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Published: January 19th 2012
Picture a nice, very quiet beach. Nobody bothering you, selling you useless and overpriced souvenirs and clothes. Add friendly locals, a great crowd of chilled out backpackers and amazing food! This, in a nutshell, is Uppuveli, a place where we spent a week, even if our intention was to stay only a few nights.
When leaving Polonnaruwa we weren't even sure where we were going. When looking for a tuk-tuk we decided that we want to go to the train station and head to the east coast of Sri Lanka. West and South coast are the two main tourist attractions, while East is slowly recovering from the civil war which ended a few years ago.
The area around Uppuveli was part of the fighting between the national army and the Tamil Tigers, so just a few years ago there were no tourists in sight. You can still see signs pointing to evacuation routes. But that is slowly changing, visitors are coming back and new hotels are being built. But for now, it's still very low key an quiet.
We arrived at Trincomalee, a town six kilometres from Uppuveli beach. Again, it was one of those
times when you have to bargain for a tuk-tuk. The first guy started at 500 rp so we just turned around and walked away. He followed us and bargained himself down to 200. Well, now we knew the price, we offered another driver 200 and sat in his tuk-tuk. We have made it our internal rule not to hire / pay anybody who comes out with a ridiculous price. Just a matter of principle 😊.
The driver took us to the French Garden Guest house. In fact there are three guest houses, all next to each other, all named French Garden. How convenient! We were lucky that all three of them had rooms, so we had the chance to check all of them out. We ended up at the Club Dive Paradise French Garden and with this decision we (unknowingly) sealed our faith for the next week.
We soon learnt this is the place to be. The staff were amazing, really friendly, ready to help, chat or just let you be. Our room was facing the beach, which was about 40 steps away – we got in to a habit to go for a quick deep when we
woke up and every time we got too hot. And the trio of French Gardens are pretty much the only budget options around. There are a few mid-range places (costing around $30) and two high end resorts close by. I guess, there will be more and more of those in the future. We were lucky we got a room, as quite a few backpackers were forced to find more expensive accommodation as all the cheap places were fully booked. So if you want to go to Uppuveli and do it cheap it might be worth making a reservation (+94 777 728266).
And now for the best part about this place: the food! The "chef", a very young, relaxed guy was an absolute, culinary genius. Polona claimed she would marry him, or at least take him home to be her personal chef. The food is not as cheap as going to locals and eating there, but it is worth every last single penny. I am not the biggest sea food fan in the world but I had BBQ fish at least four times, tried the chilly crabs (yummy!!!) and my favourite: devilled prawns (spicy, yum, yum, yum)! We had most
of our meals there, besides a few times when we ate in Trinco and the time when we treated ourselves to Taka, taka, taka. Well, the actual name is Kotthu Rotti, but even if you just say taka, taka, taka
they will now what you mean. It's a pancake and different vegies (you can add meat,fish etc if you want) chopped into tiny, tiny pieces while being cooked. The cook uses two hatches - sort of knives and cuts it all while on the grill and all you can hear is the sound of taka, taka, taka
when the hatches hit the pan over and over again. The only down side is that you can't get it all day around – usually only for dinner. Different foods are meant for different times of the day: rice and curry are breakfast (sometimes lunch) meals, while taka, taka, taka is a dinner thing and most often served after 6pm. Another thing we learnt about Sri Lankans is how to say yes, no, maybe. No words are needed, all you have to do is wobble your head (like one of those Jesus toys seen on car dashboards). The only problem is to know
when they mean yes, no or maybe. Allegedly it's all in the eyes. Well, good luck figuring it out.
One day we headed for a walk to Trinco to check out the fort and just to walk around a bit. As it was Sunday all the shops were closed so it looked a bit deserted. There is no tourist infrastructure at all in Trinco and the only sight is an old fort which offers amazing views but nothing more. It is still being used by the army, but you can wander around with no problem.
The walk took us about 45 minutes and instead of walking on the road we walked next to the sea. We got greeted by many local fisherman and I helped them get their boats up the shore (bloody hard work). The dogs were far less friendly and very, very territorial – barking at us and showing their teeth. But as long as you just keep moving they are harmless. We also ran into a group of cows – yes people, cows on the beach! In the evening you can see them returning back "home" in packs.
But if cows were a bit
You can see them everywhere
of a surprise imagine our reaction when we saw the town crowded with deers. Yes, deers! What the hell? They are left alone and they just stroll around, eating grass and going through garbage looking for food. And last but not least, ravens can be seen everywhere. They are a bit of a pest as the second you leave some food unattended they will be there to eat it – being it sugar, eggs, bread or whatever.
While we were there the full moon was approaching, so nights were really bright and the scenery was spectacular. The guys at the guest house sorted out a 'full moon party'. They brought out these huge speakers and played techno music all night (mixed with a bit of Bob Marley). When we put our music on it was quickly replaced by more techno as that is the only thing they like.
During this party I wanted to take a few pics of the moon and the beach and my Canon G12 broke – a few weeks after it's warranty expired. The lens got stuck at full zoom and there was just no way to close it! As god (in which I
don't believe) is my witness I am buying a Nikon next time (well, just a non-Canon camera).
This forced us to go back to the city the next day and try to sort it out, but there was nobody who knew how to fix it. A few guys at a TV repair shop promised to have a look on-line and managed to open it up and at least got the lens back in so that we could carry the camera around. This forced us to do a bit of a de-tour and go back to Colombo at some point during our trip to get it fixed. Lucky we have a back-up camera with us, so at least we can still take pics. But be warned:G12 is a piece of ....
Every day we said “tomorrow we leave, really, tomorrow we leave”
, but we just kept staying. We had amazing company. Diego, a Madriista, from Spain who just came from a three month trip to India and is now heading to South East Asia. He is essentially doing a similar trip as the two of us, just the 'wrong' way around. We swooped loads of info on where to
Goats on a...
Well you can see
go, stay and what to see. Diego and I share a similar passion (lifestyle) so tips about that were much welcome. There was Peter, a 53 year old Swedish guy, who took 4 months off from work to visit India and Sri Lanka. The guy is an older version of one of my friends back home (Miha M.). He looks the same, acts the same and talks the same - so we now met a Spanish Sandro, a foreign version of Habibi and two versions of Polona's dad. And there was Vladek aka Elad, a Ukrainian guy whose family moved to Israel when he was young. The poor guy ended up in loads of talks about Palestine to no fault of his own – guess this is what you get if you come from Israel.
The beach, the staff, the food, the fucking G12 and great company really made for a special week! And to top it all off Thierry Henry scored a goal for Arsenal, which made me very jealous of Pete who attended the game – maybe all you non-travelling people deserve some fun as well 😊.
Till next time!
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