The first thing we noticed upon arrival in Sri Lanka were posters plastered to the walls of the immigration room that read “possession of drugs is crime punishable by death”. What a warm welcome to the country! I refrained from snapping a picture but did shoot Mark a look that said “where the hell are we?”
Although the country was very conservative (not just with laws but dress and interactions between the sexes too), the people we met were friendly, hospitable and curious about our lives. We didn’t initially plan on visiting Sri Lanka but our friends Leila and Eduardo planted the seed in our minds, then we kept hearing rave reviews during our travels. And for good reason; for such a small country, there’s an awful lot to do.
We decided on an ambitious 9-day itinerary that would take us in a giant loop — from Colombo east to three cities in Hill Country, then south to a beach town and a colonial port before heading back to the capital. We took trains for the majority of the trip and found train travel to be a highlight in itself. Five dollar tickets bought us luxury seats with panoramic windows in air conditioned cars. The views were incredible. The highlands are steep and bright green tea plantations blanket the hills for as far as the eye could see.
We did three hikes in this area: Adam’s Peak, which is a religious pilgrimage to a temple perched on a peak; Land’s End, the dramatic 2,800ft drop that delineates the highland plateau from the southern plains; and Ella’s Rock, a striking viewpoint that overlooks miles of tea plantations. Each was impressive; however, we weren’t able to fully appreciate the views as we found ourselves deep in clouds at the summits. For the most part we dodged the rain, but our journey down from Ella’s Rock was a muddy mess as we got caught in a downpour and were bitten by leeches. Sadly, my iPhone with hundreds of pictures didn’t survive the deluge.
Needless to say, we were ready for some beach time after our hiking adventures. We took a local bus to the coast and found ourselves a cute little bungalow for $12/night in Weligama. We spent a day trying to surf (Mark more successfully than me) and visited the quaint colonial town of Galle before heading back to Colombo via train. On the train we met a family with cute little girls. Clearly they had never seen a redhead because they took great amusement in touching my hair. From the train we watched the sun set over the Indian Ocean and remarked on how fortunate we were.