SRI LANKA

My sister and I went on a twelve-day backpacking trip to Sri Lanka. We arrived really early in the morning and took a train to Pinnawalla where we visited an elephant orphanage. We booked 2nd class train tickets, because everybody said that the 3rd class was not bearable. When the train arrived we didn’t see the 2nd class train wagon so we jumped into 3rd class. People were right, this was horrible. For 2,5 hours we were squeezed against a toilet door and local people were frowning at us, probably thinking "what the hell are they doing in 3rd class".

After Pinnawalla we travelled to Kandy. In Kandy there’s a really nice restaurant with delicious food and cocktails called, Slightly Chilled Lounge Bar and Restaurant. In the morning we went to the Temple of Tooth to see the ceremony. After visiting the temple we took a local bus to Dambullah to visit the Rock Temple. This temple is situated on top of a rock. A 30-minute hike gets you to the top. The temple was filled with Buddha statues.

After our visit of Dambullah, we took a tuktuk to Siriguay to climb the Lion Rock. The surprising thing about Siriguay is that we thought it was going to be really touristic, but it was totally the opposite. In the town there’s only one street with seven restaurants and that’s it. Even the Lion Rock wasn’t crowded at all. The view from the top was amazing and the rock itself has these beautiful earth tone colours.

The next day we wanted to take the earliest train to Aragumbay, but first we needed to get to an ATM, because we were out of money and couldn’t pay the hotel. In Sri Lanka, cash is king and cards are almost never accepted. Siriguay didn’t have cash machines, so we needed to drive to the nearest town. There they had 3 cash machines. All of them didn’t have money in them. My sister and I were quite stressed at this point, because we thought the errors were due to our cards. We already missed our train so we asked the tuktuk driver to bring us to Dambullah again, which was one hour away. Apparently the big banks were there. Finally, we managed to get money!

After this we returned to the train station. At the train station we met some really lovely people from London with whom we travelled to Aragumbay. After 11,5 hours, one train and two buses we finally arrived. Aragumbay is known as the surfers’ paradise. It’s a really popular destination for Californian and Australian people. Some of them just stay there for two weeks. There’s a really relaxed atmosphere, a bit like paradise. The beaches were really clean and the sea water was hot. This was the perfect spot to relax for two days.

After Aragumbay, we took two local buses to Tangalle. After the first bus everything went wrong. Before we were able to take our backpacks out of the trunk, the bus started driving. We were shouting to make it stop, but instead it drove faster and faster. My sister started running after it. She was so fast I couldn’t see her anymore, so I jumped in a tuktuk and said ‘Follow that bus!’. I picked my sister up who was still running on the highway, but we eventually lost the bus, it disappeared. While running my sister already sent a motorbike after the bus to let it stop. The motorbike lead us to a little dodgy street where the bus depot was. We were very lucky, because there we found our backpacks! After this fiasco we still made it on time to jump on the next bus to Tangalle.

In Tangalle we didn’t really visit anything, we just stayed two nights in the hotel. The beaches were beautiful, but it was impossible to swim. The sea was full of rocks and the strong current was dangerous.

After four days of resting at the beach our batteries were charged again to hit the adventure. A minivan brought us to Nuwara Eliya, which was a nine-hour drive, but first he stopped at a national park in Udawallawe where we did a safari. It is a small park with a lot of elephants and buffalos. The vegetation was weird: a part of the park looked like a scene from the Lion King, exactly like the place where the bad lion lives with his hyenas.

When we arrived in Nuwara Eliya the rain was pouring. After sunny beaches this was a bit of a bummer. It was freezing! The chauffeur didn’t find our Airbnb and even got himself in trouble to the extent that we were almost hanging off a cliff. This was definitely one of our scariest experiences ever! We were so angry of the risks he was taking that we decided to get out and ask a local tuktuk to bring us. When arriving at the Airbnb I noticed my bag, my money and passport were missing. I forgot it in the minivan. After several phone calls and a lot of stress, we finally managed to get a hang of the driver, who was already on his way to Tangalle, and convinced him to turn around again and bring me my bag.

After this disaster we just wanted to eat something and have an early sleep.The next day we needed to leave at 5am to Horton Plains, a national park where you can do a 9km hike to World’s End, one of the highest points in Sri Lanka. It was so nice to be one with nature. The walk was beautiful. In the beginning it was freezing, but after a while the sun rose and warmed us. The view from the top was absolutely stunning! When walking down, my sister kept saying: ‘I really feel like Frodo of the Lord of the Rings walking in the shire’ :D.

The next day we visited Nuwara Eliya and the tea plantations. I am a tea addict, so it was very interesting for me to see where tea comes from. It is actually the leaf of a plant that goes through a drying and fermentation process to become the tea we drink. We visited Mackwoods, one of the biggest tea plantations of Sri Lanka. We got a free tour and cup of tea. The tea leaves got handpicked by women, which is hard labour but creates a stunning view.

The day before the last day we visited Ella. We arrived late because of train problems, so we didn’t have the time anymore to climb the Ella Rock or Adam’s Peak. Instead we climbed Little Adam’s Peak, which was also already pretty impressive. I did not like Ella that much. It’s extremely touristic.

From Ella we took a beautiful train ride to Colombo. It was a 9-hour train ride but the views were breathtaking.

Despite all our bad luck I really recommend visiting Sri Lanka. It’s still pretty much untouched and not so Westernised yet, so go before it’s too late.