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Published: January 30th 2007
We've now finally arrived in India - quite an achievement actually considering we missed our original flight out of Sri Lanka! We were firmly enscounced in holiday mode and kicking back at the beach relaxing and missed our flight entirely! Lucky the rest of the trip is overland!
To pick up where we left off...
We took a jeep safari into Yala National park in search of the elusive leopard and were justly rewarded with not one, but two
leopard sightings. The first leopard was initially spotted in tree and then it quickly retreated into the bushy undergrowth. It remained hidden in the bushes but through a clearing in the trees we first saw it's face, and then it's body, and then a paw, some more body, and then a tail ... so put it together and we saw a whole leopard! Part of the fun was sitting in the jeep just 5 metres away from this magnificent animal hearing it growl and watching as it eyed us suspiciously and then eventually relaxing so that it lay there yawning. We sat and watched the leopard for perhaps an hour, waiting to see it's next move while our driver grunted
Occasionally they do pop out into the open - and here's the proof!
like a pig in order to try and entice it out into the open. We were mesmerised.
There was plenty of other wildlife in the park - water buffalo, elephants, mongoose, spotted deer, wild boar, crocodiles, squirrels, monkeys and tons of birdlife (including a large peacock population!) which we enjoyed in between our leopard finding mission. We also visited the memorial site within the park where 47 people lost their lives during the 2004 Tsunami and apart from the monkeys, the place had an eerie stillness to it.
In fact as we travelled North along the coast the devastating effects of the Tsunami were still evident. Where houses once stood there was now only rubble, shells of buildings or graves of some of the 30,000 people who lost their lives. Boats lay upturned in the sand never to sail again, house tiles and crockery still lay broken in the sand washed in and out by the tide.
Unawatuna & Galle
Unawatuna beach rocks! We loved it there in our inexpensive beachside room which overlooked the ocean from where we could hear the waves crash at night. Our days consisted of swimming, snorkeling, lazing on the sun chairs
and walks along the beach. Our nights were spent watching the sunset and making fabulous new friends whilst sampling the delicious curries and local arrack.
We spent a lot of time with Tracey and Piers a truly fabulous couple from Cornwall, Liz an Australian, Riann a South African, crazy David a Sri-Lankan with intense questioning on the meaning of life, and finally the mad Finnish bloke who spoke not one word of English but who kept us entertained while we tried to decipher exactly who were in the photos he kept flashing about. They were some pretty fun times.
Not keen to leave our beach haven, we decided to hire a scooter to explore the beaches to the north and south. Dubious at first about how we would cope on the road with all of the other manic traffic, the scooter ride proved to be one of our best travel experiences so far. Dave was in control in no time, weaving in and out of the traffic and blasting the horn as if he was an experienced Asian motorcycle rider, with Suz content to sit on the back and watch the world go by.
North was Galle
which contains the fort which was built by the Dutch in about 1660. Once we entered the fort gates we were exported back to colonial times with colonial architecture and narrow streets, on top of the fort walls we were spoilt with views out to the ocean. Scooting through the streets of Galle we felt as though we could've easily been in Italy on a Vespa! The fort is slowly being gentrified with the old buildings being restored and specialty shops with designer goods and art galleries moving in - unfortunately however some of the local scam artists with their hard-luck stories still remain, constantly hassling tourists for money.
We backtracked south along to the beautiful deserted beaches we'd passed on the bus, and visited the small fishing village of Mirissa. We saw the famous stick fisherman of Koggala who fish every morning and evening from stick poles firmly embedded into the sea. The sticks are somewhat coveted and are passed down through the generations.
Hikkaduwa to Negombo
We'd heard mixed things about Hikkaduwa but Dave was keen to check out the waves so bid goodbye to Unawatuna and our friends and headed north to Hikkaduwa. We can
Looking back across the beach to where we stayed
resolutely say that it lacked the ambience of Unawatuna but it provided some decent surf which was certainly a redeeming feature. It would've won more points too if we'd been able to track down the turtles at sunset! Dave hired a surfboard and enjoyed himself out on the waves whilst Suz thought it was a good time to check the plane flight times - only to discover that the plane had departed that morning without us on board!
Now we know this sounds kind of disorganised ... but we blame it on the therapeutic and relaxing properties of the beach which forced our brains to switch off and truly just be. The days in the sun just seemed to merge into one making us unaware of what day is was, let alone the date! Elsewhere missing your flight might entail a certain amount of expense and drama - not so in Sri Lanka, we just rang the airline and they put us on another flight a couple of days later with no charge and no drama!
So we ended up in Negombo after making a hasty stop in Colombo - we were keen to get out of all
the congestion, noise and fumes of the city which seemed even worse given the tranquility of the beach. Negombo is a beachside town close to the airport which is where we camped out for our last couple of days in Sri Lanka. Negombo has a large Christian population and we witnessed a procession for St Sebastians day which was kind of Jesus meets vegas with a float containing various religious effigies covered in flags, tinsel and brightly coloured flashing lights. People were letting of loud fireworks in their backyards and choir boys walked in front of the float singing.
Our accomodation was fabulous apart from the prolific amount of mossies that had gathered there. Marcus the guesthouse owner was prepared with a portable electric tennis racquet mozzie zapper which he swung at mossies and it fried them in the same way that those purple mossie zapper machines you see at fish and chip shops work. Dave delighted in commandeering the mossie bat and wickedly laughed with delight as he fried the mossies into the afterlife. Boys and their toys.
Trivandrum - INDIA
So here we are in India where we've sunk to perhaps the lowest of lows in
This is our best shot! We were to busy watching rather than snapping!
the accomodation stakes. It beats the socks off the manky hostel in Freo and is now the low benchmark we have to gauge future accomodation against. Needless to say we're moving on today in search of the beaches!! Until then ... XXX
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