Sri Lanka part 4 – the sillies

Not all of our Sri Lanka trip was about beautiful views and interesting places.

Sometimes we just needed to be silly. So we spent a whole afternoon making silly faces for the camera – enjoy!

Sri Lanka part 3 – the hills

Our last two stops on the trip were to Ella and Kandy before returning to Colombo and home.

Ella is a beautiful little village in the high tea mountains. We stayed at a boutique hotel which had a single-family bungalow perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking “Ella Rock.” We arrived in the early evening when the fog had rolled in, so we weren’t sure at first whether or not the location was very good. But then suddenly the mist rolled away and we saw a beautiful view across the mountains and valleys. It turned out to be another perfect few days.

In the morning, we visited a heritage tea factory and saw how the leaves went from green to tea. They didn’t allow us to take any photos, and although B snapped a few illicitly, they didn’t turn out. Suffice it to say that making tea is a rather labour-intensive process. And honestly, the tea we drank in Sri Lanka was the best I’ve ever had in my life. Also, we drank so much of it so often that I felt like I was living with my mom again. We bought a few boxes to bring home with us, so if you are lucky you might get to try some.

We enjoyed the rest of the day wandering down the (very small) street of Ella village and stopping for some lunch and snacks. That night, we played cards on the balcony and watched the full moon rise and light up the mountains.

The next day, we said goodbye to Ella and hopped on a train to Kandy. The views of the countryside were astounding. In fact, it got to the point where we just had to literally stop taking photos because it was so exhausting. It was a long trip, but we enjoyed it. The windows opened and we could watch everything passing by. The train only travelled at about 15 km/h, so it was easy to see it all.

We arrived in Kandy around dinnertime and made it to our hotel. Luckily we had booked into a very new, higher-end place with western-style amenities. We were all ready for a warm shower and a night of TV watching. So we ordered some room service sandwiches and hunkered down.

In the morning, we headed into the city to wander around. We walked through markets and temples, and it was Easter Sunday that day, so there were a lot of festivities happening. I guess even Buddhists like Easter. Well, there were a lot of churches too. Anyway, we bought some snacks and checked out some stores. We unsuccessfully tried to find a cool colonial graveyard I had read about, but the day was still fun. We spent the afternoon back at the hotel enjoying the pool.

The next day, we checked out early and backpacked our things back through the city (our train didn’t leave until the evening). At last, we managed to find the graveyard we were looking for, as well as a great batik store that is highly rated. After a picnic lunch beside the lake, we headed to the Botanical Gardens for the afternoon. The gardens were large and lovely. We saw flowers, ferns, cactuses, trees, lakes. At one point, J fell and hurt her hand, so we stopped to bandage her up and grab a snack. A herd of monkeys came through and started aggressively circling us. They were getting between me and my cubs, so I sort of yelled and stomped at them and almost started a human-monkey turf war. We GTFO of there right away, luckily no harm done!

We carted a pair of tired kiddos to the train, and after a couple of hours on the train to Colombo, we flew home early in the morning back to real life.

We’ll miss you, Sri Lanka!

Sri Lanka part 2 – the safari

After our beach experience, we were picked up by our fantastic travel guide, Sanjaya, and we headed around the bottom of the island. On the way, we saw plenty more beautiful beaches and stopped at the Galle fort – an old colonial army base. It was brutally hot, so we left rather quickly, but we got a few nice pics of a lovely ocean lookout.

Our final destination was a city called Tissamaharama – not because we wanted to visit it, but because it was the perfect base for exploring Yala national park, best known for its leopards.

We left early in the morning and arrived home after dark. It was a long, fantastic ride through the park. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any leopards, but we saw hundreds of other animals.

The ride was rough but really great. Because we were in a real 4×4, we were able to do a lot of off-roading that other safari tours could not do. We definitely saw more animals because of it.

One of those animals was a “tusker” elephant – known to Sanjaya as being a bit aggressive. We came across him in the road and we gave him lots of space as he chased us backwards the way we came. No harm done, and he gave us lots of great photo opportunities – but he has attacked trucks in the past. Luckily he went his way and us ours without any problems.

At sunset, we said goodbye to the park and returned to the hotel. The next day, we visited an elephant orphanage during “feeding time” – the babies were given milk through funnels and tubes followed by some tasty greens. Our kids were not so into it, but that could have been because of the hordes of local schoolkids lining up to see the show as well.

Afterwards, we spent a few hours touring Udawalawe national park. This one is known for its elephant herds, and it most certainly delivered. We saw over 100 elephants that afternoon, and many of them were right up close in the road or beside us. We had a picnic lunch in the jeep right next to a herd of at least 10 elephants, including one baby that was no more than a few days old. That evening we drove north into the mountains for a visit to Ella.


For extra credit, here is our (mostly complete) list of animal sightings:

White-breasted kingfisher
Jacana (water hen)
Water buffalo
Peacock
Land monitor
Termite mounds
Cows
Grey tit
Wild boar
Painted stork
Large egret
Spot-billed pelican
Spoonbill stork
Black wing stilt
Great thick knee (plover)
Green bee-eater
Snakebird
Cormorants
Mugger crocodile
Sri Lankan Elephant
Spotted deer
White sea eagle
White ibis
Crested hawk eagle
Chestnut bee-eater
Ruddy Mongoose
Grey heron
Grey headed fish eagle
Ducks
Tufted Gray Langur
Pied hornbill
Rabbits
Jungle fowl
Purple heron
Toque Macaque
Black-necked stork
Open bill stork
King mongoose
Jackal
Jaguar (tracks only)
Fishing Cat (tracks only)

 

Sri Lanka part 1 – the beach

We arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, after a very early morning flight out of Jakarta. Our driver picked us up and took us about 2 hours down the coast to a beach town called Bentota. It was beautiful.

The place we stayed at was more like a bed & breakfast than a hotel and was thus much more relaxing and comfortable. We had a lovely suite overlooking the backyard pool and forest across the horizon. We enjoyed wonderful home-cooked food that evening, as well as a delicious Sri Lankan traditional breakfast the next morning – after waking up to the sounds of rainforest birds and cooing doves. I recorded it for you (close your eyes for full effect):

On our second day, we decided to go into town and visit the famous “Monday Market”. We also needed to try and change some money — FYI, don’t bring Indonesian Rupiah to Sri Lanka, because no one will change it for you. They will just laugh and ask you to leave.

The market was a bit smaller than we expected, but it was still nice to see all the products for sale. We bought a few man-sarongs for B and some yummy mangosteens. Then the afternoon was beach day!

We walked up to the beach from the hotel and spent the rest of the day playing in the ocean and sand. We have never seen such a nice beach. Miles and miles of beautiful sand and warm, blue water. The undertow was a bit rough, but it was still great.

That evening, we visited a turtle hatchery and got to release the babies into the ocean. They were adorable, swimming out into the waves. A few kept rolling back to shore and we had to start them over. Hopefully they made it… Either way, in my opinion, this was probably the highlight of our trip! There’s nothing better than holding a handful of turtles to make your year!

 

The next day, we were picked up by our safari guide in his awesome 4×4 jeep, and we headed away from the beach for our safari days. Those are coming up next!

End travels

We’re home!

We had a fantastic time. Look forward to an extravaganza of pictures in the coming weeks (because I’m too exhausted to load many tonight!).

Some of the highlights of our trip include: a perfect day on a deserted beach, off-roading in the jungle, visiting an elephant orphanage, beautiful evenings in the mountains, a heritage tea factory tour, releasing baby sea turtles into the ocean, taking the train through tea country, being chased by an angry elephant, a colonial graveyard, and about a hundred tuktuk rides.

Bentota market, every Monday
Bentota market, every Monday
A beach all to ourselves, with man-sized waves. B was pleased.
A beach all to ourselves, with man-sized waves. B was pleased.
Go baby, go!
Go baby, go!
Our trusty 4x4 - we spent 3 days in this sucker.
Our trusty 4×4 – we spent 3 days in this sucker.
Mama elephant
Mama elephant
Welcome to Ella - the view from our bungalow
Welcome to Ella – the view from our bungalow
Plowing rice paddies the traditional way
Plowing rice paddies the traditional way
Train ride through the mountains
Train ride through the mountains
Passing through the tea highlands
Passing through the tea highlands
Goodbye Kandy!
Goodbye Kandy!

Trip time

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka

As you’re reading this, we are already on a trip to Sri Lanka!

It’s spring break here, so the kids are off school for two weeks. This will be our first trip out of the country since we arrived (well, not me)… but, more importantly, it marks the first big international trip we’re doing as a family. I mean, moving to Indonesia is fun and all, but this is just home now. So our trip will test our mettle and show us just how realistic it is to do the kind of travelling B and I have always wanted to do… with kids in tow.

So, we’re packing light (3 backpacks only!), we have a “no electronics” rule (other than the camera and mp3 players), and I hope we will actually be able to spend quality time with each other and explore the country.

All in all, we’ll be spending 10 days visiting the south part of the island. We circle from Colombo, south to Bentota for a few days on the beach, spend two days on safari in Yala park (jaguars!) and Udawalawe park (elephants!), then we tour via train through the tea highands in Ella and round off our trip in the Buddhist cultural centre of Kandy.

Stay tuned for many photos upon our return!