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Published: April 14th 2016
I was passed out with my head resting on a table. Some PA announcements brought me to consciousness. Airport staff and other travelers were going by. I must have slept for a few hours I thought proudly. How did I get here? Well first I took a flight from Kathmandu to Delhi and had to transfer from the international to domestic airport. After going overland for so long, it was weird to now be back where I started. It was 38 degrees Celsius and Indian Holi was in full swing. I then boarded another flight to the south of India, the city of Chennai. From there I had a layover for a few hours. Then I found out that my flight was delayed. It was already midnight. At about 0115h boarding began and I was off to a new destination. The island nation of Sri Lanka, situated to the southeast of the Indian peninsula.
Sri Lanka was a bit of a shock to be honest, probably because I was thinking it would just be an extension of India. I was quite wrong in that respect. I used to work with many Sri Lankans back home, but knew nothing about their
homeland. Sri Lanka has a long history, and many different groups live here making it quite a melting pot. In the south most people are Buddhist and the main language is Sinhalese. The north is comprised primarily by Hindus and Christians who mostly speak Tamil. The island was ruled by the Dutch and then the British, where it was known as Ceylon. Sri Lanka is known for its vast rain forests, plethora of beaches, and diverse wildlife. Only recently did Sri Lanka diffuse a civil war that had gone on for years up in the north. Tourism seems to be coming in fast.
My flight had arrived during the night, so I decided to just sleep in the arrivals hall. Now that it was morning, I was on my way to explore. From the airport, I found a free shuttle bus that would take me to the nearby commercial capital of Colombo. Colombo seemed quite developed. Despite being a city, the people seemed laid back, the streets were clean, public transit was easy to use, and I wasn't getting harassed by touts. At least not a lot. Northern India this was not. I found transport to a place slightly
south called Mount Lavinia, where I had booked a cheap hostel. Public transit is dirt cheap here and food can be found at affordable prices too, but it's the accommodation that's the killer. Increased tourism has definitely driven up the prices. Coming from Nepal, I couldn't believe the heat and humidity. I was sweating buckets and my clothes were soaked. It sucked. I got to my hostel after some confusion and took a cold shower. Then I got some things organized and started planning what I might want to do here. I holed up for the hottest part of the day, as it seems many Sri Lankans are doing as well. I went out in the later part of the afternoon and walked out to Galle road which actually goes all of the way from Colombo to the south of the island. I found a place towards the coast and within a few minutes I was on a nice stretch of beach. I met a young Sri Lankan on a scooter and he invited me to chill out at this beachfront restaurant. I took him up on the offer and there met more Sri Lankan surfers and an Irish dude
who knew Sri Lanka really well. I then walked the beach for some time, and could see some of the high-rises of Colombo to the north. I sat with another local on a beach chair and we watched an incredible beach sunset. I was now pretty happy to be where I was.
The next morning was my first use of the Sri Lankan railway. I went from Mount Lavinia down to the southern city of Galle. I met a German guy on this train as we sat with our legs dangling out the door, since the train was packed full of passengers. We discussed our travel philosophies and I claimed that I would rather cast off having material possessions in exchange for more life experiences. A British lady who had overheard me chimed me that it was possible to have both. She was traveling with her partner and three kids and proved the point well. The scenery on this trip was exquisite. The train practically rode along the coast the entire time. Palm trees and beach houses were numerous. Fishing boats peppered the beaches. The trip lasted about two hours and then I had arrived. The day was super
hot by this point. Apparently the coastal regions were facing one of the worst heat waves in a long time. Great. It was so bad that water stores were low enough that generating enough hydroelectricity for the population was becoming a problem. I found a nice home-stay about an hour from the train station and immediately felt like I had come home. The place was run by a retired couple and they had a cheap dorm section. In any case, she made me a homemade Sri Lankan lunch, which hit the spot because I hadn't had breakfast that day. The daughter asked me a bunch of questions about Canada, as she wanted to have an internship in Vancouver. I walked to the nearby historic part of town. An old Dutch fort surrounded it. Inside it felt as though I was in a European village. I walked along the fort walls, with clear views of the crashing waves. People were taking dips in the water and I stuck around to see a breathtaking sunset over the water. It seems like I was back to catching sunsets again. As darkness set in, I walked back to my hostel. When I arrived I
chatted with the family for a bit and tried to endure the humidity.
I enjoyed a homemade breakfast by my hosts and then met a few other travelers who were chilling out at the table. I met a Canadian - Chilean couple who were traveling the world and the Canadian dude pulled out an instrument called the Charanga and let us take turns playing it. It was a really neat travel sized string instrument. Then his partner was dressed up in a Sari and we took some photos of that. I decided that I had to get my day going and departed my adopted Sri Lankan family to deal with the oppressive heat of the outdoors. It had grown insanely hot already. I caught a bus westward towards the close beach town of Hikkaduwa. When I arrived, I began walking down the road along the water. I passed hotels, beach shacks, giant Buddha statues, and finally I came upon a turtle hatchery and viewed the different turtles being cared for within. Many of these towns have turtle conservation hatcheries. Apparently most were devastated during the 2004 Tsunami and have taken years to return to what they once were. Many
turtle species are endangered in Sri Lanka, and are hunted by natural predators and by human poachers who seek these turtles for medicinal or aesthetic purposes. I returned to the train station and then hitched an evening ride back to Colombo. Why backtrack? I had some administrative issues to take care of the next day in the commercial capital but that will be described in a future blog.
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