Jan
4
2013

Sri Lanka – The South West

(Sorry this is a long post but internet in Asia seems to be a thing of the future so blogs are going to have to be longer and less frequent)

First impressions, this place is awesome. The colours are so vibrant, the birds, the plants, the chosen dress of the locals. The heat is just bearable at around 32C each day and not much less than high 20Cs at night. But it’s the smell that does it for me. It’s unfair to say it smells dirty because it’s only dirty relative to what we think dirty is. It just smells like Asia!

It’s fair to say I love this place even more than India (which smells the same), the people are much friendlier and they are less interested in robbing us or even asking for money.

Abby’s been a bit overwhelmed by the poverty we’ve seen so far. She says she has been a bit naive with the whole ‘Asia’ thing but with each day she is getting used to it and enjoying it more and more. Sri Lanka is a lot cleaner than India is, but Abby has started as she means to continue, not eating much (if any) salad or fruit, drinking only bottled water, cleaning her teeth with bottled water, so regimented!

I however have strayed from the guidelines slightly. The only thing I’ve really eaten is salad and fruit to avoid the presence of peanuts. I’ve been drinking both bottled and tap water and bathing in the streams with the locals, but we are both still fine.

We were unsure if we would even be able to come to Sri Lanka as the recent flooding on the news before we left was somewhat off putting. We haven’t seen much evidence of flooding so far as it has been confined to the east and centre of the island so the armbands remain redundant and are just extra weight!

Bentota

So we started off with 3 nights of luxury in a 5* hotel in Bentota which we booked back in August. Bentota is best known for its amazing beaches and we were truly spoilt here, a place I would certainly come back to again. Amazing food, amazing accommodation, beach just meters away, lovely pools and gardens. Fantastic!

The main Sri Lanka railway line ran right through the property separating the gardens from the beach. At first this sounded a bit weird, dangerous in fact, but it made the place even more beautiful. It’s not like having the west main line with 140mph Virgin trains running through the garden every 5 minutes, the Sri Lanka railway is somewhat more relaxed as we later discovered.

We had New Year’s Eve here on the beach with fireworks and music and amazing Sri Lankan seafood BBQ food. I thought Abby was going to struggle with the food as her general rule of thumb is pretty close to “I don’t eat anything from the sea, unless it’s a battered fish” but she did well. She finished her lobster, prawns, grilled fish and most of the squid and even enjoyed it all (except for the squid). Result!


Galle

Reality really set in when we had to leave the hotel as our backpacking had finally started. So without the safety of a 5* hotel behind us and weighing slight more than when we left the UK (as we nicked a hotel towel and an Asia travel plug adapter) we headed off for the railway station.

Abby was unsure about my chosen route to the railway station which was a 10 minute walk down the railway tracks. I prefer to navigate how the parrot flies were possible. Every beep of a horn or sound of an engine caused her a mini panic attack as she quickly checked for approaching trains. But knowing the rail schedule we were fine.

The trains were everything I imagined! I was just like a kid on them and Abby refers to the experience as “like babysitting and being the most worried she has ever been”. It is illegal to sit on the roofs of trains in Sri Lanka so I will have to wait until India to do that, but all the windows and doors were open as the heat would just be unbearable. As the train was fairly full we opted to stand in the doorway between two carriages. Abby tried to ignore the glaring big gap between the two carriages onto the tracks and just hung on for dear life. I continually hang out of the doorway on the train steps and took photos. Brilliant!

The journey to Galle (an old Dutch fort) took just over an hour and cost only 100 rupees each which is about 50p each.

Galle was a beautiful place and we soon found our accommodation for the night. It was the first time (of probably many to come) we would be sleeping with no linen and no air con but to be honest, with the fan on we both did get some sleep.

We wandered round Galle for the day looking at the fort ruins, churches and shops in what was definitely the hottest day we have had so far. Snow White decided that she needed a hat as her head was burning so we bought a baseball cap which made her a local celebrity. Every local now looks at her with a pleasing smile as she is supporting the Sri Lankan cricket team. I’m guessing we will have to lose this before we get into India or we are likely to be imprisoned! Anyway, it just got hotter as the day went on and the umbrella had to come out as well!

One thing we were amazed at is how many lizards there are running around the place. Not just tiny ones either but some fairly big fellas just crossing the road here and there.

Tangalle

We decided to only stay one night in Galle as we had done everything there was to see so headed back to the train station to get the train to Matara and then a bus to Tangalle (as the railway ends in Matara). This train ride was less exciting as I promised Abby that we would sit down but we will be picking up the train again in a week or so from a place called Ella to Kandy which is supposed to be the most scenic rail route in the world!

When we disembarked the train in Matara we were headed for the bus station when a Tuk Tuk driver offered us a great price to take us to Tangalle. So climbed in and off we went for 40 minutes. The drive was somewhat terrifying in a good way, I don’t know if the bloke was late for something or just trying to set a new Tuk Tuk land speed record but he kept checking his watch about 4-5 times a minute and he didn’t let much over take us. Anything that did over take us he managed to get back in front of on the next blind bend.

We had planned to have a couple of days relaxing in Tangalle on the beaches so found some accommodation right on the beach front. Unfortunately it started to rain just as we got there and although it stopped after a few hours, it remained very grey and hot for the rest of the day. The rain was really warm like having a shower and it didn’t stop me going in the sea.

We woke up on Friday to more rain so just chilled in a bar on the beach and then wandered into the town to have a look around. While sitting in the beach bar we saw a massive lizard, about 3-4 foot long, much bigger than some of the others we saw in Galle. I think it was going for a spot of sunbathing or maybe for a sneaky beer!

We are planning to leave Tangalle tomorrow and get our first bus to Kataramaga to see the sacred city where we will stay for a night. The plan then is to head up into the centre of the island in the forest/jungle (avoiding the floods) and head to Ella and then on to Kandy before returning to Colombo. The train journey around the hill country (Ella/Kandy) is supposed to be breath taking so we will see!

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