There are definitely some don’t do’s in your travels to Sri Lanka, and if you avoid them you’re going to have one hell of a holiday. Start by circumventing Colombo if you can. It’s not the greatest place and although we stayed at Mt Lavinia, which is about an hour from the airport and on the beach, and while the pictures here may tell of big white hotels and romantic lighthouses these are the exception in Colombo and by and large you’re going to be disappointed if you hang around. The crowded cityscape captured here is the reality of Colombo more than anything you’ll see in travelogues. To avoid Colombo fly into the city early in the morning and take a private mini bus and head south west to Hikkaduwa, you can get there by train but that will take you about 5 hours where a minibus will accomplished the same journey in 2 and half hours.
Guests houses linked along the beach at Hikkaduwa provide really good, cheap accommodation. We stayed at Dewasiri Inn and with our quaint room facing the sea and waves lapping only meters from our doorstep we’d found paradise and pulled out a few beers.
Ten glorious days of eating, surfing, drinking and sun-baking – it doesn’t get much better. The lovely family who ran our guesthouse made sure these will forever remain, some of my best days.
Our tour guide, Sareth claimed that he was part of the Sri Lankan mafia.
The only thing we know was true about him was that he had not been to the dentist ever, judging by the one large canine protruding from his gums. He also doubled as our recreational drug dealer and provider of alcohol.
Kandy in the central province is about 6 hours from Hikkaduwa, it’s heartland Sri Lanka, real cricket territory,
a picturesque lake forms its centre and surrounding hills which provide the best of views available.
The view of the cityscape from our modest accommodation was dominated by Bogambara Prison which we were able to look directly into on the long stroll down into the city, the inmates a reminder – don’t break the law.
Sareth made one small error in taking us to Sri Dalada Maligawa, commonly known as the Temple of the Tooth Relic. The temple with its amazing with gold lined rooms and giant pieces of ivory thwarting entrances was really impressive but we’d come to see the tooth. Sareth failed to inform us that to view the actual tooth, we had to go either very early in the morning or late afternoon, so all we managed was a glimpse of a large gold cloche covering the relic. Still we were pretty sure it was there and going on the state of dental care it’s no wonder monuments are built to teeth.
Kandy has a reasonably good network of public transport, buses and trains link the city and suburbs and although train fares are slightly lower than the bus fares, getting a bus is infinitely easier than the train, so keep that in mind and if you’re splashing out you can hire a Tuk Tuk, it’s more expensive, the meters are rarely used, and it’s best to do the negotiating and settle on a mutually acceptable price before you start the trip, this way you’ll end up making friends with these unreal Sri Lankan people rather than stressing about payment.
Exploring the local markets is one activity that burns time. Small wooden trinkets, fruit, luggage and the usual I heart Sri Lanka T-shirts are all on offer. As is a lot of leather goods, which sent me into a perplexed state – I don’t know where the leather comes from given you don’t see many cattle in these parts?
From Kandy we travelled south into the mountain ranges of the central highlands. Tea plantations control much of the skyline here.
We stopped at one plantation and were greeted kindly by a local woman who’d worked at that plantation for going on 40 years.
She took us out into the fields and showed us how the tea was picked and sorted by hundreds of local women carrying several kilos of tea leaves. From there we were showed the prehistoric looking facility where they clean, sort, dry and rate the tea ready for packaging and shipping. After the tour we sat down to try several of the teas and scoff down some of the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had! Sorry Mum.
Back on the road we traveled to our final destination, Adams Peak. As we scaled higher the temperature dropped to where a singlet and shorts was no longer comfortable. The summit has Sri Pada, a sacred foot print, which is a rock formation near the summit said to be that of Buddha and in Hindu tradition that of Shiva. Told that we needed to start hiking up the mountain’s 5000 plus steps at 2am in order to reach the summit by sunrise, unlike the many prepared travelers who were decked out in windproof jackets, hiking boots and head torches, we thought we’d manage in our footy shorts, singlets and one iPhone as our leading light. This didn’t work so well but being reasonably fit young men we leapt up the mountain and within 2 hours had left the oldies and their windbreakers in our wake. This we soon realised was to our detriment because we’d reached the summit with still 2 hours to wait till sunrise, and were freezing!
Finally the sun rose and the majestic view of the surrounding mountains is absolutely stunning. Although one of our mates struggled, he didn’t enjoy it at all, he was in desperate need for the toilet. With none in site we spotted him a couple of times bolting back down the mountain. Keep all this in mind because it’s better to be prepared, damn those bloody oldies. Everyone would’ve really enjoyed this hike if we were a little better kitted out but it didn’t affect the most incredible sunrise you might ever see!