Sri Lanka. Six days, rushing around the island like a crazy squirrel: by bus, by train, and 500km by a tuk-tuk.
So, what was it like?
April 6, 2016
It was an ordinary Wednesday morning in Prague. As I woke up, I was busy with my usual everyday life things – fixing breakfast, getting my kids prepared for school and daycare, and other routine stuff. But actually, those thoughts about going somewhere for a short trip (like, for about 7 days) have been visiting me for several days already. Just in case, I warned my kids that I might fly away that day (I didn’t quite believe it myself), and my parents would take them home in that event.
At home, I checked for any available tickets and for some information about getting visas to different countries. So, my choice was Sri Lanka: not too far away, a visa in the airport, beautiful nature and ocean, bright Sun, interesting culture (nearly like in southern India). So, the flight is today at 3p.m. Great! It is only 10a.m. now. I am quickly packing my luggage… Most of the stuff I take with me isn’t heavy. My parents are already used to me making sudden and unexpected decisions. How about some diving in the Indian ocean? My mum makes me promise that this time I am going to have some rest “like other people”, to lie on the beach and relax all days long.
The return ticket is for April 12.
I’m at the Prague airport. It is my first flight by the then-largest Airbus A380 of Emirates airline. My itinerary is Prague (Czech Republic) – Dubai (UAE) – Colombo (Sri Lanka). While waiting for the airplane, I am reading about Sri Lanka and gathering some information and advice from those who are experienced visitors of the country. So, I begin to frame the plan. Days of the trip are not that numerous: just from the 7th to the 12th of April. There are so many interesting things in the island, that as I am waiting in the Prague airport I already understand I am taking back my promise given to my mum to behave like “all the normal people” and to spend all the days at the beach)))
Emirates with their A380 were quite impressive. Chairs like in the premium class, ice cream, excellent screens with entertainments. And an incredibly huge airplane!
After 6 hours of the flight we are in Dubai airport. There we are going to wait till the early morning. Meanwhile, I read some more information about the island, and my travel plan is ready!
April 7, 2016
The flight lasted for 4 hours. Early in the morning, I arrived at Colombo and got my visa at the airport for just USD 40. Then I take a local bus to get to the town bus station.
My way goes to the town of Dambula.
That’s what the local bus tickets look like. You buy them from a driver for about 1-3 dollar.
A friend of mine, an experienced traveler recommended me to take a usual local bus to my destination, to enjoy local flair and peculiarities.
BUT… You should never do this right after your flight and a night spent in the airport. The reasons are:
1) The local bus was not a rapid bus at all, and the distance was very long to get covered by such a bus. That was tooooo loooong to enjoy any local flair))
2) As it was a usual local bus with no air conditioner, and it was insufferably hot, the windows were open. That didn’t help anyway.
As the bus goes, you’ll have to stick your head out through the window grating, and your face will be hit by hot wind and dust from the local roads, which are often not coated with any asphalt.
3) you will have a terrible headache after earsplitting music shouting in the bus and clangorous traffic sounds banding into your ears. They love listening to their music not just in a loud way, but in a barbarously loud way. And they have a saying: “Only he who is dead does not honk!”. This is all you need to know to realize what terrible noise is everywhere around.
4) if you are a pretty and slim young woman with a snow-white skin and blond hair, you are certain to look like an extraterrestrial in a local bus. And, from time to time, a local man would approach, touch your arm with his finger, and roll his eyes. That was so stressing me out! Finally, I had to fence myself out with my backpack, pull my cap and start looking glum and sullen.
After many long hours of such travelling, being fed up with the flair of local roads, transportation, and male encroachment, I literally rolled from the bus to the station. And here I see a smiling man, a tuk-tuk driver who is ready to get me wherever I need. He shows me his ID and a ‘comments book’. It’s their local thing, a book with tuk-tuk customer’s feedback))
Alright, man. So, we are rushing. After the slow bus, we are really and truly rushing.
And, of course, we are honking to everyone. Oh, my God… My poor head…
And suddenly, tropical rainfall bursts out! Splendid! Finally, there’s some fresh air! I am happy like a child. This dense wall of shower makes us stop. Here at the road, someone is selling cocoanuts. Happy and sopping under the rain, I am refreshing myself with a cocoa nut milk and trying to drive the tuk-tuk.
The evening was busy: choosing accommodations, going to lakes, seeing peacocks and goannas. And a beautiful sunset.
Meeting locals from a small village. Then, oil massage in SPA salon.
As I was resting in my bed later, I contemplated over the past day. It’s amazing, how many things one can squeeze into one day. Waking up at home in Prague, taking my daughter to the daycare, having breakfast with my parents. Making my decision, getting a ticket just 5 hours before the flight, and leaving))
Finding myself in Dubai, then in Sri Lanka. Crossing nearly all the island aslant, being exhausted of heat and listening to local songs, tasting local meals. Getting under pouring rain, having a ride on a tuk-tuk, trying to drive a tuk-tuk)) watching locals have bath and wash cloths in the same lake, seeing peacocks and goannas, visiting a local family’s home, tasting their meal)) melting away in Ayurveda massage for 90 minutes, and getting lost in time and space, falling asleep like a child.
April 8, 2016
This time is not a special season here. So, I was the only guest in the hotel. Breakfast time.
A driver and his tuk-tuk are already waiting for me. My goal is Sigiriua plateau, a UNESCO-listed heritage site. I am wandering about and climbing up. Sights are beautiful.
The Sun, however, starts burning me ruthlessly.
We arrived to Dambulla. My way goes to the town of Kandy, known by its temple with Buddha’s tooth.
My today’s choice was a private rapid bus with shut windows, air conditioning, and a TV with Bollywood movies instead of load music. And here we are in Kandy.
Later I planned a trip by train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya along the most beautiful tea plantations. Too bad, but the trip got cancelled because there were no tickets for today. So, I am going to my “favorite” local bus…
After I get off at the bus station, I start looking for the hotel. Ok, there is a small hotel in the mountains. Then I walk along the late evening town, have a tasty meal and some local sweets.
I also scrutinize my plan for the rest of the days, and keep wondering how I am going to make it in such a limited time…
April 9, 2016
So, the time is rushing, and I’ve got my plan to be realized! The hotel owner suggests giving me a ride with his bike to travel to all the places. But he looks and acts kind of strange, I can see he is drooling all over, and I realize I must hit the road as soon as I can. Suddenly he suggests me to read his customers feedback journal to persuade me he is a good guy. As I read it, I get horrified to find the comments written in Russian: “Run away from here, the owner is crazy, he locked us in the room! We had to crawl through the window!”, “Take to your heels and run away from this ‘lovely hotel’, the owner is pixilated”. Certainly, the owner didn’t know I could read Russian. OMG! I fetch my backpack, which has already been packed, and run, as this Lola! The guy was shouting something at my back, but I was running as fast as I could.
By the way, this hotel is even present at booking.com. Unfortunately, leaving comments without booking is not enabled.
So, I decide to rent a car and to visit the locations I’ve planned. As I am going downtown, a tuk-tuk stops by and the driver suggests giving me a lift, and I agree. We are having a conversation, and this time I start scanning him through with my probing looks, analyzing his entire tuk-tuk, his cloths, all the trivial things. Ok, the driver passes the test. I show him my plan, and we make a deal that he will be giving me a ride to all those places. He turned out to be my guardian angel for this trip, the kindest and most gentlemanlike person of all I’ve come across with in the island. All the 4 days this man was my driver, my guide, and my guard from wild local hot men intoxicated with lust.
Thank you, the Universe, for giving Namala to lucky me.
So, the plan is: 1) safari, 2) ocean, 3) safari, 4) and Adam’s peak is in question so far. On our way, we stop by the railway station, and my plan begins to have its time limit: a train to Kandy leaves on April 12 at 12:20 p.m.
It’s so nice to have an honest and straitlaced local driver: it’s safe, it’s interesting, you can visit different sightseeing places apart from trivial touristic sites, you can learn interesting things and get meal and other stuff at prices for locals (they are significantly different than prices for tourists).
And so, the evening ends near the Udanawale park. Safari is tomorrow.
April 14, 2016
It’s an early wake-up. I am used to getting up early, when I travel – usually before the sunrise, at about 5a.m. You can enjoy lovely daybreaks, watch local life starting in the street, and squeeze more things done during a day.
At the safari, I had a personal guide and a driver embodied in one person.
We would stop anywhere I want to take a photo.
Unfortunately, this time again I couldn’t encounter any feline, alas…
Then I return to the place of my overnight accommodations and get onto my tuk-tuk. And off we go.
I want to have a swim. So, we get to the south of the Namal island, and I inquire locals about a nice beach.
The beach turned out to be really nice: pretty boulders and remarkably pure sand.
I recommend visiting this beach, if you occur in the south of Sri Lanka.
Having spent 4 hours here, I got sunburnt. It was hard to force myself getting out of this lovely warm water. Waves of the Indian ocean are slightly dangerous – they drag you into. Just like with me now – as I am writing this, I want to return there…
Then I went shopping for local fruits and cloths. On my way, I was listening to a very interesting narration about history of Sri Lanka, peculiarities of the local culture, about national cuisine and traditions.
Now I need to make a choice: it’s either Adam’s peak or yet another safari. I choose safari. Also, at one temple we encountered a guy who gave his business card to my guide Namalu and promised me a discount for the trip tomorrow morning. We make a call and find out a discount is 50 per cent. Lucky me again)
We check into a cozy hotel, and then crisscross about the evening town for a while. I have the tastiest rice with vegetables for dinner. Life’s great!
April 11, 2016
It’s another early wake-up. Oh, no! I look as red as a boiled crawfish. That’s quite a sunburn I got yesterday!
This time it is a group safari. Not as good as alone, though.
We are riding, there are birds and animals around. Felines are hiding somewhere again)
But, in general, the safari is ok.
I return to the hotel, and then my way is back to Nuwara Eliya.
Tomorrow in the afternoon I have a train to Kandy, and my flight back home is scheduled later at night. But before my train, I also want to make it to the two World’s End cliffs in the Horton Plains National Park.
April 12, 2016
It’s 5a.m. My tuk-tuk is already at the entrance. It’s dark. We are taking the road.
I love sunrise, this marvelous natural phenomenon.
I scrutinize the tracking maps and estimate my speed and time. I figure out I have enough time for two tracking journeys. My pace is very speedy. Couple of times, I outrace the same company of Czech men. When this happened for the second time, I can hear them say ‘This young lady is just a sprinter!’
Guys, I bet you’d be sprinters too, if you had a train scheduled in a couple of hours and a flight later at night))
Those were nice places. I have covered two routers and seen the World’s Ends)))
Now we are heading to the train station. In total, we covered nearly 500 km by tuk-tuk, that’s cool!
I give a warm good-by to my new friend from Sri Lanka, and he invites me to come and visit his place with his family, and his wife will teach me how to cook the Sri Lanka’s cousin.
It will be my pleasure to visit, thank you! And I also receive a present: a large pack of sweets cooked over the night! Wow!
The train turned out to be very decent, in terms of Sri Lanka and India’s expectations.
I meet several girls from a large family. They examine me with their remarkably beautiful eyes and ask to make selfie with me and to touch me. They touch my skin and hair))) These days here, I feel almost like a deity, as I notice glances from the locals and their desire to touch my skin with their fingers.
It is in this very train, that I’ve made one of my favorite photos called ‘Happy’. Indeed, happiness reigned all over during our conversation there. And I was happy too, as I was stretching out from another window and making a picture of those amazing kids.
It was my mistake to buy a train ticket to Kandy instead of Colombo, because there is only one option available to get to Colombo now. And that is -- wait for it -- an ordinary local non-rapid bus! Oh, no!
So, it’s the dust and deafening music again, along with wild looks of wild males, and deadly traffic honks)
The airport ‘delighted’ me with the fact that the passengers can be let inside only 2 hours before the flight. I silently curse, but what can be done now? There’s nothing I can do!
I sit down at the floor and surrender to sweet recollections: “What can one encounter during one day from April 12 to April 13?”.
Sunrise in Sri Lanka’s smoky mountains during a 9-km long and early trekking tour since 5a.m; seeing one small World’s End, and one regular World’s End; encountering a deer in the preserved area and feeding him with bananas; seeing fat cockroaches in the train speeding through fabulous tea plantations, waterfalls and mountains; meeting a large family with lots of kids in the same train and giving a photo session to them; and meeting the New year of 2016 for the second time this year!!! while sitting on the floor of Colombo airport due to the dumb way of check-in arrangement (that’s right, I’m not crazy, that night Sri Lanka celebrated their New year).
Yes, right-ho. I’m happy with the results.
April 13, 2016
There’s another sunrise I see, this time – in the sky above Dubai, as I’m approaching my home after my long and so unusually crazy adventures. Sunburnt, filled with new impressions, I’m absolutely ready for my 35-th birthday tomorrow.
P.S. Those were incredible and fabulous 6 days. Photos of Sri Lanka from this trip are here.