Safari and sun

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January 16th 2013
Published: January 16th 2013
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When we last spoke we were in the pretty hill town of Ella. I’d love to be able to say we spent a few days going on walks through tea plantations and the surrounding hills, but I can’t. It rained. It rained all the time. We spent a few days hiding out in our guesthouse. A real shame, but not a lot we could do about it.

Next we planned to head south to visit Udawalawe National Park. This had posed some logistical problems - it would have required 3 local buses and many uncomfortable hours to get there, so we decided to splurge on a taxi. We got a good price (we think) of 10,000 rupees (£50) for both of us to go to the park, then onto the south coast. Udawalawe National Park is where you go to see wild elephants. An estimated 500 elephants in herds to up to 100 live here. The trip from Ella only took 2 hours. We had read that the safari (jeep, driver, guide and park tickets) should cost no more than 10,000 rupees. I tried to negotiate with ‘the man’ but we ended up paying 11,500 (£57). Not a lot we could do – it wasn’t as if there was a choice of tours outside the park. Ho hum. I thought it was still good value for a private 3 hour safari.

We entered the park in our jeep and within 5 minutes we were surrounded by a small herd of elephants. They were only a few feet from us, and seemed totally unconcerned by our presence. There were a couple of baby elephants there too. It was awesome! The safari took 3 hours, and we saw lots more elephants, jackals, buffalos, peacocks, eagles, deer, monkeys and numerous birds. A good day out.

Another two hour drive took us to Tangalle, on the south coast. This is a pretty undeveloped beach area. The guesthouse we booked was on an almost deserted stretch of beach. The weather was a little overcast, but it was nice and warm. We only spent 2 days here – it was too remote for us, and the food on offer was pretty bad. We were also short on funds – ATM’s only seem to be in the major towns, so we had to move on.

Another 2 hours west, travelling on another ‘delightful’ (but super cheap) local bus – the drivers are getting crazier! – and we arrived in Mirissa. Wow. This place is beautiful. We’re staying at a great little guesthouse called Amanda – 4000 rupees (£20) a night including brekkie. Just a five minute walk to one of my favourite beaches ever! I’ve seen prettier, but this has everything – powdery sand, beautiful clean water (great for swimming), plenty of room, no hawkers and nice beach bars. The weather has been amazing so far (probably cursed us by saying this). We’re loving it here, so much that we plan to spend a week here.

The only complaint we have is the food. We’ve been to a few restaurants and the food is ok at best, and truly awful at worst. One of the meals I would rate as the second worst I’ve had in my life (after the Laos ‘dog food meatballs’ incident). I ordered chicken with a baked potato & salad, and received chicken that looked like it’d been cooked 3 days ago, with chopped (semi-raw) potato mixed with about 1lb of raw chopped onion. It was inedible – and I can eat pretty much anything. Lou ordered tuna with veggies, and received prawns with chips! We sent it back. Lou eventually got her tuna with plain rice (?). It looked as though it had been cooked in the fiery depths of Modor! The tuna was a blackened hulk. We’ve had fish a couple of times in Sri Lanka. It’s not like Thailand where fish is cooked with love and is always perfection - here they murder it. Ah well, there are worse things in life, etc.

Other than the beautiful beach, Mirissa is also famous for whales – blue & sperm whales migrate off the coast, and as such you can book a tour to see them. This is quite a recent thing – they only discovered the whales a few years ago. We were really up for the tour, but traveller feedback has put us off. It seems the boats chase (and sometimes harass) the whales. People have also complained of dodgy safety on the boats, and terrible sea sickness – the Indian Ocean can get a tad choppy. All of this has made us think twice. We’ve seen whales in Australia, so maybe not for us. Oh well, just the beach then!

Additional photos below
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17th January 2013

Amazing elephants! And beaches. Wow. What a great trip! Can't wait to see SL someday.
19th January 2013

Enjoying Sri Lanka
Looks like you are having a grand time and are negotiating well. Great elephant photos. Keep those blogs coming.

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