Friday, September 23, 2016

Monkeys and elephants and peacocks, oh my!

This year's amazing travel adventures continue...

Just like last year's fortuitous trip to Jordan, an opportunity to visit Sri Lanka this month came out of the blue and before I knew it, I was on an Emirates flight on my way to Colombo.

I'm on a mission to fill up that passport before it expires in four years' time. 
After twelve and a half hours of travel, including a change of planes in Singapore, I landed in Colombo at 2:00am. So convenient. Seriously, who arranges these flight schedules? Luckily, Bike Boy had organised a driver to meet me at the airport and whisk me away to the hotel, and within an hour of landing, I was snuggled up next to him in bed.

I knew very little about Sri Lanka except that they grow tea and the food is amazing, but it turns out there's a lot to see. Mountains, beaches, jungles, incredible animals and birds, beautiful temples and so much more. Given that we only had five nights, we decided not to stretch ourselves too thin and planned a relaxing beach stay and a short national park safari adventure.

The hotel in Colombo was adequate. ;) To the rear was a large lake:


To the front was the beach at Galle Face, and some pretty colonial buildings:


And upstairs was the executive lounge, where business types hang out ...and their wives might tag along for afternoon tea and happy hour. I was left to my own devices a bit, but was easily able to amuse myself with my Kindle - and a G&T.


I also got to sample some Sri Lankan food specialties, including string hoppers, egg hoppers and dhosa. All excellent.

With business out of the way, we headed south to Beruwela, a coastal resort town, where we were looking forward to some luxury R&R. However, the hotel we'd booked turned out to be less 5-star and more Fawlty Towers, so we made a hasty exit after the first night and relocated to the wonderful Cinnamon Bey, just up the road.

This was our idea of a relaxing escape! Pools, beach, beautiful Moorish-influenced architecture and decor, and delicious food. These fabric-draped pavilions, catching the sea breeze, were the perfect place to enjoy a seafood platter and rather too much wine for dinner:


The beach was nice, but we're more pool people really. No sand, no salt and shady umbrellas...plus a bar just a few steps away for when you get thirsty.


Our next adventure was a safari in Yala national park. On our way, we stopped off at Mulkirigala rock temple, a buddhist temple built into a rock that towers 200m high. I was deliriously excited to discover there were over 500 steps to the top. :/ Ah well, bonus leg and cardio workout.

Having visited rather a lot of buddhist temples in our travels, this one wasn't in my top five, but the detailed paintings were pretty nice. Some of the work allegedly dates back to the 2nd century BC, but much of it is 17th and 18th century. Worth the climb, anyway.


Old mate Buddha, just lying around.
We finally made it to our rendezvous point with the safari driver and climbed into the back of a 4WD canopied ute, with seats bolted to the tray ...and no seatbelts. We jolted about for hours on two drives into the park, one that afternoon and another early the next morning, but unfortunately we didn't spot a leopard. There were plenty of monkeys, deer, water buffalo and crocodiles though, and birds galore. 

This guy is a grey langur
Peacocks everywhere, just wandering about. I wanted to bring one home, I quite fancy it in our backyard.
Spotted deer. So pretty!
On our way out of the park, we had a close encounter with an elephant. As we pulled up next to him and I was peering through my camera viewfinder, lining up this shot, the cheeky bugger slapped me with his trunk. How very dare you, Jumbo!

The park itself was surprisingly dry. The wet season is due soon and will completely change the landscape, but we were amazed at how brown and dusty it was.


We spent the night in a tent. I KNOW! Me, in a TENT? Never! But, hey, it was a pretty nice tent...

No, some random people didn't lob on our porch; I pinched this from the campsite website
Our tent was complete with stone paved floor, proper bed, and joy of joys, running water, including a flush toilet. Glamping, for sure.

Back in Colombo for one final night, we feasted on giant prawns (and other assorted shellfish). These things are enormous - king prawns have got nothing on these fellas.



Thus ended our all too short tour. There's a lot more to see in Sri Lanka (obviously), but we'll just have to go back again to do Colombo justice, tour the tea plantations and jungles in the hills to the north, check out some of the other beaches, catch a cricket match and hopefully see some leopards.
 
Big thumbs-up to Sri Lanka! Go if you get the chance. Emirates fly there from Melbourne, via Singapore daily. (I ❤️  Emirates, they're a little bit fancy-pants).


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