Europe, Asia · 42 Days · 50 Moments · April 2017

Cat and Damien's tour through Sri Lanka

14 May 2017

Check out our new website detailing our travel experiences

15 April 2017

Lovely to get home and see this little furry face!

14 April 2017

A long 11 1/2 hour flight but great views of London and we came into land. You can just make out Hyde park and Knightsbridge.

13 April 2017

Food at the hotel is fine but you do get to the point where you just don't want another buffet!
Washed ashore after the storm it doesn't get fresher than this.
Large aloe Vera bush growing on the beach

13 April 2017

We have been so lucky with the weather, very hot in the daytime but the last 2 nights the storm clouds have come rolling in off the Indian Ocean. Their arrival is so visible even from a distance. Storm number 3 is now very much tightening its grip, part of a large tropical storm that is straddling the southern tip of Sri Lanka. As with the previous storms the hotel with its open air corridors & tropical plant areas is flooding once more. Sheets of corrugated plastic have been used where possible to batten down the hatches. The staff sprang into action much earlier tonight, suggesting they know more than us of what's coming. The rainfall is immense. The swimming pool is over flowing for the 3rd night in a row, yet the past 2 mornings have shown no evidence of such events. In the past 30 minutes we have had 7 power cuts, the televisions do not have a signal and as I write this the wifi is down. Huge forks of lightening are lighting up the sky, its like nature's strobe light/disco.
A rose apple. Described as crisp fresh and a hint of rose. I'm not sure I agree, the rose flavour seemed missing from mine and it was more like a particularly tart under ripe apple.

12 April 2017

There is lots of nature in the area today the pool area was awash with activity. Chipmunks bold enough now to touch you with their little paws. Land and water monitors lazily strolling in search of a shady spot or insect and hermit crabs eagerly looking for their next home. This evening saw what looked like a hermit crab auction on the beach. Each crab showcasing its Home to another in the hope it could upgrade. I noticed an old asthma inhaler washed up by the tide and wondered if that too might become Home to a crab
This evening we visited a sea turtle rescue centre in Kosgoda. It was fabulous we got to handle the turtles and even helped the one day old hatchlings begin their journey to freedom. Unfortunately the sanctuary was completely destroyed by the tsunami in 2004. The turtles were washed away and in the months and weeks that followed many were found dead inland in the jungle David Attenborough has also visited the sanctuary and it was used in one of his documentaries about sea turtles.

11 April 2017

New website available to follow our trips near and far Still a work in progress but more info added daily. You can also follow our instagram #teachersgetalltheholidays
Travelling on Sri Lanka's roads is not for the faint hearted. The roads themselves are in great condition but driving on them is a different matter entirely. Firstly the road markings, meaningless! One lane!? No not when you can fit 3 vehicles all jostling for position. As for the obstacles well there's a story! Tuk tuks are EVERYWHERE, then there's the pedestrians who appear as if by magic. The hazards include the stray dogs, herds of goats and even cows with a death wish! All part and parcel of the adventure but nothing could convince me to get behind the wheel.

10 April 2017

Yesterday was a "Poya day" in Sri Lanka. That is to say it was a public holiday marking the full moon. It derives from the Buddhist religion. Each month has a Poya day, which commemorate key events in Buddhism, and the dates change each year. Buddhists believe key events in the life of Buddha, including his birth, enlightenment and death all occurred during a full moon. Yesterday's Poya day, 'Bak Poya', marked the Buddha's second visit to Sri Lanka. This was important as it is thought that during this visit Buddha made peace between two warring tribes, the chiefs of which were uncle and nephew. On Poya days in Sri Lanka no alcohol is consumed. That is not to say non-Buddhists are forced to not drink, but you will find it harder to get served alcohol. Here are our virgin cocktails we enjoyed in honour of the April Poya day.
Here is a hermit crab. They use what they can find for their shell and as they grow they will discard and upgrade! They have even been known to use a tin can as their shell. Last night as the sun went down hundreds of hermit crabs came up from their underground burrows to socialise! They were everywhere. All different sizes with different accommodation! Perhaps they were meeting to compare notes on what the best accommodation was!?
Time to lounge by the pool which chipmunks. At least they don't throw coconuts like the monkeys do!

9 April 2017

We had a long journey from Kandy to the coast. We were very much looking forward to our 5 nights by the beach Unfortunately when we got to our resort the hotel had no record of the booking. As it's new year and the holiday weekend we sat waiting in the lobby for over an hour at which point they said they could not accommodate us for the whole stay. The tour company then frantically arranged an alternative. But this was a further 40 min south. Ironically we are now at the hotel we upgraded from. As you can see it's still very nice but disappointing as we were really looking forward to staying at the other place

8 April 2017

Apparently I was a bit too enthusiastic on our tour with my wows as when it finished we were presented with 5 different teas. One of which was extra special!? Given I can't stand tea it was down to damien not to bring shame on the empire and drink the tea!
So the British brought the tea plantations to Sri Lanka. With them they also brought the workforce to staff them from southern India. This makes for a blending of cultures and religions in the hill country. We timed our visit with Hindu new year so as we passed through some villages they were celebrating with parades and decorated elephants leading the way. The tea factory was interesting. It was an old building and some of the machinery looked like it arrived with the colonial empire! The tea plants lives for approx 50 years and can be ready for picking after about 4 years (a this point I was noting the similarities with grape vines!) The leaves are picked once a week from any one plant and the age and size of the leaf affect the flavour of the tea The buds produce white tea (didn't know that existed!) young leaves make green tea and the older leaves produce black tea
Tea pickers in the mountains. Much better pics on my camera. It's a hard job in the heat despite the mountains being a bit cooler. The baskets are already heavy even when empty. Then Working on the steep slopes leaning down to pick leaves makes for a back breaking job
A village just after the parade. The houses was reminiscent of the townships in South Africa. I was surprised by this as I would have thought the tea factories would have looked after their worker more.
Tried to order a shandy in the old colonial grand hotel in the mountains. Then explained what a shandy was.... this was the outcome
The views of the hill country were stunning
All the teas ready for tasting. I did try them still hate the stuff
It's another hot day today. Well into the 30s constantly and doesn't drop hugely at night. It is humid but not like Korea. That was really difficult. You are constantly dripping in a mixture of sweat, sun cream and DEET here. I think the aroma could become a best seller for a perfume company. The heat is more intense today perhaps we picked an ideal day to head up into the mountains to the tea plantations.

7 April 2017

Today we made a long journey by road to Kandy. This is a city right in the heart of Sri Lanka, slightly to the south. It is here the temple of the tooth relic resides. An alleged tooth of buddha's survived cremation and is now kept and worshipped as a holy artefact. It's so holy it's not seen unless you are an important monk of some sort. We have a decent hotel up above the temple with a view of the lake. We timed it just right to see the sunset from the pool
The big lake in the centre of Kandy. There are a number of colonial style buildings here. Last night we walked down the hill from the hotel. And the braved a tuk tuk back. Quite an experience. They are very nippy little things
Monkeys are all over. They cause quite a problem stealing
The pool area at our hotel looked over the Buddhist tooth relic temple and the lake
On the way to Kandy we stopped for a quick photo at a Hindu temple of a neighbouring town. It was a very busy town full of tuk tuks. Hidden off the main road behind a petrol station was this brightly coloured temple.

6 April 2017

The views were worth it though
This was not a hugely reassuring sign part way up. Apparently there have been 3 recent attacks and there is a cage to seek refuge in should an attack occur. The last one was brought about by a noisy Chinese group
We climbed the rock. It was really tough work in the heat. Not to mention precarious at times. Lots and lots of steps.
This is lion rock aka sigriya. It's very old and was an old fortress/palace. Complete with its own mountain top pool for the use of the king and his court

5 April 2017

Wild elephants even venture down to the roadside. Some villages have installed electric fences to keep them out
After a long drive across Sri Lanka we arrived at our jungle retreat for a game drive. It was really hot but fantastic to see elephants roaming free
Jungle retreat
A bit of paradise in the jungle
Our jungle hideaway.
Katie Melllua sang about bicycles in Beijing, she missed the chance to sing about 10 million tuk Tuks in Colombo. They are everywhere!! They add a whole new dimension to the kamikaze nature of the traffic system. In particular none of the sensible driving rules seem to apply to them. On the plus side they do look rather fancy with ornate decorations and bright colours
Colombo is quite an experience. At the airport we were met by our driver Daya, he took us from the airport just north of Colombo to our hotel. This gave us quite the introduction to Sri Lankan traffic. Firstly there is the noise. Lots of vehicles everywhere and horns blare at every opportunity. Daya explained these are not a sign of angry drivers it's just letting people know you are there. They seems good reason to let people know you are there as right of way is everyone's at all times. Junctions inject a Russian roulette opportunity which all cars take on at the same time. How they don't collide I have no idea. Daya said the driving laws and regulations are the same as the UK, it's just optional to follow them! I think lane markings are seen as just a way to decorate the road as they don't mean anything to drivers. This also goes for the markings which usually separate you from oncoming traffic, they too are, well optional! The streets are rough and rustic.
Towns along the route are busy. Mostly due to the ridiculous number of tuk tuks getting in the way! This is a junction. So glad I'm not the driver (I'm sure damien would agree with that!)
Changes in landscape. From tropical fruits to rubber tree plantations and rice paddies
Good advice
Our driver met us just before 8 and we we off on a long 4-5 hour journey into the heart of Sri Lanka to the jungle. So many things to see along the way. I find the landscapes fascinating.
After a much needed sleep at our hotel the cinnamon lakeside in Colombo the alarm woke us at 630. We had a buffet style breakfast which offered some unusual possibilities. The fruit selection was particularly good. I noticed there were two kinds of passion fruit. One very similar in taste to the kind in our supermarkets, the other had a much more delicate and fragrant flavour.
Rather stereotypical scenes in the Maldives.
The atolls of the Maldives just before landing.

3 April 2017

All checked in and waiting to fly. We are the last flight out of Heathrow tonight and will next touch down in the Maldives. Hoping to get some sleep on the flight.