A Travellerspoint blog

April 2014


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The guesthouses in Mirissa were more expensive that we imagined, and we spent an hour walking along the beach road trying to find somewhere that had wifi for under 3000rps (£15) a night and by the time we found the Nissan Guesthouse we were in need of a shower and a beer. We tucked into some lunch and strolled along the soft, fine sand of Mirissa beach. At the far end was a lookout island and we climbed up to see the other coves around the bays and the small stretch of Mirissa beach, packed with small dots of tourists.

There is no ATM in Mirissa and so we caught the local bus to Weligana, had a quick Kothu dinner before heading back to find a beach bar with happy hour although with another early start for the whale watching the following morning we didn't order too many cocktails!

The tuk tuk picked us up at 6am and we headed to Mirissa harbor, busy with fishermen weighing in their catch and haggling for prices. Our boat seemed quite big when we climbed aboard in the harbor but by the time we were out in the inky blue Indian Ocean it felt insignificant in the rising and falling waves. This free roller coaster ride kept us awake and entertained until we saw our first pod of dolphins, with a mother and baby jumping side by side through the waves. Stood right at the front on the boat holding tightly to the handrails we could see occasional flying fish alongside the boat. It also gave us a good view for the 6 blue whale sightings, one quite close to the boat where the waves dipped and the whale rose out of the water at just the right moment and we could see the glossy length of his body, and tail disappearing under the water, amazing.


Posted by gonetravelling 08:40 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged mirissa Comments (0)


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Tangalle beach is in many top ten beaches of the world lists so we couldn't resist taking a look. Getting off the bus a local immediately directed us down a road where all the guest houses were located. It was already getting very hot so it didn't take too long before we settled on one close to town and the beach. Andrew and Caroline had said it was windy but we weren't prepared for the gale force winds that were coming off the sea. Swimming was out of the question as the waves looked ferocious and the currents too strong.
Spent our time strolling along the picturesque beach, fighting against the strong winds and stopping often for tea at the many beach shacks that dotted the beach. The beach was spectacular, classic white sand and palm trees, with hardly another soul in sight. We found an excellent restaurant one afternoon that served wine so promised each other that we would return for dinner and a glass or two of wine. Returning that evening seemed to take hours and it was only the thought of a much needed glass of wine that kept us both going. Had a simple meal of veg fried rice and a couple of glasses of wine whilst gazing up at the stars. Couldn't muster the energy to walk all the way back so hailed a tuk tuk back into town and promptly fell fast asleep!


Posted by gonetravelling 05:20 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged beach waves tree sand sri lanka palm wind tangalle Comments (0)

Uda Walawe

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We set off for Embilipitiya, having read it was a good base for the safari in Uda Walawe national park. Stupidly thought there would be guest houses lining the roadside and seeing none on the way into town we opted to jump on another bus to Uda Walawe town Hoping we would have more luck. We got chatting to stocky chap on the bus and it just so happened that he had a hotel that was 'nice and cheap', only a 'short distance' from town, and he could also sort out the safari too. It seemed a little too good to be true but we were both tired from the early start and Jane was suffering from a cold she had picked up off the English couple staying at Ali's. After a tuk tuk ride into the middle of nowhere we came to the hotel that had a good setting. The bedding was dirty and the prices for food were steep (stuck out there they could charge what they liked). Reluctantly we took it as we were too tired to look elsewhere.
Thankfully we opted for an afternoon safari so had a bit of a lie in, laughing at how the shower was simply a hosepipe plastered into the wall. The jeep was similar to the one in Yalla with massive comfy seats. We chatted to lovely Australian couple, Andrew and Caroline about each other’s travel plans and stories. Uda Walawe was much more open scrubland than Yalla with fewer watering holes. We spent the first hour looking but not seeing much wildlife, although our guide did say it was probably still too hot in the day and not to worry as we would see lots later. Rolf, our other companion, was soon getting very excited if anything was spotted, blue winged bee-eaters, fish eagles, alligators. We did catch a glimpse of a lone bull elephant although he was well hidden in the scrubland. It was nice that we seemed to be the only Jeep in the park, especially compared to the multitude that was Yalla. We pulled up to the edge of reservoir and you could sense the elephants were close by. Just on the other side of a small inlet stood a herd of about 12 elephants, including several juveniles and a little baby. It was magical to see them in their natural habitat, happily scuffing up grass with their feet and expertly scooping it up into their mouths with their trunks. We edged closer until you could reach out and almost touch them. After about half an hour we waved goodbye to the herd and headed back inland spotting more alligators sunning themselves in the early evening sun. We finished off the day with another mouthwatering rice and curry joined by Rolf, Andrew and Caroline.


Posted by gonetravelling 05:17 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged elephants safari aligators uda walawe Comments (0)


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A tuk tuk brought us to the Mihisara Lake View Guesthouse where we liked the look of the comfortable room and access to a washing line. We spent the remainder of the day catching up with our laundry and generally organising ourselves ready for another early start for the safari the following day.
We were sat in the 6-seater jeep for 5am along with two other french couples who kept to themselves. We bounced around on the back seats clutching our packed breakfast for the hour drive to Yala National Park. On entering the park we joined a backlog of jeeps, there was a lot of finger pointing and excited shouts with people straining to see into the distance. As our jeep edged closer we could see perched on the rocks, a leopard staring off into the ocean. We sat for 5 minutes watching him and once he disappeared behind some rocks the jeeps scattered following different paths.

The jeep bounced along the dusty tracks for the next few hours pausing from time to time so we could see monitor lizards, mongoose, wild tortoise, peacocks, wild boar, 2 types of eagles, crocodiles, monkeys and one lone bull elephant. At 9am the jeep pulled up by the beach so we could eat our packed lunch and admire the deserted coastline. The threatening clouds above us soon turned to heavy rain and the side covers of the jeep were quickly rolled down, after half an hour it had cleared and the jeep had paused by a group of female elephants with a young calf. There was also another near sighting of a leopard although, all of us holding our breath, we must have missed it by seconds.


Posted by gonetravelling 17:30 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged tissamaharama Comments (0)


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We had booked a 3rd class carriage (400rps / 2GBP each) for the 5.5 hour train journey from Kandy to Haputale, and from previous experience on Indian trains thought we might be in for a crampt, noisy journey. In fact there were more tourists than locals on the surprisingly comfortable train, and we settled into our window seats to gaze out to the incredible view, palm trees and paddy fields, tunnels and temples changed to high bridges that stretched over wild rivers and tea plantations with mountains that cascaded into the distance. All the windows and doors of the train open with lots of tourist heads leaning out to get a glimpse of the view, photographing and waving to locals as the train rattled past the stunning landscape.

At the station we were greeted by the unique humor of Ali, who insisted we should see his homestay, 'Ali Home', and maintained his daughter cooked the best food in Sri Lanka. How could we resist? He sat us down on the balcony with a pot of tea overlooking views of the mountains, telling us on a clear day you could see the sea.

We walked the 5 minutes into town, and were relieved to find that tourism hasn't left its footprint here quite yet. Lots of mechanical and paint shops, bakeries, fabric and bangle shops and lounging tuk tuk drivers. After a quick lap we returned back to Ali's homestay for a dinner of vegetable rice, plantain and coleslaw and it was easily the best we had tried so far. We booked a 5am tuk tuk for the following day so we could see sunrise over Lipton's seat and wrapped ourselves up for the cold evening ahead.

The alarm went off and we dragged ourselves out of bed, had a very quick cold shower, cup of tea, picked up our take-away breakfast of Jaffles (toasted sandwiches) and patiently waited for our slightly late tuk tuk. It was a slow, bumpy 40 minute journey to Lipton's Seat, the young driver had borrowed the tuk tuk from his brother and seemed to be struggling with the hills. We found ourselves peering into the darkness, following his finger where he was enthusiastically pointing out sights to us. By the time we reached the gate at the top the sky was getting lighter. We had missed the sunrise and a sign informed us there was still a 1.4km hike to reach Lipton's Seat. We started to follow the winding road, and seeing the routes through the tea that the pickers use, glanced about us and as there was nobody around, took the short cut. We scrambled up to the top to see the sun appearing through the clouds over the captivating mountains, the tea covering them like fur. We used the tea pickers route back and found ourselves in and amongst the beauty, continuing the 5km along the main road to the tea factory, the sun starting to warm up while the icy breeze kept us cool.
It was 9am by the time we reached Dambatenne Tea Factory and we were told to take a seat and wait for a guide, 40 minutes later we were still waiting. Eventually we were called in and the guide talked us through the process. Dambatenne have 1500 people working for them in over 370 hectares of land. Over 80kg of tea a day is picked and it takes them 3 days from picking to packing. They start by drying the leaves, and then place the tea into rollers that begin to break up the leaves, they are sent through a series of conveyor belts and machines that refine and cool the leaves. Eventually the tea powder is removed and then fired at 260 F and sifted removing any additional fibres. Five different grades of tea are produced at the factory and we tried tasting it alongside some french wine enthusiasts rolling and spitting expertly. We just drank ours and thought they all tasted the same - bitter and strong with tannin! Couldn't help feeling they needed a bit of milk and sugar!

We continued to walk further through the tea plantations not quite ready to take our eyes from the stunning views around us and eventually once our feet were hurting and we needed another cup of tea, caught the bus back. Ali had recruited a few more couples for his homestay and it turned out we had already met the German couple, Felix and his girlfriend on the train the previous day, we sat on the balcony watching the dark rain clouds roll in, and later as we sat down to vast amounts of assorted vegetable curries that Ali's daughter prepared and we were introduced to Arrack, the local liquor fermented from coconuts and surprisingly drinkable, especially when mixed with fresh coconut milk. The eccentric and drunk Ali was good entertainment, massaging the heads of the English couple with Vicks where they were suffering from colds.

The next morning the rain had cleared and we were woken up too early by unreliable cockerels and happy birds. After a breakfast of string hoppers, coconut samba, coconut curry, eggs and papaya, we caught a bus to Wellawaya and then waited for the next bus onto Tissamaharama. We were told by the enterprising locals that the next bus wasn't for another 3 hours and we should definitely get a tuk tuk, as the buses would be standing room only. Once they realised we weren't going to cave in, a bus was suddenly and immediately available and we settled into our seats for the 2 hour journey to Tissa.


Posted by gonetravelling 20:03 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged haputale Comments (0)

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