Yes, it was a long trip from Brighton to Sri Lanka, but we made it one piece. Yes, it is hot and dusty here (when it’s not, it’s hot and rainy). Yes, there are cows in the street. Yes, there is the constant free jazz cacophony of traffic horns but this all adds up to the experience that is Sri Lanka and we are very happy to be here.
Minutes after leaving Colombo airport we were inundated with our first experience of the suicidal interplay between mopeds (often holding three adults plus a baby….no helmets), cars, tuk tuks (pimped up two stroke three wheeler taxis), and dangerously overcrowded and garishly painted Leyland public buses. Throw into this mix a multitude of mangy stray dogs staring at you indifferently, before they lazily wander out of harms way and you have what would look like a recipe for disaster. Despite the sickening combination of excitement and fear as loaded busses overtake you on blind corners, the drivers/cows/dogs seem to know what they are doing and appear to follow some unspoken law of the road!
Our first stop in Sri Lanka was “South Point Villa”, a beautiful house located on the southwest coast right on the edge of Kogalla Lake. On arrival we found out that it came complete with a full-time staff, including a cook and “house boy”, which was equally uncomfortable (hints of the Raj) and delightful (tea and cake without fail at three on the dot).
The house on the lake had a beautiful long dock where most of our evenings were spent fishing with bamboo poles and prawns for bait. As the light faded, flocks of pure white egrets flew gracefully by, soon to be followed by clouds of giant bats, silhouetted against the sunset, flying from their roosts to spend the night feeding.
Fifteen minutes away, through the village and past the local Buddhist temple, was the beach where we could see the local stilt fisherman in action. This is the only place in the world where this type of fishing still takes place and these prime fishing locations are jealously guarded inheritances which are handed down from generation to generation.
With absolutely no effort at all we managed to quickly attract the attention of the local fisherman who offered us “gifts” of coconut drinks, fresh pink coral plucked from the sea (eeks!), and dodgy gemstones. Before long, two of these new self appointed Sri Lankan additions to our family had taken it upon themselves to become our best friends and tour guides, buying us bananas, and meticulously planning our itinerary with various excursions around their beautiful island via tuk tuk!! We were reminded of the advice that every parent gives to their child at some point, “Never get into a tuk tuk with a stranger”, and although they were persistent we uncomfortably but politely managed to prize ourselves free from them.
Highlights of the trip so far:
- Quality time “acclimatizing” in the pool,
- Jule’s 13th birthday complete with beautiful handmade breakfast table decorations made by Dayapala.
- A visit to the elephant orphanage to see the little ones at feeding time
- Being witness to a thirty-nine meter tall Buddha on a full moon Poya (holiday) day.
- A brilliant safari at Uduwalawe National Park, incredible bird life, LOADS of elephants, and even a cobra;
One experience that merits a special mention was our chance to have the privilege of releasing three baby sea turtles into the sea. Sri Lanka is home to five out of the seven different types of sea turtles in the world and volunteers in Galle buy the turtle eggs from the fishermen (turtle eggs are considered a delicacy here), then bring them back to the hatchery for safe hatching. About three weeks after they hatch, these tiny creatures are released into the big wide ocean. It was an unforgettable experience placing these small beings on the sand to watch them instinctively head for the waves.