Sri Lanka, Part One

 

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.

 

the view of nothing is everything

 

 

 

 

 

touching the earth lightly :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

touching the earth lightly :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

dressed for puja at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

 

 

 

 

 

there’s always a queue to see the Sacred Tooth Relic

 

 

 

 

 

We also stuck our noses into Kandy’s Royal Botanical Gardens. A huge sprawling place full of giant, ancient trees.

 

land of giant trees :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

land of giant trees :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

land of giant trees :: 3

 

 

 

 

 

practising their English on Coco

 

 

 

 

 

above ground roots?

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Dileepa, the 20 year old naturalist

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

ancient rock fortress ahead

 

 

 

 

 

1,500 year old water gardens

 

 

 

 

 

the (slow) ascent of man

 

 

 

 

 

Sigiriya’s spiral spin-out

 

 

 

 

 

we meet again

 

 

 

 

 

the final assault up the Lion Staircase. or not

 

 

 

 

 

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.

captured on camera but free to roam

 

 

 

 

 

where elephants have right of way

 

 

 

 

 

mum and the two kids

 

I like to think she’s smiling

 

 

 

 

 

curl

 

 

 

elephant spotting

 

 

 

 

 

Coco on safari

 

 

 

 

 

From there, we drove south through the tea plantation hills, on our way down to the coast.

 

tea for as far as the eye can see

 

 

 

 

 

lush

 

 

 

 

 

moody mountains

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

white hot :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

white hot :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

After Tangalle, we travelled west to Galle, and went on another ‘safari’, only this time on a river.

 

river life :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

river life :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

river life :: 3

 

 

 

 

 

corner shop

 

 

 

 

 

greetings, welcome to Temple Island

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

before and after the tsunami hit

 

 

 

 

 

It was 14 years ago, yet you can still see signs of the devastation along the coast in the form of abandoned, ruined homes.

 

everything went underwater

 

 

 

 

 

the jungle reclaims its territory

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

home, once upon a time :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

home, once upon a time :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

home, still :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

home, still :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

new life after the tsunami :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

new life after the tsunami :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

pray the tsunami never happens again

 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for the second part of Sri Lanka soon!

 

  1. Sarah says:

    So good to hear/see you again!! My my Coco got big, still as beautiful as ever though!
    Sri Lanka is so on my bucket list …your pictures are amazing as always.

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Sarah! Coco is almost 15, and almost as tall as me. But thankfully she’s still a delight.

  2. Di Nash says:

    Wonderful? As always. Please ensure we receive your new link. I love your work!!
    Di xx

    • Louise says:

      Thanks so much Di. I’ll probably move everyone across to the new site, and they can then choose if they want to stay or, sniff, go.

  3. Jo Kaupe says:

    How lovely, have missed these.

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Jo! Me too. I really miss being here, it’s good to be back. x

  4. Susan Fuller says:

    This is pure inspiration, I want to go! Thank you for sharing your beautiful images.

    • Louise says:

      Very glad you’ve enjoyed them, thanks Susan.

  5. Frank Page says:

    Welcome back Louise – so good to hAve you back. I first read you with tales of your visit to Cheung Chau, a favourite hangout in Hong Kong for me in the late 60’s. Now wonderful Sri Lanka a favourite destination every few years and back there later this year. Only an initial scan on my phone so far and it looks great and in your inimitable style. Thank you….

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Frank! Ah, Cheung Chau. Love that place. Must have been amazing in the 60s.

  6. Pat Drummond says:

    How lovely to see your beautiful work again,have missed it all, and seeing how much Coco has grown. Thank you,

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Pat. And yes, you know your child is going to grow but it’s still somehow shocking how much they do!

  7. James says:

    Yay – so good to ” see ” you again and enjoy your adventures. Love love love SL been a couple of times in the last few years, and as always you’ve nailed it. Photos and words take you straight there. I see you have a most grown up travel companion these days!

    • Louise says:

      Thanks James! Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon. When Coco and I did the 52 Suburbs Around the World project, she was 8/9 years old. Now almost 15. Travel with her is still great but very different – it makes me realise I definitely couldn’t have done that project with a teenager and feel incredibly glad we did it when we did.

  8. Red Peony says:

    Hi Louise

    Lovely to see you back on line, and welcome back! As others have said, Coco has indeed grown though I still detect a little of mischief in her eyes and smile.
    Your photos of Sri Lanka has brought back many happy memories of the place. We visited in December 2 years ago; and the place and people are everything you have said.
    Looking forward to more posts from you

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Red Peony! Coco is all arms and legs, but like you say, in many ways she’s still the same. Lucky.

  9. Peter Olive says:

    Hi Lou,
    I was there with Ned in Late Jan early Feb. The trains, busses, markets, street food, cheap beer and pretty friendly locals were the highlights. Posted some pics on fb, Are you my “friend”? You should friend me and have a squiz.
    Peter

    • Louise says:

      Hey Peter, I’ll check it out. x

  10. jenny mothoneos says:

    Nice to be seeing the world through your eyes again.

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Jenny. I wish I could travel more regularly so I could show you even more.

  11. ferdi says:

    Ohhh!!! Welcome back!!! Wonderful pictures, as always! Thanks for sharing!

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Ferdi! It makes my day that people get so much out of these posts.

  12. Stephen Lead says:

    It’s so great to hear from you again. Hasn’t Coco grown up!

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Stephen. Yes, she’s almost an adult! Well, not quite, but considering how fast the years spin around, I know it won’t be long before she’s all grown up.

  13. Peter McConnochie says:

    Wonderful to see a new installment! As always your ability to tell your story with words and images is astounding. Crazy how Coco has grown up, made me scared of how much I’ve aged since your first adventures!

    Lovely to read and can’t wait for part 2

    • Louise says:

      Thanks very much Peter. I know what you mean re ageing – adults kind of don’t change visually for many years or if they do it’s slow and subtle, but suddenly you turn around and your nieces, nephews, etc seem to have doubled in size!

  14. Kalinda says:

    Did you get to touch the monkey?

    • Louise says:

      They’re pretty cute aren’t they? But no, look but don’t touch is the deal. x

  15. Gay says:

    Hasn’t changed since my visit in 1976. Except for the obvious tsunami damage.
    It was then and obviously still is, a photographers paradise.
    Good to see you on the job again missy! Love to you both. GG

    • Louise says:

      Well, I guess it’s only been ‘open’ for tourism/development again since the civil war ended in 2009. Interesting to see how much it changes in the next 10-20 years. Much love to you too Gaylee, xx

  16. Phoebe says:

    You were so missed, so lovely to these gentle words and see these beautiful images.

    • Louise says:

      Thank you Phoebe, that’s lovely of you to say.

  17. Gail says:

    Lovely to read your blog again, Louise. It’s on my bucket list. Coco has certainly grown up. Look forward to next installment.

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Gail. Next installment is imminent!

  18. Valya says:

    Long time waiting and yet again a treat to behold. Thanks for sharing the great work.

    • Louise says:

      Thank you Valya. I can’t tell you how much I miss being here, and how much I love that you enjoy it so much.

  19. Anita Tang says:

    Wow – my first reaction is “that can’t be Coco”!! but it seems I am not alone! Second reaction – loving those pics! Sri Lanka is on my travel wishlist although the humidity worries me. If I never make it there in person, at least I’ve seen the best of it through your lens. Thanks for sharing

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Anita. I completely understand why people are so shocked at how much Coco has grown – I still look at her and get a surprise! And yeah, Sri Lanka is very hot and humid. I sort of got used to it but the trick is not to venture anywhere in the middle of the day, which can be frustrating when you’re in explore mode. Still, it’s worth the sweat.

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