I’m going to start a new website/blog soon (about time!) but before I do that, I wanted to finish off here with one final installment (in two parts) – Sri Lanka!
Coco and I spent a few weeks there last December, almost by accident really. We were all set to travel to northern India, but due to extra horrendous air pollution and Coco’s propensity for developing respiratory issues even in squeaky clean Sydney, we changed our plans at the last minute and headed south to Sri Lanka instead.
Lightening quick history for those curious: Way old (125,000 years), invaded by the Portuguese (1500s), then the Dutch (1600s), then the English (1800s). Population wise, Sri Lankan people are a diverse lot, but mainly Sinhalese with a large Tamil minority. These two groups didn’t get on for a while (30 years) but since 2009, when the civil war ended, things are decidedly better.
Okay, shall we saunter, very slowly, in supremely sultry Sri Lanka …
After about a four hour drive from Colombo, we arrived at our first destination – nowhere. But a very beautiful, calming nowhere.
Santani, the ‘minimalist luxury’ resort we’d landed at, is undoubtedly a beautiful place. But in my rush to book last minute accommodation after India fell through, I may not have fully understood the offering – very chilled, with a focus on health and wellness. After a day of being ‘nowhere’, I have to be honest – I needed to be somewhere.
So we went daytripping, to the nearby city of Kandy, Sri Lanka’s ancient capital. As you might remember, I’m not a great tourist and I generally don’t like sight-seeing, but it was either that or more ‘relaxing’. First stop, a big deal in the Buddhist world, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. We didn’t spy the tooth of Buddha but I did meet this beautiful woman there.
We also stuck our noses into Kandy’s Royal Botanical Gardens. A huge sprawling place full of giant, ancient trees.
Sri Lanka has an incredible variety of flora, as the lovely Dileepa back at the resort had told us. It’s biodiversity heaven apparently, with more than 3,000 different plant species.
After our daytripping we did a bit more relaxing (yawn), and then headed north to see the ancient rock and palace fortress of Sigiriya, a UNESCO listed world heritage site. We climbed up about 800 of its 1,200 stairs, forgoing the final ‘Lion Staircase’ – in the heat, dripping with sweat from the unbelievable humidity, that was plenty, believe me.
The other highlight was a visit to Minneriya National Park to see elephants roaming wild. While some elephant ‘attractions’ in Sri Lanka chain their star performers, these elephants are free to wander wherever they like.
From there, we drove south through the tea plantation hills, on our way down to the coast.
After spending hours and hours winding down from the hills through lush green forest, it’s quite something to finally reach the coast and Sri Lanka’s beautiful beaches. We stayed in Tangalle, where the sand is a brilliant white and in the middle of the day, burning hot.
After Tangalle, we travelled west to Galle, and went on another ‘safari’, only this time on a river.
The proximity to water, from the beaches to the rivers, is very much part of Sri Lanka’s appeal. But in 2004, this proximity proved deadly when a massive tsunami hit, killing more than 30,000. People had no warning whatsoever – one minute it was life as normal, and the next, the world turned upside down.
It was 14 years ago, yet you can still see signs of the devastation along the coast in the form of abandoned, ruined homes.
The day I visited this area just outside Galle, I was on my own. It was incredibly eerie and sad, wandering around these homes, imagining them once filled with happy families and wondering what happened to them, if they managed to get out alive.
Just as I was going to leave, I noticed some other homes around the corner that were in much better shape and still inhabited. As I approached one, a lovely woman holding her baby came out to greet me. She was so warm and welcoming, and I felt so happy that she and her husband had survived the unimaginable ordeal – and had gone on to produce a beautiful child.
We chatted for a while, before a gaggle of kids swarmed around us. I don’t know how old they were but most of them looked younger than 14 – for them, a tsunami is something they’ve only ever heard or read about. I so hope they never get to experience it firsthand.
Stay tuned for the second part of Sri Lanka soon!