Hikkaduwa

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Our final full day in Sri Lanka was a little more laid back. We were up early and made the hour trek to Galle.
Galle is a gorgeous little port town with an amalgamation of cultural influences. It was used by the Dutch, the Portuguese, and the English during its history, and has a gorgeous Dutch fort right next to the shore line. We spent the morning walking around the fort’s ramparts, wandering the quaint and narrow streets inside the fort’s walls and watching the locals swim in the waves. This is also an amazing spot to watch the fishermen catch fish by their traditional stilt fishing. The men sit on large stilt-like wooden poles and lean over with a small fishing line to grab their daily catch.
When we’d finished exploring the fort, we made our last leg of the day to Hikkaduwa. Hikkaduwa is another touristy stretch of beach that screams “paradise”. Much like Mirissa, hikkaduwa has a string of bars and restaurants right along it’s palm-fringed, white sand beaches. This is where people get stuck for weeks, meeting other tourists and partying it up until the sun rises. We arrived on a Sunday, so the vibe was a little more relaxed.
“Can you imagine staying here for a week?” Said Kelsi while we were sitting having a beer on the patio “you would meet such a great crew of people. I wish we had three weeks to stay in Sri Lanka instead of 6 days.”
“Me too” I agreed.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have that long, so we just made the most of what we could in a single afternoon. We walked up and down the endless stretch of beach, checking out the array of guesthouses and resorts along the coast. We sat down on some shaded chairs to have a relaxing nap and was harassed by a man to buy his pineapples for the next hour. Eventually we meandered our way to dinner and out for a couple of beers.
The bar we ended up at was pretty full for a Sunday night. We met a lovely British man who had been living in Sri Lanka for 9 years. He had a tonne of recommendations for nightlife places in Hikkaduwa, but by 11:00 we realized how burnt out we were from the past week.
We had a seven AM wake up time and decided to head to bed, our six day whirlwind tour of Sri Lanka finally over. We’d seen a lot of the country in such a short time. From Negombo beach to the ruins of Anuradhapura, the abandoned palace of Sigiriya to the temples of Kandy. We explored the tea plantations in the central highlands, managed to relax on pristine beaches, climb the Dutch fort ramparts in Galle and eat seafood in paradise. Not a bad trip!
The next morning we had a stop in Colombo then a flight back to India. Sri Lanka, I can’t wait to visit you again!

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Mission to Mirissa

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When we told the hotel manager that we wanted to see a tea plantation and make it south to Mirissa beach to lie in the sun all in one day, he laughed at us.
“You can’t do that! Do you know how far Mirissa is from here? It’s an 8 hour drive at least, and the tea plantations don’t even open until 9:00. There is a direct bus to Matara, which is twenty minutes outside of Mirissa, but it leaves at 7:15. If you take that, you’ll miss the plantations. Or you can take a connecting bus at 12:30 and switch busses half way, but you won’t get to the beach while the sun is up! 8:00 at the earliest if the busses connect.”
Great. We wanted to do both! There’s no way I’m going to be in one of the most famous tea regions in the world and not see a plantation, but all I want to do is hang out on the beach with an icy beer. So that’s what we’re doing, No matter what. Where there’s a will there’s always a way!
We were at the plantation before opening, and finished by 9:45. We arrived back at the Nuwara Eliya bus station by 10:15.
“We want to go to Matara!” We announced. We had missed the direct bus, and the usual connecting bus didn’t go until for another 2 hours.
“We don’t care how we get there, we just want to be there as fast as possible.”
The guy looked at us for a minute and thought. Then he turned around, dragged us to a bus that was pulling out a couple rows down and told us to get on. He yelled to the ticket man about where we wanted to go. He nodded and we sat down.
“Hmmm, where do you think we’re going?” I asked Kelsi
“Who knows!”
“Well wherever we’re going, I promise you I will have a beer in my hand, sitting on the beach in Mirissa, watching the sun go down, this evening!”
Everyone on the bus was curious about where we were going. Two guys in front of us each came up with their own plan of were we should change busses. Nothing made sense to us, and no two people had the same plan of action. As long as we were headed in the right general direction, I was happy.
We drove for a couple hours, pulling over in small towns here and picking people up on the side of the road there. I had no idea where we were. Finally we pulled up to one stop and the conductor motioned for us to get off. He pointed at some random man that was standing next to the bus stop. Without a word, the second man motioned for us to follow him.
“Where are we going?!” I asked like an excited little kid.
“To the hospital.” He said nonchalantly.
I looked back at Kelsi confused. She shrugged.
“Ok” I said.
“Yeah I have a bad heart. I Need to get it checked out, you know?”
I most certainly did not know. I had no clue what was going on, and yet we continued to follow the man through the bus station.
“Okay, get on” he said as he motioned to the bus. We looked at each other and decided his guess was better than ours. We climbed into the packed bus and the man walked off.
Is he coming with us? Is he going to the hospital? I have no idea what’s going on…
The bus was so full Kelsi and I grabbed the last two seats a few rows apart from each other. About 15 more people piled on as the bus pulled out of the station.
“Hello,” said the little old lady beside me, “Where are you from?”
“Canada” I replied.
“And where are you going?”
“Hopefully to Matara. Does this bus go to there?”
“Oh yes, you should be there by 4:30” she smiled and then offered me some of her roti bread to eat.
Victory! I don’t know how we did it, but we ended up on a bus going the right way!
The bus system in Sri Lanka looks like a disaster, but I honestly think it’s one of the most efficient bus systems I’ve ever been on. Every conductor knows the routes, everyone knows when and where the connections are, and which bus leaves from which stand. Yes, people jump on and off the busses while they are moving, and yes sometimes they are so full that there are twice as many people standing as there are sitting, but, we never once waited longer than 5 minutes for a bus going our direction. It was unreal.
We got to Matara, switched buses, grabbed a Tuk Tuk to a guesthouse and sat on the beach with a beer in our hands in perfect time for the last hour of sunshine. We watched the sunset, had an amazing dinner on the beach and called it a night. Success! And the rush was worth it. Mirissa beach is a beach that should be photographed for travel magazines. Perfect white sand, excellent for surfing, leaning palm trees that stretch all along the coastline. This place is paradise! On top of that, April is off season for tourists in Sri Lanka, so although there were enough people lounging on the beach to have a good time, essentially the place was our own. Our little escape from the bustling world, to relax and unwind. Exactly what the doctor ordered after a month in crazy India!

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