Sri Lanka

Posted on May 4, 2014

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I’m back in Asia. This time in Sri Lanka. The Brits were first chased away during the independence of 1948 but have since return in throngs every year to soak up the heritage, beaches, national parks, tea plantations and to explore the ancient ruins and giant Buddhas sprawled around the island.

The country is not without controversy when it comes to human rights issues, but my visit is not to run amok reporting, it is to see what unfolds as a curious traveller.

After two plane journeys, one via Muscat, I arrived in Colombo at 1630 local time yesterday afternoon. There is so much to see and do in two weeks I fear unless I have a rigorous itinerary I may not cram it all in. First stop taxi rank. India proved me to that you can still see and experience a country in relative comfort and efficiently without compromising on adventure.

My driver is called Amitar. He is from Chilaw a town on the west coast. He is a Buddhist and his wife is a Christian. They have two children a little boy after 7 and a little girl after 3. After a con flab i decided to get into the car for four hours to head straight to Anuradhapura. An area famed for its ancient ruins and temples and described by guide books as one of South Asia’s most evocative sights. The idea of waking up somewhere close to an archaeological wonder was worth the third leg of the journey.

En route we stopped in Chilaw to grab some dinner. I wandered into a very modest looking restaurant that can only be described as ‘spit and sawdust’ where the food was incredibly tasty, cheap and the waiters more than welcoming. I doubt they have seen many tourists in this place. I ordered rice, daahl, fish curry, a beetroot dish that came with small dried fish and a plate of roti that was rolled and stuffed with potato. Throughout the meal the large, tubby waiter stood watching over me eat, smiling non stop.

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“Pull up a chair, why don’t you,” was my initial thought. But he meant no harm whatsoever and took great pride in watching me scoff down his food. I was the only woman in the joint. It was Saturday night and behind me was a long table full of young men bonding over food. After some friendly chit-chat about where I was from and a quick demo on how to take pictures using an iPad, I paid up (£2) and hopped back in the car.

The road to Anuradhapura is long but tarmac-d and it made all the difference to the journey. It’s flanked by tall tropical trees, bushes and some small well-developed shacks.The warm sticky night air blew in threw the open window. I felt my self nodding off, my had too heavy to support. Then Amitar said something and I woke up. We were close to my destination but even closer to one of the national parks – Wilpattu – and there on the side of the road was a beautiful, large male, wild Asia elephant.

“Oh my God, wow!!!” I blurted out, watching wide-eyed and in awe as he swung his trunk up and down gently flapping his ears.
“Very dangerous animal,” said Amitar
“This is surely a good omen,” I thought to myself, “This is going to be on hell of a trip!”

I craned my neck watching through the back window as he gradually got smaller and smaller until he disappeared out of sight, but not out of mind, he is definitely ingrained firmly in my memory.

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Posted in: Asia