It was a lovely morning. Breakfast was in a large open area - we could have sat outside like we did last night. We were given a plate of cut fruit, most of which we kept for later - luckily I had a plastic bag. We had scrambled egg and proper bacon, but the toast was puny white.
We left at 9.30. This place had been good, but we both felt it lacked the warmth of previous hotels.
We drove south to Trincomolee (Trinco). The main street, with its row of little shops, had a Chinese feel. Adrian located a drink shop, and bought some booze through a 'hole in the wall'. We looked at beautiful Dutch Bay with its little boats on the sand before driving on to Fort Frederick. We drove through a large archway to enter it. Spotted deer were wandering about as we drove down the avenue lined with massive banyan trees.
Driving on through Trinco, Adrian went into a bakers for his 'one inch loaf'. The soft roll he bought for me had potato curry in it today!
We now left the peninsula which makes up Trinco, passing a mosque on the way out.
We continued south, turning off to Marble Beach down a long track with unmarked topes.
A guard at the gate said that it was 20 rupees per person, and 50 rupees for a car. Although not much (50p!), Adrian said no, so we continued south, stopping at a pleasant but grubby beach which was strewn with little fishing boats. Fish were drying on horizontal racks.
We stopped at another sandy beach, with outrigger canoes pulled up along it. There was nobody about, so we decided to have our lunch here. It wasn't the best, sitting on the litter strewn sand by the sea and trying to make up lunch, while noisy crows hovered nearby!
As we left here, we saw a Brahminy kite and a fish eagle which swooped down across the sea and caught a fish.
We ate our lunch sitting right by the water
The road now left the coast and wandered through flat land with rice fields either side. For the first time, the road surface was badly potholed, so driving was slow.
Near Vaharai we took a narrow track down to the sea to an idyllic golden sandy beach with turquoise sea and pale blue sky. It was quite deserted - just a few fishing boats. We tried the water- it was beautifully warm, but the waves were quite rough. Grass led down to the beach, which was dotted with palm trees. Driving back from this idyll, we were brought back to earth by the first sign we had seen showing the height of the 2004 tsunami.
A Brahminy kite
We arrived at Amethyst Resort at Passekudah our hotel for the next two nights, at 3.30. It was surrounded by lush greenery. We entered the large open lobby, where we were given a cool drink and a cold wet flannel - just what Adrian needed, as he was very warm.
We were led across a bridge over a lagoon (where there are apparently crocodiles), to our room - a 'hut' opening onto a white sandy beach. We had a large room and huge bathroom. We soon made for the amazing vast (30m x 13m) swimming pool, right by the beach. Its a long time since we've swum the length of a long pool. After relaxing for a bit, we returned to our room and had a cup of tea sitting on the patio.
An idyllic beach near Vaharai
Later while we were having our aperitifs sitting on the terrace in the dark, with the beach lit up, Athulla the room cleaner, came to clean the room – he said that he did it twice a day. He decorated the bed with blossoms. Next day he asked if we’d liked it. We said that we did. ‘if you’re happy, I’m happy’.
We ate supper in a large ’hall’ meaning that the waiters had a very long walk each time from the kitchen. We were the first to arrive there, but several other diners soon came, including the jolly Moslem lady from the next chalet to us, with her husband and little boy. The food was great – I had tempura coated veg followed by battered calamari, and Adrian had a shrimp cocktail then seer fish, all beautifully presented.
We felt that we needed the long walk back to our chalet!
Wonderful Amethyst Resort Hotel
Saturday 24th February Enjoying a day by the sea 0 km
As we walked over the bridge for breakfast, a worker, who was sweeping up leaves, called us to see the croc in the water.
There was a lot of food for breakfast, but it came in ‘bits’. By the time my pancakes came, I'd forgotten I'd ordered them! We had fruit juice, a plate of fruit, egg and toast. There was enough to take some goodies for elevenses, and we kept some of the fruit for lunch. Coffee was ‘instant’ though – make your own!
Well fed, we came back to make the most of our ‘catch-up day’. The day soon went of course. It was time to wash out some of our clothes. Athulla helped in fixing a line up outside. Later he came to talk to us, poking through our ‘knicker line’. While he cleaned our room, we made our way across the beach to the sea, and both managed a short swim in the warm shallow water.
After surviving the waves, we made for the calm swimming pool and had a longer swim there. The ‘minder’ put the jacuzzi on for us. Adrian chatted to him, but like many, he didn’t speak much English. The other swimmers appeared to be Russian.
We came back to our room to find that Athulla had decorated the bed again – this time with an ingenious towel elephant amongst the blossoms! We had elevenses on the terrace, then spent a long time finalising the website.
Hang your washing on the line then off to the sea for a swim
Being Saturday, there were a lot of people in the sea, their happy noise floating up.
Later, after lunch on the terrace, Adrian had another swim in the sea and in the pool. We phoned Paul and Nicky and spoke to them all. We wished Nicky a happy birthday for Monday.
Later we phoned Emma. As we knew, it is really cold in England.
While sitting out with our aperitifs, Athulla came to clean the room. He decorated the bed again, with ‘goodbey’ written (like that) in grass blades!
An elephant this time
The sky had darkened, and torrential showers came as we went to make the long walk over to supper. It stopped then, but caught us on our way back – luckily Adrian had taken the large umbrella provided in the room. We both ate ‘fish and chips’, with very different ‘mushy peas’ - a tablespoon of ‘pea sauce’. The young waiter was keen to talk. The lowest temperature he’d known was 25! Once again, instrumental Christmas music was being played!
Farewell from Amethyst Resort Hotel
Sunday 25th February A long slow road to Ella (in the rain!) 257 km
After two weeks of dry heat, we discovered why Sri Lanka is so green!
As we went to bed a huge thunderstorm raged with torrential downpours. I found it a bit scary, especially as we were right on the beach - thoughts of tsunamis surfaced!
We awoke to find it still raining, which it did in various amounts during the day.
There was the usual large choice for breakfast, but everything came slowly and in a strange order! We were brought toast and hot water first. Later items came in trickles. The funniest thing was Adrian's cornflakes, which he didn't bother about, as they hadn't arrived. I returned to the chalet while he went to pay for our stay. There was a knock at the door, and a young lad arrived with a bowl of cornflakes and a jug of milk - he'd walked all the way from the kitchen!
We were hot and sticky by the time we left just after 9.00. The lads had come for our luggage, and Athulla was hanging around, obviously waiting for his tip! We'd enjoyed it here, and found the staff very friendly.
We were driving to Ella today - the longest journey so far, and not in the best weather!
We drove south first to Batticoloa. We gave a Paddington stare to a van driver we passed who was throwing plastic bags/rubbish out of the window, while he had a phone stuck to his ear.
We drove through a town which was seething with market stalls before passing a large lagoon on the landward side as we neared Batticoloa. The town was very busy, being Sunday morning, so Adrian needed to keep his wits about him.
We headed for The Dutch Fort, passing Mahatma Ghandi Park, alongside the water. The fort had been built by the Portuguese in 1628 and taken over by the Dutch 10 years later followed by the British. It was pleasantly quiet as we drove past.
We looked at blue and white St Mary's Cathedral. There was a torrential downpour when we stopped to look at Anipandi Sitivigniswara Alayar, a colourful Hindu Temple, the first of many we passed.
In Food City we were able to get orange juice, but no tonic.
We continued south, between the sea on one side, and lagoons on the other, but could see neither. It wasn't pleasant driving, with the rain and the unpredictable traffic - worse today as the cyclists carried an umbrella in one hand!
It was midday when we turned inland at Karatine to drive through flat sodden country. We gradually reached the hills, but there was nowhere to pull in. We eventually had our lunch sitting in the car, opposite a small shop, as the rain continued.
As we neared Ella, the country became very dramatic and steeply mountainous. Lots of people had stopped to view Rawana Ella falls, which have little water in them except after rains, so today they were good!
Anipandi Sitivigniswara Alayar Hindu Temple and St Mary’s Cathedral
Ella itself was a street full of stalls and shops. The road climbed higher and higher and was incredibly steep. We found our way to a track to 'The View', where we are staying for the next three nights. We walked a steep track up to a building, which wasn't the right one - 'our' place was next door - equally steep, and 'quirky'. After ascending a long winding outdoor staircase, we reached 'The View' - and that's what it was! We smiled to see an odd tree high up, which we'd noticed miles back. It reminded us of Greece in 1967, when we'd commented on a monastery high in the hills, and hours later had passed it.
Stalls by Rawana Ella Falls
The air was much cooler than on the coast, but not cold. There was a small swimming pool which two French children were enjoying.
As for our accommodation - it was small after what we've been having, with a four-poster bed with mosquito nets in the middle of the room. Very little storage space, no fridge, no kettle or cups/glasses. Adrian was quite upset, as he'd wanted somewhere good for my birthday tomorrow, and this seemed to be lacking! He returned the long descent to the car for our kettle, then came back to find that the plug was different! Things were difficult! He managed to sort the plug - then found that the air-conditioning wasn't working - not that we need it so much here (we never did, but it never got mended!)
Supper is included here. Adrian had ordered it for 7.00pm. We were just getting organised to go down, when young smart lad Deeya arrived and said that it would be up here, on our balcony. He told us there had been a large French party here for 2 days, celebrating a wedding - he showed us a bit of video on his phone.
So we ate a pleasant Indian type meal of several dishes plus rice, and with nice poppadoms. Then we were brought afters of banana pancakes. Interesting and different. It is much cooler here, but still warm.
Our hotel at Ella - ‘The View’
‘One tree hill’ which we found out was called Ella Rock
Monday 26th February My 75th birthday 8 km
A very different place for my birthday!
After opening my cards and presents in our four poster bed, we were served breakfast on our personal balcony. A plate of fresh fruit and scrambled egg, with our view of Ella Rock.
Adrian chatted to the French family next to us, whose 2 energetic boys are aged 11 and 7.
Deeya had wished me happy birthday. He was 20 he said, and guessed that we were 50. When we said 75, he said 'very old'!
It was nearly 11.00 when we left, first descending the many uneven outdoor steps and the steep path to the car. We then drove the equally steep track up and down to reach the road into Ella. Tea plants were growing all around.
We went first to the train station, trying to work out the timetable of trains from here. I decided that I would rather wait until tomorrow for our ride. Adrian chatted to a young Dutch chap also trying to work things out.
Ella was extremely busy. It has become a very popular tourist town. We made for Newburgh Green Tea plantation to have a tour. At first we reached the hotel part by mistake.
This was set all amongst the tea terraces. We thought that we would visit the hotel restaurant, and reached it after ascending about 200 uneven steps! There were wonderful mountain views all around. We asked for green tea and 'butter cake'. This was still warm. We kept one piece to have as my birthday cake later. We expected the bill to be high, but it only totalled £4.
Happy 75th birthday!
We then made for the factory to have a tour. We had to wear fetching blue caps and slippers, and later masks too! The young fellow showed us the various processes of green tea production. Basically it seemed to be that green tea isn't fermented like black tea. Afterwards we were given a cup of green tea, and actually bought some loose tea - we saw that the 'rubbish' is used to make tea bags!
Morning tea at Newburgh tea plantation
We sat with a couple from Budapest, although he was originally from England, and had worked at Vodafone in Newbury! He was a sound recordist. They had tried the highly recommended tea plantation in Ella, but had found it closed today! We were pleased that we had decided to visit this one. The other people on the tour were two women from Munich.
Near here was one of the 'sites' to visit - the nine arch railway bridge. There was a 2km steep up & down and uneven track down to it which we were enticed to take a tuk tuk for (no good for cars, and too difficult to walk). This was a good move, as it was incredibly steep. The man who'd talked to us said that his father owned the cafe at the bottom. We still had a steep and difficult climb down - he had to help me. From the simple cafe, we could see the bridge. A train was due, but didn't actually come while we were there (what hope for our trip tomorrow?) It became very hot in the sun. The cafe had drinks, but had run out of fresh coconut water, which I'd decided on. The chap stayed down with his dad, and we climbed back up with the tuk tuk driver, just as it started to rain. Then he drove us up the track.
A tour of Newburgh green tea factory
From a stall nearby we were able to get our coconut, and both drank the milk (water) through straws.
The steep descent to the nine arch bridge
Back in busy Ellla, we thought that we'd stop for something to eat, having seen no shop to buy bread. At the second place we tried, we ate cheese rotti - a sort of tough pancake, and I had 'curd and honey' (yogurt). To access the cafe, you had to cross the roadside ditch on a bridge made of slabs of concrete and wood.
Sipping coconut through a straw
It was 3 o'clock when we left here to make our way back to 'The View'. Deeya was keen to show us that the bed had been covered with flowers, with 'Happy Birthday, Many Happy Returns' written by him.
A dodgy cafe entrance as the children walk by in the rain
Although the weather was showery, we now headed for the delightful swimming pool. The water was not as warm as previous places, but was very refreshing. After a pleasant swim, we came back up and enjoyed my birthday cake' on our balcony.
Happy birthday from Deeya
Later we had our aperitifs there too. The reticent owner/manager said happy birthday.
We had a bottle of bubbly with our supper of buttered (battered) prawns and fish. It had been a different and lovely birthday.
Tuesday 27th February A train journey (in the rain) 3 km
It was a lovely morning. Everyone seemed to be about early. Breakfast came with puny 'toast'. No-one came to clear away the plates. The French family with Matthieu and Livier(?) left as they hadn't been able to book any more nights here.
We saw a magpie-robin high on a twig - presumably named because it is black and white, and very tuneful. Adrian saw a chestnut headed bee eater, then later I did. Monkeys were playing in the trees below, and grabbing all the food left on some tables.
The hotel workers were fascinated by our binoculars, and all had a look though them – they’d obviously never used them before.
We had a delicious swim in the pool. There was no chance of tea or coffee, as there was no electricity!
Having a big power cut was most inconvenient, as we had some time today and could have done more on the computer, but had to give up when the battery went flat.
The hotel towels were drying on the sunbeds and on the roofs - they had to be brought in when the rain started!
We had a simple lunch of cheese and biscuits on our balcony, as the rain became torrential.
About 2 o'clock we left to drive down into a very wet Ella. We wanted to get a bit of shopping before we caught the 3.15 train to Badulla. The only shops were tiny 'hole in the wall' type, amongst the myriad of cafes. At one little shop we found some wheat crackers, then in grand sounding Super Ella, we managed to buy a small pack of biscuits and I spied a little glass bottle of tonic for Adrian. We put back the small round wrapped cheese, which turned out to be about £15, and we didn't think that we'd like anyway!
We made our way to the station, but it was too early to buy our tickets. Opposite the station a fast game of cricket was being played, amongst much loud cheering and music playing.
Wonderful wildlife seen from our balcony
On the platform there were a lot of 'electric men'. Adrian tried talking to them to find out about the power cut, but they didn't seem to speak English.
The station was well looked after, with a little garden of flowers. When the train arrived, hundreds of people swarmed off - mostly white tourists. Luckily it was very quiet for our journey. I was a bit disconcerted by the open door. We had the windows open too, until the rain came in! When we went through a tunnel, there were loud screams from other passengers. We crossed the nine arch bridge which we had seen yesterday. Adrian was in his element, looking out and taking photos of the 'green and pleasant land'. I enjoyed the bright tulip trees. For much of the way we followed a brown, muddy river.
Sri Lankans love their cricket
Flowers at Ella station
Waiting for the train
Here comes our broad-gauge train
We arrived at Badulla just after 4 o'clock, and intended staying around until the train back to Ella in a couple of hours. This would mean arriving back in the dark, when Adrian would have to drive the difficult journey back to our hotel. Lonely Planet hadn't been very flattering about Badulla, so when we stepped outside the station and a tuk tuk driver asked if we wanted a lift back to Ella, we decided that it was a great idea! And so it was! Our pleasant driver Shantha drove us back, pointing out one or two things of interest on the way. Badulla was indeed a large and not attractive town, especially in the rain! It was a bit chilly for me, and I did get splashed with muddy water once from a passing vehicle!
Views from the train from Ella to Badulla
We reached Ella at about 5 o'clock and made our way back to 'The View', where there was still no electricity. Our room hadn't been cleaned - as we'd gone out, Deeya had said 'I've finished cleaning for today - no more'!
Adrian got chatting to John, a chap with very blue eyes, staying in a neighbouring room. He was from New York, at present working in Saudi, teaching English.
After a while, we were delighted that the electricity came back on.
It was a very wet evening despite it not being the rainy season. We were brought our noodle/fish supper, then, with electricity once more, we were able to do a bit more of the website. It felt quite cool - we had no need of the air conditioning, which Adrian thought had never worked anyway.
The tuk tuk ride back from Badulla to Ella
Wednesday 28th February Down to Uda Walawe and a wonderful safari 108 km
It was superb to be able to look out from the large high up balcony. We heard and saw a magpie robin and also a chestnut headed bee eater again.
At breakfast we tried five different times to get our toast cooked, rather than the pale 'warmed bread'. One lad went off repeating 'more done' as he went downstairs! It finally arrived 'brown', but by then we'd finished, so took it to make a 'cold' cheese sandwich for lunch!
We'd got packed up, then it was the long, long way down to the car.
Likeable rogue Deeya and another lad took our bags. We said our goodbyes. We'd loved it here, despite our early reservations. It was marvellous having meals served on the balcony outside our room.
A family with 3 young children were playing by the pool as we left at 8.30 - we had a distance to drive to Uda Walawe, and then a safari booked for this afternoon.
The road wound down and down out of Ella (4,000ft).We enjoyed the steep green hillsides. The Rawana Ella falls still had a lot of water in them - the place was already busy with tourists.
After 20 km we reached the crossroad town of Wellawaya. We needed more fuel, and this was the first place. Adrian had worried that we might not have enough fuel - but it had been down hill all the way. The weather now, down on the plains, was warm and sunny. We stopped to get some money from an ATM.
Nine km on from here, we turned off to Buduruwagala. This was a great find - a 15m tall Buddha cut into the rock-face. It had once been painted, and still bore traces of the paint. We'd had to drive for 4km along a track, and pay our small entrance fee. Crowds of white butterflies were fluttering around the parking area, and a few coloured ones too.
The long trek down to the car
It was still a little trek to the site, but it was mostly shady. We'd been disconcerted to see four large coaches parked, but discovered that they were all locals, who had come today as tomorrow is 'Poya' (full moon) which is a very special time here. Also, we heard, it is mostly women who come to revere the Buddha. As everywhere, people were constantly sweeping up leaves.
White butterflies in the parking area
We viewed the Buddha - the tallest in Sri Lanka, and the other carved figures before driving back to have our tea/coffee under a shady tree.
We continued southwards across the flat plains on a well surfaced but busy road.
At 11.30 we turned westwards. Simple stalls often lined the road, many of them empty.
We arrived at Uda Walawe just after midday, but couldn't locate our hotel (the GPS location was wrong!). We drove up and down the road, looking for a sign. We asked 3 or 4 different people, but none spoke English. In the end, a gentleman said 'It's one km further on'.
'Le Green' was a small hotel, with a lovely pool. We were booked in by a pleasant but rather large man. It seemed to be a family run place, with what looked like his father and wife. There was a small chubby little girl. We were given a cool drink, before being shown our pleasant, large room, which opened to a small patio. The lady said to keep the door shut because of mozzies. We took our 'sandwiches' with some fruit from breakfast to eat under the shade of a tree by the pool, before having a refreshing swim.
At 2.30 Predeep arrived on his scooter, to drive us in the into the park in the jeep. This was more comfortable than the last one, with forward facing padded seats, but it was still a VERY bumpy ride! We were driven back along the road to the park entrance. At the gate we stopped to pay. There were lots of jeeps, and it was a long wait. We had expected to get a guide, but Predeep said 'no guide, me guide'. In fact he was brilliant! Besides having to drive the extremely bumpy track, he was 'hawk eyed' and pointed out all sorts of things. It was a lovely setting, with the hills around Ella in the distance. We saw notices about eradicating the invasive lantana plant.
Leaves being swept near the giant rock Buddha at Buduruwagala
The first thing we saw was 3 female elephants, with cattle egrets alongside. Then the list goes on -
green bee eater on a wire
blue tailed bee eater
crested hawk eagle
hornbills - a grand finale as we left!
It was 5.30 when we left the park, getting back to our hotel at 5.45. It had been a superb safari.
The temperature was very warm (and so cold in England). As we sat on the little patio for our drink, little geckos came to visit.
Supper was of seafood rice, which was nice, but too much of it!
Gray Langur Monkey
Just some of our 60 elephant photos in Uda Walawe
Thursday 1st March A leopard in Yala National Park 65 km
We were up early, but had asked for breakfast at 8 o'clock, and couldn't find anyone to change it to earlier. As it was, service was all very slow. Once again it was 'warm bread' not toast with the two fried eggs that came, after a plate of fresh fruit. As it is poya today - full moon and a public holiday, we didn't expect shops to be open, so took the 'bread' for our lunch, with our diminishing bit of cheddar from home (with some of the fruit).
Emma had emailed to say how cold it was in England - just as we were off to the pool for a swim!
We packed up and left at 9.45. This had been another nice hotel.
We drove back along the same road, turning off to look at a dogoba high on a rocky hill.
At the crossroads town of Tanamalwila, which was very busy with stalls, we turned south. We didn't have far to go today, as we were stopping at Tissamaharama to go on a safari in Yala NP this afternoon. We reached the town at about 11.00, and were surprised to find a Food City open, and Adrian was able to get some more tonic. We also bought icecreams (the first time), but had trouble in finding somewhere to stop and eat them, eventually just pulling in to a bit of shade. We had seen monitor lizards on the road, and had passed a couple more dagobas.
A good start to the day!
We reached our hotel Lake View Resort, at 11.30. Contrary to what we were expecting, it was a pleasant, smart hotel - on the edge of a lake, as the name suggested. There was an attractive garden, where we were brought a drink of fresh juice, looking out to the birds, including a woodpecker.
A monitor lizard n the road
We had a large room, with a balcony overlooking the lake. There was very little storage space, but we are only here for one night. There was no swimming pool, as we knew. The bathroom was large, but like many, the sink leaked over the floor. There was a kettle - but only one cup!
It was too warm to sit on the balcony, so we ate our lunch inside.
At 2.30, Sudu arrived to take us on our safari into Yala National Park. It was a half hour journey to the park, and it was very windy in the open sided jeep. The last stretch into the park went over dozens of topes, so the going was slow.
The reason to come to this park is especially to see leopards. As we'd never seen one in the wild, we were keen to do so. With Sudu's expert observation, we were in luck!
We came to a clearing with one or two spotted deer and some buffalo. Sudu sensed something - alarm calls from the deer, or movement in the bushes - and sure enough - there was our leopard! It wasn't long before dozens of other jeeps arrived, but we were first, so got the best view. To be honest, after the initial excitement, once it lay down, it could just have been a pile of logs, but we'd got what we'd come for.
Pleasant Lake View Resort
Sudu seemed to like to chat to the other jeep drivers - often this would be to see what sightings they had seen. He had a cough, maybe a smokers cough, as he did smoke. He stopped once to pick up litter which had been thrown from a vehicle.
Like Predeep yesterday, he seemed to share in the excitement of seeing any wildlife.
Vehicles must leave the park by 6.00pm, so there was a big conglomeration of jeeps - especially when a leopard had been spotted not far from the entrance. This one wasn't so easy to see, but we'd had our prize!
As we reached the gate, the sun was just setting, and the full moon rising.
We spotted a leopard!
Other than that, the park is a lot of driving, for very little reward. It is crowded with safari jeeps, and despite the high entrance fee (quoted in American dollars, but payable in Sri Lankan rupees), the roads in it are in very poor condition. It was very bumpy, especially when I tried sitting further back.
Having said that, we had a really good time. Most of the birds and animals we had seen before. I was pleased to have spotted pied kingfishers amongst all the egrets. We also saw grey herons, an Indian pond heron, a land monitor, mongoose, wild boar and a large sambar deer, which Sudu called an elk.
A tree full of pelicans
A spotted pied kingfisher
A sambar deer
It was 7.00 and dark when we got back to Lake View Resort. It had been a great safari - we'd seen what we'd come to see!
We were told that supper could be brought to our room. There was no fish today, so we both ordered prawns. We'd liked to have sat on the balcony, but it was too warm! And so cold in England right now.
Leaving Yala National Park as the sun sets
Some of the birds we saw in Uda Walawe National Park
And some of the animals
Friday 2nd March To the south coast at Tangalle 60 km
It was lovely looking through the palms to the lake on a beautiful morning. Adrian found hundreds of tiny ants in his computer and in the cool bag, so we did a lot of cleaning out.
There was only us for breakfast. We sat with our wonderful view of the lake while we waited a long time for our tea and coffee - a pot of hot water and tea bag/instant coffee. We made her understand that we wanted our toast brown, and it was half way there! The scrambled egg was good. We were brought a thick fresh juice to finish. This had been another pleasant hotel, and very good value for money. (£30 total including breakfast).
As we left, we stopped at the weir by the entrance to the property, where a woman was doing her washing, and where children had been playing yesterday.
We drove back into Tissa, looking for another Food City (the only supermarket chain we have come across). On our second drive up and down we found it - and were delighted to be able to buy some cheddar cheese! Ours brought from home had lasted well – the only other cheese we have seen here is Dutch type cheese - at a price.
We then located a bakery/cafe, where we bought a white loaf from a most disinterested man. Very loud music was being played outside and the traffic was chaotic.
We found a track down to a pond where a few men were fishing. We saw several birds while we had our tea/coffee with a bit of the crusty loaf and the very last smidgeon of cheddar from home. We left here at 11.30, driving on past dozens of stalls selling baskets. We passed a photogenic dagoba beside a pond.
The weir where children played and a woman washes clothes
We came to a busy town, taking a track which only led to a Buddhist temple. The second track we tried came to a wetland area where there were lots of birds. Nearby were prickly pears with their yellow flowers. We made this our lunch stop, with more of the bread and cheese. Adrian had bought a cucumber and an Asian pear. What we thought was a bird table or a letter box close to us turned out to be a little Buddhist shrine!
A waterside dagoba
We turned off the main A2 and the onward road had a terrible surface. We soon took an even worse track off looking for Nirvana Beach Boutique Hotel - our place for the next two nights. As we bumped along the sandy track, we had almost given up, but finally came to a half closed gate. It was just after 2 o'clock, the earliest booking in time.
This place seemed even more quirky than The View at Ella. Adrian wondered what he had brought me to! After a bit, a white lady (called Michaela) turned up - she said that she had fallen asleep with her little daughter (aged 3). She showed us to our room - it was certainly different! It looked half finished, as the walls and floor were of marble looking cement. The bed was scattered with bougainvillea flowers. The bathroom was outside! (attached) - no problem in this temperature. There was a balcony/terrace which looked through coconut palms onto the wonderful yellow sandy beach. There was a splash pool on it. The water was green, but soon workers came to empty and refill it.
Michaela was from near Cologne, but appeared more French, and had lived for 20 years in Paris (where her husband was from). She spoke 5 languages she said. She and her husband were film makers, but had started this project, which had opened a year ago, as a retirement pension. She reminded us of Margaret Massialas, and also a bit of Laure. Unfortunately she smoked, but she didn't shirk from working, and started clearing leaves from the pool until a worker came along.
We went to view the swimming pool, and she brought us a drink of coconut water still in a coconut. The pool was lovely, but had no steps - just down into the 18 inch deep water, which then sloped steeply to about 5 ft. No rails, so not suitable for young children.
After a nice refreshing swim we made our way to view the fantastic beach - miles of unspoilt yellow sand. Today the waves were very rough - we managed a splodgy paddle!
A group of four Germans had arrived - we talked to one man, also from near Cologne - they were all off to the Maldives tomorrow. The dog from the property, and 2 of its young puppies (of 4) joined us - one puppy took a liking to my crocs, which didn't please me. The mother dog had gone for me earlier when we'd arrived. We came back and had a cup of tea on the terrace.
‘Bird table’ shrine!
We’ wondered where supper would be served tonight, but found that it was in front of our room, just before the beach. The German group were already there. We had a good chat to them – they spoke good English. The young girl (aged 22) had been travelling with her boyfriend for 18 months, and was very chatty. They had been up since 4.00 this morning to visit Yala National Park. We chatted until the food came, then afterwards they were naturally tired and left to sleep. We ate tuna (A) and giant prawns ( R). They certainly were giant – more like crayfish – and very messy to eat. Michaela brought a bowl of water and napkins, a bit late. We had a nice salad, which was very welcome. It was a magical setting, right by the sea, with the trees lit up. The dog and her 4 puppies cavorted around by us. I, of course, felt for the little runt. As we left, we looked up to see the full moon.
Wonderfully quirky Nirvana Beach Boutique Hotel
Eating giant prawns beside the beach while the puppies play
Saturday 3rd March A relaxing day in a magical setting 0 km
We got up to see the sun just coming up behind the palm trees as the waves crashed on to beach. The puppies were playing on the lawn, and the plunge pool was full of water. Things were good!
Breakfast was served beside the beach. As always, service was very slow - we were there nearly two hours! Again things came in a strange order - first a bit of cake, later toast (browned on request) and my boiled egg, much later Adrian's scrambled egg. At the end, a plate of fruit.
The German group joined us on the next table. We found out that the young couple, who had been travelling, were Koko (Karina) and Lukas. The other couple were Lukas' mother (45) and his stepdad Uwe. They had come out to make sure that the young ones returned home! They were all very nice, but Koko was particularly animated and chatty, reminding us of Sara, Alice and Kiki. She talked a lot of her travels- we felt a real bond, and she took our email address. She seemed to have gained an understanding of people far beyond her young years.
It was 10 o'clock when we got back to our room. The rest of the morning was spent as we'd intended - relaxing in an idyllic situation.
We alternated between the beach - where we wetted our feet, Adrian having more of a splash, and me walking along the deserted sand, our plunge pool and the swimming pool.
The cook showed us two lobsters - we hope to share one tonight.
We ate our lunch on the patio. There was a disaster when we couldn't locate our food bag with our reserve of nuts, biscuits and crisps. After much searching, we realised that Michaela must have mistaken it for rubbish. Adrian's diligent search located it, to our great relief!
We had been told of a good bird safari, and debated whether to try for it, but decided that we'd done enough rushing! We actually found out later that where we had had lunch was part of the sanctuary.
We had a walk along the beach as far as a bar, where locals were enjoying the water. We splodged through the sand and got a wetting from the erratic waves. The sky had become quite stormy looking and the evening was a little bit cooler.
Sure enough, we had our lobster for supper. Michaela had asked us if we’d like to try her home-made Baileys. This was certainly good. She had got talking to a couple who she knew, but was still keen to be busy - getting us a bowl of water to wipe our messy fingers.
We'd met her French husband and talked to him later. He said that after 20 years their little daughter Salome had been born. He worried all the time about her by the swimming pool or the sea. The little girl was a free spirit, playing on the hammock while we were all eating. We enjoyed our lobster, although with just our paraffin lamp as lighting, it was hard to see what we were eating. We wandered onto the beach afterwards. This place will certainly go down in our memories of special places, despite Adrian’s early misgivings.
What a marvellous place to relalx!
Lobster for supper tonight
Sunday 4th March Along the coast towards Colombo 112 km
Another lovely morning. At breakfast (by the beach), Michaela chatted to us, until her husband came to say that her lift was waiting to take her to Colombo - she had to renew her visa. Breakfast came slowly as usual. Afterwards we walked onto the beach, where the two workers were busy building the second palapa.
We packed up, then had a welcome (skinny) dip in the plunge pool. Michaela's husband called up to ask when we were leaving!
We'd really enjoyed our stay here - the owners were very pleasant. It was 10 o'clock when we set off to drive along the coast to tonight's stop at Akurala.
Just along the bumpy track, we came a pond where we saw a variety of egrets, cormorants, stilts, a lapwing and a heron.
We bumped along to the road, driving the few miles to the busy town of Tangalle. We drove down by the harbour, which had lots of boats. Locals were enjoying the sea by a lovely beach, being Sunday.
Warm and hardworking Michaela says goodbye
Michaela had been saying that she was surprised that we'd never been stopped by the police, but today was our day! The reason, it seems (the policeman didn't speak English), was that Adrian had overtaken on the zigzag markings after a zebra crossing! Adrian thought that paying the £5 fine was the easiest option!
We stopped at a point where it said that there was a blowhole at Kudawella. A man beckoned us into a carpark by his shop. He said that it was a 300m walk - well it was - along a track edged with stalls selling fruit and dried fish. At the end, it was a rough climb up and down many uneven rocky steps, and then up again to a viewpoint over the blowhole. The good thing was, it did 'blow' quite gustily down below us. We talked to a young couple from Gosforth, Australia.
When we got back, we went into the shop and bought an icecream, which refreshed us after the warm walk. We gave the man his 50 rupee (25p) charge for the parking - it was now midday.
This area is known for its wonderful beaches, and we found a delightful little sandy cove at Kotagova to have our lunch. It was busy with locals, who were enjoying the sea - most wearing their normal clothes. We sat on rocks to eat our lunch, which included some fruit from breakfast, and a boiled egg from yesterday, which had been in our bag which had been taken as rubbish, but which Adrian had retrieved.
Afterwards we had a paddle in the warm water. There were several outrigger canoes on the beach, with a couple of them out fishing.
The walk to the blowhole at Kudawella
We drove on to Matare, which was big and busy, and didn't seem attractive. We now made our way to the expressway to Galle (37km – toll £1). A sign said 'danger peacocks'! We drove through green pleasant country.
Galle was certainly a place to visit. In our short time, we got an impression of it. It is an old walled town. We drove through Old Gate, before we'd realised it. We parked by Court Square where there were lots of stalls under huge banyan trees. Old colonial type buildings surrounded the square with the magistrate court and others. It was busy but very atmospheric. We drove through the tiny streets to the lighthouse, which was under scaffolding. We walked onto the old ramparts. I bought a bracelet from a vendor.
We made for the Dutch reformed church - the top site. Although pleasant, it didn't seem that special.
Joining locals at a beautiful cove near Kotagova to eat our lunch
We now drove on 15 km beside the coast to where we thought tonight's location was. We drove down a tiny lane by the sea, but discovered that Adrian had put in the wrong coordinates, and we were a long way from the right place! We came across a bread tuk tuk with its chiming bells.
At 4.15, we did reach Cool Beach Hotel at Akurala. Once more we wondered what we'd come to, as building was in progress and the place looked a mess, but they were only rebuilding the entrance hall.
Luckily things improved. The hotel was situated on a glorious beach, busy with tourists - Russian mostly it seemed. Our room, on the second floor, had a balcony above the beach. The owner/manager and the ladies who showed us to our room were very pleasant, but didn't speak much English.
Views of atmospheric Galle
We soon made our way to the beach where we had a nice swim. The day had become stormy, but was still warm. We were delighted to be told that there was a swimming pool on our floor (2nd). We made our way there and had a pleasant swim.
The kettle had blown a fuse when we tried to make a cup of tea. We found that our room had very little lighting - the best light was in the bathroom!
The sky became a strange colour as we sat on the balcony with a welcome aperitif. Adrian had ordered a whole mullet between us for supper, and this was good. Dogs ate the bits I couldn't - there is a dog with four puppies, rather like last night.
Our last beach hotel - Cool Beach at Akurala
Monday 5th March To Colombo and farewell to the car 114km
We looked out to see the owner sweeping the beach before 7 o'clock.
Breakfast was slow as usual, but in such a lovely setting - sitting on the beach under the palms. We waited half an hour for our tea/coffee - three different people had asked us what we wanted! We had thick 'toast', made from a fresh white loaf. Although hardly browned, it was far nicer than the 'plastic' stuff.
Then what more idyllic than a swim in the warm sea, followed by one in the pool. We packed up slowly as today we are handing the hire car back in Colombo, so weren't racing off this morning. Booking out time wasn't until 11.30, so we were able to have 'elevenses', with a little cake from breakfast, sitting on the balcony.
We'd enjoyed this hotel too. The owner was again hard working, with lots of ideas. We wished him well.
We were soon into the busy town of Ambalangoda, making our way to the express-way towards Colombo. We stopped for fuel just beforehand - the tank is supposed to be left empty, so we didn't want to get too much, but didn't want to run out either! It was now midday.
We drove through 'green and pleasant land' again, turning off quite soon, as we'd read of something called 'Brief garden', an arty sort of place, which we thought would make a stop-off, as we had plenty of time. Well, we never did find it, despite driving along the road in both directions. It was shown in different places on our map, and in Lonely Planet, and didn't feature on the sat-nav at all!
We had our lunch on a bit of wasteland before returning to the express-way. We'd wondered if there were any service areas, but came to one almost straight away. We pulled in just to have a look. The petrol pumps were 'coming soon’.
We turned off to the southern part of Colombo to return the car - the motorway toll was 75p for the first bit, and about £1.50 for the second - hardly a lot for 60km!
Traffic was slow and heavy after we'd turned off - there was a long hold-up at a junction, mostly because drivers just pull out from side streets, and block traffic. In fact driving wasn't pleasant here. We reached Kings Car Hire just before 3 o'clock. Although Adrian didn't like the sluggish automatic acceleration, the car had served us well, and Adrian had managed the chaotic driving expertly. Amazingly we'd seen virtually no accidents, despite drivers 'doing their own thing', and pulling out/turning with no signalling.
We’ll miss these wonderful beaches!
We were soon driven to our hotel for the next two nights - Barnes Place Bungalow. Traffic was even worse now - our driver said it was school picking up time (just like in England). Barnes Place Bungalow was a small hotel set in amongst all the buildings. It had a small green garden, and as we knew no pool or fridge. Our room was clean and adequate, and we did have air conditioning (an essential) We settled in for our last stay.
Adrian after expertly driving his 1640 km!
We were both feeling rather ‘knocked out’- perhaps reaction after our wonderful but busy tour of Sri Lanka.
We realised how easy it has been to eat each night at the hotel where we have been staying. Tonight this wasn’t an option. We headed off to a nearby sushi restaurant. Although not far, it was along a road with traffic, so not pleasant, and we both got extremely hot! The restaurant was in a smart hotel. Three Sri Lankans shared the lift with us, they were very keen to talk.
The restaurant was on the roof. We had delicious tempura vegetables and tempura prawns (huge), with various fish sushi. Lovely, but too much – they gave us a doggy bag, which was put in the main fridge back at our hotel. We drank a (garden) mint drink (A) and a fresh ginger one(R) they hadn’t got an alcohol licence.
We couldn’t face the walk back, and luckily were able to get a tuk tuk. Good value for 25p, although Adrian gave him 100 rupees (50p), as he couldn’t find change.
Our non alcoholic cocktails!
Tuesday 6th March Colombo
We awoke to hear exotic birdsong, and the jingle of a baker's van on this our last day in Sri Lanka.
At breakfast there was a lone Japanese man and later another silent man eating.
The service was probably our quickest. We were served 2 fried eggs with 2 frankfurters (which we didn't want), and the usual uncooked toast. Adrian said to the cook/caretaker that the internet wasn't working. His reply was 'It's cloudy - maybe later. This is Sri Lanka' (it is a 4G service).
We'd arranged with David, the owner, to have a taxi visit into Colombo today. Our taxi driver arrived, and off we set. Colombo has few notable 'things to see', so it was really just absorbing the atmosphere.
It appears a green and spacious city with a lot of huge trees. A bit like our short visit to China from Hong Kong many years ago, a lot of time seemed to be spent in traffic jams!
Our driver was pleasant enough, but spoke very little English, and was a man of few words.
We passed the hospital and the town hall on our way to vast Victoria Park. We had a walk around in here, looking back to the town hall, and at a large statue of Buddah.
Next we visited Gangaramaya Temple which had a plethora of treasures and gifts displayed. What intrigued us was a dusty steam roller on the other side of the road!
The Town Hall, the Buddha and us in Victoria Park
Next we stopped by the National Museum - a huge complex which we only looked at from the outside. Parties of neat schoolchildren were patiently waiting - one or two young boys spoke to us. There were enormous banyan trees, where people were constantly sweeping the leaves.
Treasures in Gangaramaya Temple
The dusty steamroller opposite!
At Beira Lake we visited the Seema Malaka Temple set out into the water. We couldn't decide if it was Hindu or Buddhist, but found out that it seems to be both.
Seema Malaka Temple - the ‘Temple in the lake’
We stopped next at Independence Hall - a large open building with dozens of carved stone columns. It commemorated Sri Lanka's independence from Britain in 1948. We lingered here as it was cool and shady.
The National Museum in Colombo
We passed the Prime Minister's home on our way to Galle Face Green, an area beside the sea, which has very little 'green', as it is being surrounded by great new tower blocks (all Chinese financed as is much new building in Sri Lanka).
The former Dutch Hospital was 'the' place to visit. It dates back to the 1600’s, but has recently been restored, and now houses cafes and shops - we each 'bought the T-shirt'!
Open air Independence Hall
Our driver now said the we had finished the list of sights that David, the hotel owner, had given us. Like many Sri Lankan's, he wasn't able to think 'outside the box' and suggest anywhere else.
David had mentioned the area known as Barefoot, so we made our way there - another restored area of little shops and a courtyard cafe. We'd decided to eat out this lunchtime, and finish up our 'oddsies’ for supper tonight. Hence Adrian had a hefty mushroom and broccoli quiche, and I had coconut coated prawns. I had asked for it not to be spicy. Our attentive waiter came to see if it was OK - it was a bit spicy, so I washed it down with beer and water!
The Dutch Hospital
The Lotus communication tower and the Old Parliament building
It was now time to make our way back to our hotel. Adrian had a lot of trouble in finding an ATM to sort our last bit of cash - Sri Lankan money isn't valid elsewhere, but we needed to have enough - the hotel wants, like most, to be paid in cash. We reached Barnes Place Bungalow at 2.15. Our driver wasn’t that unthinking as he asked us if we wanted a lift to the Airport tomorrow, so we arranged to be picked up at 09.00.
The rest of the day was spent in working on the website and preparing for going home tomorrow.
Wednesday 7th March Going home
We were up early getting ready for our flight. We ate breakfast of scrambled egg and a large plate of fresh fruit – we will miss that, especially the papaya and pineapple. The quiet Japanese man was the only other diner.
The taxi driver arrived early - 8.40 – for our arranged 9.00 pick up. This small hotel had served us well, being right in Colombo.
The traffic in Colombo wasn't too bad – we were soon out onto the almost empty express-way heading towards the airport at Negombo through flat land, often by the coast.
We reached the airport with plenty of time for our 12.50 flight, which was good, as everything was different and difficult! We first had to go through security just to get into the airport, and then several times afterwards. The annoying one was right at the end – when we'd refilled our water bottles for the flight, and had to give them up. Very frustrating, as I like to have a bottle of water with me to take sips from - a beaker of water on the flight is far less convenient.
There were several little gift shops early on. We bought one or two things before exchanging the rest of our Sri Lankan money.
We had priority check-in, as we'd asked for special assistance. This meant a wheelchair, which I didn't relish, as it makes you feel like an invalid patient! We had a long wait for the chair, but it would have been a long walk.
Adrian bought a couple of rolls with the last bit of money, but his had a curried mixture in it!
We made our way to the departure lounge, and then to the aircraft. We had window seats at the rear of the plane – just a 'twoer', which is nice. Again we had the flight attendants in their attractive peacock coloured outfits. Ours was particularly attentive to me, as though I was something precious, because of the 'special assistance'!
The long flight was uneventful. We were able to work (with great difficulty) on the website, and I finished reading the book 'Lion', which I'd found engrossing, about a young boy lost in India, and adopted by a couple in Australia. Only when we saw the BBC news headlines did we hear of the fracas in Sri Lanka, with a state of emergency declared. Was this the same place that we had just visited, where we saw not the slightest sign of any trouble, and had found everybody friendly and helpful?
The film selection was disappointing- I did watch one on JM Barrie.
The flight path came in over Essex, which was different for us.
Our flight assistant had said that there would be a wheelchair for me. Well – there wasn't one waiting, and the whole exercise was a 'Fred Carno'! We waited outside the aircraft door, as a motley group of cleaners of all shapes and sizes arrived in their high viz jackets, looking like characters from a comic movie. Each one was frisked by their 'leader'. Fed up with hanging around, we walked to where there were some buggies. Two different drivers asked us if we'd arrived at Heathrow! Our passports were checked by a very jolly and chatty Moslem lady, who said 'welcome home'. After more wheelchair amusement, the lady 'pusher' said to Adrian 'I'm stopping here, you can push it further'! This was down steep ramps – it would have made a funny film!
Finally reunited with our luggage, we met up with Hilary, who'd kindly come to collect us. We had trouble in locating her car in the dark, and ended up phoning when we were a few feet away!
Luckily the really cold weather had gone, but it was still a chilly shock after three weeks of trying to keep cool!
Hilary drove us back to her house, where we collected our car and Adrian drove back to Hermitage, arriving at 9.00pm - 3.30am to us, and we'd been awake since 5.00am!
We found the heating not working properly, and a brain scan appointment for me for Sunday, when we'd arranged to visit Paul & Nicky in Dorset. Time to go to bed!
We end with lunch at ‘Barefoot’ by an artisan weaver
The garden in Barnes Place Bungalow
Building a new palapa
Little Green Bee-eater
Female Orange-breasted Green-pigeon
Malabar Pied Hornbill
Total distance travelled 1640 km
A few impressions of Sri Lanka
Traffic, of all sorts, chaotic – but not as bad as India.
People friendly and many speak English – often hard to understand
Babies and small children are carried- no slings, backpacks or prams
Predominantly men work as waiters/room cleaners
Paths, lawns etc continually being swept
Housing is continuous alongside most roads
Hotel Lochana, Negombo
Right on the beach
Large room and balcony
Lots of nearby eating places
Breakfast very slow (as all hotels were)
No change of sheets or towels
Hotel Janora hills, Kandy
Large, well appointed room
Staff keen to please
Felt 'watched over', as few clients
Bought new fridge when we asked for one
Venue up a steep hill – meals in hotel - only water offered to drink
Atmospheric steep view – children playing before school
Only hotel we stayed at with a lift – we were on 5th floor, the only one finished
Giritale Hotel, Giritale
Set in jungle, overlooking lake
High up windows, so couldn't see view when seated
Pleasant, friendly staff
Lovely swimming pool
Buffet meal – sometimes busy
Small, poky bathroom
Large bed, beautifully decorated each day with blossoms and towels
Workers were constantly cleaning – washing floor, sweeping etc
Gamodh Citadel Resort, Anuradhapura
Lovely setting amongst trees
Large room and balcony
Grassed area with tables for meals/drinks
Spa bath in bathroom (no good)
Rural, but close to town
Cardamon Hotel, Nilaveli
Right on beach, with pool on beach
Large room - bed with mosquito nets
Had to pay for stay on arrival
Notice specifying fee for any breakages
Intentionally rustic feel – wood and cement
Amethyst resort, Passekudah
Beautiful – right on beach
Rooms were beach chalets
Fantastic large pool by the beach
Large room and bathroom
Lagoon with crocodiles
Beautifully, well presented good food
Room cleaned twice daily
The View, Ella
Very steep – lots of outdoor steps to access
Marvellous mountain view
No fridge or kettle
Breakfast and evening meal included in rate, and brought to terrace outside our room
Tables not cleared after meals
Four poster bed in middle of room with mosquito net – not much room.
Hotel towels were dried lying flat on roofs and sunbeds
Easygoing and lacksadaisical – rooms not cleaned one day
Air conditioning never worked - fortunately not needed
Le Green, Uda Walawe
Small, clean – family run?
Pleasant large room – bedside table
Little 'sit-out' – but very hot from A/C outlet
Lake Edge, Tissamaharama
Nice building with gardens
By edge of lake – birds
Bathroom wet from shower
Kettle with one cup!
Supper brought to our room
Nirvana Beach Boutique Hotel, Tangalle
Hard to find, down long, sandy, bumpy track (owner has sign planned)
Looked unfinished – concrete/stone effect
Spacious- large balcony by beach
Outside/open air bathroom/loo(attached)
Nice pool but deep and no steps
Directly on unspoilt beach
Personal plunge pool
Meal served outside, beside beach
Chatty and helpful, friendly owners (French/German)
Cool Beach Hotel, Akurala
Right on lovely sandy beach
Swimming pool on upstairs floor
Room and balcony overlooking beach
Hotel being enlarged – building going on
Bad lighting in room – best in bathroom!
Many other clients – Easter European/ Russian?
Busy/ hard-working owner
Barnes place Bungalow, Colombo
Small hotel, right in Colombo, dwarfed by buildings