A Travellerspoint blog

Sri Lanka

The day we fell in love with a baby elephant

Nature Junkies- get your fix

sunny 35 °C
View Tuscany Roadie on PhilFhi travels's travel map.

If you are a wild life buff, love the beach and, or surfing or snorkelling/ diving, love freshly cooked seafood, chilling out or even partying then the southern coast of Sri Lanka is the place! Not one day went by without seeing something amazing. The people are more relaxed than further north, living life at a slower pace.

large_IMG_6659.jpg

We arrived at Tissamaharama, “My Village hotel” to a three hour power cut.
Until the monsoon arrives at this time of year and replenishes the lakes, there is not enough water to generate electricity…so each day a three hour cut followed by another one hour in the evening occurs. Life just adapts. The pace slows.
20190317_155248.jpg20190317_193941.jpg20190317_193954.jpg20190318_060302.jpg

Tissa is the gateway to Yala National Park, famed for The Leopard but also many other walks of life; elephants, buffalo, crocodiles, deer, and the black bear, to name but a few. We left at 4.45am and travelled with a nutter driver for the 30 minute “race” to get tickets. He was obviously not happy with the left hand side of the road, taking each blind bend on the right whilst texting. Conveniently he was in a closed cabin from us and we could not tell him - until later.
A thunder and lightening storm gave us a show on our arrival to the reserve. Unbeknown to us, this also prompted many animals to go home, deeper into the reserve.
Our second safari, the next day proved much more successful. We saw everything - elephants, leopards, a black bear crocs and so much more!
The elusive leopard

The elusive leopard


large_IMG_6026.jpg

20190318_091837.jpg20190318_091905.jpg

large_IMG_5927.jpg
large_IMG_5975.jpglarge_IMG_6019.JPGlarge_IMG_5910.jpg
large_IMG_5916.jpglarge_IMG_6105.JPGlarge_IMG_5967.jpg
IMG_6158.JPGIMG_6111.jpgIMG_6084.jpg
IMG_5951.JPG405bc790-5459-11e9-9023-5b4468eb25e0.jpg4050cb10-5459-11e9-b7e8-bdf153739d66.jpgIMG_6018.JPG
One of the most memorable moments was going for a walk near the hotel, only for a 1.5 metre silver snake to wriggle furiously to the side of our feet. After absolutely “cacking" myself and screaming to Fhi, who just stood calmly, I turned to see it coiled with the top half vertical and hissing straight at us. Sorry to say, much to Fhi’s frustration, I did not get a photo of this. It was “the one that got away.” You’ll have to believe me.

Ananthaya Beach

20190320_114054.jpgIMG_6169.jpg

Set on a cliff top, our next (Ananthaya Beach) hotel was fantastic. How the other half live! We had a couple of easy walks and even helped the local fishermen pull in the nets, but this was to be a place of relaxation. Swimming was a little bit too dangerous here in the sea so we had to settle for the infinity pool! Life is tough!
IMG_6296.JPGIMG_6198.jpgIMG_6212.jpgIMG_6221.jpg
large_IMG_6283.jpglarge_IMG_6278.JPGIMG_6307.jpgIMG_6320.jpgIMG_6275.JPGIMG_6269.JPGIMG_6327.JPG

At around 9.00pm we went to a local turtle conservation centre to witness a turtle lay her eggs and because we were in luck, also to see hatchlings race to the sea. I admire the work they carry out at this centre, but felt they should have capped the limits on people there. Even though it was gobsmacking to see mum lay her eggs and the hatchlings, maybe too many people were present. Still watching a massive turtle dig a whole, lay eggs and then spend an hour flapping her fins to fill the whole back in was a once in a lifetime experience.

large_IMG_6182.jpgIMG_6183.jpg20190320_235130.jpg20190320_234951.jpgIMG_6181.jpg

Tangalle (Golden Pearl) beach was where we went for a swim in the sea and to watch the larger fishing boats dock in the harbour and unload their bounty for the market. The fishermen spend 12 days at sea on their wooden boats before returning to the markets to sell their catch.

large_IMG_6354.JPGlarge_IMG_6356.JPGIMG_6342.JPG20190323_121048.jpgIMG_6353.JPG20190323_120859.jpg20190324_105754.jpg20190323_120920.jpg

Mirissa (The Pineapple Retreat) provided us with the sea’s equivalent of the safari parks.
Straight off the beach at Turtle Bay we could swim with turtles. Inquisitively they swam around us, or shot off if they were getting fed up. The bay itself was beautiful; small with shelter, unlike Mirissa Beach itself which was more like a baby Benidorm of the future. This was our favourite haunt for the three days- tired of chilling- we would just go for a swim with the turtles at a paradise beach. Amazing.
large_GOPR2103.jpglarge_GOPR2095.jpglarge_GOPR2067.jpgGOPR2083.jpgGOPR2080.JPG

We travelled out with Raja and The Whales Boat tour from Mirissa. Wow! A company that kept to it’s promise of not harassing the whales, but also kept away from any other tourist boat too. We saw thousands of spinner dolphins, a Bryde’s whale and about five Blue whales- even more from a distance.

large_IMG_6441.jpg
large_IMG_6442.jpgIMG_6511.jpgIMG_6521.jpg
large_IMG_6513.jpg
large_IMG_6495.jpg

Plenty more power cuts here too!

large_IMG_6403.JPG
large_IMG_6400.jpgIMG_6383.JPGIMG_6373.jpg

And in our hostel accomodation we happily chatted to so many people with stories to tell of their own adventures around Sri Lanka. One crazy kiwi, who’s mate had just come off a motorbike and was being prepared to be flown home- stories of “tips” for officials to get them off! One couple who went for a scooter ride, only to have their bike taken and held for ransom- they tried escaping! One Welsh couple who had the tour company experience of nightmares, including many blood sucking leeches (the real life creatures). They literally witnessed them jumping onto them to suck their blood! Mirissa was the place to hear the stories.

Mirissa was also home to a couple of great eating places too. We chose one fish straight off the ice board outside in what was one of the nicest fish dishes I’ve ever eaten.
20190327_230236.jpg20190327_230106.jpg20190327_092408.jpg20190326_194742.jpg

Udawalawa National Park proved to be our “winner” though. Slightly north again, we stayed at Mansala Safari House, a family with a couple of young children. We were so blessed to stay with this family. A lovely house set in the jungle and the most phenomenal food for us to eat. Enoki was an amazing cook making us hoppers, poori, pancakes, cakes, so many curries, vadai and so much more.. all from scratch. A treat of talented proportions.
20190329_113905.jpg20190330_110410.jpg
20190330_110352.jpg20190330_110333.jpg

To top it off, they had their own safari jeep and the host came with us, and his 3 year old to Udawalawa park.
Our favourite park and favourite experience was here. Elephants, even babies a few weeks old surprised us around the many twists and turns of the reserve. So graceful.
large_IMG_6663.jpglarge_IMG_6680.jpgIMG_6676.jpgIMG_6670.jpglarge_IMG_6667.jpg

IMG_6571.jpgIMG_6635.jpgIMG_6630.jpgIMG_6547.jpgIMG_6716.jpgIMG_6713.jpglarge_IMG_6719.jpglarge_IMG_6718.jpglarge_IMG_6689.jpglarge_IMG_6637.jpglarge_IMG_6723.jpg
As we drove around one bend, we were greeted by a huge adult male casually walking toward us. We stopped. Silent. He just kept walking in slow motion within touching distance. Wow again. Eagles, bee catchers, and a cracking sunset completed the experience.
large_IMG_6553.JPG

Posted by PhilFhi travels 23:26 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged elephants leopard Comments (0)

Sri Lanka - Colombo to Ella

Tea for Two

sunny 33 °C

Waking up on our first morning in Sri Lanka to a child practicing, “You are my sunshine,” on a pipe flute before school, must signal another glorious day.
large_IMG_5325.jpg
We arrived the day before, after several entrepreneurial attempts by ‘official’ baggage staff to get tips for merely finding our carousel; pulling up at Crystal Ville.
20190308_162651.jpg20190309_070518.jpgIMG_5348.jpg20190308_132007.jpg
Heck- it’s a gobsmacking place. The gates slid open to reveal a manicured lawn and pillars everywhere. Rooms the size of football pitches and a pool made of dreams.
But the highest accolade goes to the chef. They had laid knives and forks on several tables for us to choose from- dining room, kitchen, balcony. We had a personal chef which cost the princely sum of $5 NZ. HIs food was amazing. Unadulterated pleasure of which we would need the use of the pool to remove our newly acquired surplus. But wow his food had us melting with satisfaction. Definitely staying here another night.

Train ride to Kandy

large_IMG_5358.jpg
large_IMG_5354.jpg
20190309_091956.jpg20190309_131457.jpg
We managed to get hold of two 2nd class tickets. Gold dust apparently. Due to my OCD, we arrived way to early (under the recommendation of staff at our house) and had to wait at the station for an hour. It was hot. Very hot and my bladder was constantly filling up. The toilets in Colombo Fort Station are not for the faint hearted. I had to breath out of my mouth it was so bad. As there was a strike, the trains were also running uncharacteristically late. With help from a lovely local, we clambered aboard and found our two seats- comfortable and with a window that slid upwards to allow air flow.
The ride was clackity and it was really interesting seeing how the housing and land use changed as we travelled. Houses, literally ran-shackled sheds, lined the track until out of the city limits where fields emerged. Towns came and went, but tuk-tuks were always present.
The train started to climb toward Kandy, in and around mountain sides and tunnels. We admired the views as we peered from cliff edges and between trees. Doors were left open and you could stand and watch the view- holding on to the door handle was crucial as the train lurched and spat.

Kandy

large_8b392af0-4bee-11e9-93e1-514b199a019c.jpg
Arrival was equally frantic as Colombo- being harassed for a tuk tuk, and if you said no, continually questioned about what you would do the next day and what price you had paid to get here? And then our tuk tuk driver, not for the first time, got lost on his way to our accomodation.... bottle of whiskey perched in his drink bottle compartment.... hopefully filled with water!

20190309_202402.jpgIMG_5390.jpgIMG_5394.jpg20190310_170909.jpg

Vicky took us for a tuk tuk tour of the surroundings the next day. We chugged to the highest point to see Kandy and the lake, a very large Buddha that generated a huge amount of local pride, stopped for fruit at his older friend’s fruit stall and strolled the botanical gardens before lunch. The botanical garden was excellent; a wonderful orchid house and monkeys and fruit bats. What more do you need?
IMG_5449.JPGIMG_5456.jpgIMG_5481.jpg91053cd0-4bee-11e9-9575-1932095eb766.jpg91089830-4bee-11e9-9075-23d9eff67960.jpgIMG_5500.JPGIMG_5434.jpgIMG_5418.jpg
In the afternoon we visited the spice gardens, who’s resident “Dr” was really interesting. So cool to see all your favourite spices growing and also seeing what else they are used for- medicinally.
20190310_170716.jpgIMG_5397.jpglarge_IMG_5421.jpg
A quick pop into a smaller tea factory took us back to waaaaaay before we were even born with original machinery clanking and cranking- for real! It was like stepping back into the industrial revolution.
20190310_141232.jpgIMG_5506.JPG

Sigiriya

Sigiriya Rock Fortress was our next day. After 3 hours in an AC car the heat exploded when we got out to collect tickets. It was reassuring that there was an armed guard there. A cheeky monkey ran toward a youngish couple carrying a plastic bag and just grabbed it off them. Always check the surrounding trees before showing your food.
IMG_5554.JPGIMG_5557.JPG
IMG_5533.JPG20190311_114058.jpg
large_IMG_5518.JPG
large_IMG_5544.JPG

A UNESCO site, half way like Rome and Machu Picchu looked really amazing from the start. Foundations of archaeological digs either side of a grand arrival driveway way led to the rock.
Climbing it was quite an adrenaline fuelled experience. Spiral stair cases literally clung on to the edge of the cliff face, walk ways veined around the ledge followed by more stairs. “Lion’s” feet introduced us to the final set of stairs to the top. What views and so many questions to ask. How did they get all the bricks to the top? Amazing ancient buildings and even bathing pools perched high as the wind poked the sky. Views of lakes and forest and mountains. Simply stunning. I just hoped they didn’t forget the milk once they got to the top! This was well worth the shaking, trembling vertigo.

We did not get train tickets to Nurawa Eliya so hired the same driver. A beautiful journey, especially once away from the city and into the countryside. Valleys formed, roads started to wind, then bend and corkscrew until the mountain we had just climbed then became the floor of another valley for us to travel along. Lush sides of tea leaves and plantations were growing everywhere.

large_IMG_5639.jpglarge_IMG_5605.jpg
large_IMG_5653.JPGlarge_IMG_5636.jpg
IMG_5608.jpgIMG_5648.JPG20190312_123444.jpgIMG_5626.JPG20190312_163849.jpgIMG_5637.JPG

Pickers with the bright blue back buckets filtered through the rows to takes the best tips. More tea factories emerged, modern in comparison to yesterday’s cousins, had new machinery and viewing platforms to teach you how tea is manufactured.

And then Nurawa Eliya. First glimpses of colonial arrivals; Scots who named their plantation Inverness, or English who founded Sussex College- aptly nick-named Little England for many of the buildings and quaint parks, but probably more for the crap weather compared to everywhere else. Strangely, we found the latter to be an attractive quality.

Tea pickers all competed for attention and asked if we wanted to take their photos…..at a price of course. Some we did and some we didn’t. Still, lovely to see the birth of my constantly bottomless cup of tea.
20190313_101341.jpg20190313_133416.jpg

Nurawa Eliya

We stayed at Perera HomeStay which was next to the Pedro Tea Factory. Constance was our host, a lovely man who really wanted to please. We walked to Lover’s Leap Waterfall through the plantations. This was a truly beautiful walk with lush tea bushes and women, closely supervised by a male and a couple of dogs. I was curious as to whether he was guarding the women and providing safety or if it was the tea he was more interested in- the latter I am sure. The sunset was rather stunning and in entering the shadows of the twilight forest, on the edge of the cliff we noticed a group of men loitering. After reading the signs about avoiding such things, we swiftly turned around and walked back. It was not so much Lover’s Leap.
20190314_121745.jpg20190314_093401.jpg

The next morning we walked to Single Tree Hill. Again, through the tea plantations we stomped upwards. Tea pickers were having their break in the shadows of the plants. Chewing on “Beetle” a legal leaf chewed to produce a hallucinogenic high, over awareness and, if unlucky mouth cancer- but the most attractive is the blood red stain inside the whole mouth of the chewer- a bit like they’ve been caught eating chunks of raw meat.
We declined.
They offered us tea.
We declined.
They offered us photos. We declined, for later.
On the way back down, after bumping into this random guy right at the top, where there had been absolutely no one around - very mysterious, we noticed the tea pickers had dispersed back into the plantation so when the first lady asked if I wanted a photo, I said yes. Suddenly two more appeared and insisted on being in the photo. I handed over two notes, the only two small enough, to the three women- not impressed. What a commotion.
The whole valley resonated with screeches and wails that dominoed with every picker on the way down. Who knows what they said, but it was bit awkward!
20190314_121804.jpgIMG_5685.jpglarge_IMG_5673.JPG
large_20190313_173219.jpg

Ella

As we arrived down a vey steep driveway to Royal Vantage, we noticed the top of a half completed building. Fingers of reinforced concrete pillars reached up to nowhere. This was our home for the next few days. In fact, we loved it here. Our balcony over looked the railway, the valley and Ella Rock.
We walked up Little Adam’s Peak that afternoon. Meandering through the town, we asked a policeman for a map- he pointed to one. We tried to ask where we were in relation to the map. He did not understand. Fhi went into the bus shelter, come police station, to show the officer, only to find a policeman under the counter trying to sleep. Who had the greatest shock?
Little Adam’s Peak was breathtaking. A must for anyone visiting Ella. It’s not a rock climb but it is a bit of a work out- the views you're rewarded with after is well worth it.
large_20190314_151131.jpg
large_20190315_173536.jpg
IMG_5707.JPGIMG_5717.JPG20190314_152343.jpg20190315_173622.jpg
The next day we intended to walked to a local waterfall. We set off in between trains, along the track and then found the walk way after about 30 minutes. Being at the end of the dry season, means there is not a lot of water; the rock looked a bit lost without it’s partner. A bit despondent, we continued walking to the next station and could here the train’s whistle from afar. Spur of the moment, we jumped on the train to see the views we'd missed out on the day before when we couldn't get tickets. Not may people get the the train to Haputare so it was lovely to experience the mountain top town with hardly any tourists. It was a hustling town that appeared to be a mix of Tamil, Muslim and Hindi. Refreshing as we did not get harassd for tuk-tuks or anything. And the journey there was picture postcard.

large_IMG_5748.JPGlarge_IMG_5772.jpgIMG_5764.JPG20190315_135320.jpg20190315_135154.jpgIMG_5768.JPG20190315_135140.jpg20190316_082702.jpgIMG_5750.JPG20190316_082633.jpg

We braved the local 998 bus to Rewana waterfall on the following day. Never have I been on a bus ride where the driver plays chicken with a truck driver whilst hanging on the edge of a cliff- nor have I been on a bus, where passengers opposite me were praying all the way down. A little disconcerting to say the least.

large_IMG_5826.JPGIMG_5821.JPG20190316_111851.jpg20190316_110833.jpg
Rewana falls were staggering. A three tiered water fall cascaded from the clouds to the droves of tourists taking selfies. We had a refreshing dip here- not ice cold as I thought, but refreshing. We both sat behind the fall, in what many locals say is Sita’s cave.
After we walked to 9 arch bridge , unbeknown to us, a train slid across for the iconic picture- and then hosed it with rain. Nothing like a cuppa in this situation.

large_IMG_5850.jpgIMG_5862.jpg20190316_195947.jpg

Posted by PhilFhi travels 23:41 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]