He says, she says – Sri Lanka

2 December – 23 December           
21 days

Places visited: Colombo, Kandy, Sigiriya, Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Tissamaharama, Mirissa, Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa

Most favourite place:
Charlie: my favourite place was Ella, set up in the mountains with beautiful panoramic mountain views and vivid colours everywhere you look. The drive from Nuwara Eliya to Ella is stunning.
Lisa: Ella was amazing. I loved being up in the mountains and seeing all the tea plantations. Every day we had there was filled with the most beautiful views!

Least favourite place:
Charlie: Fpr me it’s Tissamaharama, for no other reason that we didn’t get to see much of it as we only stayed one night. There’s no reason other than that we didn’t get a real feel for the place.
Lisa: Unawatuna was a bit of a disappointment for me. I’d heard good things about it from others however it just felt a bit too touristy but also very souless. There wasn’t much of a vibe there and having come from Mirissa (my second favourite place) I wished I’d just stayed there longer instead.

Most favourite dish:
Charlie: It’s got to be Daal curry. I couldn’t get enough of it! It’s a lentil based dish and it’s really hot and miss wether you’ll get a good one but when you did, it was delicious.
Lisa: Rotti Rotti Rotti! They have stuffed rotti with all of the best things. Vegetables, choc banana, chicken, cheese and garlic – what more could you want? An avocardo rotti you say? Well they’ve got that too!

Best experience:
Charlie: aside from the ability to drive ourselves around at our own leisure with the tuk tuk, my favourite experience was climbing the peak of Little Adams Peak. The views from the top of the surrounding mountains are beautiful!
Lisa: Having our own tuk tuk! It was literally the best decision we made. The freedom of travel and the extra things we saw because of it was priceless. It’s going to be hard to travel without one now.

Worst experience:
Charlie: This isn’t about Sri Lanka so much but it has to be the hotel we stayed in first of all in Ella. The room seemed fine but we soon realised the shower only worked if you put the shower head on the floor (weird). I had to fill a small glass with warm water from the floor shower and use that to splash myself clean. Also the wifi was switched off as the owner didn’t want the room next door to have the password
Lisa: We didn’t really have any terrible experiences but I guess my awkward conversation with the owner of Waves Inn 2 in Hikkaduwa wasn’t great. He really didn’t appreciate my view on his accommodation and I didn’t really appreciate his view on me by the end of it but it all worked out in the end.

Something you will miss:
Charlie: I’ll miss our beloved tuk tuk. The fact we could just load up and go at any time meant we did so much more than we would have without it. Sri Lanka is my favourite country I’ve visited ever so I’m gonna miss the whole place!
Lisa: the rotti, the tuk tuk and the landscapes… in no particular order.

Something you won’t miss:
Charlie: although neither of us got bitten particularly bad or frequently, I won’t miss the mosquitoes (who would?) they seemed to be able to get anywhere including inside our nets. We’d spent 10 minutes every night clapping in our room trying to get them.
Lisa: I am really searching for something here but I guess I won’t miss the varied prices. Each place seemed to be different from the one before. Some places we went it was easy to come across cheap food and other places the same food would cost double and usually not be as good. Same goes for accommodation really, mostly they were great for the price we paid however some places we went we really struggled to find similar priced accommodation that we were comfortable staying in. Usually moving out of the main area or just spending a few pounds more a night quickly solved this though.

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Hanging out in Hikkaduwa

We had a late check out so we had a pretty slow morning enjoying the last of our aircon before packing up the tuk tuk and heading to Hikkaduwa. The drive was quick, only taking an hour again.img_1785Once we arrived we drove around for ages trying to find accommodation. We had tried so many places but they were either too expensive or pretty disgusting. The prices here we high for something in town so we settled for a room at Waves Inn 2 which we had looked at earlier because we were fed up with looking. The guy told us he needed to clean it but he was too hungry to do it now and needed to get lunch first. We agreed we would come back in an hour so we headed out for a drink on the beach. When we came back he was almost finished cleaning it. The room looked basic but ok on first glance. He asked us to pay in advance which we thought was strange but we did. We had a beer in the outdoor area before getting ready for dinner.

That night we had a pretty awful sleep. The fan hardly worked so it was hot and stuffy and bugs were getting inside our mosquito net. We had midgy flys, Mosquitos and a red ant sleeping with us. Also the bed made the loudest noises when there was any movement so Charlie and I were constantly waking each other up. After finally getting about 5 hours sleep I woke up pretty annoyed. I headed straight out of the room to tell the guy there’s no way we could stay in that room another night. He wasn’t very happy when I suggested we check out a night early and he refund us for the second night. He put up a good fight but I argued it out with him long enough that he agreed. He went onto say he didn’t want people like us staying at his place and there were plenty of tourists around to stay there that didn’t have issues. We were pretty glad to drive away from that place. We headed to a place called Grand Villa, a little further out of Hikkaduwa. It was a fraction of the cost and much nicer! Luckily because we had the tuk tuk the location wasn’t an issue for us.

We headed out to meet Aubrey and Grace as we all wanted to head to the Tsunami museum. It was very interesting but also quite hard to see. The first room was very educational and explained how tsunamis happen. It also explained more details of the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka, one interesting fact was that it was travelling at 30kms an hour which is crazy. The next two rooms were pretty grim, there were lots of photos of the devastation and also a lot of graphic photos of people who hadn’t survived.

We decided we would try to snorkel in the afternoon so we headed to the area that was apparently good for snorkelling. There wasn’t much to see so we gave up fairly quickly and assumed we had gone to the wrong spot. We had a chill out back at the room and then headed out for dinner. We went to a place that serves lots of different stuffed rotti which has quickly become one of my favourite meals here.

We woke up the next morning feeling refreshed after a much better sleep in our new place. We spent our last day snorkelling, surfing and boogie boarding. It was a really fun day and as it was our last day in Hikkaduwa we wanted to fill it up with as many fun activities as we could. We had a long drive back to Colombo ahead of us so we had a quick rotti again for dinner before heading back to start packing up our stuff.

Cruising the coastline to Unawatuna

We woke up, packed up the tuk tuk and started to make our way to our next stop – the beach town of Unawatuna. We were mostly excited to go because it had such an cool name. We knew that from this point onwards things were going to get a lot more touristy. The drive took around an hour. Once we arrived we found a place stay off the main road called Nooit Gedacht where we had treated ourselves to a lovely room with aircon.

We drove down to the beach front to have a drink with Aubrey and Grace and hear what they had been up to during their stay. They suggested Wijaya beach so once we parted ways with them we drove straight there. The beach was really nice and more secluded than Unawatuna. We spent the rest of our afternoon swimming and laying on the beach.img_1779On the way home Charlie found some stout beer which as you can see from the photo below he was pretty happy with… unfortunately it was pretty nasty so the excitement was gone after he had his first sip.img_1672Unawatuna was much more touristy and expensive compared to our previous destinations so dinner was a little harder to find within our budget. We settled for a cheap-ish place on the beach where we had the worst dhal curry so far on our whole trip. Luckily the other food we ordered was ok, nothing special though.

The next day we woke up around 8 and Charlie had really enjoyed sleeping in the aircon. We had another disappointing meal for breakfast and headed to Galle to explore the Fort. We thought we would spend the day there but after arriving and exploring for a while we managed to see what we wanted within an hour or two. Galle was really nice inside the Fort but it was very much set up for tourist shopping or eating at expensive restaurants, none of which we were interested in.img_1781We walked around the walls and there were loads of people swimming as the water was so clear.img_1782Afterwards we decided to head to jungle beach in Unawatuna but when we got there we couldn’t find anywhere to park and a group of tourists told us it was full of rubbish and not worth it. We decided to head back to Wijaya beach for a swim instead.img_1780After showing we headed to Happy Spice for dinner which was recommended on trip advisor and also by Aubrey and Grace. It was much better than our previous dinner so we were pretty happy to finally have some nice food again. I had the 4 curry and rice which I really like cause it gives you the chance to try a couple of different dishes, Charlie had a dhal curry. We had a pretty quiet night as we found Unawatuna quite souless. It was touristy but it didn’t seem to have much of a vibe so we had decided to not spend any more time here and head to Hikkaduwa instead.

Magical Mirissa

We woke up planning to head to Tangalle, a beach town between the national park and Mirissa. We thought we would stop here to break up the drive to Mirissa which was 120km. When we arrived the town in Tangalle was very quiet and there didn’t seem like much to do. As we were making good time we decided just to pass through and head straight to Mirissa. We arrived at 3.30pm and checked into a guesthouse. Our friend Aubrey who we met in India was now in Sri Lanka with his girlfriend Grace so we met them for happy hour drinks on the beach, followed by some stuffed rotti for dinner which was really nice.

The next day we got up and had one of the worst breakfasts we have had so far. It was included in the room but it was hardly edible. The eggs were absolutely smothered in pepper you couldn’t even see the yolk and all the toast was rock hard. Sadly we have this included for 3 more days!!

We picked up Aubrey and Grace and headed to a town nearby called Weligama. It’s a small fishing town that has a beach. The waves were really good and Aubrey and charlie decided they wanted to surf.img_1699Charlie got a surfing lesson from Aubrey and it must have been good cause Charlie stood up first go! Grace and I got our hands on some sun loungers and enjoyed having a chat the sunshine whilst the boys surfed. A quick coconut refreshment and swim in the ocean and we were all ready to go.

We drove a little further along to coast to check out a local sea turtle conservation project. The project was doing some pretty great things, they rescue injured turtles who have either been caught in fishing nets or attacked by predictors. They then nurse them back to health and release them.img_1701They also protect turtle eggs and once they hatch they look after the baby turtles until their eyes are fully developed. They release the baby turtles over night when there are the least amount of predictors around to ensure the best chance of survival. Mostly it’s birds and stray dogs that are the most serious predictors as they often get to the baby turtles before they even reach the ocean. Of course once they are in the ocean there are still predictors but their chances of survival have largely increased.

Our next stop was a snake conservation and rescue farm. We drove there and it turns out to be a locals house. We walked up the drive way and he was eating his lunch but told us to sit down outside on the chairs. He came out a few minutes later with a change of clothes and huge smile on his face. We had no idea what to expect but as he opened his shed we could see about 12 different enclosures. He told us to stay where we were, grabbed a snake hook and opened one of the enclosures. All of a sudden he placed a cobra on the ground in front of us!img_1704It was hissing but was mesmerised by him lucky. He told us he found it in a nearby rice paddy and how it is still poisonous. He moved his foot around making it follow and showed us how it strikes – all whilst wearing thongs I might add! He was crazy. Charlie asked him if he has been bitten and he casually responded that he had been bitten 5 times. He has herbal antidotes in his house but I can’t say that really gave us much comfort.img_1708For 2 hours he continued to get our different snakes, some poisonous and others not. The poisonous snakes he had included 2 adult cobras, 1 adult white cobra, 1 baby cobra, 2 vipers. He also had a large selection of non venomous snakes including tree snakes, water snakes and pythons. He finds them all in the jungle or gets called out to people’s houses. He let us hold the non venomous ones.img_1702You could tell he really enjoyed showing us cause every time we reacted with a gasp he would smile or laugh.img_1627We all headed back and got showered before heading out again for some drinks and dinner. Happy hour got the best of us and we lost track of time! 10pm and most restaurants stop serving food but we found one and they agreed to make us some burgers! A veggie burger for me and beef burgers for the others!

The next morning we met up with Aubrey and Grace and headed back to Weligama so the boys could surf again.img_1703Aubrey and Grace were heading from there to Unawatuna so after saying goodbye we headed back to Mirissa. We had loads of washing to do and Charlie booked onto a Whale watching boat ride for the morning. We were pretty tired so we had an early night.

Charlie woke up and headed out for whale watching at 6am. He was lucky enough to see a teenage whale!img_1707I snoozed until 9 before heading to the beach. I secured another sun lounger and spent a couple of hours laying around and swimming before Charlie came and found me.img_1668We had lunch on the beach and went for a walk before heading back to our room for a rest. Charlie was pretty tired after a bad nights sleep and early morning start so he had a nap. We then walked along the beach to a sunset viewpoint and then went to a bar for a happy hour beverage. We had an early dinner and then went back to our room for another early night before we headed to Unawatuna! Mirissa has been awesome and considering it’s a beach town we really didn’t struggle to fill our days here. img_1705

Driving down the mountains to Yala National Park

We had a long drive ahead to get to Tissamaharama so we set off early around 10am. It was mostly a downhill drive down the mountains and as soon as we left the mountains it was just one fairly straight road the rest of the way. We had a portable speaker that we used to play Christmas music on the drive. We assumed we would be driving most of the day so had planned to spend two nights there so we could do a safari. There isn’t a whole lot else to do there but everyone goes there for one reason – to do a Yala National Park Safari. We arrived at La Safari Inn around 1pm, much earlier than we thought and they were heading out on an afternoon safari in 15 minutes. We decided to dump our bags and head out on the safari straight away. Not only was it going to be cheaper as we could share the safari with another couple but it also meant we only needed to spend one night here instead, which would free up the other night to spend the extra night somewhere else later on in the trip.

SAFARI TIME!img_1551The safari was really fun! We got picked up in a jeep and the drive to Yala National Park was 45 minutes from where we were staying. Once we arrived at the park our driver straight away started finding things that we would never have spotted!DCIM100GOPROGOPR1257.He had such a good eye for animals. We saw mongoose, peacocks, crocodiles, elephants, buffalo, warthogs, dear, monkeys and so many different species of birds (photos below). It was great to see these animals in the wild rather than a zoo.DCIM100GOPROGOPR1250.Sadly we couldn’t find any leopards and we could tell our driver was disappointed he didn’t spot one for us. He kept finding prints from leopards on the ground and trying to track them but in the end we ran out of time.img_1693We still thoroughly enjoyed the safari and are so glad we experienced one as neither of us had done one before.img_1688img_1689img_1691img_1694img_1692img_1695img_1696img_1697img_1698Our night was pretty quiet just dinner at the hotel and then an early night. We were both exhausted from the safari, it’s weirdly tiring cause you are so alert the whole time trying to for any sign of an animal!

The misty mountains of Ella

Our journey to Ella was fairly easy as unlike our last journey we were headed down the mountains. We arrived at 2pm, found a cheap homestay and because we are still in the mountains and it would be pretty rude not to… we had a pot of tea.

Our first stop exploring was the 9 arch bridge train track which was a little tricky to get to as you just walk down little jungle paths that go off in all directions. The bridge was stunning and set in the middle of the jungle.img_1678There were loads of men working on the tracks but luckily they had taken a break when we took our photos so we had the whole track almost completely to ourselves.img_1677Next stop was Rawana Ella falls which is positioned on a busy corner of road. After parking the tuk tuk we were swarmed by locals wanting to give us crystals in return for English or Australian coins. It was a little confusing for them when we told them we only had Thai, Malaysian and Indian coins which they didn’t want. I think most people holiday in Sri Lanka rather than backpack it on a long trip so they couldn’t understand why we didn’t have any of our own currency. The reason they only want English or Australian is so they can melt down the $1, $2, £1 or £2 coins to look like gold. The waterfall was nice but despite having a pool at the bottom you couldn’t swim in it, although it’s too cold for that in the mountains anyway. You also couldn’t go too far up to the actual falls as the rocks were too dangerous and they even advertised the amount of deaths to date on a sign.img_1679It was still a nice afternoon out, free to enter and the drive there had some amazing views.img_1680Back to our guesthouse for another pot of tea (2 in one day – crazy I know) and a little rest. We headed to cafe chill which had a really cool atmosphere and really good food. It wasn’t very cheap but nothing really in Ella. It’s still cheap compared to home though! The town gets really misty and foggy at night when it’s dark and made our walk home quite spooky. We could hardly see 2 metres in front of us but luckily our phone torches helped a lot.

The next day we decided we would climb Little Adams Peak, which isn’t actually that little but in comparison to some of the hikes around here it is one of the smaller ones. This was fine by me as I struggle walking up a small incline on a footpath! To access the trail you have to enter through a resort called 98 acres resort and it’s just such a tease to everyone on a budget. The bungalows had the most beautiful views of tea plantations and they had other rooms that had glass walls and spa baths for you to relax in. It even had a helipad! After a depressing walk through the ‘forever out of my budget’ resort we made it to the start of the trail. It doesn’t take too long maybe 45 minutes to get up but it’s all steep steps or walking up a rocky path incline. The views at the top are absolutely worth it though, there are a few peaks to explore so we enjoyed going to each one to admire the view.img_1685img_1682img_1683We chilled out for the rest of the afternoon before heading back out for dinner. We had big plans to climb Ella Rock the next day.

The next morning all dressed and ready to tackle a 5 hour round trek we realised our beloved tuk tuk was sick. Basically the battery had given up. Luckily our guesthouse knew a mechanic and called him to come take a look. He showed up in a battered up tuk tuk with an ice cream container of 5 questionable tools. Usually I would question if he was actually a mechanic due to his lack of tools but out here you never know.img_1538After very poking about at the electrics (in a way that would give an OH&S manager a heart attack) he said he needed to take the battery home to fix it. He lent us the battery out of his tuk tuk so we could still go out for the day. He then got in his tuk tuk (that had no battery) started it up (how?) and drove home. We didn’t really want to take the tuk tuk too far so we visited a tea factory for a cup of tea and then filled up at the petrol station before heading back home. The mechanic came around later that evening and said the battery will be fine in the morning but not to use it tonight, he has got the battery to start by jump starting it so we weren’t very convinced. We went out for dinner and got an early night as we wanted to try to hike Ella Rock one last time.

Morning time arrives and the tuk tuk still wasn’t working so we called the mechanic back. This time he said the battery was broken. He jump started us and we went to a town 14kms away and bought a new battery. Problem finally over – hooray! Luckily we will be reinbursed for the battery and mechanic but we were disappointed that we missed Ella Rock.

That afternoon for our last day in Ella we headed to liptons seat where the Lipton tea plantations are. It was a very challenging hilly drive and had a lot of tight corners where buses, trucks, cars and other tuk tuks had to try and squeeze past each other on the single lane road. Charlie did so good and got us all the way to the top where he got a photo with the Mr Lipton statue and a little surprise friend!img_1687Unfortunately the clouds had set in over the summit so the view wasn’t great but the drive had amazing scenery and we passed through so many little interesting villages.

Staying in the mountains in Ella has been a really amazing place and so different to anywhere we have been on our trip yet. I could have stayed longer!img_1676

Tuk Tuk-ing through Tea Plantations

We woke up and filled ourselves up on a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast at our homestay before setting off on our journey to Nurawa Eliya.img_1469Our homestay had kindly arranged a free tea factory tour that was on the way. When we arrived we were greeted and shown around the factory. It was interesting to see all the machines they use and learn about the process. At the end we go to taste all their different teas.img_1432It became very clear at this point we were expected to buy some. The tea was overpriced and really wasn’t anything to call home about. When we said it was out of our budget and that we simply didn’t have any space in our bags the woman couldn’t have made it more awkward. We didn’t even finish our tea and just left. On the plus side it was still interesting, free and we don’t need to ever see her or her awkwardness again.

As we continued on our drive the scenery was unbelievable.DCIM100GOPROGOPR1115.Breathtaking views one after another, we couldn’t help but keep having breaks to take photos at every chance we had.img_1473The windy roads leading up to 1800 metres above sea level consisted of green valleys and tea plantations where we could stop and watch the workers picking tea.img_1546img_1545It was one of the most scenic places we have been on our whole trip.img_1547Arriving in Nuwara Eliya was nice, it’s called little Britain and you can see touches of England influence. We booked at Blue Wing Inn which was a little pricey for what we’ve been paying but my gosh was it worth it. We arrived and had a pot of tea up on the roof. Drinking tea in the mountains was lovely especially after passing all the plantations and seeing the workers. It makes you really appreciate the hard work that goes into your cup of tea! Our room was also great, the bed was the best we have stayed in for quite a while!img_1436It’s really cold up at night being so high up so the big cosy cover was so perfect. I was too cold to go out and the owners couldn’t cook for us as it was late so they ordered us pizza to be delivered! A cosy night in with take away was a real treat for us.