Heeeey party people, it is I, your favorite, wildly inconsistent travel blogger. I’mmmm baaaaack.
Alright, so I know in theory, your last trip tends to feel like your “best trip” bc it’s the freshest in your memory and you’re still riding the high from the joy of the travel you just traveled. But I think this time I really can mean it when I say that I am still riding the high of my actual best trip ever.
The joy started at Frankfurt airport with the world’s cutest cutie, my old roomie Helen (referenced in this post, as in real life, as Heli) where we spent the first 30 minutes of our reunion looking for Terminal 2, which (if you ask us) does not exist until it is absolutely necessary. Like the room of requirement from Harry Potter. We did eventually find the magical terminal which only exists when it feels so inclined and once boarded (in group 7831 bc we are broke) and having switched seats with my neighbor to the front so we could sit together, we spent the next 5 hours on our flight to Doha drinking red wine and annoying everyone on the plane while getting psyched for our trip and loudly declaring “WE’RE GOING TO SRI LANKA” about 57 times and laughing about how wildly unprepared we were for this trip. I say unprepared bc usual Alex is aware of all possible routes from the airport to where we want to go and has a list of all the must-sees for the country in question. To be fair, we did eventually create a list of must-sees, but we were late to the game. As luck would have it, that didn’t have any influence on the awesomeness of our trip.
We arrived in Colombo at 9am with the “where” ready to go but the “when” and “how” very much in question. Bus? Train? Taxi? Multi-day hike? The world was our oyster. Terrifying. We pulled out some cash at the airport ATM and were relatively easily convinced by our new bff Sanjay to take a 4h taxi for 30€ per person all the way to Sigiriya. Easily convinced by we were exhausted shells of the people we once were and a 4h taxi for 30€ was better than stumbling through Colombo for 6h, tiny travel backpacks in tow (30L of fantastically planned backpacks let me tell you) just to take a 4h train to a 30m bus to a 15m tuktuk so thanks but no thanks. *This decision would made easier by the fact that Heli and I are big kids with big kid jobs who make (within reason) big kid money, so when you budget travel like we do anyway, it’s no big deal to treat yourself (i.e. spend 30€) every once in awhile.
Our lovely driver Diney stopped for king coconuts (I reference them using their official name bc after seeing a bunch of orange coconuts with which I was completely unfamiliar, I googled them as soon as I had WiFi) and we drank them from the car after taking a pee-stop in a wedding hall and having a quick video call with his wife (don’t ask me, I was just happy to be drinking from my coconut) before making it to our homestay, hopping in a very cold shower (and making friends in the form of frogs in our bathroom sink which consistently inhibited my ability to effectively wash my hands - call me gross, idc, what if they JUMPED ON ME??? Yes, I am one with nature). We took a walk into town for a dinner of vegetable roti (which we lived off of for the next two weeks), fried rice, and a dessert roti of banana and chocolate which is tailor made for tourists and costs twice the price (i.e. 2 dollars rather than 1 dollar) but is worth every penny. Theeeen we fell asleep at 8pm and slept for 12h - it was necessary. We woke up to instant coffee and Heli’s favorite coconut pancakes (I joke, she was not a fan) before heading back to the room to book our transport and accommodation to Ella bc as previously mentioned, we were not planners on this trip.
We spent the first half of our day hiking through a temple and up innumerable stairs (not actually innumerable if you, unlike me, can count and huff and puff up hundreds of stairs at the same time) to the top of a very large rock whose name refuses to stay in my head but I promise to google it if you go to Sri Lanka and ask nicely. We took a break for a surprisingly fantastic vegetable roti before committing to 1200 more stairs (not an exaggeration) to get to the top of another super tall rock BUT we changed our minds and headed home when they wanted 30 bucks for a ticket into said tall rock area. How exciting can rocks be? Not 30 bucks worth, let me tell you.
Dinner was followed by unexpectedly large 750ml beers (the beer size was not on the menu but they arrived at the table and 1. Heli and I are not quitters and 2. According to everyone in Sri Lanka, Germans loooove beer. Also: Sri Lankans would assume we were German and when I said I was from the US but living in Germany, they took that as confirmation that I am German, so I ran with it. I did not meet a single other US citizen in Sri Lanka - it was amazing. No offense, guys. We enjoyed a few more beers at the “Rastarant” where the music was solid, the shoes were optional, and the good bois (doggos) were abundant. We then woke up at 5:30am (bc we hate ourselves) to grab a ride on the bus from hell for 2€ to get to Kandy. I say the bus from hell due to the driver who refused to take his hand off the horn and his foot of the gas pedal - death was imminent, and yet somehow I was able to catch a short nap in between fearing for my life and accidentally banging my head against the window over and over again (less than ideal, I struggle enough without losing more brain cells due to head trauma). Having not died on our adventurous bus ride to the bustling city that is Kandy, we ignored every second person we walked by asking if we wanted a tuktuk (we did not) and grabbed lunch and some roti-to-go at a hole in the wall place where you eat with your hands and pay 1,50€ for a huge plate of fabulous food from the world’s kindest shop owner. We then followed the wave of tourists (of which to be fair there were not many bc we came in the off season which I could not recommend more) to the train station and in the event that we looked lost, we had locals left and right asking us where we were headed and showing us how to get there.
A 6h train (which according to the internet could have taken anywhere from 4 to 7h) brought us from Kandy to Ella - a train ride which I can wholeheartedly recommend considering the gorgeous views and the fact that you’re allowed to hang out of a moving train. Just be sure to bring some snacks. We then made our way through the world’s most welcoming town (every single shop and restaurant owner gave us a huge smile and a “welcome to Ella” as we passed by. We parted ways with our newfound Kiwi friends Will and Jake and made the trek through the dark jungle - shoutout to Heli for being pinnacle German and bringing a surprisingly useful headlamp - to get to our absolute gorgeous homestay (which to be fair we only realized was gorgeous the next morning bc we arrived in the dark). We grabbed dinner at Matey’s, our new favorite restaurant for the week, and tried out all the curries they had to offer before grabbing (large, obvi) beers at what seemed to be the only quiet bar on the whole street (we were feeling very antisocial). We had a fabulous time until a group of Germans (who were everywhere in Sri Lanka alongside Brits and Dutchies) took over the aux and put on the world’s most obnoxious music, which effectively got us out of there and into bed.
We woke up the next morning with monkeys on our balcony, and they looked like they meant business, so we conceded the balcony to them until they saw fit to share it with us. Our lovely homestay owner told us about a lovely tea plantation that was absolutely worth our time. She was not wrong, it was delightful. We walked and walked and walked to the plantation, with Heli aptly noticing that we were doing a lot of walking down, which couldn’t be good bc the plantation was on the top of a hill and we ended up climbing back up much higher than I would have liked. I was not psyched about this realization, esp. Considering we were walking in 90*F heat and 82407493% humidity. And yet, we journeyed on. We were taught all about the inner workings of tea plantations and production by Pushpa and Salle. They also made us pick our own tea leaves, which we immediately learned was an unattainable skill that we in no way possess, so I guess we’ll stick to our day jobs. We did, however, stick to our evening jobs of drinking beers at the cutest, quietest, least touristy bars in town. What can I say, we stick to our strengths.
The next day was spent on a jungle trek to a jungle bridge whose name definitely has the word bridge in it but that’s all I’ve got for you. We then hiked further to a place called Adam’s Peak and not only regretted it 100% of the time but were also rewarded by absolutely zero views bc the clouds were in the way and refused to get out of the way for our Instagram aesthetic. Rude.
The second half of the day was spent avoiding the rain (which is apparently a large part of the rainy season, weird) and going to the world’s coolest cooking course. Davit invited us into his home and his life in a small village outside of town. We spent hours sitting around his unnaturally short table (seriously, it came up to my mid-thigh chatting about everything from the hindu shrine in his house, his kids education, his daughter’s English classes bc he wants his kids to get the education that he and his wife never got, and how all Germans love beer (told you). We cracked coconuts, cracked jokes, and Heli proved once again that she is 1000x better at dealing with children than I am (which tracks tbf bc I am me and she is a teacher so ya know, we’ll take it).
On the way back into town, we learned what I personally believe we could have been sure of without actual physical confirmation - leeches are garbage animals and should be eliminated. How did we learn this, you ask? Well on our way back from the cooking class it was raining. Why is that relevant? Bc the rain is apparently the key that unlocks the door to hell through which the leeches worm themselves through to ruin your life. We did several leech checks and found a few crawling up my tennis shoes - they were quickly removed by Davit, and we thought we caught them all, so we made our way back into town for a beer to wash the feeling of “oh my god there are definitely leeches all over me send help” out of our systems. And that, my friends, is how they get you (they meaning the leeches who despite having zero strategic capacities and yet were obviously consciously trying to ruin our lives). They lull you into a false sense of security bc you can’t actually feel it when they worm their way THROUGH YOUR SHOELACE HOLE and UP YOUR LEG so that your friend exclaims in the middle of a bar ALEX THERE’S A LEECH ON YOUR LEG and you sit up so fast you get rug burn on both elbows (we were sitting on like a bed-bench thing) and shout for her to GET IT OFF GET IT OFF GET IT OFFF but she CAN’T get it off bc the bastards latch on with everything they’ve got so she looks around hopelessly for help and our helplessness convinces a large Dutch man to come to our aid and he finally rips it off but then it latches onto HIS finger and our panic infects him and then he flings his arm around all over the place in panic trying to get it OFF and when he finally does, we all looked at each other in collective embarrassment and disgust bc (as previously mentioned) leeches should be scorched from the face of the earth. After that we had a few more beers, bc let me tell you, one was not enough to deal with the emotional damage of our first (and unfortunately not our last) leech encounter.
Post-leech debacle, we met up with the Kiwis for drinks at the most touristy bar in town (which we had hitherto avoided like the plague) and played a few rousing rounds of Bus Driver before heading home for the night to wake up to fight leeches another day. And this time, the bastards were everywhere. And we were (perhaps) a little hungover, which severely impacted our GET IT OFF-abilities. We hiked to a waterfall, which was a longer hike than anticipated, but we trudged on and were rewarded with a gorgeous view over the local village. All was well. Or so we thought. What happened, you ask? The rain happened. And as we know, Sri Lankan rain in the jungle = leech central. And they came out in force. The rain started pouring and we made our way back to the homestay, which took about 10x longer than it would have otherwise had we not had to do leech-checks every 2 meters bc these demon creatures MOVE LIKE THE WIND. We took refuge at a closed-looking restaurant for hot tea (the rain was heckin chilly) and roti (our fav food) to recover physically and emotionally (stupid leeches). And then we took stock of the situation – sure, we were soaking wet. Sure, it was freezing cold (we were in the highlands and, as mentioned, soaking wet). We were under siege by leeches. We were not psyched. But we were also in the middle of the Sri Lanka. So naturally, we had a dance party on the railroad tracks. We sang to ourselves and breathed in the fact that even though not everything was perfect right at that moment, life was pretty damn good.
The next day, our plan was to spend about 10h on assorted buses and trains and tuktuks to get down to the southern coast, where we planned to spend the rest of our trip. And then our homestay neighbors (also Germans, what a surprise) mentioned a cheap taxi service they’d found, and moments later Heli and I had treated ourselves to yet another taxi so as to avoid a painfully long travel day and boy oh boy was it a good idea. We arrived in Hikkaduwa in the early afternoon, with no idea how much we would fall in love with this place.
We took a moment to breathe in the beach before going for a walk to check out local dive shops – I hadn’t dived in a few years and I’d been incredibly excited to get back into it. The thing is, scuba diving is not something one should endeavor to do without considering the potential dangers involved. It’s the coolest thing ever and I will never take another long pause from doing it again bc it’s way too awesome, but like, breathing under water kiiiiinda goes against human evolution. So when I signed up for two dives and a refresher course with a local dive instructor who seemed to know what he was doing, I was nothing but excited. Until I tried to google him later and found nothing more than a Facebook page – which is really no big deal, but I had just entered into conversation with Steffi, the lovely woman who owned the hostel we were staying in, who said she was happy to have the guys who work at the hostel ask around about my dive instructor to make sure we were good to go. She said if he’s reputable, they’ll know who he is. The guys did not know who he was. So that was concerning. By morning, I was incredibly anxious (you know, about potentially dying due to an unreputable dive shop), and Steffi sent one of the hostel guys to scooter me over to the beach and talk to the dive instructor to make sure my death wasn’t imminent. They had some chats, and my new hostel friend assured me I was good to go, and that he would pick me up at the beach after my dives. Ok, cool. Except I already had a ton of anxiety about my impending death built up from the last 12h – before I left I told Heli that my money goes to my sisters if I die – and my calm but all too quiet dive guide was not doing much to calm me down. We hopped on the boat – the motor didn’t work. We switched it for another motor – that motor didn’t work. I tried to remember how to breathe. Many locals and several motors later, we were off the coast and ready to go. In the end, as you might have guessed, I did not die (though that would give new meaning to the term ghost-writer). I did, however, get a scooter ride back to the hostel while I appreciated not being dead and then I hugged Heli as if we hadn’t seen each other since I left for the war – what can I say, we were pretty sure I was going to die.
The rest of the week was spent taking surf lessons and hanging out with my very handsome surf instructor Maalu (apparently I have a knack for board sports and am officially obsessed with surfing), renting a scooty (don’t ask me, that’s what they’re called) to visit neighboring beaches and practice driving on the left side of the road (not as hard as one might think), learning how to properly put in headphones (leave me alone) so as to drown out the sounds of the world’s most annoying roommate, and successfully meeting our goal of spending an entire day in our bikinis. We ate roti from the same roti shop every day, hung out with the guys who worked at the hostel having beers and comparing dating realities in Germany, the US and Sri Lanka, and played lots of cards accompanied by big, big beers in the evening. In short, it was an incredible week.
Upon checkout, the hostel guys informed us that our names were hard for them, so they called us the “diving girls” bc they associated us with our dive-related stress. Leaving was so much harder than we ever could have anticipated – I won’t lie to you, tears fell, and not only bc Heli was leaving me to travel alone while she headed back to Germany.
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
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