After nearly two months of travelling we hit the south beaches of Sri Lanka and started in Tangalla. We stayed by Medaketiya but ventured by bike to Godellawela Beach AKA Silent Beach which was a dream, one of those where if you come fairly early in the morning your footsteps are the only ones. We also explored the north end of this area, Marakolliya, where the waves and currents were a bit scary but the beach was stunning.
We had breakfast in Matara on our way to Mirissa in an old rest house which oozed colonial charm. Especially the punkah wallah ceiling fan that these days is operated by motor.
Mirissa was a bit of a let down for us as it was so busy and touristy in our opinion. The fact that Red Bull was holding one of their events on the beach for two of the days we were there
One of many highlights in Sri Lanka is to see some of their elephants in the wild and we felt that we could not miss out on this opportunity.
Whilst in Udawalawe we also spent an afternoon at the Elephant Transit home or 'Elephant Orphanage' which is the home to roughly 25 baby elephants rescued from the wild and given a safe home until they are ready to be released into the wild. Absolutely adorable to watch them at feeding time...and some were really naughty and would not give up their feeding place or tried to go for seconds!!!
Udawalawe National Park - Our safari started well before sunrise and it was great to see nature waking up and we were very pleased with what we managed to see; lots of elephants, including a mother and her young one, deer, a white king fisher, monkeys, peacocks, crocodiles and plenty other birds that we do not know the name of.
A slight mishap occurred towards the end of the trip, our young driver managed to dig the four wheel drive deep into a sand bank and we got stuck. We were left on our own in the middle of the park, in an open vehicle, while he walked off to get help as there were no mobile reception in that area. Luckily there were no leopards around that morning!
It was a welcome reprieve from the hot weather to visit Kandy and the Hill Country. The Temple of the Tooth is located by the large lake in the centre of Kandy. We spent time in the temple itself and the surrounding area which was full of people praying, having picnics, chanting and sleeping.
Next stop on our highland trip was Nuwara Eliya AKA 'Little England' and there were a lot of reminders of the olden days in this pleasant town. There are plenty of tea plantations around this area and we visited a tea factory to learn all about tearing, rolling and crushing!
These highlands are know for spectacular views and slow train journeys through deep valleys and rolling hills. We stopped at the tiny town of Haputale and stayed on the edge of a cliff with the most amazing panorama from our bedroom window.
Another beautiful train ride took us to Ella with more views and walks amongst hills and tea plantations. By now we started to get a bit hill weary so did not climb Ella Rock but below is the view from 'Little Adam's Peak'
Continuing our visit to the "Cultural Triangle' we had to include the citadel of Sigiriya and the cave temples in Dambulla. We climbed the Pidurangala rock for sunset to get a view of the Lion Rock from afar. The following morning we were first in the queue at the ticket office for Sigiriya rock at 7am to beat the heat of the day. We were not first on the top but we still beat the crowds that engulfs the rock by 10am!
There are no less than 5 cave temples in Dambulla filled with statues, murals and figures depicting Buddha and various kings. A great day excursion from Sigiriya village.
Exploring the "Cultural Triangle" was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Plenty of temples, dagobas (stupas), remains of kingdoms, water irrigation marvels and even some rock climbing.
Aradhana Gala (Invitation Rock) - Mihintale
Dagoba and Buddha statues in Anuradhapura
Polonnaruwa was brilliant to explore by bicycle and we spent a whole day touring the old capital in beautiful countryside.
Our trip to Sri Lanka started in Negombo and after a 'soft landing' we headed north by train to Kalpitiya peninsula. We had a bit of a 'hard exit' from Madurai with a state wide protest taking place the day we left India. Road blocks meant that we had to walk the last 2 kilometres to the airport but luckily the airlines were not affected.
We spent a few relaxing days by the sea in a small village where we did some walking and kite surf spotting as well as enjoying the home cooking by the father and son team at our guest house. We caught the tail end of the northeast maha monsoon so it was a bit wetter than expected but we still enjoyed our stay.
Jaffna, in the very north, reminded us of Tamil Nadu as the majority here are Tamils. We had some lovely masala dosas and thali meals during our days here.
A visit to the Nallur Kandaswamy Hindu temple was a must and not only do you have to take your shoes off but all men has to take their shirts off too. We managed to time in one of the daily ceremonies which was great to experience and afterwards we went for an ice cream in one of the parlours that are conveniently close to the temple.
We did a day trip to the island of Delft from Jaffna where there are nearly 800 wild horses roaming freely. Other points of interest are a 'growing' stone, Adam's foot step and the remains of a Dutch fort where the main building material is coral stone. On the way to Delft we travelled on one of the ferries operated by the Sri Lankan navy, equipped with life jackets and proper seating while on the return trip it was an old rickety fishing boat. No life jackets to be seen and the seating was on the bare deck. It got us to the shore though, so we were happy.
From Jaffna we moved to the east coast and Trincomalee where we stayed in a lovely guest house by the beach. Trinco turned out to be a little haven and we spent a few days exploring the town with its temples and narrow streets.