurant with tea cocktails!

10 September 2017

We considered using Arugam Bay’s ‘texi’ service which offers customers an individually tailored dropping of & ‘pickuping’ option but as it wasn’t ‘RECOMMeNd BY TRiP AdViCe’ we decided to take a tuk tuk to Potuvil & gab the public bus via Monaragala to the hills of Ella. This was our first experience of Sri Lankan public busses & the drivers definitely abide by the credo of ‘I’m bigger than you so I can go faster & you’ll just have to get out of my way’..even on blind corners half way up a mountain! During the transit wait of ~45mins in Monaragala a vegetarian-friendly(VF) resupply of essentials (namely, Bombay mix & Sprite) was made following failed VF resupply attempts in Potuvil. With stomachs full of fizzing resupply so began the winding & almost vertical journey up through the stunning hill country that Sri Lanka has to offer; if only I was able to get the final scene from the Italian Job out of my head it may have been a nice journey, “don’t worry lads, I’ve got an idea..err?”
NOBODY PANIC, I’ve found the Star of Asteroth! Island of Naboombu here we come!
Now, I was unaware that there was such a thing as a 6am start on a ‘holiday’ however, it turned out I was wrong about this on several occasions throughout the trip. We set off for a lagoon safari which is an amazing initiative set up by the local fishermen who take people out for a punt around the lagoon with all proceeds going towards supporting the local community. We set off with the most amazing light as the sun began to rise with many wetland birds seen including, cormorant, lesser adjutants, purple swamp hens, egrets, pied kingfishers, herons, brahminy kites, crested serpent eagles & white bellies sea eagles. As our vessel reached the northern shore we saw a herd of elephants in the paddy fields on their morning constitutional before they disappeared into the adjacent forest. Our guide constantly told us that there were crocs in the lagoon but we didn’t see any, although on various occasions we were fooled by convincingly croc shaped driftwood. Great start to the day!

9 September 2017

Next up was a day of RnR on a golden sandy beach...UNFORTUNATELY, “relaxing” does not come naturally to either intrepid traveller (although, as the photos highlight some members of the expeditionary force are more open to the prospect of spending the day quietly swinging in a hammock than others). THEREFORE, after breakfast with some irresistible local scrud-pups we sat down and relaxed for approximately 0.5 seconds before the dulcet tones of, “I’m hungry, I’m bored, I’m thirsty” began to play on repeat...as a result we almost effortlessly found ourselves booking onto a 6am lagoon safari the next morning...so much for RnR!🤦🏻‍♂️🙋🏻🤷🏻‍♀️

8 September 2017

Pt. 5 On the journey back we were presented with a further challenge, that of the rapidly diminishing light - nevertheless, driving in sheer darkness (with headlights used only intermittently in a beautiful strobe lighting effect) was merely seen as another challenge by our immensely talented driver who decided to maintain his NASCAR style of driving a'la Days of Thunder & with the rain flaps squared away we could feel the wind in our hair...as you can see, Jess is deploying a rather ingenious bug evasion tactic! Lastly, on our return journey in the pitch black our strobe lights caught a flash of a couple of elephateros outside the park who were busy pillaging paddy fields - naughty Dumbo's🐘, but an amazing ending to a 'busy' day! ....aaaaand relax!
Pt. 4 It should also be noted that this particular safari jeep did not have much in the way of a solid windscreen for its passengers, rather, it had a series of retractable flaps at the front & side of the vehicle which are to be deployed in the unlikely event of rainfall...naturally a micro-monsoon decided to descend upon CCBD which Mr NASCAR was seemingly unaware of, snugged away in his watertight cab, therefore, after an initial stinging drenching we rapidly unrolled the flaps & clipped them down, alas no(!), all but the front flaps had fastening clips to secure them in place (I mean, why would the front flaps have any fastenings?!), we therefore needed to hold down the flap which itself was enjoying a well overdue wash thanks to the heavy downpour which left muddy warm water to run all over these khaki clad safari aficionados!
Pt. 3 This initially doesn't sound like too much of an issue, however, as you may be able to see, the floor of our jeep was suffering a wee bit from the process of oxidisation of metal aka, rust..combine this with the weight of the Corrina/Carlton's seats which were seemingly hewn from solid steel & a driver who lamented his missed career as a NASCAR driver & was determined to stress test the suspension & you have a recipe for hilarity?! Thus, every time we 'cruised' over a pothole the seats would defy gravity & creak/lurch into the air only to be followed with a thump back down on the floor of the jeep, each time taking away a little more rust & gouging a larger hole in the floor which will eventually get to such a size that it consumes the chair whole! This process equally chipped away at these travellers belief that they would live to see the sun rise on another day!...
Pt. 2 Now, an initial sit-rep would leave one feeling that the expeditionary force were in good shape with all going well; we'd managed to get a relatively good deal with our hotel which included safari transport, park entry & a 'driver' for the acceptable sum of 10,000 LKE (~£50)..BUT, there was one ever so small detail that our intrepid travellers neglected to clarify prior to departure..that of our mode of transportation🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♂️ Alas, due to the protective nature of the owner of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Death (CCBD) we were unable to get a wide angle snap of the 'jeep' but hopefully the internal snap provided helps paint a picture; as you can see, the owner has 'up-cycled' the back seats from an old & dilapidated Ford Cortina/Vauxhall Carlton & welded them to the floor of the jeep.....
Pt. 1 Another day another safari! This time we headed to Kumana NP in search of leopards! However, before fluffy pictures from the animal kingdom I would like to point you in the direction of Hemingway who said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end"....We would like to ever so slightly challenge that..... (Please see additional notes)
..fluffy animal pics. The habit in Kumana NP was unlike any we’d seen so far with a predominantly sandy understory. Although the safari began quietly we soon came across an array of amazing wildlife including, crocodiles, buffalo, jackals & elephants. However, the most amazing habitat on display in the park are the extensive wetlands; with a RAMSAR site outside the park there was a huge number of wetland birds to see & while driving round we saw a gorgeous fish eagle silently perched in a tree with its dinner tightly gripped in its talons - unfortunately it took to the air to consume its meal in a more secluded spot before a snap could be taken but it was a breathtaking sight. However, the park saved its best for last; as the sun dropped over the horizon (giving us another beautiful sunset) we began our drive out of the park & the just as we approached the exit we saw a fleeting glimpse of the illusive leopard; seeing the size & power of this amazing carnivore was breathtaking.

7 September 2017

As our gallant four stroke glided to a near perfect landing at Arugam Bay Jess leapt out of the tuk tuk to rest her weary eyes on the ocean leaving me to untie myself from my contorted position in the back of our three wheeled chariot. Arugam Bay itself is built on the surfing scene owed to the many different breaks found around the area & essentially consists of one long road behind the beach full of eateries, accommodation & shops full of all things linen that the general traveller tragedies clamber for; don't get me wrong, 'A-Bay' is not without its charm & as with everywhere in this beautiful country the people are friendly, fun & very helpful but there is something a little cliché about A-Bay & you can't help feel that this could be a surfing location anywhere in the world, BUT as the photo clearly states many of the places here are 'RECOMMeNd BY TRIP AdViCe' & the Kerala Mango prawn curry at the Tandoori Hut was one of the best curries I've ever had!
...now, following on from our rather straightforward and relaxing 2hr tuk tuk journey from Talalla to Udawalawe we decided to leave our jungle hammock double our money and go all in on a 4.5hr...yes 4.5hr tuk tuk journey direct from Udawalawe to the sandy shores of Arugam Bay...sure, we could have taken a couple of busses or even hired a taxi but dear reader the tuk tuk is the vehicle of the people, the workhorse on which the Sri Lankan people go about their daily jobs and as such we wanted to savour, enjoy and take every opportunity to appreciate the dulcet tones of the four stroke engine that powers this mighty beast!...beep beep!...Stupid boy!!! The intrepid journey was marked by sightings of adorable scrud hounds and elephants stomping thorough paddy fields🐘

6 September 2017

Our afternoon adventure took in rather a different forested habitat from the savannah bush habitat we drove around during our morning safari & with it came a different array of wildlife.. It was a special moment to come across a troop of langur monkeys that had a new born member of the troop which stayed closely gripped to mum whilst having an afternoon forage. Had we not stopped to watch the monkeys have a nom nom nom then we would never have spotted the giant Sri Lankan squirrel which was silently going about its very own afternoon forage in the trees opposite the langurs. Following this we saw a large number of spotted deer which raised hopes of seeing the elusive leopard however this was one animal that remained camouflaged from sight on this drive. A final encounter with another majestic elephant as we began our journey out of the park was followed by the unmistakable flight of a hoopoe & a final spot of a grey headed eagle. Magical! ...less Udawalawe more Udawala-WOW!
As the sun entered its prime rouging phase and the air began to stifle we came across a small herd of elephants having their brunch. These special mammals clearly wanted some privacy and moved away from the vehicles to continue their foraging so we slipped away and found what could only be described as crazy corner!... ...this area was teeming with all kinds of wildlife; multiple species of kingfisher were seen swooping into the river in search of scrummy fishies alongside the rather spectacular grey headed eagle (seen here in both its foraging and 007 pose). An Indian darter, crocodiles, turtles, buffalo, egrets and elephants were all also seen whilst sitting in this majestic location...we could have stayed here all day!
After narrowly avoiding a Velociraptor (aka a hungry LR) we saw a flock of birds feasting on a buffalo carcass with a scavenging jackal in the background tearing away any scrumptious buffalo it could! We also saw an array of birds including beautiful bee eaters which were kind enough to show us their good side for a couple of snaps....the crested eagle was less accommodating but I maintain the back of its head was still an amazing sight. You can also see buffalo taking a dip in the water to cool off and release themselves...smelly yet satisfying! Lastly an inquisitive troop of toque macaques decided to stop traffic and take a leisurely stroll around the safari jeep to see if there was any food on offer...there was none.
....we're yet to see any wildlife and it's all getting a little Jurassic Park in Udawalawe NP!
..."where 'dem animals at?"
Into Udawalawe National Park we go for safari 1 of 2. Happy birthday LR!🐰🎈🐘

5 September 2017

We arrived in Udawalawe after our tuk tuk adventure to be told we didn't have a room😧. We managed to sweet talk our host & convince him that he should TOTALLY kick out the other guests who have yet to arrive - survival of the fittest & all that jazz! Following this relaxing start to our time in Udawalawe we went for a stroll & grabbed some local chow which mainly consisted of fried sweet foods & an egg cooked in a very thin & crispy crepe - super tasty. After that we visited the Elephant Transit Home who aim to rehabilitate orphaned elephant calves for release back into the wild. Elephant calves are cared for until they are 5yrs old & then released into the wild. To help monitor their behaviour, progress & movements they're fitted with radio collars. Before they are released the elephants are given a bath in diluted elephant dung (yummy!) to remove any human smells & help encourage their acceptance with wild populations. The work is sponsored by the Born Free Foundation.
So begineth thy two hour tuk tuk pilgrimage to Uda Walawe!....because, "it'll be fun"...said the non 6ft member of the expeditionary force🤞🏼👋🏼🐘
Leaving a wet Talalla Retreat today. It's been a great way to start our trip✌🏼...the last pic is an action shot of a palm squirrel slipping and sliding off of our balcony railing in the rain🐿

4 September 2017

After our filling we continued our walk around the lovely fort with its little boutiques. After narrowly avoiding a further spending splurge in another 'antique' emporium (some learn from their mistakes quicker than others...I maintain MDF primary colour painted masks do not qualify as 'antique') we headed back to begin negotiations with the shopkeep for the 'dress of dreams' (mentioned in our earlier Galle post). In short, we got the dress for slightly more than we wanted to spend & somehow my fellow expeditionary leader convinced me that it was a 'good deal' to buy a second top as the proprietor of the boutique would sell us both for even more than we wanted to pay🤔..well played Mrs Boutique Proprietor..well played! After this encounter I needed a stiff drink...I was shown the way to iced tea😩..ice & slice would have been nice! I had my sweet revenge when I visited a classic poster shop called Stick No Bills & purchased a couple of splendidly colourful items before sunset!
Delayed Galle update.. With the mystery of the missing sunnies solved & the tears that were as big as October cabbages dried up we set out in search of Galle adventure..& we found some! Although the fort isn't a true representation of the wider Galle city we stayed within the confines of the walls of the fort & enjoyed the colonial opulence. First stop after some refreshments was an antique shop where we paid far too much for what one can only describe as scratching on the back of a banana leaf! We went round the corner & found it for half the price but of course ours was an original😏..quite how one reprints anything on a banana leaf is beyond me but learning we had original scratchings made some of the expeditionary force happy! Next, lunch was taken (for the weary & wallet beaten travellers) at the Lucky Fort restaurant which served up a 10 plate Sri Lankan curry taster which was incredibly tasty & all for peanuts - good deal! Tbc...
Cool old school map of Galle on the way in to the fort followed by the discovery of some tres classy commode photos courtesy of the Fortaleza guesthouse and restaurant👌🏼
Train journey to/from Galle....mad love to the photobomber on the train back and the sound advice from the notice boards at the train station - life lesson!
The face your travel buddy pulls when it thinks it's lost its sunglasses, aka the source of all its power....only to be told by our tuk tuk driver he's found them...and is willing to sell them back to us at a tres reasonable rate🙄🤦🏻‍♂️🤷🏻‍♀️
Morning Mr Monitor Lizzard - he reminds me of William, my old monitor lizzard🦎. We also saw a wee gecko warming itself in the sun on the steps outside our palatial room🦎
Following the hardships endured the previous day at the spa we decided to take things slowly today; I decided to grab a tuk tuk and go in search of the perfect (& unforgiving) waves that would allow me to claim for the briefest of moments that I am a surfer..spoiler: the search for perfect Sharpie-shaped waves was successful & 1:1 advice from a local surfing instructor was received, alas, this intrepid (and thick headed) 'surfer' maintained his Buzz Lightyear 'falling with style' technique🤙🏼 50% of our party decided to forgo the opportunity to watch me flounder in le mer (😧) & instead decided to stay back, have a slow morn, endure more (selfless) spa hardships & work on their bronzing. Upon the return of our gallant sir surfer advice was given that we had moved from bronzing into a deep rouging phase; this was dismissed with a simple flick of the hand as if one was dismissing a lowly servant😏 ..as you can see from the pictures dear reader, I reserve the right to say, "I told you
Angelic?🤔 ...it keeps putting its sleeping mask on upside down....life is tough on the teardrop island!

3 September 2017

1. I love a boat trip; 2. I love it less; 3. I have no love for boats anymore; 4. I...🤢
Today we set off for ze briney deep at the relaxing hour of 05:38 via tuk tuk to Mirissa to board a tramp steamer in search of ze beautiful & majestic blue whale..ooh le mer! Knowing that I don't get seasick I decided to refuse the kind option of seasickness tablets; naturally, LR did not want to show any weakness & decided to follow suit..this would turn out to be a regretful decision🤢 With our sea legs on & brew & ginger biscuits in hand our intrepid vessel left the inner sanctum of the harbour. As the horizon hove into view so did the mountainous swell that the Indian Ocean had in store for us (some would call it molehill swell but for fear of further scorn we shall go with the definition provided by the only shipmate whose insides came out). After a 1.5hr commute due south to a deep sea trench know as a feeding area for the BW we caught our first glimpse of these huge and incredible animals. We were lucky enough to see them 5 times & also saw amazing Bryde's whale feeding!

1 September 2017

After relaxing for 2.5 seconds around all of the tall, bendy and spandex clad yoga retreaters (🤸🏽‍♀️) we gots bored and decided to jump in a tuk tuk with our new trusty bff, Pradeep and head to the local hub of Matara. This quaint little town on the south coast was interesting to see and everybody was super welcoming and interested to know where we were from. Sights included wee temples, wee houses, wee puppies for sale (photos not allowed) and a wee food market. Following the hardships we have had to endure over the past few days we decided to head back to Talalla Retreat and head to the spa for massages and the realigning of ones ying and yang 💆🏻💆🏻‍♂️

31 August 2017

First night...first gecko capture...I miss herp catching!🐍
Journey to and arrival in Matara...LR seemed to question my choice in accommodation...snob😏 (pic 5)...so we decided to go up one star to the Talalla Retreat (pic 6)🏝
Here's a couple of snaps of us by the lighthouse in Galle....
Here's me not listening to the critic🙃
Here's me getting critiqued on how i could make 'our' pictures 'better'....
Quick stop at the fort in Galle for some local middle eastern chow washed down with much needed caffeine & fresh mint & lime juice (t'was a little too cold for🐰); then off for a brief wander to the sea wall where en route we caught a glimpse of the gravity defying Sri Lankan 'brick-toss' - a practice adopted by Sri Lankan builders the world over whereby builder A hurls said brick up one floor to builder B using nothing more than a little 'can do' attitude and the power of his guns; this results in a halving in the time taken to move the bricks from A to B & expediting the build completion (Mr Wise, pay attention, there will be a test). This was followed by visiting a shop where LR deployed what can only be described as 'shrewd' business acumen by exclaiming at the top of her voice, "I LOVE THAT DRESS & MUST HAVE IT"...LR maintains that this gave the bartering advantage to us as this meant that the shopkeep "will now feel compelled to sell at our price"...I remain unconvinced!
Cosy 3.5hr train journey from Mount Lavinia to Galle...."get the 10:45 train" our hostel owner said, "be a lot quieter" he said! Stood scrunched up next to two travellers from Germany and one from Australia with food sellers passing over, under and through us to get by 😀. It all got a bit much for LR who decided to have a sit down🚂
Ciao Mount Lavinia, it's been emotional....all aboard the second class train to Galle✌🏼

30 August 2017

After 50% of the group grabbed a power nap we headed off on our first ramble and within 30seconds of being on a beach these seasoned travellers had acquired a new friend, David, who took us for a walk along a live railway line in search of Sri Lanka's largest sea turtle conservation project; the project house rescued and disabled turtles which conjures conflicting emotions as the project only have enough funding for small tanks. They also release up to 2500 wee baby ones each year, keeping some back so they get a little bigger before release to help their survival chances. After that, some scoff and a dander to the local supermecardo for some supplies via a house that has a palm tree growing through it before watching sunset from the roof top (Jess to provide sunset photo later).
Welcome to our classy abode for the evening! Cue a rapid power nap for LR after professing it's not tired😴😴😴😴
Time to travel to the hostel in Colombo in style!
Flew over some sketchy airspace and arrived safe and sound following a layover in Doha.

29 August 2017

The long awaited trip to Sri Lanka starts today!!! All was zen at Castle Sharpleberry right up until 10min before we had to leave when the Little Rabbit (aka Jess) decided she needed to head to Cotswolds Outdoors to get a bag for her bag to go in (some Russian doll travel thing!). It then appeared that deciding to travel the day after the Ed Fringe had ended would mean that every non-member of the Caledonian Mafia was descending south o'the wall via Edinburgh airport! Then, to add additional pain to the middle class high flyers dream, Yo Sushi ran out of pumpkin katsu curry (disaster!). After venting our disgust through furrowed brows and the silent shaking of heads we inhaled our hoisin duck bau buns and avocado and salmon hand rolls, paid (minus a 25% student discount (result)), threw our shoulders back, lifted our noses and headed straight to Krispy Kreme (classy)! After the standard 11th hour purchasing of as much gin and Haribo as we could carry we headed to the plane.