Back! And I have to say, it does feel good. It was so wonderful to have a two week vacation and I don't think it could have come at a better time. I feel refreshed and more motivated.
Sri Lanka is so beautiful. For a small island country, it is pretty amazing how quickly the landscape changes. From beaches to mountains to urban sprawl in a matter of hours! We started in the bustling city of Colombo, where there was really not a lot to see but it helped us to organize the rest of our trip. We opted to take a 4-hour city bus down to the South (as the railway was under construction), which was a rather bumpy ride but it was a venture that cost only about fifty cents, and that really can't be beat! We stopped first in Mirissa Beach, a lazy little surfer's paradise that boasts fresh catch dinners and a laid-back atmosphere. Although it rained a lot of our three-night stay, it is still a very pretty little spot that was not super busy. Here we enjoyed amazing Ayurvedic massages at a place called "Secret Root" (up a little path in the direction opposite the beach), which truly felt like a secret spa. It was so peaceful. I had an Ayurvedic massage while in India, and it was not even close to as good as the one in Sri Lanka.
We then hopped on another bus for two or three hours to what is the most peaceful beach I've ever visited. About three kilometers from Tangalle Bay is a quiet little beach area called Goyambokka. The best part is we had not planned on going here - we were supposed to stay in Tangalle. But after wandering down the beach there and being thoroughly unimpressed we thought we'd head back a bit to Goyambokka. It is deemed too expensive by a lot of people, due largely in part to the presence of two large (more fancy) hotels and to its semi-private feel, but we managed to get a great little cabana for $23 CAD per night. We spent Christmas Eve/Day here and were happy to find Wi-Fi at a restaurant to make some phone calls. It's not a great feeling to be away from the whole family during the holidays, but waking up at the beach, this beach in particular, was pretty fantastic!
From here we headed into Sri Lanka's Hill Country. There are some majorly windy roads as you zig-zag up through the mountain towns, but the views are so spectacular. We stopped first in Ella, and I seriously regret not staying here longer. Our guesthouse, called Ambiente, was pretty special - we had a small patio that opened on to Ella Gap, an extraordinary view. We climbed to Little Adam's Peak in the evening, and while we had a little trouble seeing on our way down, it was a pretty cool night-time view with the deep blue mountains and the rising clouds.
From Ella to Nuwar Eliya, the coldest island town I've been to, at almost 2000 m above sea level. The town itself is pretty boring, but it has a neat leftover-colonial-era feel thanks to the architecture. We visited World's End and Bakers Falls at Horton Plains National Park, where we enjoyed some pretty incredible views and got some great shots. It cost us about $100 total (totally unexpected!) once we factored in transportation up the mountain and the park fees and taxes. The drop at World's End is a doozie! (Yes, a doozie.)
On the way to Kandy we stopped at a tea plantation. It was field after field of tea on this drive, and it is mind-boggling to think people have to pick every single tiny leaf on every single tea plant on these farms only to enjoy a simple cup of tea. Oh so tedious! I do love my tea, though. In Kandy we saw a really interesting traditional cultural dance show and visited a spice and herb garden. I am a sucker when it comes to this sort of stuff, it seems. Our visit went something like this.
Guide: "This natural herb will cure this painful/annoying/inconvenient ailment!"
Me: "Ooooh! That is very cool."
From Kandy we travelled further north to Sigiriya where we went on an elephant safari and opted out of visiting a World Heritage Site in the interest of saving a few bucks. Hmm. Jeff and I spent a LOT of money on this trip. Way more than we expected. One of the big expenditures was the elephant tour, but we were able to see something like fifty elephants and were even privy to a little elephant rage! We were sitting in the jeep taking way too many photos of one really nearby elephant, when he seemed to get a little annoyed by our incessant voyeurism and actually took chase. Of course I do not mean full-on "you're-about-to-die-you-annoying-tourists" chase, but it was still an adrenaline-filled experience! Jeff bravely snapped photos as he charged and the tracker menacingly threw ...water... onto its head. We spent the next couple of days replaying the episode using elephant-y low voices to portray the thoughts of the elephant: "Oh, come on, man, you know, I was just playing. Water? Come on. That's just, euh, that's so...well now I'm done. You throw water on me and...man." We think we are funny occasionally.
Did we take too many elephant photos? Way more than anyone could every possibly need? Yep. Did we spend entire days laying around the beach being more than entirely unproductive? Yep. Did we forget about school for two whole weeks? Yep! Did we spend so much that we missed out on some potentially amazing sites? Yep. All Entirely Worth It. Sri Lanka is such a beautiful country - there is so much to see and so much to do and a lot of it is widely different. It was great travelling around, even for such a short time. Next destination is Portugal in April!