A Travellerspoint blog

Under Budget!

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We are £36 under budget after our time in Sri Lanka!! We think this is worth a blog in itself! :-)

Let's see if we can beat this in China!

To be continued...

Posted by JonAndSara 07:55 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Train From Ella is Spectacular but Nothing Beats a Good Tuk

By Jon

sunny 33 °C
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As we’re nearing the end of our time in Sri Lanka I thought I’d write about the different types of public transport we’ve experienced in the country. The main mode of tourist transport is the Tuk Tuk. Now if you don’t know what a Tuk Tuk is, imagine a shrunken down reliant robin with its sides ripped out, front squashed in and its engine replaced with a lawnmower engine (so not much less powerful from a real Reliant Robin engine). They are then given to taxi drivers with a higher than average death wish or complete incomprehension of where anyone’s hostel is located.

They weave in and out of a stream of traffic, attempting to take short cuts or dodge through gaps to save time, but given the limited power of the engine it’s difficult for them to actually overtake anything that’s not virtually stationary or weighs more than a house.

In Colombo, pedestrians cross the road without looking, traffic continues forward without slowing, and somehow, the two miss each other. You see the Tuk Tuk driver eyeing up a gap half the size of his vehicle and wonder if he’s really going to try to fit through it, fortunately he decides against it at the last second. Throughout the entire journey there’s a horn providing a constant accompaniment to the journey. This must be their equivalent of a sound system because no-one else on the road seems to take any notice of them, and all the way through the journey I have an inane grin on my face as I enjoy every second of it.

Perhaps it’s the hustle and bustle of the ride that sums up Colombo perfectly, perhaps it’s the amazement that somehow the blind faith of pedestrians crossing in front of incoming traffic actually works, or perhaps it’s the fun of watching Sara haggling with the driver as she tries to reduce the price from 350LKR to 300LKR (a saving of about 20p).

As you spend more time in the country, especially in Colombo, you find out some of the tricks of the Tuk Tuk drivers. As we were exploring the city one day we got speaking to a local as he walked along the street. He explained he was on his lunch break and was just going back to work at the university, asked a bit about where we were from and a bit about London. He said we reminded him of his children (this is where I got a bit suspicious, unless his son had a skin complaint like Michael Jackson). He then informed us we were very lucky as that particular day was the annual elephant parade in Colombo and that it started in 15 minutes and that we should go. Then amazingly a Tuk Tuk pulled up close to us and we were told we could be taken there by his friend (what are the chances, eh?). We already had other plans so refused the invitation. I think the annual elephant parade is more frequent than the name suggests though as the very next day a completely different person came up to us and told us it was about to start in 15 minutes.


Much like the Tuk Tuks, the buses like to weave all over the place too, perhaps even more so. To the Sri Lankans, driving on the left seems more like a concept rather than a requirement with vehicles moving to the other side of the road to overtake at every opportunity, irrespective of trifling little details like sharp bends in the road ahead or traffic coming the other way.

Buses here also have no concept of maximum capacity, no one seems to be refused onto the bus just because the framework is bursting at the seams with people. If there’s a couple of centimetres spare then there’s room for medium sized family, and of course a few people can always hang out of the door.

The local buses in more rural regions were much easier to get a seat on and also had a particularly neat trick. They’ve managed to create a sort of hybrid vehicle, half bus, half plane, because with all the bumps and pot holes in the road 50% of your time is spent in the air.


Although the trains can be just as crowded as the buses, with little room to move for several hours, the train journey I want to focus on is the one from Ella to Kandy. When I went to book tickets the only places available were in the luxury cabin and cost about £7.50 each. Now I know that sounds ridiculously cheap for a 7 hour journey which includes lunch, a bottle of water, a tea or coffee, air conditioning, wifi, guaranteed seats and viewing areas to experience the most beautiful train journey in Sri Lanka but when you’re used to paying pennies for transport and when £7.50 represents half your daily budget I did reel a bit. However it was worth it for the much more civilized experience and not having to spend half a day rammed into somebody’s sweaty armpit.

The journey itself wound its way through the mountains and forests of central Sri Lanka providing wonderful views of waterfalls, valleys, an endless number of tea plantations (many of which punctuated by locals harvesting the leaves), quaint communities with coloured buildings and vegetable patches whilst families stood by the track waving at the passengers. Undulating green mountain after undulating green mountain continually replaced each other throughout the 7 hour journey with some shrouded in mist to add an eerie atmosphere.

For those not interested in the scenery the train carriage showed films, but as this included Round the World in 80 Days I think I’ll stick to the entertainment outside the window.

2014-04-18 12.51.26

2014-04-18 12.51.26

Posted by JonAndSara 03:49 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged buses tuk_tuk sri_lanka kandy train_travel ella Comments (0)

Happy New Year!!

By Sara

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Luckily last Monday we got the chance to experience a real Sri Lankan New Year with some of the locals in the small village of Rekawa. As you may expect this is like no ordinary (ordinary as in Western) New Years Day, spending the day with shocking hangovers from the night before! No, Sri Lankan new year is very civilised, and a tad bonkers!

We started the day at 6.30am to get ready to join the local women and Buddhist Monks at the temple down the road for 7.10am. We wished good luck and bless food, water and flowers for the year ahead (excuse me if I get some of the details wrong, I was trying to follow and take part as best I could at 7.10am!). The ceremony lasted about 20 minutes and we headed back to the house for tea.

Then something very unexpected happened at 10.17am (Sri Lankan New Year), Daisy, who owns the home we were staying in, lit a fire in the living room!! Yes you read that correctly, a fire in the living room!!! Then when the fire was in full flow, she put a small pot of milk on it which she let boil over. This is for good luck apparently. Although I think better luck would be not inhaling a cloud of smoke, but hey ho! As you can imagine, the house completely filled with smoke and we all had to keep stepping our side for air! Our natural instincts are to leave a house that is full of smoke, not stand in it and watch a pot of milk boil over! While all this was going on, we had the TV in the back ground showing the Prime Minister having his own milk boiling fire. Funnily enough, his fire was outside!

After the fire was put out and all was calm again, the 'man of the house' had to be the first to enter the house and first to eat in the house in the new year. Daisy's husband is sadly no longer with us (he died of Rabies 20 years ago, he was bitten by a dog. Very sad), so André, who is our turtle watch host from Holland, did the honours. He entered the house and started eating. Andre is not a shy man and he was quite happy to dig in to the feast that Daisy had lovingly prepared for us. There was no holding back, he was loving it! Then we all joined him, well all apart from Daisy, as Sri Lankan hosts never eat with their guests. We had all sorts of lovely foods including a very special cake called 'oil cake', this cake, more like Turkish delight I think, is made with coconut oil and rice, it takes two people a whole day to make this and apparently it smokes out the whole house. It was very tasty!

So after the meal, it was time for the presentation of the money. We wrapped up a small amount of money into a green leaf each and presented it to Daisy, and then Daisy did the same back to us. It was for good fortune in the new year. It was lovely to experience this with Daisy. And I hope it brings us good fortune as we could do with it when we go back to western prices in Aus and USA!

By about mid day we had completed all our new year rituals, so Jon, myself and Meg, a friend we have made here at the Sanctuary (another more established volunteer) went down to the beach for a swim. There is a small rock pool in the sea that we swim in as the current is too strong to swim in the actual sea. However the rock pool does have its downfalls as it's quite rocky and is full of spiky sea urchins which are sharp spikes that can cut you up if you touch them! I was doing really well at not going near them but then a massive wave swept me over and my hand and foot got caught and shredded!! Not only that but a few got stuck in my hand, like splinters, and if you don't get them out it can be dangerous as they have poison in them apparently. Jon saw what happened and helped me get the splinters out but it didn't stop him getting his own hand, foot and bottom shredded!!! He got it worse than me in the end!! Anyway after a load of antiseptic wipes and plasters we were ok! Another drama down, how many more to come I wonder??

And finally the last event of the day was being invited to the neighbours house, 2 doors down, for dinner. It was a very unusual setting.....
Imagine Jon and I inviting you to our house for dinner, seating you on plastic chairs (no table) separated between the living room and kitchen and telling you to help yourselves to the buffet. Then once you have taken what you want, I will take a dish at a time and spoon onto your plate twice as much as you have chose to take which will be repeated until you plead for no more! Jon and I will then leave you to eat on you're own but not before we kindly give you spoons to eat with. Once you have finished your food it is then time to immediately leave. At that point Jon and I will eat our meal with our fingers.
This is what we experienced last night. It was a very interesting evening. I won't mention who stuffed a very under ripe banana in his pocket as the rest of us politely forced them down!

All in all a very unusual but enjoyable New Year. I think I'll just stick to the British way of getting drunk on New Year's Eve and then chilling out on New Year's Day with a hangover! Or if I am on Coll, spend 3 days getting drunk in everybody's houses!! My all time favourite way to spend New Year and I am definitely going to aim to be there for 2015/2016!

Side note - My coconut foot never fell off! All is back to normal now. Phew

Posted by JonAndSara 22:24 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (1)

And then she just whipped out my breasts!!!!

By Sara

Just a short one today but I thought I'd share this because I just can't believe it!!

So I thought I'd try the famous Sri Lankan Ayurvedic massage today, it was very interesting to say the least!! I was laying there on the massage table enjoying the relaxation and then all of a sudden the masseuse whipped off my towel and there was me full frontal lying there getting my breasts oiled!! I was like 'sh*t' what the hell do I do now and are there any peep holes??!! Sri Lsnkans like to look at white woman enough here! Never mind a white woman with her breasts out!! So I just thought, right ok this must me normal here so let's just go with it. It was the most uncomfortable 10 minutes of my life!! (Well maybe a bit of an exaggeration but it was very uncomfortable!!)
And would you believe, this is not the first time this has happened to me either! It happened once before, 4 years ago in the Maldives!! It must be something about Asia!!

On a less uncomfortable note, we climed little Adams Peak in Ella today. Once we made it up there, huffing and puffing past the vast tea plantations, it was absolutely stunning! Like being on top of the world! After spending a week down the south coast the cool breeze and wind in our hair (well my hair, Jon's loosing his rapidly! Ha) was a very welcome change!

Tomorrow we are booked onto the famous 6hr Ella - Kandy train to take in the apparently spectacular views. There were only tickets for the luxury observaton carriage left, so we had to bite the bullet and pay the extortionate rate of £7.50 each. One must sacrifice for the experience! :-) Very exciting.

Posted by JonAndSara 05:42 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

The Struggles of Being Female

By Shelly, A Female Green Turtle

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Bloody typical isn’t it, it’s always us females that have to do all the work, look at those lazy male turtles, all they have to do is spend their whole lives relaxing in the sea, gently floating around without a care in the world (well if you don’t count the danger of being caught in a fishing net). They never get out of the comfort of the water and they don’t have to go through the struggle of laying eggs. No, it’s us females that have to return to the same beach where we were born (sometimes over 1,500 miles away from our feeding sites), leave our natural habitat, haul ourselves up over metre high sand dunes, wade through the sand to the rear of the beach (avoiding litter and stray tourists doing their own procreating in the bushes), spend an hour digging a body pit to lie in and a 70cm deep egg chamber for the eggs (all the time hoping that it doesn’t collapse as it’s being built – this is the fourth night in a row I've tried but the sand has been too dry to dig a proper hole, if I don’t succeed tonight I’ll have to dump my eggs in the sea and they’ll all get eaten). Those males just don’t know how lucky they are.

It’s bloody knackering doing all this once let alone four times in four nights when you weigh 150Kg and have to drag yourself up with only flippers, it’s like pulling a wardrobe up the beach. Mind you, writing a blog post with flippers is pretty hard too. yuguoioiojhxtxs lililk. Damn my stocky limbs.

Tonight though, finally some success, there must have been some rain during the day, the egg chamber was much easier to scoop out with my rear flippers. Then I went into this kinda trance, it was like being on drugs, like a natural epidural and I was completely out of it when I started laying my eggs. I felt as spaced out as that famous turtle from Finding Nemo. Duuuuuude!

Not even the red torches those large, weird-looking, walking fish were shining up my behind could bother me, I was so out of it and so tired I barely noticed them. I mean, the red light is fine, doesn't disturb me at all as my eyes can’t pick up that light frequency, but jeez, guys, a bit of privacy would have been nice!

I finally laid over one hundred eggs, covered up the nest with sand and made the strenuous journey back to the sea. For some reason all the walking fish stood behind me watching me on my way. They could at least have given me a bit of help, took bloody ages getting back to the sea and I had to keep stopping to catch my breath. You try running a marathon after just giving birth and then you’ll know what it’s like!

I know I say it every time, but that’s it, I’m never ever, ever getting pregnant again, I've gone right off male turtles and sex after having to go through all that. Mind you, as only one in a thousand eggs ever make it to adulthood I suppose I’d better do it all again three or four more times this year. All that effort, and I may not get a single descendant out of it. I hope those weird walking fish protect my nest well from poachers and predators, then it’ll be worth having my behind illuminated like a Dutch brothel.

Nesting Green Turtle

Nesting Green Turtle

Posted by JonAndSara 08:17 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka green_turtle rekawa Comments (0)

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