Sri Lanka – Pearl of the Indian Ocean – Part II

CONTINUED FROM PART I:

Kandy to Nuwara Eliya – Sri Lanka’s Tea Country Train

With a feeling of jadedness, I was ready for Sri Lanka to inspire me once more. I would find it the next day on one of the world’s most magical train journey’s, the route from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya. After 90 minute bus

 journey from Dambulla to Kandy, the historic inland capital of Sri Lanka  during its period of ancient kingdom’s is a little more now than a sleepy oasis wedged in between hilly terrain but surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in the country.

The train is a dazzling 4-hour journey to Nuwara Eliya which makes its way to the jawdroppingly hamlet of Ella on the edge of the hill country, with a staggering backdrop overlooking the south.

The journey is slow, but as you find your way through the dilapidated carriages constructed of timber and iron with worn leather seats, you begin to conduct an image of what you are about to experience. At over 2000 meters, the sloping peaks and emerald rolling hills of the Sri Lankan hill country can best be described as otherworldly, alien and beyond comprehension.

As the train pulls away from the station, our journey for the afternoon is set to commence. For the first 30-60 minutes, rogue houses pop up beside the track, a kind of endless wave of residential suburbia blended with shanty housing. Homes vanquish as they retire to the distance. Farmland of lush green emerald hills overlook a valley of bridges and two-lane highways, dotted farmhouses manifest as they cradle the bosom of a deep-cut valley, cleared of arboreal coverage but striking nonetheless.

The raw beauty of the landscape transcends the eye, as though Da Vinci has created an epic masterpiece for the ages. Awestruck and captivated by the majestic richness and memories that behold through the valley, it takes me back to my own childhood growing up in the countryside and I draw comparisons with my family’s original home. The striking resemblance leads me to comprehend what my great-grandfather must have seen when he arrived on the shores of New Zealand, a little over a century before. It was as though this paysage I was witnessing was a doppelganger of my own.

The Nuwara Eliya leg of the journey is world-renowned for its stunning views of the tea plantations, set up a 150 years ago by some of my descendants, and other British settlers. The high altitude and balanced cool micro-climate lead to perfect conditions for growing tea leaves and ensuring that Sri Lanka is today one of the world’s leading exporters of tea.

As we criss-crossed the landscape with the sweet cool air blowing gently against our skin as we rode by detached huts and roadside villas, we began to see the Hill Country Tamil tending to the crops. Unlike their cousins to the north, the Hill Country Tamil are a different breed of Tamil who were brought over from the mainland of India in the 19th Century to work the plantations. In Sri Lanka’s abhorrent class system, the Hill Country Tamil rate at the very bottom of the order. Most workers will spend from daybreak to dusk gathering leaves from the fields and most will earn just a few dollars a day.

The Tamil live in small thatches where they subsist on chapati and rice. The women, dressed immaculately in their brightly ornate clothes, with wicker baskets hanging over their temples, converge with the mud-patched earth as they scour through the diminutive petioles of dark green tea leaves. Each day, hours spent kneeling on the raw earth as they test the leaves for disease or other fungal bacteria. Each leaf has to be just right for harvest.

Along the railway, gangs of families and workers gather to collect leaves for harvest. Acres of tea bushes display across the countryside like a rhythmic ballet recital – every pattern is splendidly perfect, each layer of bush idly sits within formation as a small sheep track cuts between the bushes and allows for breathing space.

This balance as surreal as it is to witness also gravitates to spectacular when it transcends the valley.

After a few hours we gather towards the town of Nuwara Eliya, the journey almost over and the spectacle that nature and man has put on for us has now been eclipsed by cloud. I have gone from 35 degrees down to 12 degrees in the space of 100 kilometers.

 

Nuwara Eliya – Sri Lanka’s Tea Country

Nuwara Eliya isn’t like the rest of Sri Lanka that I had experienced, it held a more colonial ambiance to it. The historic center was typical of any colonial era town, a wide brimming street with bric-a-brac shops and departments stores promoting the latest sale on merchandise and electrical goods.

There was a Chinese restaurant and a quintessential local bakery with a selection of breads and pastries, reminiscent of the colonial Ceylon era. Locals congregated for meals and sipping on local green tea brewed with the organic leaves from the local distributors. The town had an eeriness about it. The cool climate meant that being dressed in layers was a reality for the next few days as winter appeared to be in an endless loop here.

The sites are few and far between in the town, a hippodrome and a small park which you have to pay a fortune for leave the surrounding sights the only appeal to stopping by Nuwara Eliya,

A full day in the region can be spent with an early morning trip to Horton’s End and an afternoon spent sampling tea at one of a select few Tea Factories.

I hitched a ride with a guide and his client on a morning excursion to breathtaking Horton’s End. One of the highest points on the island is home to one of the best views in Sri Lanka. A short hour drive from town, through domesticated farmland, the park is home to some of the country’s best endemic plant and animal species. While the park is small, it is well contained and easy to navigate. It offers enough to satisfy any visitor with its easily accessible trails. While most visitors follow the principle loop to the World’s End, some take detours which allow them to engage in the plethora of sights on offer at the park – one of the nation’s smallest, and most richly bio-diverse.

The sweeping panoramic views of the plains roll out across the valley stretching towards to the East Coast, as small villages cradle crevasses of curvy, boulder-shaped ranges that rise from the countryside like small boiling bubbles. Pockets of wavy cellophane rivers shimmer under the watchful gaze of the midday sun. A scattering of forests lay bare to the coveted landscape that enshrouds the surrounds in an eerie mist of lucid haunting beauty.

I am joined by a select few tourists who wander listlessly around the clifftop, depositing their memories into the canvas of a glossy photo to share among friends upon their return home. Others closely engage in selfies as a means of capturing this towering clifftop rocky edifice. My tour buddy and I are swept up the magnitude of this moment, something that cannot be described in pictures but in the hair follicles that diligently stand upon my neck, the staggering force of nature as she climbs to the heavens with gusto and indomitable force. Every modicum of my senses ignites as they step to the edge of the rock and peer 870 meters to the earth below. It is in moments like this that travel infects you in a way nothing else can, standing at the gateway to nature’s greatest spectacular.

Traveling back through the country roads of sharp twisting hairpin corners and lazy debonair mountain pastures, I was introduced to the international face of Sri Lanka. Fonterra, the world’s largest diary company, based out of New Zealand had invested in farms around the region and were building a mini empire in the backdrop of the Horton Plains National Park. As it stands, they are now the largest dairy company in Sri Lanka and have invested in building up the country’s resources. The locals have an insatiable appetite for dairy products with milk being a key source of nutrients for the local population.

 

That afternoon I took a local town bus, after navigating the chaos of the local transport hub to a local tea plantation outside of town called Pedro. Founded in the 19th century, it had maintained its character throughout the years and still used traditional practices. Walking up to the factory, it was inconceivable that this building housed one of the world’s biggest producers of tea. Small and quaint are a couple of words that I would throw out their to describe this concrete and glass tower that overlooked gentle rows of inanimate tea bushes.

The tea plantation offers a free tour which takes around 30 minutes. During this time you are able to partake in learning about the process involved in creating your favorite blend of tea brew. From the drying process, to the intimate way the leaves are harvested, each step follows over a century of tradition with very little leftover from the modernization of the industry. After the teas are separated, they are then sold at wholesale on the open market where world famous brands like Twinnings, and Lipton blend them with other tea leaves to create their signature flavors.

It’s clear to see as you wander through the acres of carefully pruned bushes that the love manifested in these fields goes a long way to ensuring that we endeavor to wake up to the perfect caffeine fix each day. It is also a reminder of how fortunate we are to have what we have. The workers in these fields survive through generations here, they have known nothing else in their lives. Elderly woman, clutch their wicker baskets tightly to their chest as they participate in the back-breaking task of idly picking the delicate leaves, and pruning the bushes as they begin to bolster their domineering features.

 

After hours of work, they return to their shanty huts to foster the energy to cook and clean for their extended families. During the day, other members of the family tend to the factory to ensure that everything functions within the cycle as it should do. This clockwork precision of religious diligence will leave you in awe as you witness the graciousness of the people as well as understand the simplistic nature of their lives and lack of material desires.

Galle – Sri Lanka’s Unforgettable South

As the fog covered the rolling hills like a winter blanket underneath the cover of darkness, I knew it was time to head to the coast. As it had been previously, this may have been the most adventurous bus journey yet. As we hugged the curvy, swaying bends of the narrow two-lane highway, the valley below opened up to reveal more closely guarded secrets of the Sri Lankan Hill Country – sweeping vistas of crinkle-cut valleys rippled through the countryside.

This world exposed to the naked eye conjured up scenes of humble euphoria as the community congregated together in a genus to tend to the crops, to be unaware of the true jewel that they were bestowed with. As the valley opened up to reveal the truer beauty of the coast, it was apparent to me just how gorgeous this landscape really was.

As we traversed the precipice of the Hill Country like a worm sweeping across a patch of freshly turned soil, an indulgent spectacle lay before me, and I felt as a King with a scepter watching over his kingdom as this glorious view of never-ending interwoven hills, valleys and needle-thread rivers snaked towards the coast. I endeavored to absorb as much as humanly possible of this rousing landscape.

As the sun sat against her perch in the cloud, a milky haze swept like a silk scarf over the hinterlands, as it evaporated it drew comparisons with the hills encompassing Kandy, but as we encroached upon the hamlet of Ella, those contrasts were vanquished as the hills suddenly ran out of room, we began to descend rapidly, passing through a rigorous path of twists and turns as the young bus driver who drove us to our destination hugged the tight corners as we swayed like a tree in a hurricane. Each turn, deadly close to the edge of the road and our untimely death.

Once the hills departed, the landscapes diversified as we drove along flat terrain, passing by carbon-copy postcard towns. The coast pulled into view as to our left side the road that lead to the nation’s most accessible wildlife reserve – Yala National Park.

As we tethered to the coast, the city of Hambantota on the coast was our first pitstop, well known among Sri Lankans as the city where the country’s only true highway ends its journey from the capital. It was built by the President to house a new international airport that cost millions to make and yet provides little benefit to the nation. As it lays semi-abandoned, tax payers wonder what true benefit can come from such a misuse of public funds. There was a lot of anger in the country over this project as I spoke with locals openly talked about their frustrations over the highway and airport, with most in concurrence over the funds being placed into projects that could better serve the country’s ailing infrastructure.

As we pulled closer into the city of Galle, the residential towns of Matara and Mirissa passed by, an endless sea of hotels began to propagate around me as the highway drew more and more traffic. Our bus driver, suddenly discovered that our bus came with a jet engine and promptly descend into a chaotic chant of honking and weaving between traffic in what can only be described as Tom Cruise from a scene out of Mission Impossible. The beautiful thing was, this was what made Sri Lanka a perfect blend of Asia and island influences.

Galle is a sacred town among Sri Lankans who live for the sport of Cricket. First introduced to the Sri Lankan people a little over a hundred years ago by their colonial forefathers, it is almost as holy to the people as it is in neighboring India. The home of cricket lies in a sports ground that almost entirely engulfs the center of Galle. As the coast breathes life into the majestic Indian Ocean, ripples of waves pound the coast – wild and untamed as a powerful gust of wind enforces Mother Nature’s grip on the ruggered landscape.

If my journey before this had been anything, it had been the perfect blend of valuable and synthetic. The yin and yang of an adventure in South Asia, but Galle would be probably most insightful into the humble nature of the people. While travel leaves us sometimes wary of the inhabitants of a place, it also opens us to the true nature of mankind. It is in these moments that we become somewhat blessed rather than jaded by our fellow man. Galle would prove to be no exception.

As I stepped off the bus to begin my journey in Galle, I was greeted by a fellow local as I so often was on my travels in Sri Lanka. He wanted to take me to his sister’s house to offer me accommodation. In a page out of my travels to Vanuatu’s Tanna Island, I was about to be given the experience of a lifetime. My host took me through the narrow brick streets of Galle’s old town, where villagers lived in a cohesive blend of village and urban life. Children kicked footballs, mothers sat huddled over iron bowls pounding dough to make bread, while dogs ran around the streets freely in a chain of infinite euphoria.

I waited for my host to find his sister who had a room available to rent for a few days. She was not available, so the next option proved to be somewhat more incredible. My host once again had me follow him through the neighborhood of chalk white and cloudy gray brick buildings to where he co-habitated with his family, to a spare house that his brother owned. Here I would be based, my own house for 5 days at the cost of a room in a hostel.

I discovered over the next few days that my host was in fact the Manager of the town’s Tourism Center where he helped tourists to experience Galle through the eyes of a local, and to give me a wider open perspective he did.

Galle Fort is the city’s dominating feature with Dutch influenced architecture and fortified walls of local granite stone, it was built in the 1700’s to defend the Dutch empire from invasion. Today, it is home to hotels and restaurants that offer sea fare and ethnic cuisine. The once prominent lighthouse is now a solemn sight that overlooks the bay.

The beach is littered with waste but is still a popular chill out spot for the residents to engage with their peers during the day, it also serves as a backdrop to the occasional wedding procession. With swaying sandy morsels of brittle sand and rock, it was hauntingly beautiful.

The main street of Galle is typical of the Asian style of colonial Asia. Wide-brimming streets with densely populated foot and auto traffic with a plethora of billboards representing the world’s bigger brands and overly-ambitious street signs advertising shop names. Street markets and hustlers trying to bargain with you to part your money, being a tourist isn’t a blessing but a hindrance when your only objective is to soak up the atmosphere and the ambiance of a place.

While Jaffna had been affected by the events of the 2004 Tsunami, it was here around Galle that it was hardest hit. Once vibrant, it was finding its feet once more in recent years. Scars still lay on the landscape and in the surrounds of the city. Boats lay moored permanently as holes riddle their bows. Shards of timber, undisturbed for over a decade are cascading reminders of what was once a thriving region.

A sidewalk escorts pedestrians north of the city along the coast to where a pier lingers out over the ocean. On a day when a storm is nearby off the coast, this can be effective for dramatizing the Indian’s brute force. It also serves a reminder of what occurred here a few years prior to my arrival. Couples cuddle, friends hang over the rocks, engaging with the serenity of the ongoing stretch of infectious blue ocean before us. The thunderous roar of the waves as they lash like throttling bolts of thunder crash into the coastline in a rhythmic wave of white lines, some break earlier than others, sending an eerie pulse down the coast like a sonic wave whips through the air.

Fishermen tend to their nets as they search for the day’s catch to sell down the road at the roadside markets. Abundantly fresh with fragrant aromas of the sea. With flavors that gravitate towards wholesome licks of salty sea water and tender strands of mers de fruits.

The air of summer storms with the cooling effects of salty sea spray, conjure up the images of past lives that once came ashore here some 400 years before. But going back even further, some of the first seafarers to the shore were Moors from the Middle East who arrived here before the birth of Christ. Their historical footprint would forever be enshrined as Mosques sat within eye view of Buddhist monuments.

Today, descendants of those seafarers live co-habitationally with Sinhalese and Tamil residents. They still live a wholesome Islamic life with 5 times a day of praying, and their pilgrimages to Mecca but they have integrated into society as ordinary Sri Lankans with their roots still firmly connected to their pasts.

During one of my days in Galle, my host decided to take me on a tour of Galle’s touristic hotspots and some lesser well-known areas. With the added bonus of having the Manager of the Tourist Center guiding me, this was sure to be an enriching experience.

During our afternoon by Tuk Tuk with a private driver we visited a Turtle Farm, where the amphibians were being raised in captivity to be released back to their wild habitat later on and to ensure their long-term survival. At the farm, over 20 turtles were being cared for without outside help. In fact the only outside influence was by tourist donations which ensured that the turtles were fed each day. The preservation and cleanliness of the facility went along way to proving that it was worthwhile.

After seeing the devastation of the turtle colony’s along the coast, the Manager of this particular farm outside of Matara decided that he would ensure the turtle’s never had to face such hardship again. While not all turtles can be saved, the majority that are go onto live healthy lives out at sea where they belong. The age and range vary, as does the breeds that co-habitate here.

Next up, a Morris Minor factory. Fashionable and trendy in its native Britain, the car became an institution that steadily reflects the image of pop culture in the 1960’s. Over the course of time it has become a collector’s item, due to its immaculate value these days cars are shipped to Sri Lanka to be delicately reassembled here at the factory, where they are then shipped back to their owners in Britain in mint condition for half the price of what it would take the owners to refurbish them in their homeland. Some of the classic cars are such rare commodities that the workers must take extra care of the cars by wearing special suits and using specially selected tools for the job.

Visiting a Homeopathic College introduced me to Sri Lanka’s ancient speciality, Ayuredic Medicine. Grown on a few prosperous acres of land are gardens containing some of the essential ingredients that create these impressive medicinal products. From wild pineapples that contain a fibrous product used to curtail weight, to heavenly drops of lavendar and mint which fragrantly send you away into dreamland as you succumb to the bliss of an Ayuredic massage. Each item contains a delicate array of ingredients that compliment the health benefits of this ancient health trend.

After our tour, we were fortunate enough to enjoy a complimentary massage using aromatheraphy products. Afterwards we took a look through the bountiful range of homemade remedies and learned more about their connection to the human body. The center is a training school where students often go onto set up their own private practices around the island, or abroad. Donations are welcome and help contribute to funding the college which receives no government funding as a learning institution.

Our tour took us up into the hills where we met some important ancient sites that once were homes to members of Sri Lanka’s ancient royal families and all containing some spiritual connection to Buddha. The preservation of the gold-tinted statues and rock carvings is something truly spiritual and awakens the senses as you stroll through the grounds of these ancient fortresses. Each site contains a panorama of the surrounding countryside from which warriors protected their kings and queens from invaders.

Our tour came to a conclusion and we returned to Galle. Satisfied that I was a little more deeply connected to this southern corner of the island, and a little more closely connected to my family roots.

The South Coast is home to some of the nation’s most formidable surf beaches and water sport hotspots where tourists converge each winter to sample the best of the nation’s marine activities. It was a hot day so I took a bus to the local Unawatuna beach, just 30 minutes shy of the Galle bus station.

After departing the bus on the main road, I took a cautious route to the main beach which was unmarked on any sign and required some careful navigation. After coming into contact with the horde of European and Australian tourists that were enjoying the warmth of the midday sun, I found the beach that would allow me to get some insight into the south.

The crescent-shaped strip of sand is popular with tourists during the year. At one end lies an historic buddhist monument that sits perched on a hilltop overlooking both sides of the bay, at the otherside lays a small collection of residential homes and a trickling of fishing boats.

What at first appears idyllic and unappealing, soon becomes apparent that this is no ordinary beach once you decide to take a dip and find yourself walking among soft white sand that sinks your toes as the waves punish you with brutal disorientating force, this is a far cry from the beaches that ride the coast out east and a constant reminder of what the ocean is capable of as you become a human washing machine.

A vendor follows the crowd up-and-down the beach, he calls on me, offers me a set of postcards which I decline to take but he insists that he will come back and I will buy one from him. Poverty has made people desperate, regardless of skin tone, if they see a tourist they’ll latch onto you. A common scam in Sri Lanka is when you are approached by somebody who claims to have lost a family member during the Tsunami, they will try to spin the story in their favor to elicit a sympathetic response. I met one such boy in Colombo who told me of his dream to record an album and become a well-known singer in Sri Lanka.

It is best to avoid such scams and walk away, as far fetched as the one that presented himself to me was, there are others that will go much deeper to scam money from you. And maybe you will believe their stories but do not buy into it. Often these people are subjected to criminal activities including drugs.

Of course this elderly man who accosted me was not of that persuasion but his wistful lips and twiggy arms, told me that he was doing all he could to survive.

Sri Lanka’s Tsunami Museum

Hikkaduwa may not appear outwardly a town with much substance, but scratch a little deeper and you’ll find a town hit hardest by the Boxing Day Tsunami, and it’s fighting back hard.

The beach may not be a pillar of beauty, the town perhaps is just your standard town but it’s the extraordinary Tsunami Museum that should become a pilgrimage for any visitor to Sri Lanka for years to come. Take a taxi North of Hikkaduwa, past the Japanese Memorial dedicated to the victims of the event. A collection of houses lay in ruin, a church lies solo on an island off the coast, a few shacks dot the roadside, one side is dedicated to the endless of turquoise blue, the other to the hidden treasures of the jungle.

A small tin house presents. It’s nothing spectacular on the outside, iron holds it together, but inside memories bind it all together. And all of this is due to one remarkable woman, a former nurse who began this collection as a way to restore clarity to the disfunction of these events which killed 30,000 Sri Lankans. Her story reached deep, it had a powerful message behind it, one that wouldn’t sit so far from the lips of Oprah or President Obama, but this was an ordinary woman who was about to create an extraordinary legacy.

December 26, 2004 started as any day for the people of Hikkaduwa. There were gardens to tend to, the meals to cook, trains traversed the landscape, their monotonous voices echoed across the plains. Birds chirped, dogs barked, the sea gently swayed in the breeze then it all went silent. The first few waves struck, there was fear but little damage, but something was wrong and some knew it.

Fearing what would come next, this incredibly courageous woman took her family into the plains. They moved like wildfire as behind them the sea disappeared to the horizon leaving behind a sea of white sand and curious observers snapping photos of this event. What followed next would be wedged in the memories of survivors for a lifetime.

A 10 meter wave of champagne white appeared as quickly as the sea had withdrawn. There was no time to escape as it swept across the coastline flattening everything in sight. Bodies floated like tufts of newspaper against the wind, corpses and shrapnel from timber and other building supplies was pulled apart as the wave continued a further kilometer inland. At the time of its arrival a train was heading north along the track where it was promptly ripped from the tracks and thrown against the force of the sea.

The train funneled through a wall of white candescent water, shafted along the plains while devastating the forest and replacing it with carnage. Homes, flattened like cardboard. The roar of the sea was deadening, the wave crushed the surrounding landscape with the force of a thunderous jolt. Everything went silent, that was the biggest killer of all.

After the events of that day, people feared the ocean, so they moved inland. For centuries, the sea was their sustenance – their food, their source of life, now that was gone.

After the Tsunami, the Museum Curator wanted to do something, she wanted the world to know what took place here – she wanted to make a difference. It started with a few photos of the tsunami that people would drop off. She built a billboard to place up a few of the photos plus a few newspaper clippings that she had up on the walls.

It was a shed with a slab of board – that’s how it started. Soon, a few photos turned into a hundred photos through various donations, and then her space was not enough. She occupied a shed out the back of the property. Out back now lies a wall of children’s art, children who lost their parents during the Tsunami. Out of the 30,000 lives lost in Sri Lanka that day, one-third of children became orphans.

As I walk between the cardboard mirror with images and stories, each image spoke of fear, of heroism, of the shocking reality of the shades of darkness and light that exist on our planet. This isn’t just a tale of loss to these people, it’s a warning about the direction of our planet and what we have neglected to achieve collectively so far in our fight to survive.

I was profoundly moved by my experience at this museum. This woman’s powerful story, her words were not so much motivation to learn, but to do better and spread her story. I felt a rawness in her emotion, a tinge of sadness drew in her eyes as she recounted her tale – one that filled a void of emptiness and lead to a pillar of spiritual hope.

The photo gallery was pure undiluted rawness. The wall of white champagne water is forever switched on in my mind. The shock, disbelief, ..tumbleweed of emotions that circulated in my mind were minute compared to what were constant reminders in theirs.

Hikkaduwa is like spring after a harsh winter. It sends a chill down your spine, ripples of cold through your skin, but then just the slightest touch of warmth and it gives you inspiration – hope that things will get better.  The surfers come for their seasonal hit. Very few take the value from this place, for them it’s just a quick fix to their ongoing adventures, but for the locals this place is all they’ve ever known.

Desperation is smoldering thickly here. There are no tourists when I come to Hikkaduwa, the summer swells reach beyond the horizon. There is surf here, there is a gilded presence to this town as I trace an   street of brittle paved paths. There’s the guy that approaches me as I walk this apocalyptic road of gray with its plastic litter swaying in the wind, he asks to show me his home. I give him a look as to say, I know what you want to ask but prove me wrong. We walk through a busy street behind the town, at the corner of a bridge he shows me a home – “This was my home, it was destroyed during the tsunami”, he summons. Desperation is sickly present.

Matara and Farewell Galle

Galle offers plenty of day trips beyond its borders. Further to the east Matara is a town of significance. While it was devastated during the Tsunami, it is still a point of interest due to its Parey Dewa (or “Rock in the Water”) Buddhist temple. Connected to land via a pedestrian bridge, this temple island is unique and houses several buildings interconnected via a series of trails. It is also believed to be house one of the footprints of Buddha found on Adam’s Peak.

While the town itself leaves a lot to be desired, the encompassing landscape offers a plethora of opportunity to explore Wild Sri Lanka. From its isolated East Coast beaches to its surreal lush jungles and world-famous National Parks including Yala. Matara could be the perfect base to achieve those objectives.

Galle felt wild, it felt like the bottom of the world, it was the ideal location to say my goodbyes to Sri Lanka. The time spent here had been remarkable and the memories made I would languish for the rest of my life. There was a pureness to this region of Sri Lanka, locals were friendly, unlike in other towns, there wasn’t the monotonous request for Tuk Tuk services. There was an intricate beauty to this place, wild yet authentic.

Farewell Sri Lanka

There is something weirdly upbeat as I step through the platform to take my coach to Colombo. I have completed a circuit of the island which as shown me multiple sides to Sri Lanka’s personality, as we passed through Galle and the mélange of towns en-route to Colombo, I felt a sense of refreshment.

There were the annoyances of any travel experience. There were the places that I deplored like Dambulla yet there were places that educated me like Jaffna and Hikkaduwa. But Sri Lanka also tied me to it like Horton Plains National Park and Colombo’s Commonwealth War Graves.

Not only did I find trinkets of my family connection to this country, but I also understood why they never truly left this island even if they moved away. It’s the kind of place that when you leave, you never truly leave.

As I walked along the newly anointed boardwalk outside the Business District of downtown Colombo, I had hope for this country. After 25 savage years of war, it was finally reconnecting with its roots once more. You see, what makes Sri Lanka so special is that it has been a connecting point for millennia for every walk of life. From Moroccan Moors, to Tamil Villagers, to Sinhalese immigrants who founded the island.

During that course, it has welcomed with open arms varying degrees of religious thought and cultural etiquette. It has not been easy in recent times to accept that and Sri Lanka still has a long way to go to letting go of its class demons but it still has hope.

Sri Lanka is a great storyteller. She has many stories and adventures. She’s a source of inspiration and of change. I will never forget my time here. It gave me something I will forever hold within my heart, a source of light after the era of darkness.