A road trip covering 1400 kilometers - through rolling hills and pristine beaches.
20.01.2015 35 °C
It was almost three hours from the airport in Colombo to Kandy. Three interesting hours without encountering traffic later we reached the hills of Kandy. Sitting atop a hill in a bunglow with a 270 degree view of KANDY, sipping tea and watching the onset of the South-West monsoon was an experience like no other. But a quick recap to the time of the day leading up to this magical evening saw me pay a visit to the renowned SACRED TOOTH RELIC TEMPLE. Little known fact: Sri Lanka is predominantly a Buddhist country.
I would definitely suggest getting away from the bustle of Kandy and retiring to one of the bunglows on the hills which overlook the hills. The rooms are full of old world charm with lovely large beds, bathrooms with old-time bath fittings, cozy family rooms, rolling lawns, fabulous views of the green expanse and home cooked sumptuous Sri Lankan food. There is little more to do here in the evenings apart from soak in the amazing clean air, go for long walks and spend evenings in the company of other travellers staying at the same bunglow over a drink and campfire out on the lawns. It helps to cover up, because it gets quite misty and cool in the evenings.
A long drive brought us to our next destination on the trip – Tea Country – NUWARA ELIYA. The drive to get there is a bit challenging on the winding roads for people like me who succumb to motion sickness . Do take a tour of a Tea Factory, it is an experience by itself to walk between rows to Ceylon tea plants and walk out of the factory with bags to tea knowing exactly how that tea got into the bag. Unfortunately, once you visit the tea plantations and take a tour of the tea factory, there isn't much to see and do in Nuwara Eliya. I heard wonderful things about a Strawberry Farm but due to some political rally, the road leading up to this place was cordoned off.
Along the drive from Nuwara Eliya to Bandarawale we stopped at the SITA TEMPLE which according to some locals has gained some popularity among Hindus specially who are choosing to visit the temple. A visit to this temple made me transition to my childhood listening to my mother telling me tales from Ramayan. I saw with my eyes what I had heard her describe all those years earlier. The difference being what I had heard was a mythological story, the beautiful Ashok Vatika where Sita was kept captive by Raavan, a stream flowing next to it where she performed her puja. The temple is almost a testimony to story of Ashok Vatika and how it was burnt down by Hanuman. I understand that everyone is entitled to believe what they choose to but, to a practising Hindu girl finding a connection to one of the greatest literary works of ancient India composed approximately during the 5th century BCE, the text which in its entirety consists of approximately 50,000 verses, is pretty mind-boggling. Fun Fact : The temple is overrun with monkeys.
UDAWALAWE is home to a wonderful National Park. I didn't see a leopard here, but plenty of elephants and other wildlife especially birds. The highlight of the safari was when we reached the river bank hoping to see a few animals quenching their thirst and saw no form of life for miles around. Just when we turned our jeep we saw 2 groups of elephants approaching from opposite directions, greetig each other like old friends and getting into the water together. I heard an elephant trumpet and it was such a memorable moment.
From the hills we drove straight to the beaches. The first day was spent lounging on the expansive sands of Tangalle. Its a bit isolated so didn’t venture out much. Next day we drove to Beruwala. The one place where I spent as much time as possible on the beach. The beach is nice to wander along. I found that the sea here tends to be brown which I later figured was due to the sea churning up the sand. The beach is full of shacks selling batik print clothes, local cuisine and things-you-would-catch-yourself-buying-only-when-you-are-on-a-beach-vacation. We saved the best for the last 2 days – BENTOTA.
On the way to Bentota there a number of TURTLE FARMS which provide a unique insight into the turtle conservation project and you must see it to believe what an incredible sight baby turtles are as they benignly swim around. I would highly recommend picking them up for a minute (if the caretakers allow it). The tour is fairly short but informative. I heard later that if you visit late in the night you can watch baby turtles that are hardly 3 days old make their way down to the sea and disappear into the ocean, hopefully to swim in the ocean for a few centuries.
I am not one to sit by the pool all day but I was mesmerised by the dramatic landscape and the crashing of the waves against beautifully natural formed rocks. I just knew that I will never have my fill of that view. The sound of the ocean rocking you to sleep is something I wish I could experience every single day. Without further gushing about the experience, I will just say this and then hold my peace, Bentota is one of those phenomenal places that you very rarely come across and that you quite simply never want to leave.
When we eventually did leave the resort , we spent a few delightful hours wandering around the inspiring gardens and estate of Geoffrey Bawa. A walk lets you see how well the gardens were laid out with great foresight. The view is topped with a nice colonial house. For someone interested, it is a lovely place to visit and explore if you are in the area. The place filled me with endless ideas about designing my vacation home
After a quick drive to Colombo, I spent the afternoon shopping until it was time for us to head back to the airport.
Ayu Bowan. Until next time.