Sri Lanka · 34 Days · 83 Moments · March 2018

Sean's tour through Sri Lanka

26 April 2018

Our four weeks were done. It was time to say goodbye to Sri Lanka. It was hard not to love the friendliness of its people, the food, history and diverse landscapes. We got a taxi out to the airport wearing our new elephant pants. It was midnight when we boarded and team Cuddler were well and truly exhausted.
Our last outing on the trip was to visit the home of the famous Sri Lanka architect, Geoffrey Bawa. The home was open for a short tour to view the design of his own living spaces, some of his art collection, and his vintage Rolls Royce.
What kids really wanted to do was spend more time in the pool. The apartment did have a fairly impressive setup. We hope Grandad can match this! Ollie also enjoyed playing with his birthday modelling clay to make a range of things to display in his gallery.
Keeping with the food safari idea, we went to a local cafe for breakfast and we (Gen) thought we should capture some more food porn.

25 April 2018

Tonight was a bit of a splurge at the Ministry of Crab, a swanky local restaurant part owned by a couple of ex-cricketers. It is housed in the old Dutch hospital building. The food and service were amazing - definitely a highlight of the tour. It turns out a large part of Colombo experience is the food!
This morning Gen was chauffeured to the Colombo hospital to hang with the local Scooby gang and check out some scabs and rashes. The kids and I checked out the craziness of the Pettah markets - too crazy to risk stopping for photos! We then headed over to the National Museum to learn more about the history of Sri Lanka.

24 April 2018

Having had such an enormous lunch, nobody was very hungry at dinner time. We strolled along the seafront promenade at Galle Face Green and snacked on the offerings from the small vendors that open up in the evening.
We had lunch at a local restaurant with Nisa and her family. Nisa had worked with Gen in Perth. It was a full Sri Lankan banquet with way more food than we could eat, although the kids demolished all the cuttlefish before we blinked.
The next morning we oriented ourselves with a walk through the Colombo Fort area. This was the old colonial section of city which had been through Portuguese, Dutch and English control over the ages. It still had some lovely old buildings, but the original waterfront has completely disappeared as the Chinese build a new artificial island.

23 April 2018

It was time to head back to Colombo. From Anuradhapura this meant six hours of driving with the crazy Sri Lankan traffic.

22 April 2018

Of course when we weren't looking at ruins or dagobas, we were in the pool.
After waiting out the heat of the day, we headed over to the Mihintale ruins in the late afternoon. We were thankful, as there were quite a few steps involved (who would've guessed). The climb to the meditation rock was precarious, and we couldn't imagine the ancient monks clambering up here in robes and without the safety rails. With consecutive days of touring ancient sites, we were ruined! All those dagobas had left us stupefied 🤣
Today we are back on the archeological trail. Anuradhapura was the first capital on Sri Lanka 🇱🇰 and there were ruins everywhere, way more than we could take in. Our favourite time was just wandering around under the shady trees and exploring the old buildings. There were some massive dagobas dotted around, but the thought of running across the hot stones without a hat or shoes meant we sat in the van and did a drive-by instead!

21 April 2018

Next we left the treehouse to head north to Anuradhapura. On the way we passed the forest temple of Ritigala. This site is set in lush rainforest and most devoid of foreign tourists. Ollie got up close to inspect the oil lamp carved into the rock. There was an elaborate "wellness" centre, as Ritigala was a major centre of Ayurvedic therapy. However, Eloise was most intrigued by the urinal stone!
It was our last day in the treehouse. We were treated to the most spectacular sunrise. We then headed out with our host, Mahesh, on a nature walk though the property. We spotted some birds and climbed some rocks. We checked out the local bat cave, but the bats weren't home. We noticed a fence post knocked down and then found elephant prints on our path. They were quite a bit bigger than an Ollie foot.

20 April 2018

We were impressed by a series of four Buddha statues carved from a single piece of granite at Gal Vahara. By now it was time to head back to the treehouse again.
There was lots of ornate stonework detail through the ruins. We could only imagine how it would have all looked 800 years ago.
As the capital of a Buddhist empire, Polonnaruwa was full of dagobas. There were ruined ones, stripped back brick ones and shinny white ones. We saw them all!
Today we headed east for a couple of hours to Polonnaruwa. This was an ancient city, compared to Sigiriya, which was just a palace. The ruins were spread over a large area, with all the palaces, monasteries, temples, houses and storerooms that make up a capital city.
The peace and serenity of the treehouse was wonderful for recharging and having your feet gently nibbled. Gen made a new friend in the treehouse toilet.

19 April 2018

Having got down again, and into the cool of the gardens, the little legs gave out and the was an enforced stop work meeting. We decided it might be a sign to retire for the day.
Feeling a little refreshed we wandered around and explored what was an amazing palace perched up on this monumental rock. There was even a swimming pool. The views over the surrounds were amazing.
Another great team effort saw us make it all the way to the top of the rock. It was hot and tiring, but the feeling of achievement was great. We took a quick break, drank water and ate leftover breakfast roti.
Did I mention the stairs? After the boulder garden we reached the proper part of the climb. There were a lot of stairs! Ollie developed his own technique based on watching the monkeys 🐒
From the more formal gardens, we moved into the boulder gardens. These gardens were blended with the natural rock formations with stairs, arches and caves all hidden under the trees.
We walked further into Sigiriya, with a number of bus loads of tourists, both local and foreign. We spotted a few resident animals. The monkeys ran the show as usual, but there was also a cute giant squirrel who popped down from his tree to say "hello".
The main reason for heading north was to visit the ruined cities from ancient Sri Lanka. The first one on the list was the pleasure palace at Sigiriya or Lion Rock. We entered through the Western Gate and had a lovely view of the old water gardens and across to the rock.

18 April 2018

After we recovered a bit, we set off to explore our new surroundings. With great excitement we discovered a little stream with cool bubbling water and a free fish spa! The fish were very vigorous in giving our feet the full treatment.
After long, bumpy ride through the jungle we found our next accommodation- the tree house! We settled in after a big day on the road.
The next waypoint was the cave temples of Dambulla. The five caves were beautifully painted and chock full of Buddhas in various "mudras".
As we drove through Matale, we stopped at a colourful Hindu temple for a quick look.
For the rest of the journey we arranged a driver, a standard travel option in Sri Lanka. Our driver appeared at 9:00 am sharp to drive us north to the cultural triangle.

17 April 2018

It was now time to say goodbye to Kandy. We enjoyed our last sunset view from our hotel, but we were all keen to move on. The weather was hot and humid, but without the release of the afternoon storms. What we thought would be a festive New Year atmosphere turned out to be a very closed atmosphere!
Being another hot day in Kandy, we couldn't resist dropping by the Cool Corner ice cream cafe. Your ice cream order is created from scratch on a cold plate. The cream and special ingredients are "chopped" together in the same manner that Sri Lankans made Kottu. Our version included unwrapping Ferrero Rocher chocolates and chopping the into bits on the cold plate. The ice cream is then rolled up, topped with a few more extras and served up. It was utterly delicious!
On the way back we stopped by the Royal Botanical Gardens for a picnic lunch (tomato and cheese sandwiches). The park is very extensive, but we were most impressed with the orchid garden, where the variety was just stunning.
Today we headed further afield. Just outside Kandy there are three Buddhist temples that referred to by the locals as the Three Temple Loop. We negotiated a tuk-tuk driver for the day and headed out through the morning traffic. Riding through the countryside in a tuk-tuk was surprisingly pleasant. The three temples were quite diverse. There was a stone temple (without any pilots), a brick temple and a wood temple. They were nestled amongst the farm land and villages that surround Kandy. As usual the kids made a celebrity appearance in a number of photo shoots.

16 April 2018

We also headed up to the National Park. The kids found a well placed liana vine and engaged in a bit Tarzan swinging. We headed further into the forest and spotted a wild boar, which had Gen completely freaked out. Unfortunately Ollie fell off an Indiana Jones style rickety wood bridge which abruptly curtailed the trek. We retreated back to town for a lovely dinner.
Everything was still closed in town, so we spent the afternoon sightseeing around Kandy. We climbed up the giant Buddha and took in the view.
We got an early start and headed down to the Temple of the Tooth. Unfortunately a couple of thousand devoted Buddhists were also there. We waited for the unveiling of the tooth, but couldn't brave the sweaty throng of people to get glimpse of the inner chamber.

15 April 2018

Kandy Lake Club was just around the corner, and we strolled down for the evening performance of traditional dances. The performance concluded with some spectacular fire walking.
Today we all left Nuwara Eliya for Kandy. Again the views were amazing as we dropped 1,300m in altitude on the way down to Kandy. We said goodbye to Jojo and Grandad as they continued on to Colombo and their plane back to Oz. The New Year activity was in full swing in Kandy with lots of people buying their offerings for temple. We walked around the lake and enjoyed the views, mostly because everything in Kandy was closed!

14 April 2018

We completed the 9.5km loop back to the visitor centre. Little legs alternated between total fatigue and high energy. We spotted a lizard with his "rock camouflage" on, and watched the crashing waters of Bakers Falls. It was after 11 and we had been on the go since 5. We were all totally exhausted on the drive back.
The highlight of the walk was World's End. The plain suddenly ends in a sharp drop of 850m. There is a view over the entire south of the island.
The team ate our picnic breakfast and headed out into the park. We saw a large Sambar deer, a purple faced leaf monkey and enjoyed the lovely plains and cloud forest.
This morning we set our alarms to 4:45am to get to Horton Plains for sunrise.

13 April 2018

The tummy rumbles hit, so we cruised through the town and grabbed some local "short eats". Taking it up a notch, we then walked over to the Grand Hotel for a fancy pants high tea. The high tea usually occurs on the hotel lawns, but the impending monsoonal rain meant it was transferred to the dining hall.
Victoria Park is nestled in the valley between town and the racecourse. We wandered through the gardens, trying our very best to "behave decently". There was an old-school playground which kept the kids entertained. The adults, meanwhile, enjoyed some extended screen-time.
We started our exploration of Nuwara Eliya with an early morning walk down to Lake Gregory. Snow White gained a couple of helpers while we appreciated the lovely flowers.

12 April 2018

Upon arrival at our villa in Nuwara Eliya, Oliver was surprised that our hosts had prepared a special birthday celebration. A lovely chocolate cake, complete with a personalised message. Even the bed had a birthday wish laid out in tea leaves and covered in balloons. It had been a memorable day.
As the train pulled into one of the mountaintop stations, the clouds suddenly spilled over the pass and shrouded everything in a white mist. The locals hopping of the train simply walked down the platform and disappeared.
The kids loved hanging out the windows and doors, enjoying the rush of crisp mountain air, the lovely scenery and the thrill of rushing into the dark tunnels. Eventually the boys needed a quick snooze to recover from all the excitement.
The train trip provided three hours of amazing landscape as we wound slowly through the mountains.
It was sad to leave Ella. Our time there had been wonderful, but it was off to Nuwara Eliya. We had booked a first class seat on the train we had seen winding through the hills above us each day. It was also Ollie's birthday. So as we climbed into the tuk tuk on our way to the station, Ollie was proudly wearing his "Birthday Boy" badge.

11 April 2018

After all the endless tea fields it made sense to stop at the local tea factory to check out the next stage of production. This was one of the largest factories in Sri Lanka processing 40,000 Kg of tea each day. However, it does not look like anything has changed since it opened in 1890. Industrial Revolution machines rolled, cut and sorted the tea before it was packed off to the Colombo market.
Today we needed to head a little further abroad, so we got a van to Haputale and took the winding road through endless tea fields up to Lipton's seat. The road redefined hairpin bends; the van needed a couple of goes to get around this one! We were rewarded with "yet another amazing vista". The view stretched across five provinces and all the way to the Uda Walawe safari park.

10 April 2018

From Little Adam's Peak we walked across the the Nine Arches Bridge. The bridge was built by a local engineer in 1915 and has no steel reinforcement at all. We waited for local train the chugg across before following the track back to Ella.
Not satisfied with conquering Ella Rock we set off in the other direction to Little Adam's peak. This walk was significantly easier, walking past the local tea pickers before enjoying lovely views of Ella Rock across the valley.

9 April 2018

Having enjoyed the flavours of Sri Lankan food, we signed up for a cooking class with local food guru - Lanka. First we learnt about all the spices and ingredients. Next it was our job as the kitchen hands to grind the coconut meat, chop and stir as Lanka took us through cooking five different curries. Everything was prepared from scratch from roasting the spice mix to making coconut milk. All the dishes were cooked on a wood fire in clay pots. The results were outstandingly delicious and we enjoyed a fantastic meal.
The excitement of the cooler weather must have gotten the better of us, as we decided it would be a good idea to tackle the Ella Rock climb. Having got lost after the first 10m of the trail, a local farmer woman made us follow her all the way up. The trail climbed rapidly up through the grasslands. We moved into a forest of eucalyptus trees and we were already well above the valley floor. We passed through tea plantations and continued to climb up slippery creek beds through more forest. After more then two hours of climbing we emerged on the Ella Rock spur, with massive 500m+ drops on both sides. The view was unbelievable, and uncapture-able on our iPhones. A group of school girls became obsessed with the kids and spent 10 minutes posing for a range of photos. Ellie thinks she might be famous now! We all headed back to base for a well earnt lunch and rest. 4 hours of walking, about 800m of altitude gained - far and away the most impressive effort from little Ollie in his short life!
With all the rough tracks around Ella, the train tracks become the major thoroughfare to get around. Of course you need to jump quickly when the train comes around the corner!

8 April 2018

After endless switchbacks we finally arrived in the highland village of Ella. But the adventure continued as we inched our way along a tiny track to our home stay. Eventually we arrived at a stunning home on the side of a steep valley looking directly across to the Ella waterfall. The local train wound its way through the hills just above us. The views were amazing. That evening we walked to town, only to get caught in a torrential downpour. Ponchos and umbrellas were purchased at the tourist gift shop. We got a hair raising tuk tuk ride back along the muddy track to our home stay.
As we continued to climb higher, we came to the magnificent Ravana falls. Many people came to wash at the falls.
Leaving Uda Walawe, we heading towards the highlands. On the way we stopped at Buduruwagala, a sacred Buddhist temple carved into a giant rock during the 5th century. The statue of Buddha was 16m high.

7 April 2018

We stayed at the Kotta Watta village in a tent (to keep the safari theme). The kids of course jumped in the pool, even in the rain. We walked into town to post our postcards. It was the first time on the trip we got serious tropical rain.
The next morning we woke up at 5am to start our safari tour in the Uda Walawe national park. Riding in the back of our special safari jeep we saw lots of buffalo, a sleepy crocodile, an iguana getting the morning sun and 14 elephants. We also saw lots of amazing birds (especially the peacocks), but they were hard to photograph. The park had some beautiful wetlands with lots of different water birds, while the bush was full of little parrots and finches. But the most fun was hunting for the quiet elephants hiding behind the jungle foliage. The mother and her two calfs kept us entranced for a long time as they sauntered along grabbing different branches for their breakfast.

6 April 2018

On the drive to Uda Walawe we stopped at the ancient Buddhist rock temple of Gulgirigala. The temple consists of a series of five caves carved into the rock. Needless to say there were many steps to climb.
Last morning in Hiriketiya. Sunrise over the beach.

5 April 2018

On one of our evening walks a sudden storm rolled over the bay. Our sparkling green bay turned into a dark and mysterious place within a couple of minutes. It was both eerie and beautiful.
Amongst all the fun we found time to relax. Whether it is was some knees up time at the beach, morning yoga or reading on the day bed.
When not at the beach we explored the local cafes. We liked the coffee at The Grove. The kids knocked off a couple boiled eggs in seconds. The setting at Verse was lovely, as where the cocktails and roti.
The local wildlife were also part of the experience. There were numerous monkeys that regularly trooped over our roof in search of things to eat - mostly stealing green mangoes from people's gardens. Ollie made friends with Black Dog. The locals dogs had a habit of howling for a hour in the middle of night, resulting in them not having many friends amongst the rest of us.

4 April 2018

The Villa had a body board, which was an instant hit with Eloise when combined with the gentle surf. Ollie only had one ride before deciding it wasn't his idea of fun! Just as well as Ellie was not keen to stop.
We spent the next two days in a little Villa at Hiriketiya Bay. The beach was idyllic - beautiful rolling surf, clear blue-green water, friendly locals, good food and coffee and beach chairs to relax on. We would spend most of our time either in the water or on the sand.

3 April 2018

Next we stopped for lunch at Mirissa beach. The restaurants were right on the beach. The bay was lovely, but we had much better to come.
Leaving Galle behind, we got a minivan along the coast on our way to our next location. We stopped in at a spice garden to explore all the different lotions and potions that are made from different plants. Eloise and Oliver both liked the idea of a vanilla pod vine to take home. We also spotted a beautiful chameleon hiding in the garden.
After the turtles we went to a small tsunami museum to learn about the impact of the tsunami on this region. We were guided through by a man who saw the first wave while working on the roof of his house. He managed to survive by running to a nearby temple, but lost his two brothers.

2 April 2018

We hired a driver for the day and went out to a turtle hatchery. We learnt about rescuing the eggs from the locals, who still eat them as they believe it makes them live as long as a turtle (between 100-200 years). There were some one day old hatchlings that we got to play with. Sri Lanka is home to 5 of the 7 species of ocean turtles in the world.
We started our day with a typically lavish breakfast. This morning was local "hoppers" filled with egg, coconut Sambal and Dahl. Lunch was a light grazing platter as the upmarket Church St Social, where Ellie was mapping our trip on the menu. We had dinner in the old town at Crepe-ology. To beat the evening heat we finished the day back at the lovely gelato shop.

1 April 2018

Eloise played with some of the local animals. We had crepes for lunch followed by some superb gelato before crowding into a tuk-tuk to head back home for a dip.
The next morning we explored the old fort town. The fort had been built by the Portuguese, take over by the Dutch, occupied by the British and survived the tsunami in 2004 (the train we caught yesterday was not so lucky). We walked around the ramparts and explored the narrow windy streets.

31 March 2018

We found the villa and spent the afternoon cooling off in the pool and relaxing.
On our first morning in Sri Lanka, we arrived at the train station nice and early to get our tickets. Unfortunately the train was half an hour late and quite full. Suitcases, kids and grandparents were all loaded onto the train. We squeezed into the aisle and setup. The journey was hot and steamy. We eventually managed to squeeze into some vacated seat and enjoy the scenery. After two hours we arrived at Galle train station.

30 March 2018

The kids were very anxious to get to the airport as the excitement started to build. We would be starting our month long expedition to explore Sri Lanka. The flight to KL was crowded. We all had trouble with the entertainment system, so it required a lot work with our activity books.