This year has been all about adventures and I have no intention of stopping yet.
Portugal, France & Spain
There hasn’t been 1 day of annual leave I’ve taken in the UK; getting as much sun-time abroad as possible and micro-adventures here in the UK at weekends. The year started in a very (surprisingly but welcome) warm and sunny Portugal – and boy it was good to not only put the summer cycling kit on for some hilly miles, but the summer wetsuit to get back on the surf board after many many years off! It felt so good to get back in the water.
Following in the footsteps of Portugal, we sharply booked a week in France and Spain, visiting the home of the Quiksilver & Roxy Pro, Hossegor and the world famous left of Mundaka. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t so kind to us that week, but that didn’t stop us from exploring our unique surroundings, including the local meat vending machine (!) when we ran short of options for dinner – turns out the locals don’t ‘do’ dinner.
In the flow of travelling, the mind started to think further afield. Where could this year possibly take us? Having spent many hours searching holiday destinations in the past few months (not having a job for the back end of a year will do that to you!); Sri Lanka kept appearing on the bucket list. A surf haven, it ticked all the boxes – a perfect place for adventure!
Day 1 – 3 – Colombo to Ella
A small-ish island off the east coast of southern India, Sri Lanka is rich in culture and has a depth of beauty. We arrived in the (not so nice) town of Colombo where we merely stopped over to recover from the monster of a journey. Here we experienced our first of many hair raising and life-before-your-eyes tuk-tuk rides in the hope of securing train tickets for the following day to take us into the tea county.
Having read that you can flexible with your travel with no need to book ahead, it was surprising and a little upsetting to discover the train was fully booked for the next 7 days!
Turns out a festival elsewhere in the country meant the locals were all travelling by train and heading off on their own holidays. Bugger! Luckily for us we had a plan B – a private driver to take us on the 8 hour journey across the country to Ella – a small tea town almost 4000ft above sea level. The views on route are breathtaking (one of the reasons we were looking forward to the train journey).
Ella sits on the hillside, looking down over a magnificent valley. The views from our B&B, Hotel Laura, were to die for and waking at 5am for a sunrise shot was not difficult! Lying in bed looking at this stunning site was worth the 8 hour drive (to be clear, that’s 25 miles an hour)!
24 hours in Ella is more than enough to take in the views and local sites – we hired a tuk-tuk to take us to the Nice Arch Bridge which hangs over the tea plantations; a quick trek up Little Adam’s Peak and time to chill at the hotel bar at the top for some lunch. Followed by an afternoon cooling dip in the Ravana waterfall and natural pool which is also used as by the locals for bathing.
The only must-do sightseeing we didn’t manage was the tea-plantation – what the guidebook didn’t tell us, is they don’t open on Sundays! Turns out you can’t rely on the Lonely Planet for everything.
Day 4 – 8 – Ella to Arguam Bay
Having pre-arranged our taxi with the previous driver, we took another 8 hour drive to Arugam Bay on the East coast where we planned to stay at the Hideaway Resort for pretty much the remainder of our stay.
Arugam is a surf and traveller’s mecca. A busy little town full of hotels and restaurants, it’s main attraction is it’s famous moon-shaped beach and point-breaks. It not only attracts foreign tourists but Sri Lankan’s too – who turn up in the bus loads for a quick dip in the sea before moving on again (having left their rubbish behind – not cool).
A small fishing town surrounded by countryside and on the doorstep to the Yala East National Park, Elephants are easy to spot on the roadside. We were lucky to see a head of 17, tusks and babies included, on our way home from Peanut Farm (my favourite surf beach as a beginner but also had a great break further out on the reef for the not-so-beginner with me!) at dusk one evening. A site of nature at it’s best.
We also saw water-buffalo, crocodiles, a python, eagles and lots of monkeys! And with a rich religious culture, there are plenty of temples to visit. The Kudumbigala Monastery Complex sits high on a rock with 360 degree views. Just be prepared to scrambled up the rock and to be blown away at the top.
And with more than one surf-spot in the area, it’s easy to get away from the crowds of A’Bay. The tuk-tuk drivers will also wait the 3-4 hours you’re out back. Can’t get better than that!
Day 9 – 10 Arugam Bay – Colombo
After 9 days of chilled out fun, it was time to start our journey back. The taxi drive was a torturous 11 hours (more to be said here about a dodgy taxi driver who dumped us mid-journey – don’t travel with Sanju Tours!)
We finally arrived back in hectic and wet Colombo to book in to what can only be described as heaven in a hell! We spent our last night at the D Pavillion Inn, a colonial style boutique hotel with rooms around the pool where breakfast is bought to your room. Bliss!
Our trip may have been over, but the memories will live on. The people of Sri Lanka are beautiful and friendly. The country is stunning, the food is delicious and the surf is great. Get out there and explore this great place!