Between the lion's paws at Sigiriya
Where do you go after a month in the Emirates to unwind on short notice? Mel and I pondered this question just a week before we were due to catch the plan in Vancouver to Abu Dhabi. In our minds, we both wanted to return to India and spend time in either the north or the east, but we both knew it wasn't going to happen because of the long and sticky visa process, which we simply didn't have time for.
I was randomly surfing maps on the lonely planet website when Mel yelled from the next room, "What about Sri Lanka?" I did a quick search, and learned that Canadians could enter Sri Lanka visa free. Our decision was made.
To even further confirm our plan was a good idea, our good friend Jonny who lived in Colombo for years turned us onto a few "must see" places. Other friends, Dave and Sandra, who we'd also met in Istanbul had just moved to the island and offered us a room in their gorgeous villa to base ourselves.
How much do I love travelling by train? A whole lot! These are kitchen workers watching another train pass us somewhere in the mountains between Kandy and Ella, where the temperature was downright chilly!
Mel taking pictures out of the window of the same train.
Travelling by bus. This is how it looked at the beginning of the trip. Notice how skinny the seats are? Not a comfortable ride. This bus filled to well-past capacity in lass than 20 minutes. I spent a larger part of the trip sitting on that yellow bag of onions.
The children of Sri Lanka are gorgeous and polite. Unlike the kids over in India who chase you down for "One pen! One pen!", the Sri Lankan kids are content with a wave and a smile.
Stupa and prayer flags in Anurahapura - we were fortunate to have hit nice weather in that part of the island's rainy season.
The wildlife in Sri Lanka is probably the most prevalent and diverse I've ever come across, (except maybe Naramata!) Mahout washing his elephant in lake near Anuradhapura.
Old mosque in Galle, a small, relaxed colonial town we really loved. Unfortunately, the walled town lost thousands of inhabitants in the 2006 tsunami.
Boys from the nearby Islamic school leaving the mosque.
Inside of a church in Galle. The floor is paved with tombstones,
the bodies are in a crypt outside.
The beach at Unawatuna. Even though we hit this beach at the worst possible time, (huge Buddhist festival that involved crowds of people and near 24 hour chanting over loudspeakers hooked up to every corner of the town), we really enjoyed this place. Also notable as our friend Jonny met his wife on this beach.
This area was hard hit by the 2006 Tsunami.
A few reminders remain.
Early morning fishing up the road from Unawatuna with a very simple set up - a bamboo stick, a hook and line and plastic bag.
He caught this little guy within the first 3 minutes of fishing.
No idea what kind of fish this is. He said it's a baby barracuda,
but I really don't think so.
The most frightening part of our trip. We decided to take a boat out and around to see the coastline. We were the first into the boat and watched as more and more people piled in. By the time we pulled away from the shore there were 36 people in our little boat. We tipped dangerously from side to side as people wiggled for a spot where they could see over the side.
To make matters worse, as we got further from the shore, the waves got bigger and the boat rocked dangerously. The ride didn't last long, and we gave the boat operators a piece of our minds back on the beach.
Lastly, I love the facade of this old Dutch church - like dusty chalk on a blackboard. We spied this church from the train station, bought a ticket, ditched out bags in the baggage check, and set out to find this church before our train departed.
Sri Lanka was such a surprise! The weather varied from blistering hot to chilly, we visited churches, mosques, plus both Buddhist and Hindu temples. We tramped through ancient cities, climbed mountains and relaxed on pristine beaches. We met a few travellers along the way, mostly from Europe and many people travelling with kids. I'd definitely go back, particularly to the south end which was hit badly by the tsunami.
More to come....