Sri Lanka

A few travel anecdotes and many photos from a trip to Sri Lanka in November. 

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It was raining heavily outside our open-air, second story hotel room on the south coast of Sri Lanka. We eventually had to lower the wooden curtains to keep rain from coming in. We snuggled up cosily on the small couch and read our books. Thunder cracked loudly outside, and immediately after the power went out. We found some candles, lit them, and continued on.

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We walked out of Sigiriya after exploring the ancient city for the day. A handful of tuk tuk drivers approached us with the same spiel we'd heard too many times before. We looked at one of them and asked, quite seriously, how much to go to Trincomalee? He laughed. "Seriously?" "Oh, um, okay, let me think..." He called his wife and said he'd be home late. We picked up a couple of roti snacks and filled the tank before setting off on a three our tuk tuk journey to the coast. We even passed an elephant on the road.

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We hiked to Ella Rock. The first 45 minutes of the "trail" follow the railroad through the jungle, passing several guesthouses, homes, and schools. We researched the hike and had learned of the touts along the way; people warning that you were going the wrong way, that you should hire them as a guide. We ignored them all and kept walking. Some signs advertised short cuts and "cool spots". When we arrived at the summit a man was making tea... I guess you can't blame folks for trying to make a buck. 

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We wanted to stay out on an island outside of Jaffna and hired a driver to take us there. When we arrived, we were disappointed with the beach and hotel, both of which were given higher standards on their website. "Is it possible to rent a motorbike?" Our driver called a friend, took us to his house, and without much exchange of information or money, the friend loaned us his scooter for the day. We cruised at our own pace around the islands. We dodged a few cows and goats along the road, and ran over some snakes. We ate lunch at an old fort, now a navy yard, and pulled off the road when the sun started to set. When we couldn't cross to the next island via causeway, we loaded our scooter on a boat. 

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Aaron did that thing he always does when we travel, he found a local barber to get his haircut. Not only did his hair look great, but he had a full head, neck, and shoulder massage...and a sense of excitement for the rest of the day.

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Riding the train anywhere in Sri Lanka was a major highlight. The scenery is stunning around every corner, and they are super cheap to ride on. I read many opinions online of which direction to travel, where to sit on the trains, or which class to ride. The truth is, it didn't really matter. We explored all of them, and our consensus was to buy a 3rd class ticket and get a seat with open windows. Let the breeze blow through your hair. It doesn't matter which side of the train you're on, because the views on all sides are totally stunning.

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We hiked Adam's Peak. The burn of the sunrise that morning almost matched that of my calves that were still whining days later (over 3K feet of elevation gain in just over 4 miles!). We set out around 2am from our guesthouse and walked down a couple of different roads before setting out on the right one. The 5,500 stone and concrete steps were of all different shapes, sizes and distances apart. Though we saw a sky full of stars when we left, we were soon in a heavy fog that followed us the whole way up. Our cloud was disorienting and maddening at times, and through the light of my headlamp I just put one foot in front of the other, repeatedly. I consider myself a fairly avid hiker, and this climb was torturous. The amount of physical and mental strength it took to summit (by sunrise) was somewhat intense at times, but so incredibly worth it.

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We met a German couple at a hotel in Haputale, then ran into them down the road on a hike in Ella. They invited us to a cooking class that evening, which was so awesome! We learned which curries pair better with vegetables, and which with meats. We made curry paste with a mortar and pestle, and scraped coconut on a handy foot stool with a spur coming off the end. The evening was topped off with my favorite Sri Lankan dessert, curd and treacle. 

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We rode bicycles around Jaffna. We found a delicious ice cream shop and war-torn neighborhoods. The most striking place we visited was a Hindu temple, though. Aaron had to take his shirt off before entering, and no one is allowed to take photographs inside the temple, which was a crusher given the beautiful, beaming light inside. 

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Our final night of the trip was spent in Anuradhapura. We entered the lovely, white-washed Ruwanwelisaya temple before sunset. As we sat in a corner, watching people move around the temple, the sky caught fire and turned bright orange and purple. The white temple against this sky was quite striking. Then the drum beats began and a stream of people wearing white filtered into the temple grounds, all with a hand on a large, colorful ribbon. The pilgrims walked around the temple, wrapping the temple in nearly 300m of ribbon.