I’m not sure what initially drew me to Sri Lanka? Perhaps it was the mix of culture with beaches? I did originally begin toying with the idea after reading articles on the surf there and the laid back attitude of the locals. But my wife’s travels to Asia had piqued my interest in the culture as well. A combination of the two is to blame, I guess. In any case, it was the perfect place to reinforce keeping an open mind and being willing to experience things in a different way to what I am used to. And I can’t forget being scared for our lives on a couple of occasions either.
And open my mind it did. Among many others, we were tested in patience, openness, compassion and problem solving—travelling with a surfboard around areas of a country whose people have seldom seen anything like it can throw some sporadic curve balls in your direction.
We began referring to the often travelled route as ‘the circuit’. It can be done in either direction but we went from Colombo/Negombo, inland to Sigirya, south to Kandy. From Kandy we boarded the ever popular train—among locals and tourists, as we found—headed for Ella. We jump off in Nanuoya, the train station for Nuwara Eliya (no one tells you that!). From there we made our way to Ella, then down to Udawalawa National Park before arriving on the coast in Midigama, where we would base ourselves for the remainder of our trip.
Below is a selection of images from our travels. Some key points, like the train journey from Kandy/Perideniya were missed thanks to being completely unable to do anything but try not to get pushed off! My biggest test in patience to date.
Negombo to Sigiriya via The Dambulla Cave Temples
The Dambulla Cave Monestary is still active. Shrines and statues clearly showed this.
Everything was in relatively good condition—surprising given the age of the structures.
We were warned to wear socks because the rock gets incredibly hot. It turned out to be just bearable for our bare feet.
Elana hiding in the shade. She’s not cold… Covering skin is expected at temples and respecting their religious beliefs is encouraged.
Sigiriya & Polonnaruwa
Reaping the rewards of waking up at 5am.
We opted not to do Lion Rock in favour of Pidurangala. We weren’t disappointed.
Listening to the forest come to life as the sun casts its glow.
Lion Rock in the early morning glow.
We both really appreciated this squirrel catcher.
Getting down in daylight was mildly challenging, coming up in the dark was something else.
And it didn’t get easier right away.
Elana at the bottom. But there’s more…
The Shiva Devale No. 2. It’s considered to be the oldest building in Polonnaruwa yet remains in good condition centuries after it was built thanks to the stone used.
Cheeky locals call the Shiva Devale home and local Hindi people still practice here.
The detail still intact was incredible. A large steel roof now overshadows the structure, keeping the carvings from completely decaying.
Being hundreds of years old, some of the carvings are a little worse for wear.
Kandy & Nuwara Eliya
Looking across Kandy Lake to the downtown. The lake is manmade and was built in 1807.
From town back across to local residences. The lake rest next to the Temple of the Tooth.
Dropping into the belly…
Out the other side.
Every designers worst nightmare.
A game of cricket in the chaos.
A wild sunset over Kandy Lake from the Temple of the Tooth.
The Giant Buddha (Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue) overlooking Kandy.
The view out across town from our room at Nuwara Eliya Hills Rest.
A common sight in town. A colourful fruit stand at one of the markets.
The local post office. Nuwara Eliya is also called Little England because of the early English settlers who set up the tea industry in here in the 1800’s.
The post office was built in 1894, making it one of the oldest in Sri Lanka. Feeling under the weather, we took a seat on the front lawn, looking out over the town’s central bus station.
More tea than you can shake a stick at…
Looking out towards Edinburgh…
Farming is massive in Nuwara Eliya, and not just tea. A local takes a break from the trench he’s plowing to admire the view…
Can’t really blame him either.
The Train from Nanuoya to Ella
Ella: The Mountain Town
Steep hillside and long grasses made the trecking tricky for a moment.
Looking back at our accommodation—the four-story white building just left of centre—from where we’d been staring all morning during sunrise.
We went by where we wanted to dive into the bush for lunch at Adam’s Breeze (a great option for a break and some grub). From there we backtracked a bit then dove into the bush. Eventually this was what greeted us.
We waited a long time for the train to come—it was at least 30 minutes late—and saw all sorts of modern-day antics that signal the demise of humanity. Demodara Nine Arch Bridge is a tourist trap so be prepared.
From the peak are 360-degree panoramic views. Off the backside is lush farmland—tea plantations—and some high-end lodging.
There are three peaks but most only do the first, maybe the second. The third peak requires tackling the steep descent visible here…
Six hours prior we stood at the top of Ella Rock, directly across the valley. This rock on the second peak was a test for anyone with a fear of heights.
Looking south down the valley out of Ella. Rawana Ella Falls are visible in the mountain.
The valley below developed a mood as well.
The cloud danced up the valley and eventually engulfed the massive hotel being developed.
Udawalawe National Park
No helmet, thongs and driving on the wrong side of the road… No dramas.
Helmet? Check. Correct side of the road? For sure. Footwear? Naaah.
The South Coast: Midigama, Welligama, Mirissa & Galle/Unawatuna
The Midigama train station is across the road from the beach. We were originally staying just out of frame to the left but it was untidy, loud, and the overall vibe didn’t sit well. We moved after one night to a beautiful place across the road from the ocean for $1 CAD/night more.
Elana soaking. 28 degrees in the water is perfection in my world. Lazy Lefts breaking in the top of frame. The tide was too full and waves small our first day, but every day after saw great waves and some solid swell for a couple too.
My kind of touristing. Observing the locals and how they live.
Another bike I wish I could have boxed up and brought home.
Our driver gave zero f*cks about the heirarchy of the road in Sri Lanka, challenging buses on a number of occasions. But for some reason, he didn’t worry me.
Beached as. Travelling is rougher on some…
Parrot Rock is a popular sight right off the east end of Mirissa Beach. The “bridge” onto the rock is sketchy at best.
The bamboo “bridge” isn’t the most structurally sturdy thing to hang onto. Pass with caution.
Elana sussing out our table for dinner…
Best location in Mirissa for dinner? We think so. Beach dining at Zephyr Restaurant and Bar. The food was great too.