The fact that I’m writing this blog sat on the beach with a beer, just after sunset, instead of the usual long distance transport, goes to show the paradise we’ve found in the sleepy town of Mirissa on Sri Lanka’s south coast. We’ve spent days lounging on the beach lined with palm trees, and enjoyed regular swimming breaks in the huge waves rolling of the Indian Ocean. T-shirts and footwear have been an unnecessary commodity, and even a pair of flip flops feels like an alien concept.
Our beach antics have often proved a little too tiring for some, as I’m sure you can imagine, and Flakkers’ exhaustion clearly got the better of him.
We have managed, once, to tear ourselves from the beach and indulge in a spot of whale watching. We rode some serious waves out into the Indian Ocean, which for a few people sparked the onset of sea sickness. Luckily, our stomachs held up to the onslaught and we were able to spot a huge Blue Whale not fifty yards from our boat. After watching it swim along the surface, blow spray and flick his tail into the air for the best part of an hour, we departed for shore, much to the relief of the debilitated passengers amongst us. At this point I’d like to thank everyone who has reached this far into this post, as I’m sure you’ve had to resist the urge to close the window and repress the thought of a tropical beach in order to survive the ordeals of a British winter. Don’t worry, I’m sure you can take heart in the fact that I’ll be joining you in all it’s rainy misery within a week.
Our time in Sri Lanka hasn’t always been as beach bums, and our first week was spent in central Sri Lanka, absorbing the culture, sights and horrendous bus journeys. We were quickly inducted into these journeys, with a three hour journey from the airport to Kandy, the heart of central Sri Lanka. Three hours for £1.25 should have set alarm bells ringing, but we hopped aboard regardless, and were greeted by the ear-deafening Sri Lankan karaoke which is apparently standard on buses nationwide. I couldn’t get my headphones in fast enough. Meanwhile Dav had taken the last seat available, which was obviously between two of the biggest men I’ve seen in the last three months. His face was hardly a picture of comfort, and every sharp corner the bus was thrown around by the driver, who was half watching the Karaoke, I wondered if my friend was about to burst.
Thankfully, we arrived in Kandy in one piece, and set about making plans to head north to visit two sides of the so called ‘Cultural Triangle’. We hired a tuk-tuk, and set about visiting Sigriya, a huge 200 metre rock with a monastery situated at the top. Unfortunately the absurdly high $30 entrance fee put us off – something that is common across Sri Lanka – and we opted instead for another rock of equal stature a few kilometres away. After a steep hike followed by scrambling over the last few rocks we reached the top to be greeted by a panoramic view of surrounding countryside, and Sigriya itself. What’s more, we had the place to ourselves, a fact made even better when we spotted the queue of tourists waiting to reach the top of Sigriya. Thirty dollars well saved I’d say.
After a few more uncomfortable hours with three of us squeezed in a Tuk-Tuk we arrived at the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa. Dating back 3000 years, they’re still in reasonable condition and we coughed up the ridiculous entrance fee to explore them for a few hours before finishing the day with the trip back to Kandy. We made a brief stop in Ella, famous for it’s tea plantation in the middle of the Sri Lankan highlands. Unfortunately, being off season, it rained like clockwork every lunch time for the remainder of the day. We did manage to get halfway up Ella Rock before the clouds set it, and, again, the views were worth every step.
Our final stop before the golden beaches of the south coast was Yala National Park, and the lure of potentially spotting a wild Leopard. After the struggle of getting out of bed at 4:30am, we arrived in the park for dawn and the hunt was on. One hour came and went, before suddenly our driver dropped the car a few gears and sped away. He’d been tipped off by a friend who’d spotted a Leopard in a tree. As we arrived we joined what can only be described as gridlocked traffic jam, one the M25 would have been proud of, and slowly battled our way towards the front. Clearly his ‘mate’ had tipped everyone off within a twenty mile radius. Forty-five minutes later we reached a clearing full of jeeps, and people clambering all over them, jostling for a view. We spotted the Leopard, watched it climb down from the tree, including a ten foot jump at the end, and those few minutes made the madness to reach that point worthwhile. But the whole experience was far from the serenity I’d expected on a safari.
With the safari finished, we headed back, laughing at the unbelievable positions Dav managed to sleep in on the bumpy dirt track. We continued from their onto Mirissa where we have extended our stay for a week. Hard to tear yourself away from Paradise. And that’s Sri Lanka so far, and with my birthday and the England Cricket game to come, the final week should prove to be a good one! On that note I’ll wrap this blog up, after all, this beer isn’t going to drink itself…