Wow, that was quick… the three months of Sri Lanka are all but up.
time for a quick update on how we have spent our time here on this gorgeous island.
The short of it:
Learned to bodyboard
Learned to Surf
Hours of silent meditation: 100
Days lived on a gorgeous beach continuously: 15
Nights spent indoors with free accommodation: 13
Nights renting a room at local family home: 31
Free tuctuc rides: 3
Paid tuctuc rides: 1
Cycle tourists met: 4
steps trekked on crumbly stone stairs: 11000
Months volunteering at animal sanctuary: 1
Days stuck in a friendly small town during floods: 10
The Long of it:
First we built out bikes and ventured out towards Colombo, overwhelmed with the number of people who evidently cycle out of choice as opposed to necessity.
Lycra-clad youth whizzed past on socialism-screaming generic single-speed bikes.
The beach was screaming tropical paradise! So it was time to jump through some bureaucratic hoops… the immigration bureau was a brilliant little place. Like a distopian outpost of bureaucratic redtape in the outskirts of a postapocalyptic city in a PKD novel, it had the most impressive collection of unplacable characters and exotic accents.
Impressively long-winded utterly senseless protocol of off-to-desk-A for a form, fill it in and get clerk to check then, on-to-desk-B to get a stamp, over-to-desc-C with the form, go-back-todeskB for a receipt, it went on, revisiting Desk-A twice more before we had to get a number and plunge into the sweaty tourist infested waiting area that resembled the campsite of an established festival on a monday.
We set off south, armed to the teeth with the right to remain in the country for an extra 2 months and an unbeatable desire to explore the island paradise we have found ourselves in.
And then we hit an impenetrable wall of super-heated humidity…. it was insane, seriously. scalding air….
We took our time going south, taking it in as much as possible, sleeping as often on the beach as reasonable, with a healthy dose of jumping in the sea to cool off.
We went to Sri Lanka at the back end of the tourist season, so we had our first taste of pre-monsoon storms when we arrived at a beach, but had not yet set up our camp.It was character building, huddled under a crumpled tarp that we picked up in India the day before we crossed into Sri Lanka.
After practically zero sleep we made our first/last attempt to blag our way into a resort….
We cycled on, tired, hot and realising that this is probably not going to get easier when we hit the more serious tourist spots further south.
As we decided to pack it in for the day and spend most of the afternoon resting on the beach we were approached by an awesome eccentric lady that ran a great little guest house down the road. She was amazed and wanted to help us and ended up giving us full board and lodging for the day! Nice one, that was the second time we got a hotel room and food like that.
Charged up and ready to go we jumped on the saddle the next day and pushed through to Bentota beach, a semi-privatised safe-haven with friendly hotel/resort staff patrolling the area with nothing but patience for us.
We set up camp here (making sure to pack it in for during the day, not to anger any holidaymakers) for just over a fortnight, the staff checked on us regularly and clearly enjoyed the lack of servitude they had to practice with us.
One hotel provided us with all the hot water for tea and coffee we could need, another allowed us to use their wifi and check out their sea turtle conservation project. We fed disabled turtles and released hatchlings at night, it was lovely…
We recharged out batteries, and had a couple of days of body boarding.
It was very relaxing, refreshing and much needed in many respects, the sunsets were beautiful and the afternoons in the Indian ocean were met with childlike glee.
The wifi made it possible to arrange a bit of a plan for the rest of the tour as SriLanka was completely unplanned and it came with its own set of frustrations, as lovely as it is to just cycle in a direction and do as you please, after a while it becomes senseless… and no wind is favorable for the aimless sailor.
So we made plans, and damn good ones! It was time to stop bumming on this beach and time to go volunteering!
We got in contact with Animal SOS Sri Lanka, and headed over to spend a month volunteering fulltime at their Dog and Cat sanctuary near Ahangama, in a village near the southern cost , armed with the worlds vaguest directions and very little communication we set off, empowered by a new sense of purpose and direction.
Damn it was great to have some idea where we are going and why.
as we cycled around the coast we did some excellent cringeworthy touristy bits featuring one of the million funky Mask Museums.
We found ourselves abruptly in Hikkaduwa, surrounded by the biggest concentration of tourists we have seen since applying for the visa extension, inflated prices were hilarious here.
When i approached a typical cyclist icecream vendor about his prices he told me it was 150LKR for one icecream (£1.50) which is insanely overpriced, i walked away with 2 icecreams with an agreed price of 80LKR (40p) for the pair.
This was something you get a lot of in Sri Lanka, it can be frustrating, but insisting on a price your comfortable to pay is essential, because as soon as you start walking away they will agree to it. You just have to time your “i don’t want it that much”-and-walk-away juuuuuust right.
There was a great shop catering for everyone and anyone, stocking a wide array of SriLankanWTF;
Once we got to the dog sanctuary the very helpful staff had gone out of their way to help us find well priced accomodation, we were lucky enough to get a room in a local familys house for just £1.75 a day, making it possible to stick to our £5 a day budget for the time being.
Our host family was incredibly welcoming and friendly and worked around the language barrier constantly.
Operating strictly with well water-came with its own frustrations as it was the dry season and water would run out regularly and generally ran brown from the tap.
What needs to be mentioned though is the absolutely gorgeous scenery, the sweet stripped back slow paced life in the village and the start of our Animal SOS Volunteering month, a great time with a lot of Dog Poo, lots of Dog Feedings, and socialising with antisocial dogs (the extremely shy and scared as well as the agressive ones)
We generally had one or two days off a week with the exception of the weekend when we had the passport scare (these days were invariable filled with exploring the area and learning to surf in Midigama)!
Passport scare; Well, the 3 day weekend was filled with backtracking to Hikkaduwa going everywhere we stopped, hunting for Ellie’ missing passport…
It was great, a good excuse to have a good cycle 10 days into our time at the shelter. We got up to Hikkaduwa after a million stops too late to return, so we stayed the night and had a day to ourselves. I decided to cycle into Galle and have a quick look at it::
Galle was lovely, very picturesque, most of it felt like i was pedaling into postcards, and it was incredibly saturated and overpriced… so having taken some pictures I decided to head back and look at some old delapitated government buildings along the way!
After our month with Animal SOS was up it was time to cycle up to Kandy for our Vipassana (a 10 day silent meditation retreat), on our way we met the amazing Raj, an inspiring Sri Lankan cyclist that joined us for part of the way to Kandy.
We were completely recharged after spending some time with Raj who had unique insight into the civil-war/conflict/genocide as he lived in Colombo and remained there regardless of what the regime threw at him.
We arrived at Kandy, but cycled straight through to make a start on our Vipassana.
Nothing could prepare us for what was to follow… and to keep in spirit of it’s wordless nature here are a few images;
We then proceeded to climb Sri Pada possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Here is irrefutable evidence that we were at the top, you cant fake these images!
We were promised a magical transformation at sunrise, it was worth it even if it looked like this;
On the way down the going got tough… we caved and had our first tea break::
Back on the ground we conducted our own little bedside tea tasting and rested up as Ellie’s foot infection slowly healed.