Just a quick update this time as there’s not a huge amount to report on the last week, which has been almost entirely beaches and surfing.
We finally made it to Hikkaduwa last Tuesday morning after our monster journey from Adam’s Peak. An easy trip on the scenic coastal train but a bit of a disappointing stop in itself.
The beach is totally overrun by huge resort hotels and the sand is so eroded that it’s basically just a long stretch of crowded sun loungers. We’d read that Hikkaduwa was the home of Sri Lankan surfing, but that was also a bit of a disappointment. Jamie managed one decent afternoon session but the waves were nothing special and not great for Annie or me. We decided not to hang around and headed for the next coastal town, Unawatuna.
Unawatuna was a bit nicer than Hikkaduwa, with a better beach and fewer Russian resorts, but still nothing on the beaches further south. We found a cute little hostel, though, which was situated opposite the rice paddies a short drive out of town, halfway between Unawatuna, Dellawella and the Bonna Vista surf beach. The Hideaway Hostel is run by a local guy, Cartoon, and his British girlfriend, Jenny. We all felt very old when we figured out that she was running her own hostel aged just 24…
Lots of checking out the various beaches, barbecues at the hostel and a few last rice and curries for Annie. We also found an amazing yoga place just up the road from the hostel, which was quite pricy but worth it for the beautiful shala and free use of the salt pool. The classes were so relaxing that Annie and I fell asleep while conked out during Shavasana (corpse pose) and woke up to find that the class was over and everyone else had already packed up their mats… Oops!
After a final send off for Annie (boo), consisting of some amazing barbecued prawns at the hostel and a weird but fun party on the beach, we said our reluctant goodbyes. Annie left at the crack of dawn for her flight to Colombo, while Jamie and I headed into Galle to explore.
I gave Jamie a self-guided walking tour using the lonely planet, with a few made-up facts for good measure, and we strolled all the way around the fort walls and harbour. Built by the Dutch in 1663, the pretty little fort of Galle has changed hands several times and is now full of well-preserved Dutch, Portuguese and British buildings, many of which have been made into super swanky hotels.
Highlights included the old Dutch church and hospital (similar to the one in Colombo), the British built lighthouse, the various bastions and the views from the top of the walls.
Not to mention the evil looking rock monitor lizards roaming around everywhere!
We went to look at a preserved eighteenth century ship arrival board in an old commercial building, and the security guard gave us an impromptu tour of the building which was badly damaged in the 2004 tsunami. Galle old town was apparently relatively sheltered from the worst of the damage, thanks to its fort walls and the Dutch drainage system, but if that’s the case then it is even more shocking to see the state of the rooms which once housed a primary school, a packaging factory and a cloth factory. There was even an eery ‘Happy New Year 2004’ banner left abandoned on the wall.
The storms seemed to have arrived in Sri Lanka and we’ve had one almost every afternoon for the last week. Luckily, the storm in Galle arrived just in time for us to duck into the Maritime Archaeology Museum. We’re not doing any diving while we’re here (for budgetary reasons, not because we don’t want to!) and so this is the closest we’re getting to seeing some of the many shipwrecks off the coast of Galle and Unawatuna.
After Galle we knew we really should be thinking of heading back inland, but we couldn’t resist one last stop at the Ketature Beach House in Kumbalgama. KBH had been recommended to us by two different sets of people we’d met in India who each told us it was their absolute favourite place and totally unmissable.
It was no exaggeration. For just £10 each a night (including food, surf hire and snorkels), we’ve had access to our own little private beach just a 30 second walk away.
The family who run KBH are unbelievably kind and welcoming (seems to be a theme in Sri Lanka) and have gone out of their way to make our stay incredible. Srininar and Sami cooked us three of our favourite meals in Sri Lanka – red rice and a range of different curries, including a concoction with leeks and dried fish, curried cabbage (way nicer than it sounds), green beans with onions and spices, potato curries, something delicious with beetroot, lots of tasty dal and last night even a whole barbecued fish each.
And that’s not even mentioning the breakfasts – rotis made from a kind of ground brown nut, coconut and banana pancakes, fresh bread and omelette and a different freshly squeezed juice everyday. We ate a LOT of food there, but we don’t even feel that guilty about it as Sri Lankan food is so much healthier than Indian – they use coconut oil instead of ghee, the veg curries contain actual vegetables and everything just feels much less heavy.
Jamie has even less reason to feel guilty as he made the most of every last minute out on the impressive surf breaks. They’re mostly reef breaks, accessible through a narrow sandy channel between the rocks, and so are a bit out of my league. Jamie’s been dutifully dragging himself out of bed at 6.30 every morning to make the most of the smooth seas and coming back after dark. Apparently he has finally managed to cure his long-standing affliction of not being able to turn right. The surf breaks are so far off shore, however, that the surfers just look like tiny pin pricks from the beach and so there’s no photographic evidence!
I wish we could have spent longer in this amazing place but we’re dangerously close to becoming beach bums already – just look at Jamie’s beard!
So we’ve managed to tear ourselves away and I’m writing this on a swelteringly hot and crowded bus as we head up to Dambulla to see the cave temples. Today has been another long eight hour journey and we’re both finding that our patience with public transport systems in developing countries is wearing thin. I know we’re not allowed to complain (particularly after the last week in paradise), but we’re also trying to give an honest account so that we remember it wasn’t all fun and games!
In any case, it is costing us around £1 to travel eight hours across the country so it’s all worth it if it means we can keep the adventure going! And we’ve heard the North is amazing so it will be worth it when we (finally) get there.
We’ve got just under two weeks left here before our flight to Delhi, and the current plan is Dambulla, Sigariya, Polonuwarra, Anuradhapura and finally Jaffna and the islands. As always, though, nothing’s set in stone and we’d welcome some suggestions from anyone who has good tips on Northern Sri Lanka!