Saturday, 16 February 2013

2 Weeks in Sri Lanka

Having not had a 2 week holiday since I don't know when and with the snow falling hard and fast over London - needless to say I was a leetle bit excited about our trip to the holiday destination of 2013 - Sri Lanka.

It's hard to know where to start...

Tallala Retreat
Talalla Beach

... But where better than the beach? So we bombed it down to the south coast and into the ultimate zen zone of Talalla Retreat - a place who's purpose is to Our days were spent doing yoga, hanging out on the deserted beach, drinking cold cold beer and eating (organic) vegetable curry. Bliss.

Dondra Lighthouse 
A boat ride over to the nearby Dondra Lighthouse (the highest in Asia, no less) for sunset - less sun, more storm - was beautiful.

Coconut man
3 days later, cleansed of the stresses of London-life, pink nosed and salty from the sea, we headed up into the hills to a little village called Ella. 

Buddhist Temple
Surprisingly thankful for some cooler climes, we took a small hike up to Little Adam's Peak. The apparently incredible view was unfortunately slightly obscured by cloud, but with the rain having scared the tamer tourists away, we wandered through the rows of tea plants completely on our own. 

Winding up at the seriously lush 98 Acres Resort , we had a nice cup of (Orange Pekoe) tea and watched the view unfold as the rain stopped and the clouds cleared.

Continuing on the tea theme, we took a tuk tuk to the nearby Halpewatte Tea Factory to see the process from field to pack and after a delicious tea tasting session I decided that becoming a tea broker was my new dream job.

Aside from tea, Ella is vaunted as quite a hub for Ayurveda treatments, with a surprisingly huge number of spas for such a small village. We treated ourselves to massages at the much mentioned Suwamadura Ayurvedic centre. Sadly less impressive than we were led to believe - the head massage was more scratch attack than soothing but it was an experience nonetheless.

The next morning we set off before dawn to head back down to the coast, via the Udawalawe National Park.

Arriving at Udawalawe just before sunrise we set off into the park aboard a jeep with driver and a tour guide in tow. Stupid, I know, but I just hadn't realised quite how amazing the nature element was to Sri Lanka and my goodness, cheap too - we were off on a full-blown safari and for less than you'd pay to go to the zoo.

Safari Sri Lanka

There are a number of National Parks in Sri Lanka, each with their own incredible USP, Udawalawe's key attraction being quite how many elephants they have there - over 500. Soon we were standing, watching a family of four ambling through the foliage, the pinky light of the rising sun blushing their wrinkled skin.

Eagles, peacocks, water buffalo and a few more elephants later, with the sun high in the sky we returned back to the car to continue the drive on down to the south coast...

South Coast Beach Sri Lanka

...And into the open arms of the Mangrove Chalets on the beautiful white sands of Marakolliya beach, just along from Tangalle.

This place is paradise. With huge cabins just back from the beach, surrounded by palm trees and miles and miles of just sand, sea and palms - there was nothing to do but sleep, eat, swim, read and well and truly flop.

Lunches were freshly caught prawns and calamari, grilled with ginger and garlic, served with buttery potatoes and washed down with shandies at Sha Sha's beach shack.

Sundowners were mojitos at the Crocodile Bar as the evening's fire was built.

An early morning kayak trip into the mangrove had me scared out of my skin at a feeding monitor lizard (from far off, they could be crocodiles). And on a late night walk down the beach we came across a turtle who had clambered up the sand to lay her eggs.

Marakolliya is truly amazing and it was very hard to leave at the end of our 4 days - but the culture vulture needed his fix, so it was back to real-life (ish) and up the coast to Galle.

An amazing fort town on the East coast, we spent 2 lovely days wandering the streets of the strangely multi-cultural Galle. With architectural influences from the Portugese, Arabs, Dutch and Brits this town is well and truly a mish mash of 'looks' and with an incredible artist community there is plenty to do and see.

We stayed at The Fort Printers, a beautiful converted print works with a lovely plunge pool shaded by frangipani trees.

Sunset walk around the ramparts
And so our holiday drew to a close and we made our way back up the coast to spend our last night in Negombo.

Stumbling upon a light show to celebrate a Roman Catholic Saint's day, once again we were amazed by the endless treats of the island.

With the war over and the wound of the tsunami healing, Sri Lanka was quick to welcome us into it's warm embrace - the people never less than charming, the places we visited never less than extraordinary.  

You should go. 

And take me with you.

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