Sad but true, we had to leave the Maldives. We had other places to explore, and were very excited for our next destination. We easily caught our flight in Malé after one last boat ride through beautiful water. Our flight and arrival into Columbo airport were happily unremarkable (we had pre-purchased our visa online). Our plan was to set up at a guesthouse in Negombo for a couple of days and then see as much of Sri Lanka as we could, including its beaches, mountains, wildlife and who knew what other adventures lay ahead!
|Walking with our Ibrahim, our guesthouse proprietor on Maafushi, to the harbor to catch our speedboat to the airport|
|Malé's skyline on the way to the airport|
|Quick and easy flight|
|Chris doing what he does well: relaxing in a hammock|
|On the local bus. Loud and warm.|
|Me thinking, "I don't see many express buses here"|
Once in Unawatuna, we relaxed into the beachy scene and spent some time at the beach as well as just enjoying Bedspace's garden/restaurant area. We really liked Bedspace -- good eats in their restaurant and quite a nice room. We especially appreciated their animal friendliness. They are a safe space in a sometimes rough world for dogs and cats. We also went on a tourist trap-ish but enjoyable trip to a lagoon to tour a Buddhist temple on one island and learn more about cinnamon from a family on another island. We were only there a couple of days before heading east down the coast to our surf and yoga place.
|Coconut on the beach|
|Not long after this photo was taken, we saw a man walking his monkey and boa constrictor on the beach (likely both to get exercise and money)|
|Walking through jungle on way to Buddhist temple|
|At temple --no turning one's back to Buddha|
|Temple art detail|
|Cinnamon tree leaves (they smelled great crushed up)|
|Peeling the layers off of the branch to make the cinnamon stick- photo taken with permission|
|Sunset at Unawatuna|
Lion's Rest was one of those things we thought we'd try out. It is not a retreat per se but offers a la carte opportunities for daily yoga, surfing with an instructor and massages if you care for one. I had been wanting to go to lady surf camp with a friend for SO LONG but it just never seemed feasible. Chris caught on to the idea and since it was around my birthday, he used that as leverage to soothe my thrifty Yankee sensibilities which were a little alarmed at the potential of a spendy retreat. Lion's Rest offered the same things in many respects but because of the a la carte pricing, it wasn't quite as expensive as some of the other surf/yoga retreats we looked at. So we excitedly booked ourselves in, with surf lessons!
The ride to Lion's Rest from Unawatuna was short and sweet. The hotel is really nice, with outdoor dining near the pool and extremely friendly and helpful staff. Did I mention the warm weather? We also met some really great, friendly travelers there, including some folks from Colorado who were just about to head home after doing some volunteer work here, our new friends in Switzerland (hi Daniela and Michael!) and a family from the US who is traveling the world and doing so in a *way* more adventurous manner than we are (and many others)! The British yoga instructor, Jess, is lovely and can read a room of students quickly and lead them through the practice they need, whether they're tired from surfing or looking for a flowing practice. Sigh. It becomes hard to say goodbye to so many great people.
Lucky, the surf instructor (and general factotum), was patient with me in particular because I fell off my board early and often. Balancing on that board is not my bag, baby. Nonetheless, each day, we all arose early, trundled/grumped our way through breakfast, pushed into the tuktuk upon whose roof Lucky had lashed our boards and set off down the road for a morning in Weligama Bay. Falling off the surfboard is very bruising to the body as well as the ego and I was surprised by how many new ways I could mildly injure myself. On my last day, I did come down hard on my ankle but with that came the victory of having ridden a wave nearly to shore. Kind of. Chris and Otis unsurprisingly had the hang of this sport quickly. This kind of thing happens often.
I loved the rides home from the beach, when the town was more active and vendors were set up along the road while people were zipping around on bikes, tuktuks and always those big, slow local buses. It is busy and colorful.
Afternoons were usually spent poolside, chatting, swimming, doing yoga, going for walks and working/doing schoolwork. I ordered the curry meal every night -- it was delicious. It has a fun and easygoing vibe and I commend Mike, the owner (who had been home in the UK until our last night there) for pulling together a super team.
|Lucky gives me the info I need on a pop up|
|Working by the pool|
|Ready to head to the beach|
|Typical lane looking towards Lucky's own guesthouse|
Again, it was hard to leave after a week, but we were excited about the next part of the journey: two days of safaris in two different national parks. On our last day, Chris and Otis had one more surf, then we grabbed some lunch, settled our bill, hopped in our patiently waiting van, sent Otis back for his Fitbit, went back in ourselves when he said he couldn't find it, found it, stopped at an ATM and set out for our guesthouse Tissalahara, a town near Yala West National Park (a two and a half hour ride away). We checked in, ate dinner with some fun Australians and then hit the sack -- our wake up call for safari was at 4:30 am the next day.
|Cows and water buffalo commonly in the road|
|Lake Tissalahara -- theres a croc in there!|
|Evening walk after a long ride|